Story and Photos By Tab Hauser (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Canadian Maritimes has been on our long list of places to visit. The Maritimes are made up of the Canadian Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Each province offers beautiful scenery along with a wide variety of attractions, pretty villages, modern cities, beaches and plenty of parks to explore. There is also world class golfing, fishing, kayaking and amazing close encounters with whales. While visiting this area you have the added bonus of eating well by enjoying the freshest seafood and produce. This can be washed down with very good regional wines and beers. Each of these provinces can be a destination of its own
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Our recommendation would to take nine days (a week with the weekends before and after), and the visit the highlights of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. If you have two weeks we would recommend taking four or five nights in New Brunswick with the rest visiting Nova Scotia at a more leisurely pace. If you have a few more days than hop on the ferry to Prince Edward Island (PEI). If spending time at the beach is important than give PEI a little more time. The Canadian Maritimes are easy to get to as they are a day’s drive for most people living in the northeastern section of the United States and Canada. An alternative would be to fly into Halifax and drive a loop of the area. We drove from Long Island and spent nearly two and half weeks hopping around at a very comfortable pace. Our time was broken down to five nights in New Brunswick, four nights in the western section of Nova Scotia with five nights in the eastern Cape Breton Region. We stayed only three nights in PEI. We visited the last week of September which is their shoulder season for tourism. It means less crowds but it also means certain attractions start to wind down and close early or are only open on the weekends. A benefit for coming this time of the year was comfortable temperatures for sightseeing during the day. Laying back on the beaches was out of the question due to the time we went which was one of the reasons we only stayed three nights in PEI. By mid October most tourist based business are closed for the season.
New Brunswick And The Bay Of Fundy Coast
After four nights in Bar Harbor Maine (see www.tabhauser.com and click Bar Harbor) to break up the long drive to Canada, we crossed the border at Saint Stephens in New Brunswick. Saint Stephens was also our first stop where we visited the Ganong Bros. Ltd, chocolate museum and store. The Ganong Bros, Ltd started in 1873 producing chocolate candy. There small museum has exhibits that include the history of chocolate, old candy producing machines, original chocolate boxes as well photos and video on their corporate history. Here we learned that Ganong was the first company to make a heart shaped box (originally for Christmas) and they were the first to add nuts to chocolate bars. A highlight of the tour is to see the last of the chocolate “hand dipping ladies” do their work. (On weekends you only see a video). The admission at $10 is a little steep for what is mostly a few rooms on Ganong company history. The fee does include a taste of the different chocolates from their mixed box that are placed at the entrance and inside the museum. After our 20 minute visit we went into the “ole” time candy store next door where you can buy hand dipped chocolates along with other Ganong products. For details go to www.chocolatemuseum.ca (it would be nice if the admission came with some sort of discount at the store)
Our drive from Saint Stephens continued another 30 minutes south to the historic village of Saint Andrews where we spent the next two nights. After parking our car by the town dock we boarded the Quoddy Link Marine boat for their afternoon whale watching cruise. (www.quoddylinkmarine.com) We picked Quoddy because they use a quick 55 foot catamaran. We liked this boat because its main deck offered seating and protection from the wind and spray while under way. This boat also had good outdoor viewing decks fore and aft. The bow had two levels so people were spread out making it easy to see and photograph the whales. Lastly, this boat can cruise to the whale grounds at a quick 20 mph having a smooth ride along the way. Other whale watching options available in St. Andrew included a slower sail boat that we saw motoring around that offered less shelter from the elements as well as an open zodiac boat. The zodiac boat combines whale watching with a bit of a thrill ride. Here passengers have to wear bright red waterproof survival suits. The suits are required for safety but also keep passengers warm and dry. The advantage of these boats is that they move quickly and the ride can be fun. The disadvantage is that you bounce a lot and photography can be a more difficult not to mention the concern of your camera getting sprayed on.
Guaranteed Whale Sightings
Our boat left the dock under cool temperatures and overcast skies which we were told was good because the herring would stay closer to the surface. When we got to the open waters near the light house we saw dozens of birds diving into the water for fish. Several porpoises were also circling around to chase the herring. Next we started to see large fin and mink whales break the surface. After the watching whales surface and dive down frequently one of the guides stated the conditions were perfect for a whale to lunge. Whales lunge when the herring are schooled in a ball near the surface. When this happens the whales swim fast from the depths with their mouths open and go straight to the surface swallowing as many herring in their way. One guide said to look for sea conditions in an area that was flatter than normal. Knowing this I kept my camera pointed to a spot on the water that looked a touch smoother than the rest of the sea. Several minutes later we were amazed to see one of the whales coming about one third out of the water closing its mouth and making a splash. The guides said they see this only a few times during the season. For the next hour we continued to watch the whales with the lighthouse in the background. Occasionally we viewed two whales swimming in tandem. It was nice to see the crew showing as much enthusiasm for seeing the whales as the guests did. While our afternoon sightings were unusually good, the crew did say they spot whales on every outing.
