I was a resident of the Canadian Maritimes for sixteen years and even wrote a book about living there, so I know what Maritimers need this time of year, and Florida isn't it. What you really need is a dose of Virginia or North Carolina spring.
You will find plenty of warm days, in both Virginia and North Carolina during March and April. You'll also find some nice transitional weather or Maritime summer weather as you probably know it. While all the snow in the winter of 2015 might tempt you to head to Florida, you do not want to thaw those frozen bones of yours too quickly. You might enjoy the beautiful blooming trees and plants in North Carolina and Virginia more than touristy areas. Those beautiful spring plants are generally nowhere to be found in Florida.
However, Florida does get it strawberries about a month to six weeks earlier than we do. You can find strawberries in Florida in February if you go far enough south. Here on the North Carolina coast we are not too far behind. We have had fresh u-pick strawberries in March but early April is more normal for our first strawberries. I usually have ripe tomatoes by the end of May or first week of June.
When I originally wrote this article, we lived in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. One of the great treats of my early years was driving down the Shenandoah Valley on spring break from college in Cambridge and watching spring unfold in the 244 miles of what is now Interstate 81.
Spring comes at different times in Virginia and North Carolina. It can rush up a mountain or take its time and change things almost imperceptibly along the coast. You can get a cool spring in the mountains or even a brief taste of snow but spring in North Carolina and Virginia is still beautiful, much nicer and warmer than anything in Maritime Canada during March and April. You can sometimes even find coastal water warm enough for wading by the end of March.
If you look at the March 2015 forecast for Roanoke, Virginia, you will find lots of fifties and sixties. If you need more warmth you might to consider coastal North Carolina. After leaving Roanoke, we became full-time residents of the Crystal Coast part of North Carolina which covers the area roughly from Beaufort, North Carolina to Emerald Isle and Swansboro, North Carolina.
There are several seventies in the March 2015 forecast for Swansboro and only one 49F high on March 1. On the coast there is lots to do besides walk the beautiful beaches. The gardens at Tryon Palace in New Bern and the Cupola House Gardens in Edenton are both wonderful spots. I love the Maritime Museum in Beaufort and a visit to Fort Macon is always worth the drive. We even start getting out on the water in March and April on the Carolina coast.
From the middle of March until the middle of June, the weather is very pleasant on the Carolina coast. Then we get into serious beach weather which can be very warm.
My only suggestion on the trip down is to plan to hit the Boston, New York, and Washington areas at times other than the rush hour.
Boston is the easiest to get around, but New York even with the Garden State Parkway is not a lot of fun.
The rush hour in Washington only slows down between 10 and 11 am in the morning and from 1 to 2:30 pm in the afternoon. The roads are sometimes plugged at night because that is when they have to do construction.
You can skip Washington and slide down the eastern shore of Virginia by cutting off the Interstate highway just south of Dover Delaware and taking Route 13 down to Cheasapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and Virginia Beach. Route 13 is very rural and two lanes but there is little traffic.
Bypassing Washington, DC, can be a good thing since the traffic there is legendary.
Once in the Norfolk area, it is a short ride over to Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Va. To be honest the only comfortable times for Canadians to visit Williamsburg are the early spring or late fall. The rest of the time it is too hot even for Virginians especially those with kids.
After you have your fill of old stuff in Williamsburg which is what my New Brunswick neighbor, Harvey, used to call anything manufactured before 1950, you can decide whether to head over to Roanoke which is a very manageable 240 miles or go farther south along the cost.
If you chose to head down the coast to our area, it is only 211 miles to Emerald Isle from Norfolk or add another 23 miles if you leave from Williamsburg. The drive is not through an urban area so it will not wear you out like driving through the big cities.
Since March and April are an uncrowded time of year, your decision to go west or south can easily be made once you are in the area.
If you head west to Roanoke, you will find a peaceful blue collar town, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. You will find Roanoke College nearby in Salem, Virginia, and Hollins University just off Interstate 81 north of Roanoke. Roanoke has a great farmers market and Roanoke makes a great base for these day trips. Both Lexington and Staunton are short distances from Roanoke. Lexington is one of my favorite spots in the valley.
There are lots of places to visit in North Carolina if you come our way. I would lean towards North Carolina for March because it takes Virginia a little longer to warm up. April is generally great in both places.
If you make it down to our coast, you will find a very unique area. We have written a travel guide about our area so everything you need to know is in it.
We are definitely not Myrtle Beach, but if you like peace and quiet along with miles of beaches and great seafood, you will enjoy our area. We are guarded by the 159,000 acres of the Croatan National Park and the 56 miles of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Our Southern Outer Banks are a little different from the more well known Northern Outer Banks which is home to Nags Head and Kitty Hawk.
We are not stuck out in the ocean quite as much and being farther south with south facing beaches, we tend to be warmer especially earlier in the year. If you come visit and decide you want a real adventure, you can easily take the ferry from Cedar Island up to Ocracoke. Drive the length of Ocracoke and take a ferry to Hatteras Island and drive up to Nags Head and over to Manteo. The Lost Colony outdoor play does not begin in 2015 until May 29 so keep that in mind. Late April through late May is pretty magic down here so do not rule out visiting then. It does start to get warm inland then but on the coast things are still very pleasant and the fish are biting by then.
If you do decide to visit us in the spring, you might just want to consider the whole trip as an opportunity to plan your summer vacation at the beach. After waiting for all of 2015's snow to melt, you might be ready for more heat than you will find this summer in the Maritimes. Our waters are usually in the mid-eighties by July and our air temperature along the coast rarely gets above the ninety even in August which most of us live on the water or hide in our air-conditioned homes.
The Crystal Coast is one of the best kept secrets on the east coast. Do not miss a chance to visit. You will come back.