HALIFAX -- For the first time in months, Atlantic Canadians are allowed to cross provincial borders for personal reasons after the Atlantic Bubble was put into place on Friday.

“I’m excited that people can start moving around and seeing their loved ones probably first and foremost,” said Moncton resident Shannon Lifance. “I know people haven’t been able to see each other for months so, I think that’s the most important.”

“It’s pretty great that we get to explore a bit,” said Stewiacke, N.S., resident Nicole Stewart.

Stewart made her way to New Brunswick on Friday, along with thousands of others eager to break their provincial bubbles.

Stewart said her trip from Stewiacke, which normally takes about two hours, took five on Friday.  Once she arrived at the checkpoint in Aulac, N.B., she was surprised when she was waved through without being stopped by border agents.

“When we got there, they were just letting everybody through. I think it’s just because the traffic was backed up to Springhill, N.S., so I think they were just trying to get things moving,” said Stewart.

Restaurants and shops throughout Atlantic Canada say they are pleased with the increase in visitors.

“It was terrific to see our bubble people, as we call them. They’re like our brothers and sisters from the other province,” said gift shop owner, Steve Clerke.

Clerke has been preparing his store for the last couple of weeks, in preparation for the Atlantic Bubble to begin. He said he’s had many shoppers come in from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

“A noticeable difference not only in sales, but a noticeable difference in the energy of the people as well too. They seemed to have their confidence back which was nice to see,” said Clerke.

New Brunswick’s Tourism Minister Bruce Fitch said he’s encouraged by the number of people crossing provincial borders, adding he hopes this is the beginning of a return to normal.

“As time rolls on and things open up even more, there may be more of an opportunity for guests to come into the province and hopefully support the tourism venues here in the province,” said Fitch.

According to government statistics, more than 14,500 personal vehicles crossed into New Brunswick on Friday, compared to only 2,600 on Wednesday.