Superb sights and experiences await travelers to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia, Canada.
By Lazelle Jones
Many RVers toy with the idea of visiting the Canadian Maritime Provinces, but they never seem to get around to it. I speak from experience. For years my wife and I had yearned to see New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy, with its majestic coastline and dramatic tides. And, having raised a daughter, we had spent many hours watching the movie version of the bookAnne Of Green Gables (over and over again), a story that takes place on Prince Edward Island. Also, we had heard about the fresh lobster and other seafood that is pulled daily from the waters off Nova Scotia. So with all of this in mind, we set off to fulfill another of our longtime dreams.
From Bangor, Maine, we drove approximately 100 miles east on State Route 9 to the international border and the towns of Calais (on the United States side) and St. Stephen (in Canada).
I answered the friendly Canadian border agent’s questions regarding our location of birth, number of people on board, and the presence of any firearms, alcoholic beverages, etc., and she welcomed us to Canada and sent us on our way.
A host of good things immediately happened, with a favorable currency exchange rate being one of them. As of February 2005, the American dollar was worth approximately $1.24 Canadian. That means a lobster dinner that costs $20 Canadian (of which we enjoyed several) costs approximately $16 U.S. Do the same conversion for the cost of an RV campsite with hookups (typically they cost $20 Canadian or less), and the value becomes immediately apparent. It’s a fun form of “new math.” We loved it.
The Bay of Fundy divides southern Nova Scotia from New Brunswick. It is approximately 170 miles long, and at its mouth is 30 to 50 miles wide. As you travel north up the coast of New Brunswick, the bay narrows, forcing the sea to reveal some dramatic behavior. At the Hopewell Rocks, the phenomenal tidal shifts are readily apparent. However, before we went there, we snooped along the inlets and fingers of land that create the New Brunswick coastline.
Our first stop in New Brunswick was at St. Andrews. This town sits right on the water, and what a bonanza it is. A coastal seaport village, its charm and picturesque setting had us deciding to spend the night. Our campground was at the far end of the town, right on the edge of the water. From the campground it’s a 15-minute walk to the heart of town, but we drove in and had no problem parking our 39-foot motorhome one block from the main street that runs along the waterfront.
All streets are lined with Victorian homes, with colorfully painted shops, restaurants, and a pier that juts far out into the bay on the main waterfront byway.
From St. Andrews we next headed to Fundy National Park, and from there to Hopewell Rocks Ocean Tidal Exploration Site. Fundy is a pristine and beautiful spot, and Hopewell Rocks is, too “” in a wetter way. The massive tide fluctuation there will leave you amazed.
From the time we left Maine to the time we were in Nova Scotia, it was blueberry picking time. In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, roadside stands selling freshly picked blueberries were everywhere. The typical price for a container of berries was $3 Canadian when we visited. And at the bakeries you’ll find blueberries in pies, in muffins “” you name it. I highly recommend a stop at the Gingerbread House Bakery on Provincial Route 114 in New Brunswick, which leads to Fundy National Park. Great baked goods. And Oxford, Nova Scotia, located not far after you enter Nova Scotia from New Brunswick, is called the blueberry capital of Canada. In fact, the town boasts a big “blueberry man” statue that stands several feet high and greets everyone as they come into town.
The farmers in the Maritime Provinces seem to exude a special kind of pride in working the land. Their homes and farms are nicely manicured, and gardens and roadside produce stands are works of art. This is especially so on Prince Edward Island (PEI). A crew of ornamental horticulturists must go to work every morning well before the tourists get up, for every lawn is mowed, flowers are in bloom, and there is no such thing as a weed or a piece of trash to be found anywhere. Only on PEI (the people there call themselves “PE Islanders”) have I seen golden fields of ripened grain that sweep down to meet the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Potatoes, corn, hay … PEI personifies the word bucolic.
Only within the last few years has it been possible to drive across the channel between New Brunswick and PEI. Before then, PEI could be reached only by ferry (if you were driving). The 8-mile-long Confederation Bridge is unusual in that you pay your toll upon leaving PEI, not entering. As of February 2005, toll rates, in Canadian dollars, began at $39.50 for a car and $45.25 for a motorhome. We did not tow a car, but information about how much it costs if you’re towing is likely available from the bridge information line at (888) 437-6565 or (902) 437-7300.
