New Brunswickis one of Canada’s three Maritime provinces. Steeped in history, naturalbeauty and a landscape often compared to New England but so much more serene, a definite road trip for your bucket list, one that we were about to tick off.
New Brunswick is vast and it would take weeks to drive it all, so we decided this time we would focus our trip in and around the Bay of Fundy.
Picking our car up at Halifax Airport we drive the two and half hours to Moncton(the largest city in New Brunswick). The vast greenery of the forests and the stunning scenery as you drive along the highway with not another car in sight for miles gives you a feeling of freedom and anticipation that you’re about to embark on an endless adventure.
Arriving in Monctonwe checkinto the Delta Beausejour Hotel (a modern Marriott hotel), a quick freshen up and then it’s time to visit The Windjammer restaurant (situated within the hotel). The restaurant couldn’t be more different than the modern hotel,designed to look like the inside of a Windjammer Ship (the grandest of merchant ships). The food here was utterly divine, the steak and lamb dishes were the best we’ve ever tasted they literally melted in the mouth and the fete de accompli was the crepes suzettebeing made and flambétableside the ideal end to a perfect evening.
Next Day we took a short trip to the beach town of Shediac, where we tried our hands at making Lobster rolls courtesy of Chef Cilles at Maison Tait House, a typical colonial house full of maritime memorabilia and antiques. Chef Gilles taught us how to cook, prepare and make the lobster into rolls and then of course eat them. They were utterly delicious and although I may have struggled cracking and scooping the meat out of the shell initially the end result was well worth the perseverance.
Our bellies full, we drove a few miles up the road to Parlee Provincial Park, where we took a stroll on the beach, the blustery autumn wind certainly blowing away the cobwebs and the fresh sea air giving us an extra zest for the rest of the day. One of North America’s finest beaches, this park boasts the warmest salt water in Canada and on a sunny summers day this beach is full of people not just sunbathing but enjoying one of the many activities on offer including swimming, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, football, a sand-sculpture competition, and daily scheduled sports activities.
Next day saw us take the hour and a half drive to Fundy National Park. There is so much to explore here you can connect with the land, the ocean and the wide-open sky, a coastal wonderland waiting for you to explore.
There are many hikes within the park, but if you only do one make it the Dickson Falls, just a 1-mile loop that takes about half an hour (or forty-five minutes if you’re anything like me) but it’s well worth it. Walking through the dense forest wilderness, listening to the tweeting of the birds and the rustling of the leaves illuminated with a rainbow of colours as they seem to change into an amtumny hue before your eyes, is a magical experience. Around every corner there’s something new to see as you cross the many boardwalks listening to the dripping water of the springs and view the tumbling waterfalls(more than 25) from so many different angles. Water and wilderness two of the most serene things in the world and here you can experience both.
After a morning exploring the park we headed into the coastal village of Alma, a small fishing townthat has a number of cafes and restaurants, where you can enjoy fresh seafood as you overlook the bay watching fishing boats bobbing about in the distance. If you’re only after coffee and cake then Kelly’s Bake Shop is the place, her sticky buns are legendary and we can see why!
All too soon it’s time to leave this quaint coastal town and drive the three-hour journey to St Andrew’s. Driving in New Brunswick couldn’t be further removed than in the UK, the scenery is breath-taking and you almost expect Yogi bear to jump out of the forest and hitch a lift. You’re lucky if you see one let alone two other cars.
Our stay in St Andrews was at The Rossmount Inn, a 3-story Colonial manor house that is part of an 87-acre estate set between the forest and the sea. It is situated at the bottom of Chamcook Mountain, the highest point in the Passamaquoddy Bay area with breath-taking vistas over the Bay, Chamcook Lake, St. Croix River and the coast of Maine.
And it was in the restaurant at The Rossmount that we had dinner that evening, Chef Chris Aerni owns the Inn with his wife Graziella. The restaurant has gained a wonderful reputation around town and throughout the Maritimes for its creative, market fresh cuisine, which was apparent when we stepped into a busy room full of diners – the majority locals.
The menu sources locally caught fish, foraged greens as well as wild and organic foods. Because of this, the menu changes daily. Our choices included beetroot salad with goat’s cheese, beef tenderloin tartare, butter poached naked lobster and a chicken dish – the food was faultless, full of flavour and so fresh. It is a delightful foodie experience that has to be on your road trip list.
Waking up the next day I could hardly contain my excitement we were going Whale watching. I simply adore these mammals and couldn’t wait to see them hopefully close up and personal. Before this though our first adventure of the day was to be wowed by multi-award-winning Chef Alex Haun at Savour in the Garden, a fine dining restaurant set within the stunning Kingsbrae Gardens.
Savour in the Garden, is only open in the evenings, but Alex had very kindly opened the restaurant and created a special menu just for the two of us. Hs food philosophy is to create artistically inspired food with fresh ingredients primarily from New Brunswick, served in a relaxed setting, all with an eye on the environmental footprint. We were treated to what I can only describe as some of the finest food I have ever tasted. Mushrooms, oysters served three ways (this was a piece of art), rabbit terrine with foie gras, (textures and delicious tastes teased the taste buds) pan seared steelhead trout (melted in the mouth), blueberry & thyme cremeux, cookies and chocolate truffles, all paired with wines that further enhanced the divine flavours of each dish, if this was in London it would definitely be my go to restaurant for any special occasion, it’s no surprise that you have to book at least two months in advance to get a table at this outstanding restaurant.
