New Brunswick has much to offer visitors; stunning coastal scenery, beautiful beaches, the warmest water north of South Carolina, the iconic Hopewell Rocks, whale watching with Captain Dave in St. Andrews, an Acadian Lobster dinner at sea with Captain Ron in Shediac, hiking the Fundy Coastal Trail, fascinating EdVendures in Fredericton; and fine golf courses designed by Montrealers Graham Cooke and Darrell Huxham.

During our recent tour, our accommodations included the elegant sophistication of The Fairmont Algonquin, the charming grace of Tait House in Shediac and the warm welcome at the Quaco Inn in St. Martins. We also enjoyed friendly hospitality at the Rodd Miramichi River, and the fully renovated Crown Plaza Fredericton Lord Beaverbrook Hotel on the banks of the St. John River. And while these are all important ingredients for a wonderful vacation – it’s the people that welcomed us along the way that made our trip to New Brunswick special.

Located on Passamaquoddy Bay, St Andrews has been welcoming tourists to New Brunswick since the 19th century. Its beautiful setting on a peninsula adjacent to Maine and surrounded by offshore islands has made the community a favourite summer retreat for generations of wealthy, but unpretentious folk from Montreal, Boston, New York and beyond.

It’s a seaside town where local fisherman and wealthy summer residents will sip coffee together at local cafés.

The main street, running parallel to the harbour and shoreline has a variety of independently owned stores, restaurants, tea rooms, galleries and craft shops; and the person serving you is quite likely the owner.

St. Andrews is a wonderful stop for anyone planning a tour of the New Brunswick Fundy Coast, one of Canada’s greatest scenic routes. Whale watching, golf at the legendary Algonquin Golf Club, the beautiful Kingsbrae Gardens, and a visit to the Van Horne summer estate on Minister’s Island can easily keep you happily ensconced in this historic town for several days.

Montrealer David Welch enjoyed a few careers before moving to St. Andrews and starting Fundy Tide Runners with his wife Sandra 15 years ago. The boat Dave uses is a 24 foot rigid-hulled Zodiac Hurricane that gets you out to the best whale-watching waters fast – very fast – with the 200 hp turbo-charged diesel engine powering the vessel quickly to the best viewing locations.

With a capacity of just 12 people, the speedy Zodiac enables Captain Dave to manoeuvre rapidly and catch up to sightings reported by other craft. Dave spent his childhood summers on the offshore islands, and he shares his intimate knowledge with his guests. In addition to seeing whales, he also took us by a colony of seals; “They’re much bigger and their numbers have increased – a good sign.” He also pointed out a few great American Bald Eagles, their wingspan enormous as they flew just a few metres from our boat. As we drifted listening for the whales surfacing to exhale, we were joined by porpoises playing nearby. With the sea teaming with life above and below; David good naturedly admonishes us; “Now don’t anyone say you didn’t see anything! We’ve seen seals, porpoises, American Bald Eagles, all kinds of water birds – and I promise you we’ll find some whales.” And he did – several of them. Magnificent beasts feeding on the natural bounty below the surface of The Bay of Fundy.

Back on shore, it was time for a little nourishment; and we found just the spot at Georgiana’s Tea Room on Main Street. Newly opened, it’s just what you’d expect in a tea room, with a variety teas served in lovely fine china cups. High tea is offered at 4pm. They also make a great cup of coffee – and leave room for the carrot cake!

Kingsbrae Gardens is a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in gardening. Highly structured formal gardens, the gentle chaos of an English Country Garden, a Scent Garden for visually impaired visitors, and another where all the plants are in raised beds with ample space for wheelchairs so that everyone can enjoy some aspect of the Garden.

The staff is particularly excited about the garden’s acquisition of a 200 million year old species from the Jurassic age – the Wollemi Pine – long thought to be extinct. Guided tours (both individual and for groups) are available. The 27 acre garden site is open from mid-May to Thanksgiving; seven days a week from 9am to 6pm. Completed in 1997, Kingsbrae Gardens has won numerous awards and recognitions; including Canadian Garden Magazine, CAA/AAA “Gem Status”, best Developed Outdoor Site in Canada (Attractions Canada), designated an Audubon Co-operative Sanctuary, and is the only New Brunswick site selected for the VIA Rail Garden Route.

Golfers of every skill level can enjoy the 18 hole historic Algonquin course, recently re-developed by Tom McBroom, who took the 27 hole course and reconfigured it into a spectacular 18 hole tract with breathtaking views of Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine, and the Fairmont Algonquin “rising like a castle out of the woods” according to Assistant Pro, David Campbell during his enthusiastic and entertaining tour of the course.

“Our signature hole – the one in the brochures – is #12.” Continuing, David says “As you stand here ready to tee off – you can sometimes see whales breach out in the bay, and you may see as many as 50 – 60 sailboats with the town in the foreground; and Maine over there on the right, across the bay.”

David tells me that the course is Audubon Society Certified; “There are birdhouses all around the course,” and that it is a nature preserve. It’s not unusual to see deer crossing one of the fairways. “Mr. McBroom used golden fescue on some of our longer holes, in part to give them a little bit of a Scottish ‘links’ appearance.

It helps to narrow the fairways a little.” David also shows that a few of the holes, like #4 and #17 have split fairways, offering golfers a “safe” route to the green or a more challenging and possibly more direct approach. Adjacent to the 5th fairway, you’ll see the former Hiram Walker Estate, now a successful B&B. “you can’t see the water from here – but you can see Maine!”

