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Trip advice for July

chicago,il
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Trip advice for July

Hello. My husband and I are arriving from Chicago via Quebec in July and have spent a bit of time reading all the good suggestions and posts. Our itinerary now looks like

1 day in Fundy National Park, drive north through Hopewell Rocks, take Interstate 2 to Halifax, possibly detouring a bit south from Amherst on local roads to Minas Basin on the way.

2 nights in Halifax or Dartmouth - hotels are more reasonable and ferry looks convenient and fun. Take a day trip from Halifax towards Lunenberg/Peggys Cove.

1 night in Baddeck from Halifax on rte 7

1 night in either Dingwall or Pleasant Bay,

2 nights PEI via ferry

then south towards Maine.

I am looking for suggestions on the routes, staying in Dartmouth vs Halifax, Dingwall vs Pleasant Bay, and also possibly taking the ferry to Iles de Madeleine for 2 nights. If we go to Madeleine, we would not take our car- too expensive - so not sure if there is public transportation? We would also like to go sea kyaking with a tour along the way - any suggestions on best places for this? I LOVE whales but not sure about a night in Digby before Halifax.

We have a few extra days that we can play with along the way but I would like to book soon for a few of the stops. We like to camp so will be looking for reasonable camping cabins as well as BBs.

Thanks!

Lunenburg, Canada
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1. Re: Trip advice for July

Hi Chicago!

Let me offer a few observations:

1) Most visitors prefer to overnight in downtown Halifax, where the attractions are mostly within walking distance. Dartmouth has far fewer, and as you've observed you must take a ferry to get across the harbor. The ferry ride is under 15 minutes, costs about $2 one-way, and sails every fifteen minutes weekdays until 6 p.m., half-hourly on weekends, holidays and in the evening. Dartmouth does get the best view of Halifax across the water, but you could see it as easily with a ferryride to Dartmouth.

Dartmouth and Halifax are fifteen driving minutes apart, more at rush hour.

2) The Magdalen Islands is a 5-hour sail, each way, from Souris, Prince Edward Island. You'll have to decide whether to invest two days of

vacation essentially for a single overnight. The islands are about 60 miles long and, while I haven't been there, I understand public transportation options are sparse.

3) I think Digby and the area around are charming and worth the visit. It's a minimum of two hours each way on the freeway from Halifax, probably more, and certainly more if you plan to see any of the sights along the way, such as the Gaspereau valley, Cape Blomidon, Annapolis Royal, Halls Harbor and Route 221 along the southern base of the North Mountain.

4) I live in Lunenburg County myself, so let me put in a plug for Lunenburg Town and its region.

Lunenburg is a substantial town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a 19th Century fishing port that has preserved its exterior. You can easily spend a day exploring its streets, locating the maze of white clapboard churches, and taking in the historical architecture. People like to take a horse-drawn ride around town and eat at one of several harbor-facing restaurants.

It's a minimum of 90 minutes each way to Lunenburg on the freeway, and many do it as a day trip. Don't overlook the wide selection of B&Bs sprinkled around the town, though. You get a different flavor once the day-trip tourists have boarded their buses to return to Halifax.

Route 103, the southwest freeway from Halifax which I drive myself every workday is the fastest and least scenic way. Take Exit 11 for the most direct route to Lunenburg.

You'll enjoy the visit to the Nova Scotia South Shore more if you come on a clear day and if you get off the freeway. The big road doesn't actually follow the shore, especially in the particularly charming Lunenburg area. Instead, here's my favorite route for seeing the best of our coastal scenery, if you have the time:

About an hour west of downtown Halifax, drive to Chester. Chester is an old fishing town with charming back streets and a boat-lined waterfront. Chester, away from the waterfront itself, is how a real traditional Nova Scotia small town looked in the days before I was born.

West of Chester, follow Route 3, not the freeway. It leads you past some appealing seashore and a few places that lie a bit back from the water. Smaller spur roads run down to the water if you'd like to check them out.

Take the paved road for Indian Point and Oakland. This loop follows the shore of Mahone Bay and brings you around to the town named Mahone Bay, another charming fishing port, by way of the best view of the town's signature sight: its three side-by-side churches. Mahone Bay is more oophy-cosy as old fishing towns go. Not many people there still earn a living from the sea, at least not by going out in boats. They make their money from tourists who come to see the sea!

South of Mahone Bay on the way to Lunenburg, turn left as soon as you're out of the town, on the road to Mader's Cove. This winding waterfront road takes you through pretty little villages like Sunnybrook on Princes Inlet. Don't stay on Route 3 here: the main highway doesn't follow the water.

