I wrote a VERY long trip report so have divided it into two sections. This part is the time we were driving around Nova Scotia. Part 1 is the facts of the trip and the days we spent driving to NS and driving back home. Even dividing it up it is still VERY long - sorry for going on and on, I just wanted to share our adventure.
Thurs 5 - Up from a good night sleep and down for breakfast and then on our way. We were heading over to Digby on the ferry. We had prebooked online so there was nothing to do other than to show up. We arrived around 11am and went in the row we were told. We were there an hour early - rainy day so we didn't venture too far from the car. Once the ferry arrived and the cars/trucks started loading we started to get a bit concerned because dozens of cars/trucks that arrived after us were boarding before us and we had visions of being stuck at the very back. We were in the last group of about 10 cars to board and turns out we were right up the middle so bonus - we were the 5th car to drive off once we arrived in Digby.
I liked the ferry ride from Saint John to Digby. There is a lot of room to walk around on the boat - lounges on different levels, a tourist info desk, a free "hollywood" movie shown in the main lounge, an info movie on the tides/area, a cafeteria, a coffee shop and gift shop. It was a smooth crossing and I'm glad we did choose to enter Nova Scotia this way even though it seemed a bit expensive - $182 one way.
Once landing in Digby we were off to find the Bayside Inn, 115 Montague Row, easy to find. We checked in and I was happy with my room - right at the front so I could see the "action" on the street and watch the harbour, the windows opened for a nice breeze. The B&B/Inn was very nicely decorated with many quilt wallhangings that Theresa had made and lots of nautical decorations. One of my favourite places in the house was the big front porch/sunroom - so nice to sit there and watch the water or the people going by. We stayed here for two nights, split with one night down on Brier Island. This was our first B&B experience and I don't think we are B&B people although I did enjoy our two nights here. Bob, the owner, recommended the Boardwalk Cafe, 40 Water St, for dinner so we went there and were very pleased with the meal. We walked around town for a bit and down by the water - I liked Digby a lot. Back to the B&B to wind down, check out what's happening on Big Brother and call it a night.
Fri 6 - Went down for breakfast and was happy with the choices including the homemade breads and muffins as well as the custom cooked eggs on offer. We set off for Brier Island and wanted to get there early as we had a 2:30 whale watching trip booked. We made a stop at Sandy Cove Beach - beautiful big arc of a beach, very peaceful with waves crashing on the shore. I could easily have stayed here for several hours but we had to continue on our way.
The ferries from Digby Neck to Long Island (Grand Passage) and from Long Island to Brier Island (Petit Passage) cost $5.50 return for cars (collected once you have driven on to the ferry), pedestrians are free. Cars line up along the guard rail on the road and wait until someone on the ferry waves you onboard. I like how they only charge in one direction - so much better than to have to worry about finding change each crossing. Although the ferries are supposed to be on a schedule, the one from Digby Neck to Long Island left half an hour early so we had to wait longer for the one to leave from Long Island to Brier Island but it was a beautiful day so not a problem. I was sitting in the car, looking at the sky, on the ferry to Brier Island, when I noticed something - it was a whale! I was just swimming in between these two islands - what a great welcome!
After arriving on Brier Island we went to The Lighthouse Cafe, 225 Water St, for a drink. I actually liked this little cafe more than the Brier Island Lodge restaurant and we stopped by here several times for something to eat or drink during our time on the island. We did a quick look at the gift store next door and then went to check in at our house for the night. We stayed at The Bay of Fundy Guesthouse, 143 Second St, a huge house. We liked the house and were glad of our luck in finding our about it - sidenote - I have a very active imagination and I couldn't help to feel this would be the perfect setting for a scary movie and tried not to think about the possibility of it being haunted. ;-} Penny Graham owns/runs this guesthouse as well as the Bay of Fundy Inn next door and Mariner Cruises Whale Watching tour. Penny was welcoming and the perfect guide/host on her whale watching cruise that we took later in the day.
We had decided to go whale watching while on Brier Island, even though I had been 3 times before in other locations and wasn't all that impressed with the experiences. This was an amazing trip! The boat Mariner cruises used was perfect - lots of room to walk around to see the whales no matter where they decided to show up, lots of seats both in the shade or in full sun and an upper "deck" you could reach by a ladder to have a full 360 view of the sea.
