New Brunswick Road Trip
As part of our journey around Maritime Canada we took a week to enjoy a roadtrip through New Brunswick and discovered some amazing places. The province is the largest in the ‘Maritimes’ and with only approximately 775,000 people spread over an area roughly the same size of Scotland, there is plenty of room for everyone.
The Province oozes a rich history having first been home to the indigenous Mik’mack and Passamaquoddy people, followed by years of French and British rule.
Driving is a breeze with wide spacious highways linking the major cities, and quiet country roads out of town; what struck me was the courtesy shown by drivers, no road rage here.
Although the winters can be harsh, the summer months are warm, and the seaside resorts along the Bay of Fundy are very inviting with often deserted sandy beaches. The pristine National Parks offer incredible hiking and cycling trails for all abilities through forests, beside wide rivers and waterfalls and along the beautiful coastline.
With the help of Frontier Travel we booked Air Canada flights from London Heathrow to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and picked up an Avis hire car. The drive from Halifax to our first destination took 4 hours on gloriously empty roads. We were just too early for the full ‘fall’ experience, but we enjoyed watching the leaves turn a little more vibrant each day.
Moncton was our first stop and we had to race Hurricane Dorian to arrive just before the storm hit. Thankfully we had a very comfortable hotel, the Marriott Delta Beausejour.
We hunkered down in our beautiful 8th floor room and that is where we stayed until the storm passed. Sadly it meant we didn’t see anything of Moncton; a pretty city that sits on the Petitcodiac River. We did manage a windswept walk along the river the next morning, but I felt we didn’t see Moncton as its best, maybe a reason to return.
We did experience one of Moncton’s more unusual and famous attractions, Magnetic Hill. For some reason, that I don’t understand, if you drive to what appears to be the bottom of the hill and take the brake off, your car rolls uphill! I can’t explain more than that, it must be magic, or …gravity.
After the excitement of Magnetic Hill we had a 90-minute drive to our next stop, the capital of the province, Fredericton. This attractive city is compact and easy to explore. Situated along the St John River, its riverfront is dominated by the ‘Lighthouse on the Green’. Although not an original, this attractive replica is typical of the iconic lighthouses found throughout New Brunswick. The waterfront attracts walkers and the route continues over the ‘Walking Bridge’, once a railway bridge, this magnificent steel structure now forms part of the long distance hiking path; ‘The Trans Canada Trail’.
One of the jewels in Fredericton’s crown has to be the prestigious Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Established by Lord Beaverbrook, the newspaper magnet, the collection includes an enormous variety of famous works of art. Lord Beaverbrook wanted to bring together works by Canadian and British artists and there are some wonderful examples of both. The gallery also has an International collection, including works by Dali, and an impressive sculpture garden. Having a guided tour helped us to appreciate the collections, especially the First Nation exhibits. The guide also persuaded us to lie on the floor and look up at the magnificent ‘Santiago el Grande’ by Dali in order to appreciate the incredible 3D effect. Not something we would normally consider doing in an art gallery, but quite extraordinary.
A short drive from Fredericton is Kings Landing, a ‘living museum’ situated in a beautiful country setting. As well as thoughtful exhibits and interactive events, the museum mainly consists of a collection of houses and farm buildings from the 19th century, creating a complete working village. Many of the homes are furnished in traditional style with great attention to detail. Visitors can meet the ‘residents’, all dressed in costumes of the time, who are keen to engage and describe their first hand experiences of rural life. Housewives were making chutneys and baking bread over open fires, the blacksmith had his furnace roaring as he demonstrated his skills and there were demonstrations of traditional crafts; spinning, weaving and patchwork. We spent some time in the sawmill hearing about the harsh lifestyle of lumberjacks and ended our visit with a pint of local ale at The Kings Head Pub.
As always, we could have stayed longer, but St Andrews by the Sea was calling.
Our next drive was 2 ½ hours and as usual, the roads very virtually empty. Our home for 3 nights was the extraordinary Algonquin Resort, a very luxurious property with a rich history of famous guests.
We were met on arrival by a pair of handsome resident Labradors; Sidney and Bentley and I immediately felt at home.
