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Mosing down to the Maritimes


The Lower Deck
The Lower Deck

September 11, 2010 — B.J. Stewart, Morning show producer at The Weather Network gave TWN Travel Centre the low-down on her recent summer getaway/adventure to the East Coast.

Bacon wrapped scallops!
Bacon wrapped scallops!

I've never been farther east in this country than Montreal, Que. (flying over the east on the way to Europe I didn't think counted for much). I am the early morning show producer and our main audience for the first few hours of the show is of course Atlantic Canada. I thought I'd check it out in person instead of just looking at maps and viewing the pictures and videos viewers send in to the Weather Network submission site. My husband, Michael had been many years before with his family, but he was fairly young and didn't remember much about the trip.

We flew from Toronto's Island Airport via Porter airlines. We had a half hour stop-over in Montreal and then went on to Halifax. It was our first time on Porter and I must say I will fly with them again because their service was so great.

Once we arrived in Halifax, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Dartmouth for the night. We checked out the Alexander Keith Brewery tour which was sort of a theatre show with a couple of tasty pints along the way. I have to add that when my husband and I travel, we love the scenery, the history, the people...but we love trying local cuisine and beverages the most.

We had eight days to see P.E.I., N.B. and N.S. By the time we were done, we had racked up almost 2000 kilometres. It would have been more, but we did add in a ferry ride at one point. After the Holiday Inn, we stayed mainly in bed and breakfasts. We have found it cost effective, but we also find it's the best way to find out about the local attractions that might not be in the brochures. All of the B&B owners we met are truly wonderful people who love the area they call home. Here's what we did. I'll try to keep this short:

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

We drove up to the North Point to check out the end of the island and the windmillls. I still can't get over how red the sand was. One of the things I just had to do was check out the Cows Store in Cavendish along the Boardwalk. I spent a little while there sampling the ice cream and trying to pick one catchy t-shirt. I settled on Moo-tini. It's a martini glass with a cow sitting in it. I found it hilarious:) We had our first cooked lobster at Stanley Bridge at Cairn's Lobster Store. MMMMMMMMMMMMM. Can you say tasty!? I would recommend the Briarwood Inn, in Alberton because it was a great bakery in town that served up breakfast and also had tons of pastries and breads.

Morell - Ryan's Cottages. This B&B was my husband's favourite. We were right near the ocean and a provincial park with huge sand dunes. It was a great place to do our early morning run. The breakfast was delicious. She had scones and a fruit and yogurt platter with eggs benedict to finish it off. For dinner the night before, we drove to Montague to Windows on the Sea. Mike had mussels to start, followed by a lobster dinner. I had the scallop dinner, sooooo good! And we had a chocolate cheesecake to finish the night off. I think they had a choice of about 8 cheesecakes! Also, if you like golf, Ryan's Cottages is right beside PEI's only 5 star Golf Course Crowbush.

NEW BRUNSWICK

We took the Confederation Bridge both ways to and from PEI. What an amazing piece of architecture and engineering. I have a bit of a phobia about bridges, but I managed to get across...I even drove on it when we were heading back to New Brunswick.

After a stop at the Moncton casino, we headed south to see the Hopewell Rocks. High tide was in, so we couldn't go on the sea floor as we planned. We decided to check out the surroundings up above first. We found the sea kayaking tour that we had planned to take the next morning, but since the water was so calm and they had spots available, we decided to take the sunset cruise. What an awesome adventure. For most of it, I was shooting video and my husband was doing all the hard work. We had two guides who explained why the Bay of Fundy gets the highest tides in the world and they also told us the legends about Fundy that were pretty funny as well. We kayaked through small little tunnels around the 'flowerpots' and even saw some peregrine falcons perched high atop the the cliffs. The tour was about two hours and $65 per person, but absolutely worth every penny. It was my favourite part of the entire trip.

Since we had taken the kayaking tour, arrived fairly late at New Horton's Lakeview Inn. The owner had left a note on the door advising us of what room we were to take and to make sure to have some tea and tarts in the reception hall. The Inn had been renovated recently and had been decorated in a Victoria style with all the modern comforts. The basement had been turned into an entertainment room with a big screen TV and parlour games. Breakfast was homemade yogourt and granola with an egg and bacon casserole type dish.

Low tide!
Low tide!

From New Horton, we travelled down to Cape Enrage. After checking out the foggy scenery, we headed back to the restaurant after we heard another couple talking about the lobster poutine made with sweet potato fries. Back on the road, we took in another fish shop, and yes, had another lobster on the side of the highway. We then headed into Fundy National Park where we took in a few hiking trails and found a great waterfall (Dickson's Falls). The trails were extremely clean and easy to follow. Remember to take along proper shoes! We did see people in flip-flops having a hard time negotiating the trails.

From there, we went into Saint John to our next B&B owned by a lovely Irish lady and she had an adorable 3 month old puppy Clancy. The house was built in the 1880s and we had the downstairs room. Apparently, it was the dining room originally. Terry (the owner) advised us to head down to the boardwalk where we'd find a nice dinner. We took her advice and went down to the Saint John Ale House. The next morning, we were served fruit and yogourt, eggs, bacon and even a bit of fresh trout!