We had to now go out to sea, with a belly full of rich delightful food, let’s hope the water’s not too choppy. It was with Jolly Breeze that we took our whale watching excursion onboard a historic tall ship. Safety briefing over, all wrapped up with at least ten layers on (that was me, no one else!) and off we sailed, sipping hot chocolate as the sea spray splashed on our face, we sail past seals sunning themselves on the rocks, lighthouses and beautiful landscapes until we reach the waters where the whales play. The crew are extremely knowledgeable and can sense where a whale is about to come up out of the water before you even see it, the experience took my breath away seeing these peaceful creatures jumping through the air before immersing themselves once again back in the water, I never tire of watching them.
After all the excitement of our fine dining experience and whale watching, you’d think we’d head back to our hotel for some rest, but no first we were paying a visit to Ministers Island. You have to wait until low tide for this excursion, when the ocean floor becomes visible and you can cross onto the now deserted island and 50 room holiday home of 19th century railroad tycoon Sir William Van Horne. An experience like no other and for those ghost hunters amongst you – we’ll just leave it there, except to say the daughter’s bedroom in the main house may intrigue you!
After two amazing days in St Andrews it was time to get back on the road and head to Saint John, on the way we stopped to see the Reversing Rapids, an amazing natural phenomenon where the Bay of Fundy collides with the Saint John River. We viewedit from the Skywalk, a platform that leads out over the water, with a glass floor for you to view the rapids below.
The Hilton Saint John, was to be our home for one night, located directly on the harbour with views over the bay of Fundy, this modern hotel is centrally located and has all the amenities you need.
That evening we embarked on a tour around the town with Uncorked Tours, first port of call Picaroons General Store, New Brunswick’s oldest microbrewery and also its largest. Normally you have caviar and champagne tasting, but we were having caviar and beer tasting, a little different, but just as enjoyable and amazingly the beer matched the caviar perfectly. Romanian Cornel Ceapa owns Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar, he’s theproducer of the only sustainable wild caviar in the world and it was with his son that we spent the time learning all the different types, flavours etc, before heading off to Italian by Night an authentic Italian restaurant serving us delicious antipasti.
Comfortably fed and watered, we thought we’d head back to the hotel, but no our itinerary had otherplans for us, a meal at Port City Royal, housed in a building that dates back to 1877. It’s been home to many things in its long life, from The Singer Manufacturing Company in the 1930s, to a radio and home appliances shop, to the Sunstar Bar. A building combining old and new, exposed brickwork and graffitied walls, an authentic atmosphere to enjoy some scrumptious food which included beetroot & citrus salad, smoked haddock with potatoes along with scallops and bacon.
Another must see whilst in St John’s is the indoor City Market, the roof is built like an inverted hull of a ship, a tribute to the city’s shipping industry and is packed with a wide variety of local and international delicacies to tempt the palate. Delicious aromas rise from the aisles of stalls which house butchers, bakers, fruit peddlers, sausage makers, fishmongers, delicatessen cheese vendors, and of course lobster sellers.
Time to head to our next stop, Fredericton and the Delta Hotel. A picture-perfect location on the St. John River, right in the heart of the city. Intuitively designed rooms and suites feature modern comfort and a sense of relaxed luxury that will put you at ease, all modern amenities including an outdoor pool and its own private jetty, it was here we took a bottle of champagne, a couple of glasses and sat quietly contemplating as we watched the sunsetting behind the acres of trees in the distance.
A morning stroll in the sunshine took us along the river at the back of the hotel, on the way back it was too tempting not to walk along the jetty and sit by the water’s edge enjoying the peace and tranquillity, this time drinking coffee and eating croissants, there was just time to visit the Lord Beaverbrook Art Gallery, before the final leg of our road trip to Ridgeback Lodge in the Kingston Peninsula.
Ridgeback Lodge is Glamping at its best, with its dream domes in the middle of the woods, wood-fired hot tubs, the perfect place to reconnect with each other, recharge the batteries and unplug from the outside world.
Housed behind its own private fenced off area, your private dome is a perfect sanctuary, illuminated with natural light and all-weather proof, there’s something quite soothing about rain as it drizzles softly on the dome’s cover, or as the sun rises in the morning and its rays softly illuminate the trees outside, whatever the season there’s always something magical to see.
Inside there’s a very comfortable memory foam bed, stove for chilly evenings and cold winter months. Fully equipped kitchenette, bathroom with glass door shower, flush toilet and sink, comfortable chairs and luxurious bedding, this certainly isn’t glamping as you know it, and then there’s the wood burning hot tub slowly heating away outside, that fits two perfectly, you just need to add the wine.
A few minutes’ walk from your private dome, is a pond with canoes and paddleboards to use, as and when you want or if you’re feeling energetic there’s plenty of hiking trails to explore.
Being here really is like living as one with nature, the sky at night is perfect for star gazing and there’s something quite magical about sitting in a hot tub, in complete darkness glancing up at the stars and listening to the sound sof the forest at night.
Food here was cooked by ourselves, but delivered by BusyDay Chefs, who not only brought us fresh supplies of food and drink but also gave us recipes to follow using the ingredients they’d delivered.
Reluctantly after our night in the Dream dome, it was time to head to the airport and begin our journey home – we managed to fit so much into 8 days, but there’s still so much to see and do, we’ll be back, maybe next time in winter, how magical would the dream dome be then?