Next comes Lunenburg town.

When you leave Lunenburg town, turn south on Route 332 to places like Bayport, Rose Bay and Riverport, smaller fishing villages. Along this way is the Ovens, a park with several sea caves and blow holes.

From Riverport, Route 332 turns northwest, following the LaHave River toward Bridgewater, the big town of the South Shore. The road here winds right along the shore, with very few waterfront houses to block your view. This river is navigable, so it's like an extension of the coast. There's no more charming stretch of river anywhere, and every turn in the road leads to a new vista.

Bridgewater lies on the southwest freeway, Rt. 103, for your drive back to Halifax.

It's essential to get a clear day. June in particular is fog season, when the south wind brings fog that spoils the visibility and chills the air. If you get a clear day, though, one with a west wind, you'll get to enjoy the best seaside scenery we have to offer. If the wind is south, on the other hand, it's probably a good day for your trip to Digby.

You should try to get a good road atlas to help with this trip. The best is Atlantic Canada Back Road Atlas, produced by MapArt Publishing. It sells for about $15 plus our 15% sales tax.

Other readers should be mindful that there is no ferry from Maine to Yarmouth any more, by the way. This ferry was heavily dependent on government subsidies, and Nove Scotia is broke, so the subsidy was eliminated and the ferry company folded.

David

capetien10@gmail.com

chicago,il
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2. Re: Trip advice for July

Hi Capetien!

Thanks so much for your advice. We are considering taking the ferry from St John and spending a night in Digby, then heading out early towards Lunenberg enroute to Halifax. since we are heading south from PEI, we can check out Fundy Natl Park and Hopewell on the way out. I plan on taking your advice on the route to take along the way. I think we've decided to skip Magdelena and use the extra days along the way.

Nova Scotia
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3. Re: Trip advice for July

Hello spaghetti2 (cute name)

Capetien has laid out great plans for you. Only comments I would add are regarding your question Halifax vs Dartmouth. As Capetien has pointed out, most of the attractions and sights are in Halifax, but you do pay dearly for the privilege being close by, including nightly parking fees. The ferry ride is a scenic one and can give you a great view of the Halifax skyline and harbor. If you are a little reluctant to pay top dollar for being close, by all means stay in Dartmouth. The only one that would give you a harborview is the Holiday Inn Harborview. The others would be located in Dartmouth, and you may not find them as convenient. It is a trade-off. If you are looking for something more reasonable on the Halifax side of the bridge, check the Future Inns. Certainly it is not located in a scenic spot, but we find it very convenient for location and price.

The ferry ride from St. John to Digby is a three hour ride and brings you in to the Digby Harbor. Very scenic.. There are a few B&Bs in Digby and some small motels as well to choose from or the Digby Pines resort.

You may also wish to travel 45 minutes from Digby to Annapols Royal, which is very lovely, one of the oldest European settlements in North America. Walk the Historic Gardens, or Fort Anne and admire the stunning B&Bs. Stay there overnight and head out to Lunenburg in the morning.

Did you order the Doers and Dreamers Guide from www.novascotia.com ?

Edited: 27 February 2011, 21:25
chicago,il
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4. Re: Trip advice for July

Hi KC,

Thanks for your advice. The more we know, the more difficult the decisions!

We are interested in the zodiac whale watching out of Tiverton - got great reviews as opposed to Cape Breton. Our problem is the ferries leave at noon or 11pm on the day we are to arrive from Quebec... I really wanted to add an extra day in the Annapolis area rather than New Brunswick but thats a really long drive and we don't really want to back track from Halifax to Baddeck.

Thanks!

BTW - Spaghetti is our dog

Nova Scotia
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5. Re: Trip advice for July

You will enjoy your night in Digby. It is a quiet town, with a waterfront that has undergone a wonderful transformation. It is a great spot to sit and just enjoy the peace and salt air. There are a few good seafood restaurants downtown as well.

The motels, for the most part, are basic. The B&Bs get better reviews. The Digby Pines Resort is the 'grande dame' http://www.digbypines.ca/

Whatever you do, where ever you stay, enjoy being in Nova Scotia. You will be planning your return trip before you leave!

If you need more help, we are here.

Lunenburg, Canada
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6. Re: Trip advice for July

Hi Again, Chicago,

Digby is a pleasant town, but if you can possibly do it, we find the visit to Brier Island, at the end of the long peninsula west of Digby, worth the drive.

