Our final stop in the Maritimes – St. Andrews-by-the-Sea

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St Andrews by the seaFor those of you just joining us on our Canadian Maritime adventure, we are actually back in the USA now – sitting on the coast of Maine at the moment.  This post is a catch-up to cover our final stop and end of our Canadian travels.  We were having such a great time and seeing so many things that sitting in front of a computer had to take a back seat.  Besides, not having internet connectivity at times made it impossible to keep up.

Anyway, we arrived at St Andrews-by-the-Sea excited, as this was our last stop before crossing the border again. The moment we felt the sea breeze brushing our cheeks as we settled into our campsite, we immediately liked the place.  Who wouldn’t?  We had another “big screen” view, this time of Passamaquody bay.  We stayed at Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping – click here if interested in Steve’s review of this great campground.

Passamaquoddy Bay

Passamaquoddy Bay at low tide

Kiwanis Ocean Camping,St Andrews by the Sea

Betsy-by-the-Sea

We explored the beautiful little town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea on foot, as all attractions were walkable from our campground.  Having been in the rain for the past few days, we welcomed the sunshine and started early on our sightseeing.  This town was designated as a National Historic District, one of the oldest and loveliest in the Maritimes.  We agree.  It is loaded with neat shops and excellent restaurants.  We could definitely spend more time here!

St Andrews by the sea

Water Street early in the morning

St Andrews-by-the-sea

Market Wharf

Strolling around this little seaside town, we observed many of the well-preserved original buildings.

St Andrews by the sea

The local folks we talked to were the friendliest we have met while in Canada.  From the lady at the coffee shop to the lady at Olive and Spreads, to the lady at the Irish pub – they were all very helpful!

Our wanderings also led us to a blockhouse, which is a building modestly fortified to defend an area.  This one was built during the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Great Britain, and it is the last one standing in the Maritimes.  The St. Andrews Blockhouse and Battery has been preserved as a national historic site since 1962.

St Andrews Blockhouse

That’s Maine over there across the water where the cannons are pointing!

Since Passamaquoddy Bay was only a few steps from Betsy, I went down and explored the tidal floor and checked out the shore birds while the tide was low.

A few interesting marine plants and shells on the ocean floor:

We joined yet another tour, this time aboard the Jolly Breeze.  We didn’t go so much to see the whales and other sea creatures (we’ve seen many in Alaska), but more for the experience of cruising aboard a classic tall ship.  We saw this ship go by the campground and thought it would be fun to hop aboard.  That’s the Jolly Breeze cruising by in our new blog header.

Jolly Breeze

Aboard Jolly Breeze

St Andrews by the sea

St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, viewed from the Jolly Breeze

A was to be expected, we saw a Minke Whale, Harbor Seals, Grey Seals and a couple of Bald Eagles.

Each morning I got up early to catch the sunrise.  With the open space and the bay before us, the photo ops were right there for the clicking.  I have taken so many pictures that picking one is like picking your favorite sister – too difficult!

St Andrews by the sea

St. Andrews-by-the-Sea was a great final stop on our Maritime adventure. We liked the look and feel of the town, enjoying every minute of our stay.  A rainbow even appeared, as if to confirm Steve’s comment that this was one of his favorite harbor towns of all. St Andrews by the sea

Our Canadian Maritime adventure stats:

Number of days in Canada = 29 (8/11-9/9)
Miles driven = 1,332
Amount of diesel burned = 177 gallons
Average price for diesel = $5.10/gallon

What was originally planned as a two-week trip mushroomed into a whole month of driving around the Maritime provinces, made up of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  Despite spotty internet in the RV parks, high prices, a lot of rain and some bad roads – the trip was well worth it.  The people were friendly and seemed happy to see visitors in their towns.

Which province is my favorite?  It would have to be Prince Edward Island – the whole island is just too picturesque, pastoral with wide open spaces.

Canada Maritimes

Map of where we had been in Canada’s Maritimes

Our blogger friends were like walking visitor centers – many thanks to Pam of Oh the Places they go, (especially the Scone alert!), Gay of Good Times Rolling (we stayed at the RV parks they were in) Brenda of Island Girl (the French River was the best!) and Judith of Red Road Diaries – they had been here before and provided us with excellent inside information and tips about the Maritimes.

And finally, finally..the morning we left for the USA was no exception, as I captured this very serene and calm morning with brushstroke clouds that made it look like a painting. The beautiful sunrise was a great start for our journey back to the good ‘ol USA.

Sunrise at St Andrews by the sea

Next up:

The fabulous Acadia National Park!

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Exploring the beautiful Cabot Trail – Nova Scotia

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Cabot Trail

We almost had to nix our planned sightseeing along the Cabot Trail.  When we awoke that morning a heavy fog was hiding the Seal Bridge, which we had been enjoying every morning for the past few days.  But knowing how fickle fog can be, we hoped the trail would be clear (or clearing) as we proceeded.  Hey, this is the whole reason we drove up to the northern part of Nova Scotia!