After our cruise the weather turned to rain so we checked into the Garden Gate B & B (www.bbgardengate.com). There we made ourselves comfortable in the cozy living room catching up on some last minute trip planning, reading and personal business using their Wi-Fi. The Garden Gate B & B is a charming home built in 1910 that has four guest rooms. Rooms are on the second and third floor and not are handicap accessible. We stayed on the third floor in a small but airy room with a nice bathroom. Carol and Dave Bennet are very accommodating hosts who also cook up a delicious breakfast. The inn is located within a five minute walk to the shops and restaurants on Water Street. For dinner that night we wandered around looking at menus at the pubs or what looked like basic restaurants. Were pleased to have found an open table at the Sweet Harvest Market offering their limited weekend dinner menu. (www.sweetharvestmarket.com)
On Sunday with the weather looking threatening we decided to visit the Kingsbrae Gardens in town first. The Kingsbrae Gardens was named a top ten garden in Canada. We strolled much of the 27 acres following a path that went by different exhibits and plants ending at the sculpture garden. Allow a leisurely hour for a stroll around. From the garden we decided to see the streets of Saint Andrews and view its older pretty homes. St. Andrews is a lovely village consisting of six long streets intersected by thirteen short streets on a narrow peninsula. These streets are set up in a classical English grid with 2000 people living here. The town was founded by the United Empire of Loyalists who were loyal to the King of England and who fled the new nation of the United States. Saint Andrews has many older homes and buildings. Some date back to 1783 and were put on a barge from Castine, Maine by loyalists who did not want to lose them. We used a self guided tour pamphlet to see the structures and homes of interest. For dinner that that night we went upscale and had a delicious meal at Rossmount Inn several minutes out of town. ( www.rossmountinn.com). This place is a real treat and should not be missed.
Our next day had us drive an hour east to Saint John. Saint John is the largest city in New Brunswick with 70,000 people and another 50,000 in the surrounding areas. The city sits on the terminus of Saint John river that opens up into the Bay of Fundy. The Saint John river “reversing falls” is an unusual geologic feature which is also one of city’s main tourist draws. Due to the tide being low on our arrival to the city we immediately boarded an covered jet drive boat for a harbor and river tour offered by Reversing Falls Jet Boat Ride. (http://jetboatrides.com) We picked this company because it uses jet drive and takes people up the rapids in a fun and dry manner. We recommend this company because the other tour boat does not go up the rapids past the bridge. (There is also a thrill ride by a sleek jet boat that dives into the rapids getting everyone soaked in the cold water. ) During our ride the captain explained that the tide was leaving the harbor at about five feet per hour. While under the bridge he held the boat in the fast current showing us whirlpools that were being created. Some of these were ten feet wide and pulling water down almost three feet in a fast swirl. He continued taking the boat higher up the river in what seemed like steps in the rapids near the paper factory explaining how the current works. The captain recommended that we come back just before the high tide breaks later that evening to see the change. Afterwards he headed back down the river where he pointed out a rocky cliff that has similar rocks in Africa of which they were connected to at one time. Before getting back to the dock we passed by three seals who gave us a look before moving on. We highly recommend the Reverse Falls Jet Boat Ride. After our boat tour we walked to the City Market for lunch. This market has been here since 1876. It is housed in a building with a tall roof that was built to look like an inverted ship’s hull. Here you will find fruit, meat and seafood along with tourist items and different food counters.
From City Market we pulled out “The Three Historic Walking Tours” guide we received at the information center. This is a good booklet to have as it lists three walks and spotlights the different buildings and homes along the way. Our walk combined parts all three tours for the rest of the afternoon. We strolled past many homes, some with unusual designs dating back over 100 years. We continued past the different older churches and the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum Synagogue. Dinner that night was at a local pub where we sampled the fish and chips and the regional local scallops served fried along with a couple locally made beers.
The next morning we left civilization behind and made our way east to Fundy Trail Parkway. (www.fundytrailparkway.com) Fundy Trail Parkway is literally a park that has a scenic drive running through it. The road has many stops along the coast to take in the view or to start a hike. To get to Fundy Trail Parkway you need to drive to St. Martins and make a right turn at the covered bridge where the lobster boats are floating at the dock or sitting below it on the bay’s floor depending on the tide. (It is not every day you get to photograph and old covered bridge next to boats grounded.) Today’s drive to the park had us visit three covered bridges. The reason for us coming to Fundy Trail Parking was to stay a night at the Hearst Lodge a few miles off the road. Hearst Lodge was built in 1967 by the famous Hearst family. This place is all about being rustic and not luxurious as the Hearst name would imply. When booking here you have a choice of two cottages or three rooms. Both the cottages and rooms are very basic. There is no phone or internet service here. (There is a satellite TV in the lodge. ) You don’t stay at the Hearst Lodge for plushy accommodations, you stay here to have a great experience is the natural surroundings and enjoy the lodge. Caretakers George and Laura really put the “care” in your stay.
George always made sure there was a large fire crackling in the fireplace or campfire. Laura kept you well fed with her delicious cooking. This is a BYO so bring a bottle of wine for your dinner. Getting to the Hearst Lodge can be done via George’s pick-up truck on the hilly road or by hiking in. We opted to give George our luggage and hike the Hearst Trail from the interpretive center where the cars stay overnight. The Hearst Trail goes along the river for only 1.75 miles (2.8km). This is not a flat river trail. If you are not used to hiking or cannot go up and down embankments, rocks or steps than you should take the pick-up. If you have a sense of adventure and don’t mind working your body a little, then take the trail. After 90 minutes we arrived sweaty, starving and happy.
Upon entering the lodge we were treated to an applause by a day group having lunch. Laura was quick to bring us a hearty three course lunch. After lunch we sat on rocking chairs on the porch of the lodge looking at and listening to the river and breathing the sweet forest air while reading, working on photos from our trip and knitting for Maureen. We enjoyed just being in such nice surroundings. Before dinner we strolled up the river a little ways on a flat trail for look. A three course dinner comes with your stay offering a choice of salmon or chicken. Evening entertainment was an old fashion campfire set by George where we chatted with the other guests about the different travel plans we all had. Breakfast the next morning was made to order. On top of that we requested a couple of peanut butter sandwiches so we can picnic on the way to Hopewell Rocks. We would not hesitate to come back here and hope George and Laura will be greeting us when we do.