About 30 miles west from Digby is a ferry, then in 10 miles another ferry, until you sail to Brier Island, a remarkable place to visit, stuck out in the Bay of Fundy. Brier Island contains a small forest of extraordinary basalt columns, which those who have seen both say resembles the Giants Causeway of Northern Ireland.

A word of caution about whale watching from Brier Island. I did it in July and found the two-hour sail bitterly cold. While temperatures on land registered around 75°F, out over the open Bay of Fundy the air temperature hovered in the mid-40s with an icy wind that whipped right through people's summer clothing.

I'd anticipated the cold and brought winter clothing in the car. I found that even winter coats could not keep our bodies from the feeling you might get in Chicago on a windy January day. Worse, you won't be cllimated, so the cold feels all the more unendurable.

(At least we came prepared. Several guests showed up in T-shirts. To say that they must have darned-near froze would be an understatement, I think. )

Remember that most whale-watching boats do not have a cabin, except for the wheelhouse. The guests have no choice but to sit on deck and freeze.

Try to pick a dry day with a west or northwest wind. Drier air feels lest chilling. In July, a south or southwest wind doesn't bring warmth on Brier Island, but fog and miserable cold.

David

Edited: 28 February 2011, 17:11
Kentville, Canada
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7. Re: Trip advice for July

If you are going to be in the Annapolis Royal area, I would suggest also visiting the reconstruction of Champlaine's Habitation, a reconstruction built about 75 years ago of the first permanent settlement in North America (above Florida, I understand), built in 1605. Although not nearly as impressive as Louisbourg, we found it well worth the visit.

chicago,il
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8. Re: Trip advice for July

Hi David,

Thanks for the heads up on the whales. We went whale watching in Alaska

and only saw a few flippers and tails so we thought this looked interesting.

I'll be sure to bring our winter gear ( STILL using it in this long and snowy winter!)

I will look into your advice about Brier Island -sounds beautiful even if we don't go whale watching.

chicago,il
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9. Re: Trip advice for July

Hi KC,

Do you think it is possible to drive all the way from Moncton to Digby in one day without feeling rushed? I would rather go to Digby area, head to Lunenberg, and then Halifax before going to Cape Breton. Or do you have a better route I should consider? I know I need to make a few reservations for hotels and BBs soon but

still can't finalize our route! We decided not to take the ferry as we would arrive at 2am in Digby.

I thought I ordered the Dreamers guide on line about 2 weeks ago but haven't received anything yet.

Thanks for all your help!

Lunenburg, Canada
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10. Re: Trip advice for July

Hi Chicago,

Digby from St. John, New Brunswick, is not that difficult a drive in a single day. You could do it in about six non-stop hours, with no dawdling along the way. (About the same as Chicago to Minneapolis) Add stops for meals and such and you have tons of time, considering that in July the sun stays out until after 9 p.m. in Nova Scotia.

From St. John to Truro, NS, the route is entirely 4-lane freeway built to Interstate standards with a legal speed limit of 70 mph. South of Truro, you could stay on the freeway to Bedford, where you turn west, or you could follow country roads numbered 236 and 14. The country roads are all paved and, while I don't consider them especially scenic, they do give you a change from freeway scenery.

The country roads join up again with the freeway at Windsor, NS. West of Windsor, this is mostly a super-2 highway, built like a freeway but with just two-lanes undivided plus occasional passing lanes. You'd have no trouble maintaining 60 mph on it, though.

The great advantage of driving, rather than being stuck on the ferry, is that you retain the freedom to do whatever you want. You're not locked into an itinerary strait-jacket. If you want to make a detour or tarry someplace, you're free to do that. There are a great many things to see off the freeway.

The Nova Scotia government will send you a copy of its Doers and Dreamers Guide, a comprehensive travel guide book. I think it's head and shoulders above similar productions from other provinces and states. It contains a complete listing of every accommodation place where you might consider overnighting across every corner of Nova Scotia, complete with internet addresses and phone numbers, as well as guides to points of interest and lots of other services.

Rather than pre-booking everything months in advance, and thus locking yourself into a strict pre-planned itinerary, use the guide book and Wifi internet, if you're so equipped, to pick your destination the night before or even from the road that same day. Although July is busy here, there's always rooms somewhere.

In the event you find yourself having trouble, the book contains the number for Check In, the Tourism reservations service. (Here's a sneak preview: it's 1-800-565-0000.) Check In keeps track of who still has rooms when places start to fill up, and can help in a pinch. If worst comes to worst, you might have to drive 15 minutes to the next town.

I love the freedom of being able to travel at my own pace. You can too.

David