We recommend a campground on the topside of PEI called Twin Shores (877-734-2267, reservations only; 902-836-4142). This beautiful facility calls to mind a golf course, with the perimeters laced by forests of fir trees, and paths that lead down to the surf-washed sands of the Atlantic (actually, the Bay of St. Lawrence). The shores are blanketed with ocean grasses, sea oats, and white sand.
Twin Shores is situated along the Blue Heron Scenic Drive in PEI, Provincial Route 20. On that same road, only 5 miles from the campground in Park Corner, is the Anne of Green Gables Museum as well as the Lucy Maud Montgomery Heritage Museum. The latter was the home of Ms. Montgomery, author of the “Anne” books. She lived there for 15 years and wrote 11 of her 22 novels.
Farther down that same road, at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 6, is another historical venue: the house where Ms. Montgomery was born and grew up, and the place that inspired her to write the children’s classic, Anne Of Green Gables. The two-story home, fully appointed with the author’s personal items and antiques from that period, is open for tours. A small admission fee is charged. I strongly advise a visit.
Other “Anne’s Land” points of note include the town of Cavendish, home to the Green Gables house, the Green Gables Post Office, and the cemetery where Ms. Montgomery now rests. Special events, a musical show, and various shops relating to the Anne phenomenon can be enjoyed on PEI. Contact the PEI travel bureau for more information.
You can travel on a ferry from Wood Islands, PEI, to Caribou, Nova Scotia. The ferry is more expensive and takes longer than using the Confederation Bridge. However, there’s something charming and exciting about riding the ferry. It’s an adventure. Contact Northumberland Ferries (888-249-7245; 902-566-3838; www.nfl-bay.com) for information and reservations. Arrive an hour or so early before departure; then, drive your motorhome onto the big ferryboat and spend an hour and 15 minutes above deck, enjoying the ocean air and the sound of the waves breaking against the bow while you watch the land in the distance get closer or fall farther away.
Nova Scotia (which means New Scotland) is a massive chunk of real estate. It looks like an island, but Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are “joined at the hip,” or, in this case, the shoulder. It’s approximately 360 miles long and averages 80 miles wide.
The history of Nova Scotia is tied to that of the United States. In the mid-1700s, the British forced Nova Scotia’s French residents “” the Acadians “” from the land. They traveled south, and many settled in what is now southern Louisiana. The arrival of the French Acadians in that area spurred the beloved Cajun culture that lives on in Louisiana to this day.
There are many different ways to divide up Nova Scotia and thereby plan your explorations. You can take various “trails,” such as the Evangeline, Glooscap, and Sunrise trails. Or, try touring the Cape Breton Island, Marine Drive, Halifax Metro, and Lighthouse routes. With only a couple of days left to complete our “big circle” through the Maritimes, we were limited to choosing carefully. The folks at a tourist information center we encountered went online and found us an excellent campground (Nelson Memorial Park & Campground; 902-657-2730) in the town of Tatamagouche, on the Sunrise Trail.
Taking advantage of the waning hours of daylight, we made our way first to Jost Vineyards, just off Provincial Route 6, an east-west byway that runs along the Northumberland Strait, the body of water that separates Nova Scotia from PEI. I was surprised to find a vineyard and winery so far north, and complete with a tasting room and a gift shop.
Tatamagouche offers home-style cooking with a German twist at the Balmoral Motel & Mill Dining Room (888-383-9357, 902-657-2000) on Main Street. It was so good we returned the next morning for breakfast. If you want to check your e-mail, this restaurant has a computer workstation set aside just for that purpose. You also can go to libraries and other locations that have signage, usually on the front door, stating that Internet service is available. It’s free to the public.
As in-the-know travelers can tell by now, we barely scratched the surface of the many things to see and do in Canada’s Maritime Provinces. It is definitely on our list of “places we plan to revisit.” As you make your plans to travel here, reserve the maximum amount of time you can spare … and be sure to read Anne Of Green Gables before you go.
New Brunswick Tourism And Parks
P.O. Box 6000
Canada E3B 5H1
Prince Edward Island Tourism
P.O. Box 940
Canada C1A 7M5
Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage
P.O. Box 456
Canada B3J 2R5