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Trip Report - The Canadian Maritimes

  • Submitted by: Edward Lunny
  • Website: None Available
  • Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005

The following is a report on my recent trip to Southern Ontario, Nova Scotia, Southern New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. All funds are quoted in Canadian dollars. My wife and I flew from Vancouver, British Columbia to Toronto, Ontario. We started the trip with some time visiting friends and relatives. Some of the highlights included a tour of the Skydome where the Blue Jays play when they are not on strike, and the new Hockey Hall of Fame. For hockey fans the latter is a "must see". It has a full size replica of the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room, and a version of a"play by play" booth. There you can see replays of famous goals and then announce the play yourself after listening to the actual announcer. Now you and everyone around can see how you stack up against the pro announcers. My brother and I continually showed our age by recognizing all the old hockey equipment that we used to wear on the outdoor rinks of Montreal. We also took in the Rolling Stones "Voodoo Lounge" concert reliving some great old moments and creating some new memories. The show was excellent and over 2 hours long. We had not been to a concert for some time and were impressed with the security and the behaviour of the 45,000 fans. Mick Jagger certainly has not lost any of his energy.

We also drove to Niagara Falls and saw them in the daylight and then returned after dinner for a night look. They are truly spectacular and only a personal visit can show their majesty. For those who are interested in fast cheap ( or is that cheap fast?) food while travelling, I can recommend Sammy's pizza and Honey's wings in Niagara Falls, New York. Where I live in the west, I had never heard of ordering an "8 split of Coors Lite". These are mini bottles of beer in a bucket full of ice so the beer stays nice and cold at your table and you don't bug the servers all the time.

We then flew from Toronto to Nova Scotia and landed in Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia and largest city in the Maritimes. Some months before, I called all the relevant "1-800 numbers" for all the provincial travel information that may be available. When I travel I always use a good guide book and the provincial literature was all that we needed during our trip. These books were divided up into the various driving itineraries that one could use, which was very handy. The Maritimes were enjoying a banner tourist season by the time we arrived in late August. Some estimates were increases of up to 25% in revenue for some in the industry, which was mainly attributed to the lower Canadian dollar which is attracting American tourists. Halifax is a terrific city. Many attractions are within walking distance, so we started with the citadel right in the middle of town. This fort has excellent guided tours and includes the customary bagpipes and noon cannon firing. The admission is very reasonable and parking was plentiful. We especially enjoyed some of the museums on site which go right up to World War II. We then took a long walk along the waterfront area and had a nice lunch at a local pub which included Guiness on tap and lobster soup. In the afternoon we took the $1 ferry ride across the bay to Dartmouth which gave us a nice view of the Halifax harbour. The evening in Halifax is special. This city seems to come to life with many pubs and coffee/dessert houses. We started in a large complex for drinks which had 4 or 5 different bars/restaurants in it. The names I can remember are Lawrence of Oregano and My Apartment. It's hard to see where one ends and the other begins at times but it works as it brings many people together at the end of a long work week. As always, when travelling it is even better when you are out with local folks, so the night moved on to the Mid-Town tavern where the special was boiled dinner, ham and cabbage. We then moved on for dessert and coffee before going to pub #1 where we listened to local musicians and sipped beers. It was then to pub #2, the "Split Crow", where the lone entertainer was taking all requests and had a version of the "rodeo song" that I will never forget. It was then off to bed after a wonderful day. We had a Mazda holiday as we drove a Chronos 626, a Protege, and for a half hour (not long enough it's really fun) the Miata sports car. They all performed well and I would recommend them for touring.

The next day we were on our way to Cape Breton Island. The trip is easily done in a day (6-7 hours) and on the way we couldn't help but stop in Antigonish because the McDonald's sign said "Mc Lobster". Yes it's true and it was good. It's a hotdog bun with 100% lobster meat inside. On the excellent advice of a former Cape Bretonner we decided to stay in Baddeck which is centrally located on a large lake. We splurged and stayed at the Silver Dart lodge in our own chalet for the next 3 nights. The first night we ate at one of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island's famous "lobster suppers". If you have not attended one of these we would highly recommend it. The way it works is you pay $21 per person up front (wine is extra). For this you get unlimited seafood chowder, unlimited mussels, unlimited desserts (oh the blueberry and apple crisp!) and salad tea and coffee. Oh yes, and a one pound lobster. We ate at several of these during our holiday and we found them to be friendly and good value. Our first day was spent in Louisbourg which is the site of an old fort. There is a welcoming station where you get on a bus to the main gate but from there you are encouraged to believe you have been transplanted to another time. The fort is a total re-enactment of the 1750's right down to the gatekeeper who gives you the rules and checks for any spies who may try to infiltrate. All staff are in period costume and if you ask any questions you get a 1750 answer about their lives and the times they lived in. On the streets you can see the town criers and people trying to sell their goats to gain passage back to France. It was an excellent value at $7 per person. I also had my picture taken at a small ball park in Louisbourg called the "fog dome". It will go nicely with my Toronto Skydome picture. For the rest of the day we drove the scenic road back through Glace Bay. It was interesting to see this smallish place since the Canadian Little League baseball champions came from here this year. Good for them. We were unsure whether to drive the famous Cabot Trail ourselves or make use of a $45 per person tour for the day. It's our experience that the driver is sometimes distracted by cliffs etc., so we went for a lovely day in a 10 passenger van driven by the local school bus driver. It is spectacular and no words can properly describe it. As well as the scenery, there was moose along the side of the road, a beautiful government park, a side trip to a remote fishing village and some nice looking resorts. My understanding is that the changing of the colours here in the fall is worth a look as well. It's about 180 miles, Baddeck to Baddeck. We went clockwise if anyone cares. We read a guidebook once that suggested this but I can't see what the difference would be. Next we went to Prince Edward Island via the ferry from Pictou to Wood's Island. We headed to the central north in order to find some accommodation for the next few days. The Cavendish area is the only real "touristy" spot on the Island so we headed a little further out to North Rustico. We were sitting on the side of the road looking at the guide book when a local farmer got off his combine, came over and asked if we needed directions. We said we were really after accommodations, so he asked if we would like to stay in a new cottage that he had built on his farm. It was overlooking the park and the sea in the distance. We stayed 3 days at $40 per night. It had a full kitchen and 3 bedrooms, very private and comfortable. That evening we went to the St.Ann's Lobster Supper in New Glasgow and went through the drill again. Hey, we don't get much lobster on the west coast so we ate it while we could.