The next morning after a few hugs from Laura we drove east to Hopewell Rocks. Hopewell Rocks is a natural park where lowest recorded tides in the world are recorded. Each day during low tide visitors can take a tram or walk an easy path to a stair case that takes them to the floor of the Bay of Fundy. Here guides answer questions and look after your safety. Their most important job is to tell you when the tide starts to change and direct you to the stairs. While walking on the floor of the Bay of Fundy you get to look up at the “flower pots”. These are narrow columns that form mini islands that can only be seen at low tide. These tall columns of sandstone have trees and plant growth on the top making it look like a tall flower pot. While on the bottom you can see tunnels, seaweed and the cliffs that are normally covered by the Bay. Some people like to come back when the tide changes to see the difference or wait for the tide to come up and do a kayak tour between the flower pots. We highly recommend a visit to this place allowing about two hours at low tide. Do check their web site for the tidal schedule on at www.thehopewellrocks.ca before visiting.
Nine Nights In Nova Scotia
After our interesting time at Hopewell Rocks we drove three and half hours to the town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Wolfville is located near the Bay of Fundy and is in the middle of wine country at the eastern end of the Annapolis Valley. It boasts a university and is a bit more of cultural center than other towns of its size in the province. Wolfville offers good restaurants, shops and a theater on Main Street. We checked into the Gingerbread House Inn because it was located on quiet street just outside of town. (www.gingerbreadhouse.ca) We opted for a spacious suite having a large hot tub inside it. We found the inn keepers Libby and Alan to be excellent hosts. Alan makes an amazing breakfast and Libby could not have been more helpful in planning out our day in the region. Dinner after check in was at a Turkish restaurant called Troy on Elm Street. We were pleasantly surprised by the some of the authentic flavor served to us that we enjoyed in Istanbul almost a year ago to the day. We liked the open air kitchen and the charcoal grilling. (Call 902 542-4425 for reservations)
After an excellent breakfast of eggs Benedict with fresh fruit plated beautifully by Alan we were on our way to explore this part of the Annapolis Valley. Our first stop was at the Prescott House Museum (www.prescotthouse.novascotia.ca) where we used our Nova Scotia Museum pass for entrance. The Prescott House is a stately Georgian home that was owned by horticulturist Charles Prescott who lived here with his family from 1811 until 1859. It is filled with period and original furnishings. Our next stop was three minutes around the corner to the Fox Hill Cheese House where a fifth generation family member of this farm offered us a tasting of their many cheeses and a couple of ice creams they produce. There are no tours at Fox Hill but we were able to see an employee mixing a vat of cheese through a window. We continued north to Blomidon on the bay stopping at the Blomidon Winery. Here we learned about some of the grape varietals that grow well in this area and tasted several wines for $8. This tasting fee was refunded when we purchased a two of our favorites. The next couple of hours were spent exploring the northern area taking in views of the low tide on the bay and then driving to a ridge and viewing the farm land in valley. We then drove west to Halls Harbor to see the small man made cove empty of water with all the boats grounded. We opted to pass on lunch here but did take a few photos before moving on. From the Bay of Fundy we drove south and then east of Wolfville to visit the wineries of the region. Here we sampled wines from Gaspereau Vineyards, L’Acadie Vineyards and Domaine de Grand Pré. Gasperuea had an excellent selection to taste and one of the few vineyards that does not charge for it. They had an energetic staff that explained the different local grapes that grow well in the cool Nova Scotia climate as they poured each bottle. Our tastings concluded with their smooth ice wines and an unusual fortified Maple Wine. We liked that Gasperue put out different types fresh picked grapes on the counter for people to try. It was interesting to imagine how these sweet juicy grapes could be turned into a good dry wine. L’Acadie Vineyards was a quick stop next for us. L’Acadie is an organic winery that offered for $5 a couple of sparkling wines to taste. We were pleased to see an emphasis here on organic grapes but were less than impressed with our visit that was all business of try and buy. We did not find anything special enough to buy here. The Domaine de Grand Pré winery is perhaps the most popular and prettiest vineyard in the area. (ww.grandprewines.ns.ca) It reminded us a bit like vineyards in Napa Valley. Domaine de Grand Pré features well maintained grounds, a big showroom and an upscale restaurant. We were lucky to have Mr. Hanspeter Stutz, the vineyards owner explain and pour us his different wines. One popular grape that does well in cool climates is called the Maréchal Foch which originated in France. In Nova Scotia it is used on its own or as a blend. We tried all six of his reds, four of their whites, including their version of something called “Tidal Bay”. Tidal Bay is a type of wine any vineyard in the region can produce if it meets certain grape standards. We also tasted a sparkling wine and a few desert wines. We liked a little more than half of reds and two of the whites which included their Tidal Bay. We also found the sparkling wine to be quite good. There limited production desert wines were excellent but we did not care for the fortified wines. Overall we had a great day touring around this part of Nova Scotia. For dinner that night we picked an upscale place called the Privet House in Wolfsville. I had a medley of seafood and fish that was perfect while Maureen ordered the lamb chops that were outstanding. (www.privethouserestaurant.com).
After another good breakfast prepared by Alan at the Gingerbread House Inn we headed west to the historic town Annapolis Royal. On the way we made an unusual detour to Harbourville on the Bay of Fundy. The reason for stopping here had to do with the table settings we saw at the inn that had nearly perfect round rocks of different sizes on it. When we asked how to get them Alan told us to head to Harbourville in the morning due to low tide and look for them on the rocky beach. Certain rocks at this beach are round due to them rolling up and down during the strong tidal swings. This rolling action can be as much as 40 to 50 feet on a slanted rocky beach every six hours taking many years to get smooth. Our search came up with eight pounds of assorted size rocks ranging in size from a marble to a baseball. It shows that souvenirs do not necessarily always have to be bought. From the beach we continued west to Annapolis Royal where our first stop was the Historic Gardens (www.historicgardens.com). This 27 acre garden opened its gates in 1981 and has been called “one of the top five gardens to go out of your way to see”. After given a quick overview we followed the path stopping at the different plants, gardens and ponds. This was a very pleasant one hour stop. After the garden we took a self walking tour of Annapolis Royal using a free guide we picked up at the gardens.