We saw SO MANY WHALES! We saw a few mother whales with their babies, lots of single whales and at the end we were treated to one whale who must have slapped it's tail on the water at least 50 times - trying to get those darn barnicles off. The trip was outstanding and I think everyone was a bit worn out from the adrenaline rush of all of the sightings....it was nice to relax with a cup of hot chocolate on the way back to the dock.
After the whale watching we went back to the house for a bit and then went to the Brier Island Lodge restaurant for dinner. The meal was okay but I was really expecting it to be much better. The view is very nice but the meal was only average, the best part of it was the biscuits they started us off with. There were only 4 occupied tables in the restaurant so maybe the staff was a bit bored as either our waiter or another waiter would come by our table every minute or two to see if everything (each thing we were served) was fine or to explain about the restaurant menu, food, history, view, etc - just a bit too attentive. I had originally tried to book accommodations at the Brier Island Lodge but I never heard back from them - luckily for us, Matinee111 on tripadvisor suggested Mariner Cruises & lodging and we felt very lucky to have stayed/cruised with them.
While on Brier Island we went to the Western Lighthouse, the Northern Light and to Pond Cove for beach walking which was very nice. The island is beautiful and we were so glad we were able to spend the night there, a few more nights would have been wonderful but there was only so much time we could devote to each stop.
Sat 7 - On our way back to Digby we stopped at Whale Cove and Guliver's Cove for walks - liked Guliver's Cove a lot. We went back to the Boardwalk Cafe in Digby for lunch - wanted to try Mag Pyes but it was closed for lunch.
After lunch we drove to Annapolis Royal. I was expecting too much I think because I was disappointed. There didn't seem to be much happening in this town and it was an extremely windy day which didn't help. We walked around a bit and then decided to head back to Digby. We had talked to another couple at our B&B the day before and they mentioned a wonderful German bakery in Annapolis Royal which we tried to find. We couldn't find the bakery and were on our way home when, of course, we passed it. We stopped and went in to check it out. It is the Sachsen Cafe & Restaurant, 358 St. George St. We each had a fresh pastry but I wished it was meal time because there were a few things on the menu I would have loved to have tried.
Drove back to Digby and checked into the Bayside Inn (again) and walked around the town again and relaxed.
Sun 8 - Time to leave Digby and move on around the southern part of the province, it was an overcast, drizzly day as we set off - a big change from the sunny and warm days we had just enjoyed. We stopped at Gilbert's Cove Lighthouse on the way down, it was worth the stop. We countinued down the coast on Route #1, passing through small communites until we arrived at Cape St. Mary's. We walked about this area for a bit and enjoyed the views.
Next on to our cottage for the night at Cape View Motel & Cottages, 124 John Doucette Rd, at Mavillette Beach (thank you for this suggestion Lulu C). Our cottage was good, the location was fantastic! We dropped off our things and because it was still raining a bit decided to go into Yarmouth for a look around and to find some lunch.
Yarmouth was sad, it is really hurting since the ferry service from Maine was cancelled. This is the hot topic that everyone is talking about and a new ferry service has been proposed/promised but there have been issues with that, hopefully a ferry service will be reinstated and Yarmouth and the affected communities will thrive again. It was also Sunday and many of the shops were closed for the day.
We went to the Tourist Information Centre and Rudder's Seafood Restaurant & Brew Pub, 96 Water St, was recommended for lunch. We went there and found it to be quite busy (good sign) and the server was very friendly and nice. I ordered clams and one/several of them must have been off because I almost asked for a plastic bag to take in the car with me "just in case". Not sure if I would return to this restaurant or not, for sure wouldn't order the clams again...don't seem to be having much luck with clams this trip. While in Yarmouth we also went to see the Cape Forchu Lightstation - nice lighthouse, good little info centre/museum.
Back to our cottage and it had cleared up so we were able to have a long, long walk on the incredible Mavillette Beach for the sunset - bliss! Then back to our cottage for the night.