After the morning run in the King's Square, we packed up and headed off to St. Andrew's by the Sea. We got there early as we wanted to be settled before one of the World Cup matches that afternoon. We wanted enough time to scout out a good place to watch. We were staying in what can only be described as the most beautiful B&B we've ever stayed in either in Canada or in Ireland. Breakfast consisted of cereals, pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and lots of coffee:)

NOVA SCOTIA

We headed back to Saint John early to catch the ferry over to Digby. We prebooked this trip because it does fill up quickly. About 3 hours later, we were at the Ocean Hillside B&B just outside Digby. The place is run by an award winning chef so you can image how great breakfast was! We headed into Digby for dinner where it was hard to admit, but we just weren't in the mood for seafood. We had some great chicken wings instead. We took a walk around the marina and befriended an older gentleman who was fishing for mackerel. Every time we came by, he caught five or six on his line at once. Needless to say, he was okay with us standing around watching.

Breakfast at the Ocean Hillside was a fun take on eggs benedict again. That morning we had a full international table. One couple was from Maine, another from Belgium, another from Germany and of course us from Ontario. Conversation invariably turned to which country's beer was better:) We decided the Germans and Belgians were a draw even though the man from Maine really thought Budweiser was on par with the best in the world.

This was going to be a good day. We were going whale watching with a guide recommended to us by Suzanne Leonard the afternoon show host. We drove down the Digby Neck to the small ferry to go across the Petit Passage to Tiverton, NS. It is about a 5 minute ride for 5 dollars. We arrived very early but registered with the staff who then told us about Balancing Rock. We had never heard of it, but were game to go find it. It was about 10 minutes out of town. It is a bit of a hike down to the cliffs and then about 230 stairs down to the observation deck. Once you see the rock though, it's all worth it. My husband took a great picture of it with the mist hanging in the background. If you have an extra half hour to spare, check out this neat feature.

We came back to the whale watching meeting point and met our guide Captain Tom. He said that there had been a few whales in the area a few weeks before, but there hadn't been much activity lately. Undaunted, we suited up in our orange survival suites and headed down to the Zodiac. The water was a bit rough, but only 15 minutes into the journey we saw our first humpback whales. It was a mother and calf together. Captain Tom showed us how to recognize the changes in the ocean's surface when a whale came up. The whales usually stayed about 60 feet away from the boat, but even from that distance you could tell how massive they were. Tom said the baby was the length of two school buses! By the time the tour was done, we had seen six humpback whales. Even Tom was impressed. We also went along the shores of the 'Neck' to see some seals.

We hopped back on the ferry and headed back to Digby for a late afternoon snack. We were back on seafood so Mike had the fish and chips, and the fish was HUGE! He also discovered the 'schooner' of beer. I think it's about 32 oz. Needless to say, I drove to our next destination. Morton House Inn in Liverpool is a beautiful B&B just outside of Liverpool. If you're looking for it, the sign is there (but it's a bit small) and we drove right on past it:) Once we arrived, we found that our room had been used twice before by Maritime songstress Rita McNeil.

The next morning was pretty misty so that meant Crescent Beach on the way to Lunenburg was pretty deserted. I dipped a toe into the ocean and found it just like a bathtub. I couldn't believe how warm it was. Mike likes to search for shells and he found an almost perfect clam shell for me. It's sitting in our livingroom now. We didn't stop long in Lunenburg. We had hoped to see the Bluenose II but it had been taken out for repairs the week before we arrived. We did stop at the Lobster Wagon though before we went to the Lunenburg Craft Festival! I had the scallop burger while Mike had fried clams.

Our last stop before flying back was Peggy's Cove. There was no way I could go to the Maritimes and not see that infamous lighthouse. It was pretty foggy again and the sea was pretty rough. We did get some really nice pictures though, bearing in mind not to get too close to the shore. We stayed at the only B&B right in Peggy's Cove and it was simply stunning. From our balcony, you could see the lighthouse (it would have been easier if the fog had lifted...but it was still great) and we had a great view of the ocean coming into the harbour. Breakfast was all homemade and home grown.

Additional Travel Tips

  • We found out that you really can take home live lobster in your carry on if you want. They put the creature in a box specifically designed for carry-on, or you can just buy the cooked lobster.
  • PEI was the most expensive in terms of dinner and souvenirs. That said, it was only a couple of dollars above what any of the other places in the Maritimes were charging, but the quality of food and drink from province to province was equally good.
  • As for clothing, we didn't bring too much stuff. Most of the places we stayed at offered free laundry service. Make sure to have sensible shoes, a rain jacket, a hat and a sweater because the ocean breeze can really cut through the heat.
  • The only regret we have from our trip is that we didn't allow more time for the vacation. We knew eight days wasn't enough, but you really need two weeks for what we did.
  • We'd also make sure to go to Cape Breton and do the Cabot Trail.

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