Minister’s Island is also a must-see for any visit to St. Andrews. Constructed by railway magnate William Van Horne as a summer residence – it provides a glimpse into how the super rich lived generations ago. To create a swimming pool, he had workers cut a pool-sized hole in the sandstone rock in front of the house. When the sea receded at low tide – voila; a salt water swimming pool warmed by the summer sun! The barn that housed his cattle is also an architectural marvel – as sturdy today as it was when erected over 100 years ago.

Further up the coast, you’ll find some of the most fantastic scenery at the Fundy Trail Parkway – just outside St. Martins. It is the longest stretch of natural and undeveloped coastline from Newfoundland to Florida – largely because it was previously owned by William Randolf Hearst as a tract of timber to supply paper for his magazines and newspapers. The New Brunswick government purchased the land from the Hearst Corporation in 1994. Armed with current environmental knowledge and procedures, the development of the park has become an example of best practices for the development of a natural park. Park Director Brian Clark said during our visit: “The Fundy Trail Parkway is without doubt the largest infrastructure project currently underway in New Brunswick.” Continuing, Brian noted; “We’re not here to compete with the local businesses in St. Martins. Apart from a snack bar – we don’t have a restaurant, accommodations (with the exception of the Hearst Lodge), or any other tourist service. The idea is that visitors to the park will come to St. Martins, and enjoy that wonderful community a little longer because they want to spend two or three days exploring.

The scenery is absolutely stunning, with hiking paths planned so that visitors can enjoy the vistas opening before them from the cliff-top vantage points rising hundreds of feet above the Bay of Fundy. In addition to hiking trails of varying degrees of intensity, visitors can also rent bicycles to explore the park.

ou can also visit the Hearst Lodge, and overnight stays are available starting at $99 per person, including breakfast and dinner; or $450 pp for a 3 day/3 night adventure. It’s a unique and special program, with delicious and plentiful food. The Interpretive Centre has an informative history of the area and the small community populated by two families who were engaged in wooden shipbuilding during summer; and logging in the winter months.

The village of St. Martins has a seagoing history that continues for the inshore fishery and lobstermen today. While the water is a little ‘fresh’ for swimming, there is a long crescent beach that is ideal for walking. The Sea Caves have been carved out by eons of erosion of the cliff side sandstone, and they are accessible by foot at low tide and by kayak at high tide.

Continuing up the coast on our tour, we also visited Hopewell Rocks, known as The Icon of the Province of New Brunswick, where we were given a warm welcome by Group Tours & Admissions Manager, Guy Daigle. This is the location famous for its Flower Pot Rocks; and where visitors can walk on the ocean floor, and where the average high tide is an incredible 29 feet!

Set up for self-guided tours, Hopewell Rocks has an interpretive centre, a lovely restaurant overlooking the cliffs, sea-kayaking facilities (at high tide), hiking trails, bird watching, and picnic facilities. With the exception of having access to the ocean floor, the site is wheel chair accessible. The entire site is visitor-friendly, and must-see for any tour of the Fundy Coast. The facility is open from mid-May to Thanksgiving.

Golfers will be pleased to know that nearby in Dieppe (just outside Moncton) they will find an outstanding championship course at Fox Creek Golf Club, designed by Montrealer Graham Cooke. “We cap our membership at 300 so that we have ample tee times for visitors,” said course owner Denis LeBlanc during our visit. “The course was built for fun – we want people to have a good time with their game here at Fox Creek.” Denis and his staff look forward to welcoming Montrealers to a round at their reasonably-priced club.

Whether you’d like to try some soft adventure hiking, cycling or boating; or the more subdued pastimes of shopping and sightseeing – New Brunswick has an activity that’s sure to peak your interest. Plus – you can be assured of warm Maritime hospitality from the people you meet along the way. Bon Voyage!

Next Month: We’ll tell you about our visit to Shediac where we had an authentic Acadian lobster dinner with Captain Ron Cormier. We also visited Miramichi and Kouchibougouac Park before finishing up in the lovely capitol city of Fredericton and a tour of the Kingswood Park golf course.

TRAVEL PLANNER

We travelled with VIA Rail from Montreal in VIA’s Easterly Class, which included a comfortable room with shower, and their new Touring Class which includes meals. Terrific service, amenable staff and excellent dining car décor and food. www.viarail.ca

We noticed immediately that the roads in New Brunswick are first rate. Even the secondary roads were fine and very pleasant to drive on. The New Brunswick Tourism web site: www.TourismNewBrunswick.ca A 260 page Travel Guide is available with suggested routes, packages, and descriptions of everything going on in the province.

* St. Andrews by-the-Sea:www.townofstandrews.ca
* Fairmont Algonquin: www.fairmont.com/algonquin
* Algonquin Golf Course and Academy: www.fairmontgolf.com/algonquin
* Fundy Tide Runners: www.fundytiderunners.com 506-529-4481
* Minister’s Island: www.ministersisland.ca
* St. Martins: www.stmartinscanada.com
* Fundy Trail Parkway: www.fundytrailparkway.com
* Hopewell Rocks: www.thehopewellrocks.ca
* Fox Creek Golf Club: www.foxcreekgolfclub.com

Related Posts