Annapolis Royal is located on the western side of the Annapolis Valley directly on the Annapolis River which opens to the Bay of Fundy. This is one of the oldest settled towns in North America dating back with the French in the early 1600’s. It had a long history of battles or sieges between the French and English with the English finally winning control in mid 1700’s. The last attack was by American Privateers in 1781 who found the town undefended and looted it. Annapolis Royal is a nice town to stroll around and have lunch. We started our walk at Fort Anne. Here you see the grassy embankments with canons that protected the fort along with the main building in the center. From the fort we walked down St. George Street looking at the different homes and buildings in town. One place worth visiting is called the Sinclair Inn Museum. (www.annapolisheritagesociety.com) The Sinclair Inn is from the early 1700’s and is partially restored so that you can see how it was built. They have an unusual video display in the basements that I would call the ghosts of Sinclair past. This interactive video describes the life and history of the building over the past 300 years through different characters. After walking St. George Street and the waterfront path we drove a few minutes and stopped at the causeway over the Annapolis River to learn about is a tidal power generator. There are no tours of the power station however a guide does takes you to an observation tower of the bay and explains how electricity is made while you see the water running by at a fast pace. (The station makes 1% of Nova Scotia’s power) From here we continued on a few miles out of town to the small North Hills Museum. In 1964 Robert Patterson bought and restored this 1760 farm house and filled it with antiques that he collected over his lifetime. After our 30 minute tour we headed due south to Lunenburg. ( If you have time I would consider a visit to Digby a little further west of Annapolis Royal. )
Our next stop was on the south shore to the pretty and historic village of Lunenburg. Lunenburg started as a French settlement in the mid 1600’s. It was declared a UNESCO sight in 1995 due to its unique architecture as well as being one of the best examples of a British designed town in Canada. Lunenburg today is home to a fishery company, the famous Canadian schooner Bluenose 2 as well as boutiques, galleries, B & B’s and restaurants. It is 62 miles (101 kilometers) from Halifax. People that stay in Halifax (especially cruisers) usually make day trips to Lunenburg and nearby Peggy’s Cove. For our overnight we checked into the Homeport Motel (www.homeportmotel.com) just outside of town. We picked this simple looking place because of its spacious apartment style design complete with kitchen and large hot tub. After dropping off our bags we hurried out to take a three minute drive to the Blue Nose Golf Course. We did this because the late afternoon sun was perfect for photographing and viewing Lunenburg across the bay. We parked alongside one of the greens and saw this pretty town with its brightly painted homes and buildings in the background and the bay and boats in the foreground. Still wanting to take advantage of the late afternoon sun we drove ten minutes through town to a place called Blue Rocks. Blue Rocks is a pretty cove just off the tourist grid. At Blue Rocks we found a sleepy community on the water with rustic sea views of fishing shacks and nice homes. We continued our own tour back in Lunenburg by driving up and down the narrow streets that had many brightly painted pretty older homes. We ended our day at the top of the hill to look at the impressive Lunenburg Academy catching the last rays of the days sun. The Lunenburg Academy is a three story Victorian era wooden structure that was a school. It’s classic lines make it worth a quick look if you enjoy this type of architecture. (Later at night we drove up to it again to see it lit up). Before dinner we wondered around some of the quaint streets looking at the galleries and boutiques. Dinner was at the Grand Banker Bar and Grill because a water view table opened up when we walked in. Here I ordered the scallops what get delivered straight from the fishery across the street. One could not have anything fresher and tastier. After dinner we stopped by the Maritime Kitchen and Party and Scuttlebutt Restaurant to listen to a set of folksy – Celtic music. Go to www.explorelunenburg.ca for information on Lunenburg
We left Lunenburg to take the scenic Lighthouse Route along the coast to Halifax with a stop in Mahone Bay and Peggy’s Cove. Mahone Bay is a pretty water front village, As we left Lunenburg without breakfast we were happy to find Jo-Ann’s Deli Market and Bake Shop on the water. (www.joannsdelimarket.ca). With her food looking so good behind the glass counters we ordered up a slice of chicken pot pie and portion of macaroni and cheese for breakfast. (There is a nice selection of normal breakfast food and fresh baked goods.) From Jo-Ann’s we drove to other side of the bay for the view and photos before continuing on. Our next stop was the memorial to the victims of Swiss Air 211 that crashed just off the coast on September 2nd, 1998. We found the memorial tranquil with a good view of ocean where it came down that tragic day. From here we continued a few minutes down the road to one of Nova Scotia’s most visited places known as Peggy’s Cove.
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Peggy’s Cove is a pretty fishing village built on rocks that go out to the ocean. It has a protected cove complete with red and blue lobster boats and old wooden dories about. The cove is surrounded by 160 pretty bungalows, homes and fishing shacks. At the end of the road is large restaurant and one of Canada’s most visited lighthouses. Knowing this is a popular day trip for bus and cruise tours we kept and eye on the time to arrive late morning. Here we parked our car at the visitor center and walked several minutes to the lighthouse stopping at a couple of shops on the way. Peggy’s Cove is really a picture perfect place and the point at the lighthouse is equally scenic. During our visit we shared the light house area with about 100 people walking about taking photos and admiring the scenery along with a bag piper working for tips. As we were walking back to the car we were pleased to be leaving this small community when five tour buses pulled in. Our advise here is arrive before 11AM or after 3PM. We found our leisurely 90 minute stay to work out perfect.