St Andrews is a quaint and pretty fishing town, full of old world charm and a popular holiday resort. Located on the Bay of Fundy, where life revolves around the sea, with numerous ferries and water taxis linking the offshore islands during the summer months. Whale watching, deep sea fishing and nature boat tours leave the harbour regularly. We joined eco-friendly ‘Island Quest Marine’ for an afternoon ‘Wildlife Adventure’. It is a family run business and the crew are all locals with an in-depth knowledge of the Bay. We began to understand and appreciate the enormous tidal changes that take place all along this coastline causing huge whirlpools and rip tides. During our 4-hour excursion we spotted porpoise, Minke, Finback and Humpback whales, basking seals and soaring eagles and learnt about salmon farming and the traditional weir fishing methods for herring.
Back on land and we came across the exquisite, and award winning, Kingsbrae Garden. Our visit took place on a wet morning, but nothing could dampen our enjoyment and amazement at the explosion of colour in the gardens. Around every corner we discovered thoughtful planting and variety of different landscapes. The sculpture garden was a particular favourite with award winning pieces from Canadian artists.
There are plenty of offshore islands to visit if time permits and one of the easiest to access is Ministers Island. The tides along the Bay of Fundy are so low that twice a day it is possible to drive across the seabed from St Andrews across to Ministers Island and visit the Van Horne Estate. The estate includes a 50 room ‘cottage’ which was the summer home of Sir William Van Horne, a man famous for constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway. As well as the cottage, the island has many other estate buildings to visit and also has great hiking trails.
Further away is Campobello, a popular summer retreat for wealthy Americans and nearer to the coast of Maine, although part of New Brunswick. We set off from St. Andrews early in the morning for the half hour water taxi ride across the Bay of Fundy. We were met on arrival by Peter from Campobello Sightseeing Tours and for anyone with limited time this is the best way to appreciate all the island has to offer in just one day. Peter knows the island like the back of his hand and whisked us off to the biggest attraction, the Roosevelt Campobello International Park. Beautiful gardens, country walks and a busy café all beckon but the main attraction is the house where Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt spent their summers. A tour of their ‘cottage’ is a must, made even more interesting as it is furnished just as it was in 1920, the summer before Franklin succumbed to polio. Every afternoon there is ‘Tea with Eleanor’ where you can listen and learn about Mrs Roosevelts amazing life while sipping tea and nibbling biscuits.
The last stop on our action-packed tour was along the coast to Alma and the Fundy National Park. Alma consists of a handful of hotels and restaurants and is the nearest town to the main Fundy National park entrance. I particularly liked Kelly’s Bakery, home to the biggest, stickiest, cinnamon buns. Our hotel, the friendly Parkland Village Inn, overlooked the harbour and had a great restaurant where we discovered the delights of ‘Blueberry Grunt’. It tasted better than its sounds and turned out to be a blueberry dumpling.
With all these carbohydrates we were keen to do some hiking and the Fundy National Park has options for all abilities. We followed the Dickson Falls Trail along a pretty stream with cascading waterfalls and then out to the Point Wolfe Estuary, through one of New Brunswick’s famous covered bridges.
The main event was a few miles along the coast, Hopewell Rocks. It is important to visit one of the two beaches in the park at just the right moment so that you can appreciate the speed in which the tides come in. Park volunteers line the routes to make sure no one gets cut off and we soon appreciated why. The Bay of Fundy tides rise at between 4-6 feet per hour so 5 minutes can make a big difference. All along the beaches are the weirdly shaped rocks formed over time, by the tidal erosion, into unique flowerpot shapes. Casting great shadows over the coastline, the beach had an eerie feel with the rocks, tunnels and shadowy arches, all formed over millions of years. It didn’t take long for us to be shooed off the beach by the encroaching sea and we made our way back to the visitor centre. With interactive displays and great video footage it was possible to really understand these phenomena of nature.
Our week had come to an end and looking back we are amazed at how much variety we came across during our tour. We set off back to Halifax with great memories of the beautiful province of New Brunswick. For me it is one of Canada’s best kept secrets, full of stunning scenery, interesting historical towns and cities and the wonders of the Bay of Fundy.
Sally Dowling was hosted by Tourism New Brunswick.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Frontier Canada.