North Sydney KOA Cape Breton

Heavy Fog enveloped the island!

Cape Breton Island has divided its unspoiled land into scenic drives – Fleur-de-Lis Trail, Ceilidh Trail, Bras d’Or Lake and Cabot Trail.  We chose to tackle the longest and most popular Cabot Trail, a 186-mile scenic loop through Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  It connects previously isolated communities consisting of Acadian, Irish and Scottish people.  The trail is named in honor of John Cabot, who discovered Cape Breton Island in 1497.

As we had hoped, the fog began to clear somewhat as we drove several miles from our “HQ” at the North Sydney KOA toward Baddeck. We entered the trail from the west side – traveling counter-clockwise.

There is so much to see and do on this long drive that one could spend several days exploring the area.  Most folks do it in one very long day, but considering the numerous overlooks with beautiful vistas to take in – and many hiking trails to conquer – we prepared for a slower two-day adventure.  We planned for an overnight stop at a B&B near the mid-way point at the top of the island.  I’ll share with you just the highlights of the natural beauty that comprises this gorgeous landscape.

The Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail

Upon entering the trail, we briefly stopped at St. Ann’s Gaelic College, a school devoted to the study and preservation of the Gaelic language and Celtic arts and culture.  This was the first time we had heard the terms “Gaelic” and ‘Celtic”, and it turns out that Cape Breton is known for its history of living gaelic communities.  The school continues to contribute to its preservation.  After the quick stop we could not utter a single word in Gaelic, even though the woman in the office tried to teach us a few words.  But Steve enjoyed the Celtic music playing in the background!

St. Ann's Gaelic College.

The beautiful grounds at St. Ann’s Gaelic College.

After several miles we spotted the only wildlife we would see on this journey, a majestic bald eagle!  I say “the only wildlife”, since despite several signs warning of Moose in the area, we never saw one crossing the highway or while we were hiking.  Darn!

Bald Eagle

Ocean scenery, steep cliffs and beautiful beaches dominate the eastern side of the trail facing the Atlantic ocean.  We took our first hike on the Middlehead trail in the Ingonish area, which follows a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.  At the end of the trail we were rewarded with great views of the Atlantic waters crashing onto the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.

Cape Smokey, Cape Breton

Cape Smokey, viewed from Middlehead Trail

Rocky bluffs and shallow coves characterized the eastern side as we trudged along.

We passed homes with whimsical and colorful yard decor in the Neil’s Harbor area.

Neils Harbor, Cabot Trail

Cabot Trail

We ended our first day with mussels and cold beers at Meat Cove, which is at the end of a dirt road and as far as you can go on land to the north in Nova Scotia.  It is highland vista, serene and very remote, but a spectacular place.  The road ends at a small campground that would be a great place to stay in a tent or small trailer, but we wouldn’t bring Betsy out here!

Meat Cove, Cabot Trail

Cold beer at the end of the road

Meat cove, Cabot Trail

Now this is what you call camping!

The following day we continued on with our sightseeing, leaving the northern end of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  A third of the Cabot Trail runs through the national park along the coast and over the highlands.  We climbed the fog-covered mountain and stopped at some viewpoints to see canyons and plateaus where possible.  High winds were our companion as we drove around the higher elevations of the trail.

Pleasant Bay, Cabot Trail

Overlooking Pleasant Bay

Despite the winds, I took a hike and followed the Skyline Trail, described as a dramatic headland overlooking the rugged Gulf Coast.  But not today – I could barely stand on the boardwalk as the wind was really trying to blow me over!  Steve was smart enough to stay nice and warm in the car, so I asked another friendly tourist to take a picture of me with my hair up in the air.

Cabot Trail

Looking down the northwestern coast of the trail.

As the road twisted along the coast we were brought to Cheticamp, home of the Acadians.  They are direct descendants of the original Acadians expelled by the British from Nova Scotia in the 17 century.  Their preservation of their history and culture gave this area a personality of its own.  The Acadian Flag is proudly displayed at just about every home.

We bought mussels and lobsters at Margaree Harbour, locally called “The French Side.”  While exploring the harbor we noticed some unusual stacked triangular rocks that resembled clams:

Margaree Harbour, Cabot Trail

Margaree Harbour and the yummy seafood we bought to take back home offered a fitting end to our Cabot Trail adventure.

East Margaree, The French Side

East Margaree- “The French Side”

Two days was barely enough to really experience the unique culture and diverse heritage around the trail, but we think we covered it fairly well.  Although it is easy to compare the Cabot Trail with the California and Oregon coastlines, we think the Cabot Trail just has a character, history, and beauty all its own.

As we reached home, the rain began to approach.  It proceeded to pour almost non-stop for the next three days, a bummer end to our time in Nova Scotia.  The good news is we accomplished everything we had planned before it hit!

Seal Bridge, North Sydney, Cape Breton

Vegging in front of the “big screen”.

Next up:  Back to New Brunswick and then goodbye for now, Canada!

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