Our next destination was the city of Halifax with our first stop being Citadel Hill to visit Fort George. (http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/halifax/index.aspx) This imposing citadel was first established in 1749 and was one of the most important forts the British had in Canada. Presently it is national historic site and is manned by docents dressed in the kilt uniforms of the 78th Highland Regiment that occupied it. The acting soldiers give historical tours, discuss uniforms, fire a canon at noon as well as give rifle demonstrations during the day. The citadel is an impressive place to visit because it sits high up over the city with good views of the bay. We enjoyed walking along the walls and then inside the building that housed the barracks and a good military museum. From the citadel we drove down hill to the waterfront to visit the Nautical Maritime of the Atlantic. (http://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca) This museum has exhibits on boats and nautical history from the area along with a display on the great explosion of 1917. One area included items from the Titanic in which you see one of the original lounge chairs and get to sit in a replica. There are also historical boats you can board on the dock at museum. With the Nautical Museum opening up to the Halifax Boardwalk we decided a quick stroll up and down would be nice. Missing lunch that day we stopped at a shack by the water called Smokes Poutinerie (http://smokespoutinerie.com) to share an order of poutine. Poutine is a Quebec invention of French fries smothered with brown gravy and cheese curds. We shared an order of this calorie worthy treat and were quite satisfied.
From the waterfront we checked into the Delta Hotel nearby just three blocks from the water. For dinner we kept it simple and quick because we had tickets to see a show at the Neptune Theatre. We chose the Old Triangle Irish Ale House near the theater and found the food and service flat but the music very lively. Afterwards we enjoyed the modern rendition of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Eras. Our night finished up with a stroll along the waterfront and on some of older narrow streets near by. Here we passed a few pubs and bars packed with Halifax’s younger crowd. Before leaving Halifax the next morning we took a tour on an old British double-decker bus. This tour leaves near the Nautical Museum and lasts one hour covering most of the streets and structures of Halifax worth nothing. It is a good way to get an overview of the city. If we had time to do a couple of more things while in Halifax it would have been to stroll the garden that our tour bus drove around as well as take the ferry ride across to Dartmouth to get a view of the harbor and downtown.
On To Cape Breton
After our tour it was on to the Cape Breton section of Nova Scotia on the eastern side of the province. Our first destination would be the waterfront town of Louisbourg. Getting there would be our longest non-stop drive taking just under six hours. We were pleased the drive was not as tedious as it could have been due the different roads and views along the way. After three and half hours we stopped on the other side of the causeway in Cape Breton at the visitor center. Here we found good detailed maps and helpful information. In fact, we have high praise for the tourist offices run by the government. Each time we stopped for help we found the people friendly and knowledgeable. We rolled into the quiet town of Louisbourg around 5PM and checked into the Point of View Suites. (www.louisbourgpointofview.com. ) We liked this place because of the views of the bay and the fortress from the patio of our suite. We also found our studio accommodations very comfortable Dinner in town that night was limited to the family owned Lobster Kettle Restaurant (www.lobsterkettle.ca) where we took advantage of an unusual warm autumn night dined outside. For entertainment we learned that Louisbourg Playhouse was having trio of Celtic players. We found the music amazing in what is a nice intimate theater. When you are in this area go to www.louisbourgplayhouse.ca to see what is on the calendar. After breakfast we opted to drive five minutes in the opposite direction of the fortress to see the view of harbor, lighthouse and fortress from the end of the bay.
After breakfast we opted to drive five minutes in the opposite direction of the fortress to see the view of harbor, lighthouse and fortress from the end of the bay. The main attraction and the reason most tourists go to Louisbourg is to see the impressive recreated fortress. Louisbourg was settled by the French in 1713. It had walls built around the settlement between 1720 and 1740 making it one of the largest most expensive forts in the new world. It had the disadvantage of not having any high ground to look out to enemy and a weak spot facing land. Another problem for Louisbourg was that it was far from supplies and reinforcements. The fort was besieged twice and in 1758 after its capture by the British it was taken apart and razed leaving nothing left that can be used to defend it. The site laid untouched until the late 1960’s when parks department started to rebuild part of the area on the original foundations using what plans they can find. When you visit the Fortress of Louisbourg the clocks of time stand still as you are transported to 1744. Here you will see different costumed docents completely in character going about their business in the warehouses, pub, guard houses and streets. We took a tour led by a poor French soldier who explained how difficult a job he had. He complained how the food was rationed and how his uniform would be washed a couple of times a year. He said he was lucky to find a shoe when one of his wore out. He also explained how he was able to do side work which would help make ends meet. The tour took us to an officer’s home where the maids and housekeepers described their lives. Lunch was on premises where we sampled food from that era using a simple utensil to eat. Before and after our tour we enjoyed walking around the different structures while avoiding the wondering sheep to see what were in the buildings. We especially liked going through the dark warehouse that was full of items from the day. We found the staff and the place well worth visiting. I would allow about three to four hours here. See www.fortressoflouisbourg.ca for information.
From Louisbourg we took the scenic drive to the town of Baddeck to see the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/grahambell/index.aspx) While everyone knows Mr. Bell invented the telephone I had no idea about his work with kites, airplanes and fast boats. At the museum you see some of his original inventions including an early hydrofoil boat and a replica of the Silver Dart airplane. The museum also does a good job telling about the man and his family. The highlight of visiting this museum would be to take the “White Glove Tour”. This is a special tour that needs to be signed up for in advance and generally limited to six to eight visitors. During this tour you have to put on white gloves and go behind closed doors. Behind these doors you actually get to touch Bell’s inventions and work. It was fascinating to hold one of his mini notebooks that he always had in his pocket for taking notes whenever he had a thought. Do not miss this part of the tour. After our tour we drove to the village of Mabou where we stayed two nights at the Mabou River Inn. (http://mabouriverinn.com)
Mabou is known for its Celtic music, tradition and scenery. We liked the Mabou River Inn because the rooms were updated and the people that ran it were very nice. The inn has a shared kitchenette, laundry room and game room. There is always coffee and brewed tea available along with breakfast in the morning. Mabou is located near the Cabot Trail that goes over the top of Cape Breton. One reason to come to Mabou is to visit the Red Shoe Inn (http://www.redshoepub.com) as we did three times. The Red Shoe Inn brings out the best in people, food and music. We arrived for dinner to listen to a lovely folksinger. We learned that it was “open mic” that evening at 9PM and came back. Celtic music is the rule here. At first there were two players who were joined by two more. The place turned lively when they would play out a Celtic reel and the locals would start to step dance between the tables. Some of the tunes would just seem to go on and on with people playing the guitar, flute, banging the key board and fiddling away. All this would be done by the stomping of their shoes hard on the floor to keep the tempo. We retired to the inn with smiles on our face after such a long but fun day.