Mon 9 - Beautiful sunny morning so after breakfast (included) I had to head back to the beach for another long walk. Mavillette Beach + low tide = JOY On our way and found that the craft store At the Sign of the Whale was open so we stopped in and bought a few things. Russ, at Cape View Motel, suggested we get off the highway at exit 17 and follow 331 to LaHave and take the ferry across to continue on to Lunenburg, our next stop. We did as he suggested and it was a beautiful drive - very scenic with little towns, lots of water views, etc.
Of course you can't go to LaHave without stopping at the bakery - we had something light to eat and took away a few pasteries for later. Next over to the cable ferry crossing from LaHave to East LaHave - cost was $5.50 and it was a very smooth ride over to the other side, fun.
Next we made our way to the Lunenburg Oceanview Chalets. I'm sure there is an ocean out there somewhere but I couldn't be sure I was seeing it. ;-} The cottage we had was wonderful and Wayne, the owner, was a wealth of information, he gave us a map of the area and marked on lots of places of interest. We headed over to the golf course to get the requisite photo of the town and then drove to town, parked and walked around. Once again I must have been expecting too much. I found Lunenburg to be so-so, yes it was pretty but it seemed very touristy and overpriced.
R went to the museum while I walked around. We ended up going to The Knot Pub, 4 Dufferin St, for dinner - hard place to spot because it is a smallish building which seems to blend into the trees and shrubbery - we drove past it a few times before finally spotting it. We ordered cod cakes and a salmon burger - we each ate half of what we each ordered and then decided we liked each others better so we switched. It was a good menu and it was a busy place - would be happy to go back. Headed back to our chalet for the night - very good sleep on great sheets, I'm going to try to find them somewhere for myself.
Tues 10 - We wanted a place for breakfast and Wayne suggested The Dockside Restaurant, 84 Montague St. We went there and would recommend it - good, basic food cooked well and good views over the harbour. After breakfast we went back to the chalets to pack up and get on our way.
We decided to check out The Ovens (Ovens Natural Park) 326 Ovens Rd, Riverport. This is a privately owned park and it was $8 each to get in. We were given a map of the Sea Cave Trail - we wanted to hear the booms of the waves hitting the back walls of the caves. Unfortunately because of the time we were there we heard more of a suggestion of a boom but it was still a very nice walk. I think high tide and/or windy days would produce the cannon sounds we were hoping for. Pay attention because the trail has rocks and roots in the middle of the path and it's quite easy to trip if you're not paying attention. There are a fair number of stairs to climb/descend to see some of the caves but these are all optional and not really too hard if you take your time. We felt it was worth the time to stop here.
Next stop is Mahone Bay and a brief pit stop at Jo-Ann's Deli Market Bakeshop for some nourishment (cinnamon bun and buttertart). I liked Mahone Bay - more than Lunenburg. It wasn't big but had a nice feel to it and I enjoyed walking on the streets and popping into some of the shops. One thing I really liked was the well located free public parking and washrooms. After leaving here we drove through Chester because the guide books describe it as a New England style town. We didn't stop to explore it as it was very small and looked a bit dull after all the bright colours of Mahone Bay.
Yesterday I had read about The Nova Scotia Chowder Trail and on the morning show on tv this morning they had a feature on it. The Chowder Trail features 36 different chowders throughout the province, you have a passport and get it stamped when you order one of these chowders at the participating restaurant and vote for your favourite. The featured restaurant this morning was the Trellis Cafe in Hubbards. We were driving through Hubbards on our way to Halifax so we stopped in for some chowder. We ordered both the fish and the seafood chowder, both were good although I do think $10/$16 was a bit on the high side for what we got.
On our way again and finally arrived in Halifax and drove to our hotel for the next four days - Cambridge Suites, 1583 Brunswick St.
Wed 11 - Sat 14 - Halifax - After our week of small towns, beaches, isolated cabins and cottages I felt assaulted by Halifax - it was too loud, too many people, too many cars, too many smells. Now I understood why a few of you told me to limit my time in Halifax and stay in the smaller communities instead.
Our stay at the Cambridge Suites was okay but not as good as we had experienced at other Cambridge Suites properties. The staff are very good and helpful, the rooms are nice but seem a bit severely decorated, the bathroom fans are incredibly loud, the doors all slam loudly (probably fire code closure requirements causing the noise?) and you can hear everyone talking in the hallways. Breakfast was decent but there were always uncleared tables no matter how empty/busy the restaurant area was. Location was fine, parking at $16+tax per day is annoying as was paying the daily marketing levy.