The next day was spent in Charlottetown, the capital city and home of the play , "Anne of Green Gables". The Island is a tribute to Lucy Maud Montgomery the author, including her birth place and gravesite. The play was $25 per person for the matinee and we enjoyed it. We then went off on a three hour drive through the south shore of the island. It has great scenery, excellent roads and good signage. The next day was spent driving all over the south and west sides of the Island, going off the track down red clay roads. On this day we came upon a lobster fleet coming in and one of the lobsters weighed in at 8.25 pounds. I have seen several one pounders on my plate but this size was imposing. Apparently its worth about $40. The fisherman held it up for my camera shot. P.E.I. has gentle rolling hills and beautiful farm areas. Everything seems so green and is beautifully contrasted by the red clay on the sides of the roads. Some other highlights included a visit to the preserve factory, numerous blue herons, an Acadian village, a lighthouse tour, a great spot called "elephant rock" and the Northern most tip of the Island where the Canadian government runs a wind station. There are two ferries from the mainland to P.E.I. and this time we took the one which leaves Borden and lands in Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick. We did not have to pay so I assume that the fare we paid to get onto the Island was a return fare at about $30. At the request of my bride, we took a detour to Springhill, Nova Scotia to visit the Anne Murray Centre. The town has done a good job with this and it is apparent that Anne and her family have donated much of what you will see there. There is very early Ann and then some great pictures and videos of her first appearances on CBC. There are several of her awards and gold records, including some excellent displays of her singing duets with famous people. All in all, a pleasant surprise for me and for any of her many fans a worthwhile stop. We headed north again and ended up in Moncton, New Brunswick. This city has a famous tidal bore which comes up the river about 20 miles twice a day. It's really quite a sight. As well, I visited my first "magnetic hill". I still don't know how a car can need gas to go downhill, and comes back uphill on its own. All reports seem to indicate that there are severe optical illusions here, but I still can't figure it out.

Fundy National Park is not too far from Moncton so we decided to go there on our way to Saint John, N.B. We dallied through country roads and came upon a dog retrieval contest. There were men looking like hunters positioned at 3 places within about 60 yards of the dog and master. #1 would shoot a gun into the air and throw an already dead duck into the weeds. Then the others would follow suit. The dog would then be shown which direction to go and away he or she would go. I take it the winner got them all in the least time but from our vantage point it was hard to tell. Nice way to spend a little time. The park was very nice too and eventually we made our way to Saint John. This is not to be confused with the capital of Newfoundland, St. John's. We stayed at the Delta which was very convenient and well appointed. The city runs a 4 hour bus tour which was informative and pleasant. By the way the Americans we would run into thought Canada was good value because of the dollar conversion, but remarked on the taxes that they had to pay. I am used to a 7% Goods and Services Tax but only pay about 7% provincial tax. The provincial taxes in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are 11%. Adding 18% to your bill can be intimidating. I left my jacket on the city tour and the next day was a holiday. The Delta hotel took the details and said they would try to get it back for me. Two weeks later after I returned home to Vancouver the jacket was sent courtesy of the Delta. Their slogan on the envelop was "You'll appreciate the difference", and I certainly did. We took the ferry across the Bay of Fundy from Saint John to Digby, Nova Scotia leaving at 8:30 am. I won't go into all the details but it was stormy and when the dishes started falling off the shelves and the boat started heaving back and forth, and up and down, there were many green faces and bags galore. My wife and I were not sick but we were glad when it was over even if it was an hour late. The cost was $86 for a car and 2 people. There is an interesting area in Nova Scotia called Digby neck. You take 2 more small ferries (5-10 minutes and one dollar each) and soon you get to Brier Island. It's a great spot with a resort. The main activities are hiking, bird watching, whale watching and relaxing. We then spent a day touring Digby and the surrounding areas of Bear River and Smith's Cove. We took a side trip to Cape Split, then on to Annapolis Royal and the pleasant drive back to Halifax. We also spent some time driving along the beautiful coastline on the southern shore of Nova Scotia towards Lunenberg. The trip included some quaint fishing villages and the famous "Peggy's cove" near Halifax. It was a great holiday. The Maritimes are all we heard about and more. Basically you need about 2 weeks not including Halifax to make the circuit. You should be aware that starting the last week of August is considered "shoulder season" in many places and we got lower rates.