Our morning started leisurely taking care of some laundry we enjoying breakfast. We then went over the map to plan our day with the inn’s owner. Our drive took us off the main road for a view of the coast heading southwest. This included seeing small bays and some fishing boats. We continued on to Judique where we stopped at the Celtic Music Interpretive Center (www.celticmusiccentre.com). Here we paid a $6 fee to stroll around their mini-museum looking at old instruments and reading about the rich Scottish history and music. Among the exhibits are two instructional videos. One video claims that in eight minutes you will have the basics on the violin. The other video is teaches the basics of step dancing. With the challenge on I picked one the loaner fiddles while Maureen tried step dancing. (We were pleased to have that part of the exhibit empty of anyone as to not see or hear what we were doing as it was not pretty!) As music is always played between 11:30 and 1PM we sat down to hear a set but passed on lunch that was being served. After the set we drove to the Glenora Inn and Distillery located just north of Mabou in Glenville. It is the only place in Nova Scotia that makes a single malt whiskey. (they cannot call it Scotch because only whiskey made in Scotland can be called Scotch) We arrived here in time for the next tour of their immaculately clean distillery. Here were told how the stills were imported from Scotland, and how the water used for the processing runs right along the building in a cool clean stream. At the end of our tour we were offered a half an ounce to taste. Celtic music is always played during lunch at Glenora so we sat down and enjoyed both the food and music. Interestingly enough we did not buy their whiskey during lunch due to its exorbitant price for a shot. After a lunch we drove north to Inverness to check out the area eventually turning back to Mabou on the smaller roads when the weahter turned. That night we went back to the Red Shoe for dinner and more Celtic music. The Red Shoe during this evenings session had a good mix of locals and tourists. The restaurant was packed and we were happy to share a table with others. When the music got going some of the local ladies started to step dance between the tables again. We highly recommend the food and entertainment here.
We left Mabou the next morning realizing that this was an excellent two night stop. Today we were heading north catching the scenic Cabot Trail to Cape Breton Park. Our first stop this morning was in Cheticamp. Here we visited what is known as the Museum of the Hooked Rug and Home Life (www.lestroispignons.com) This small museum is part history and part hooked rug museum. .Much of this place is dedicated to Elizabeth LeFort , who was a local woman and an incredible hooked rug artist. She was a bit of a hoarder and it is interesting to see the artifacts saved from her. Allow about thirty minutes for this stop. From the museum we headed two miles north and stopped at La Boulangerie Bakery because of their delicious reputation for its bread. Here we purchased a loaf that came right out of the oven and tore into it in the parking lot enjoying the warm soft inside, crunchy crust top and buttery bottom. After our taste of the local bread we drove into Cape Breton Park with a stop at the information center for some advice on hiking. Cape Breton Park covers most of the northern section of Cape Breton Island. The only way to get around the park is via the scenic road along the coast that goes over northern section of the park on to the other coast. This park is truly a wilderness area with most of it inaccessible. The only way to get see the park is via the many over looks on the road as well as areas designated for parking to hike in. The information center just past Cheticamp have very friendly and knowledgeable people that can match your desire and ability to the type of hike you may be interested in. Here they give you a map of the park with numbers and names designating the hikes. We were advised to hike “Skyline” which is number seven on the map. This is because it is about two and half hours round trip and does not have any significant elevation rises. It also offers great views of the coast and mountains.
Our hike on Skyline started out pretty good. Three quarters into it we got fogged in. By the time we got to the end of the hike where there is a series of platforms our visibility was only 200 feet. Frustrated, we turned around and made our way back. The overcast and fog turned out better than we expected as we were half way back we spotted a large female moose on twenty feet from the path. There was a bull moose another thirty feet past her watching his mate and us. Here we stayed quiet and did not move watching both animals going about their business of eating plants. Every once in while the bull would let out a grunt perhaps to let us know he was watching us. We dared not to continue on the path and be too close to her. As she moved on we were able walk by observing the bull better. He was a massive creature with a huge rack and lots of muscles weighing perhaps 1800 pounds. While watching these animals go about their business the fog literally lifted and within 10 minutes they were off into woods. Moose do not come out often in the middle of the day and our bad luck of fog turned out to be our good fortune in seeing these large creatures.
After our hike and moose viewing we drove north along the scenic coast and then east stopping every few miles to catch the view. Our next stop on the Cabot Trail was at Pleasant Bay where we had lunch outdoors at the Rusty Anchor where the cliff drops into the beach. Our next stop was between the coasts at the Beaulach Ban Waterfalls. This required a short drive down a dirt road and then a ten minute walk. From the viewing area we were treated to a pretty waterfall cascading down in stages. From there we drove to stop twelve called Lone Shieling which is an easy 20 minute hike to a replica of a Scottish crofter’s hut. On the way we got to see some of the oldest maple trees in the park. We continued west and got off the Cabot Trail to take the coast road which connected back to the Cabot Trail.
We finished our day driving down the east coast heading to The Keltic Lodge in Inginosh. With the last of late afternoon warmth from the sun shining down we relaxed in front of the pretty building on lodges Adirondack chairs sipping a glass of wine toasting another good day. That evening we dined at the lodge and enjoyed some folk music in the pub afterwards. For our day in the Inginosh area our plan was to stay close to the lodge and not do much driving. We started with an excellent buffet breakfast at the lodge and drove 10 minutes up the coast to see the Mary Ann waterfalls. This required a short drive on a dirt road followed by an easy hike to get the best views. From here we drove a few miles up the coast stopping at Green Cove and Lakies Head overlook where we did a short walk out on the rocky shore. We were happy to be back at the lodge at noon to enjoy a snack at the fireplace in the pub We found the room comfortable and service during our two nights at the inn friendly and excellent . The Keltic Lodge is on a narrow peninsula with an easy to follow trail that takes you to the end with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. We took the two hour round trip hike enjoying the views as well as the salty air mixed with the sweet smell of the forest. Other activities one can do at the lodge is golf on their course as well as arrange to go whale watching or fishing from the nearby town during the season. That evening we opted to have dinner at Main Street Restaurant and Bakery only five minutes away in town where found the menu diverse and food tasty. We left for dinner at dusk encountering a moose walking slowly on the side of the one way road we were on. As we did not want to harass it we simply had the car crawl at three miles per hour 100 feet behind her until she moved off the road.
Three Nights on Prince Edward Island
To continue with our visit to the remaining Canadian maritime province we left Inginosh and drove four hours to Caribou Nova Scotia to catch the ferry to Prince Edward Island. PEI as it is known is Canada’s smallest province. To get there one can take the ferry from Caribou or drive another couple of hours and take the Confederation Bridge. We boarded to 1PM ferry with high winds and swells coming from the north west. What was supposed to take 75 minutes took nearly two hours because the captain slowed the ferry as to not bounce around too much. Our ferry was large having two decks for vehicles. On board we were pretty comfortable and ate lunch that we brought aboard rather than use their food counter. Once off the ship we stopped ten minutes west to PEI’s only winery for a taste before heading to the south east tip to see the small Cape Bear light house. Due to our ferry coming in late we abandoned plans to head to the scenic northeast part of the island and turned back towards the capital, Charlottetown where we would staying for the next two nights.
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In Charlottetown we picked the Rodd Hotel (www.roddvacations.com) which is in a very nice stately building within walking distance of all the shops, pubs and restaurants. Our room was on a top floor that had easy access to the roof where one can take in the surrounding views. After settling in we were given a map and strolled a few of the main streets. For dinner we settled in at the Gahan pub based on recommendations. Gahan brews their own beer and I was pleased to buy a three ounce sampling of all 14 styles just to give all the different beers a fair taste. The menu here was very good and I was pleased to finally do a first course of steamed Prince Edward Island mussels. Maureen’s starter was made from PEI’s most abundant crop. She had fresh cut thin potatoes quick fried and served nachos style.
The next day our first stop was the weekly farmers market just outside of the city. This is a good place to stock up on the islands wonderful produce, meat and fish. It is a also where we had a late breakfast ordering from a couple food counters. From the farmers market we drove to Cows Ice Cream factory. Cows in recognized as Canada’s best ice cream. When we arrived we were disappointed to learn the tours were over for the season. We were pleased that the counter person did let us taste a few ice creams as a consolation prize. After our tasting we can understand how Cows gets their reputation due to its rich creamy texture and fresh flavors. We continued to the north shore to see the beaches and coves. Our route took us to Prince Edward Island National Park where we drove along Gulf Shore Parkway stopping every now and then to see the ocean and dunes. We continued around following the bay to North Rustico and Rustico Harbor where we watched a demonstration by the rescue squad as to how to deal with falling through ice that could happen in only a couple of months. At Rustico Harbor we strolled on the beach and to the point before heading on Gulf Shore Parkway West to Cavendish.
Gulf Shore Parkway West leads you to Cavendish and to the Green Gables Heritage Place where author Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/pe/greengables/visit.aspx). Here we watched a short video on her life and the farm and grounds than inspired her books. Afterwards we walked around the grounds that included a barn and the restored home she lived in. From the home we strolled the trail adjacent to the house called Haunted Woods which is mentioned in the book and passed a fox on the way. Allow about two hours here including an easy hike through the woods that we recommend.
From Cavendish we drove nearly straight south past the acres and acres of potato fields to the little hamlet of Victoria on the water. Here we had a nice late lunch on the pier at the Lobster Barn where we could not have met a friendlier staff. From there we headed back to Charlottetown with a stop at Port-La-Joye-Fort Amherst National Historic Site. We picked this place to stroll because it is located at the mouth of the harbor and we were told we might be able to find sea glass. After strolling the water at low tide we drove back to Charlottetown and parked on the west side of town to walk the waterfront there and visit the grounds of the stately home of the Lieutenant Governor. We then drove a few streets of the historic district nearby admiring many of the cities old homes and mansions. Dinner that night was at Old Dublin Pub in town followed by a visit to the Triangle Pub to listen to two local musicians.
For our last day on PEI we were headed to the western side of the island for the day and night. Our first stop was at the Bottle Houses on the south side of the island. (www.bottlehouses.com) It is here that Edouard Arsenault started to construct three small houses from 1980 to 1984 using over 25,000 bottles and cement. His small structures include a church, a bar and a house. (certainly an interesting trilogy) In the center is a pretty garden. When visiting allow about thirty minutes to stroll around. From the Bottle Houses we continued to the southwest tip to see Cedar Dunes Provincial Park and West End Lighthouse. Here you will find a black and white lighthouse that is attached to an inn. Looking at it reminded me of the old prison uniforms one would see in old movies. This inn would be a peaceful place to stay a few days in the summer. From the West End Lighthouse we drove up to O’Leary where we visited the Canadian Potato Museum. (peipotatomuseum.com) This museum is dedicated to PEI’s number one crop. After about an hour we learned everything there is know about potatoes including their history, type and how they grow on the island. During the tourist season there is a cafe that offers lunch with the potato as the main food item. From the museum we headed east and north on the Lighthouse Trail to Cape North.
Cape North can be seen well in advance due to the turbine farm there. At the tip there is an interpretive center along with a museum. Looking past the lighthouse you can see the east coast’s longest rocky reef. During low tide one can walk out almost a half a mile. From the parking lot you can see one of the arms of the turbine that is laid out next to the nacelle where the arms are connected. Seeing this up close gives you an appreciation to just how large these power generators are. We concluded our day driving back to the Rodd Hotel Mill River Resort north of OLeary. This is the best hotel on the west side of PEI offering an indoor pool complete with a long slide and golf course. The next morning we left Prince Edward Island via the Confederation Bridge. The bridge which opened in 1997, spans 8 miles (12.9 km) and is longest bridge going over ice. It connects to New Brunswick where our destination for the afternoon and night would be Fredericton.
Leaving PEI we understood that we did not have enough time to get to know this province properly. We found the farming and coastal areas scenic, the people nice and the food good. Because it was at the end of the season we found our time spent here was adequate. We did like using Charlottetown as a base for the two nights due to the nature of our visit and O’Leary for the third night. Had we been here in the summer we would stay a week at an inn or rent a cottage in two separate parts of the island.
Back Through New Brunswick On The Way To Quebec
We left PEI via the Confederate Bridge and had to drive west and then north through through New Brunswick in order to get to Quebec City. Our stop for the afternoon and night was the city of Fredericton which took four hours to get to. Before arriving in the city we paid a visit to the Briggs Little Yarn Factory about thirty minutes from Fredericton. (www.briggsandlittle.com ) The reason to stop here was Maureen’s interest in knitting and to see how the yarn is made from wool. We were pleased to be taken around the factory by John Thompson, Owner and Production Manager who gave us a very interesting walk around.
Our first room had large piles freshly sheared wool. From here it was placed in different machines that gave it a badly needed cleaning. It was next placed in machines that stretched the wool eventually turning it into yarn using several different machines. He also showed how they dye the wool and liked some of their unusual colors. After walk around we took advantage of Briggs Little only retail store to pick up some product. You can check their web site to find a distributor near you.
Fredericton is the third largest city in New Brunswick with a regional population of about 55,000 people. It is located inland on the Saint John River about 1 1/4 hour drive from the city of Saint John. We picked Fredericton for the night because of its size and proximity to Prince Edward Island and Quebec City. Using a Hotwire deal we ended up at the Crown Plaza on the river. This hotel is also next to a good art museum and across the street from the theater. It is also two blocks from the historical district and downtown. Fredericton is a bit more cultural than most cities this size because of the two universities here. After arriving we strolled the waterfront and then walked around some of the old British landmarked buildings which were closed for the season. From there we strolled by the stores a few from the streets away from the river. I would not call Fredericton a destination but a nice place to stop when in the area. One other reason we stayed the night was for some personal grooming needed. With a wedding a week away Maureen wanted to get her hair and nails done and I needed a haircut. Staying here turned out to be a real surprise as we were taken care of by the “North American hairstylist champion” for three years in a row. (who would know you can find a person of this caliber in a small city like this!) Dinner that night was next door at Isaac’s Way Restaurant. The place had an arsty feeling to it and served good food.
We left Fredericton late the next morning and drove north with our first stop at the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory in Waterville, NB. (www.coveredbridgechips.com) This place makes potato chips in small batches. We saw thin sliced potatoes dropped in to a fryer. It was then sent up a conveyor belt where they were hand sorted before going through the bagging process. During our visit they were making sweet potato chips and the small factory had a sweet smell all about. At the end of the tour we were handed a couple of bags a warm chips that came off the line a moment earlier. We found this twenty minute tour fun, informative and tasty. The cost is $5 which includes the samples and a tasting area of different seasonings you can put on the chips. From the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Factory we drove five minutes to the world’s longest covered bridge. The Hartland bridge spans over the Saint John river at 1283 feet (391 meters) and was open to traffic in 1901. (the covered pedestrian walk way was added in 1945) It is only one lane so people looking to cross must look down the long tunnel like bridge first. On the other side is a gift shop, informative plaque and a small supermarket where we bought sandwiches and picnicked besides the bridge.
Our last stop in New Brunswick was at Grand Falls located in the northwest part of the province just two miles from the Maine border. This town of 6,000 people is named after the falls that drops about 75 feet (23 meters) in front of it. We pulled off the highway and stopped at the newly built visitors center where we met a very helpful and friendly staff. They told us about the falls and the path along it and gorges. They also informed us about a guided walking tour for $8 that we took. If you are in a hurry and want to see just the falls you can always park the car at the new visitor center and look over the parking lot or the viewing areas around it. Don’t miss the magnificent quilt made by one of the staff members Mona Gagnon called “In My Backyard”. She took 1942 hours or two and half years to produce this beautiful piece of art. After viewing the falls and quilt I recommend taking the walking tour. This informative and friendly walk takes you to the other side of the bridge where some of the history and geological facts are explained. The walk then continues on a path along the gorge to a spot where you can take steps to a place where you can see its narrowest and most scenic areas. The views are worth the hike and the $8 is a bargain. If you want to see the gorge closer there are boat rides available. The town of Grand Falls offers places to stop for lunch and get gas. Grand Falls is a must stop when traveling in this area. For information go to www.grandfalls.com As we left Grand Falls and made our way north we were glad to have seen this area of New Brunswick. The remaining four hours of our drive today would transport us from the culture of Maritimes to the near European experience of old Quebec City. Here we would enjoy strolling on the cobbled stone streets in the old walled city embracing its Quebec-French style and food. See www.tabhauser.com Quebec City, A Euro Feel in North American.
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