Here are some of the things we did during our stay in Halifax. When we checked in we were given a map showing downtown Halifax, which was nice, but the best thing was on the flip side - it was a map of the Pedway. We walked the Pedway on our first afternoon and used it at least once a day for the rest of our stay. It was fantastic for avoiding some of the hill climbing and was perfect for the rainy days (effects of Hurricane Gabrielle).
Had lunch one day at Murphy's at the waterfront - needed a burger after a week of fish. Why do restaurants insist on ruining perfectly good meat by putting so much stuff into it? After tasting the hamburger I asked the waiter what was in it and he found out that there were at least 5 different herbs/spices...oh well, at least the french fries were good.
Another day we had lunch at The Battered Fish (thanks for that recommendation Lulu C). I don't usually order fish & chips but I did here and I thought it was delicious. R often orders fish & chips and thought it was fantastic. We took our meals to eat on the picnic tables behind the shop, overlooking the water...had to shoo away a few birds who were looking to steal our meals. If we had gone here earlier in our stay in Halifax we would have returned to try something else...it was that good.
Took a tour on the Harbour Hopper land/water bus. I have been wanting to do one of these types of tours for awhile so decided to go for it when I saw it in Halifax. It was $29.99 + tax for each of us for approximately an hour tour. It was a fun experience but the best part was the history of the city that we heard from our guide.
R went to the Citadel one morning while I went to the Halifax Public Gardens, Spring Garden Rd & South Park St., which were very nice. The garden/park is just the right size, not too big and not small, it has several paths and lots of benches and was very peaceful until two tour buses stopped by. ;-}
I also stopped in at Jennifers of Nova Scotia, 5635 Spring Garden Rd - great craft store full of things made in Atlantic Canada - I found some wonderful things to buy as souvenirs of our trip. On the way down to the waterfront I stopped by The Old Burying Ground, 1460 Barrington St at Spring Garden Rd. I'm a big fan of old cemeteries and this one reminded me of one I visited in Boston - similar markings on the older tombstones.
Spent time on the waterfront, walking the boardwalk, stopping in some of the shops, eating, etc. Love the idea of a developed waterfront for the people of the city. I did go to the Halifax Farmer's Market but there wasn't a lot going on since I arrived in the afternoon, I believe it is more active in the mornings.
On the rainy Friday (thanks to Gabrielle again) we went to the Art Gallery which is free during renovations (nice touch!). We saw the art they did have on display including the works and house of Maud Lewis which was interesting - I had heard of her but knew almost nothing about her work or her life. We also ate at the gallery's restaurant Untitled Eats - good meal.
Hurricane Gabrielle was the talk of the town for a few days - cruise ships were arriving early or leaving early. There was a lot of rain in places from it but by no means a massive storm - I was talking to some of the local shop owners on the waterfront and we were amused by all the fuss the news outlets were making over it.
One morning we headed out to visit Peggy's Cove. I almost wanted to scrap this plan because I had become a bit tired of hearing so much about this place - figured it was going to be a tourist trap and couldn't possibly live up to all of the hype. Glad we did go because I really liked it there. I can't remember much about the actual lighthouse but the rocky landscape was outstanding. Wear good shoes for exploring - couldn't believe the number of people we saw wearing flip flops.
There is a restaurant and a two level gift shop which had a variety of goods. Hand your written and stamped postcards to the clerks in the stores to get a special Canada Post Peggy's Cove lighthouse cancellation - you can also get this cancellation stamped in your passport - we did and it looks very good. When we arrived at Peggy's Cove around 9am there were 3 tour buses there, when we left a few hours later there were 5...and this was on a weekday.
Sat 14 - Foggy morning - first fog we've seen in 10 days. We leave Halifax and head to South Maitland and the Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre. Once we arrive we realize we have missed the tidal bore so we plan to go to the one in Truro the next morning and head over to our cottage for the night.
We stayed at Shangri-La Cottages in Noel, on the Bay of Fundy, right beside Burntcoat Head Park. Due to us changing our plans a few times we almost didn't end up here - would have missed something so special if we hadn't had the chance to stay here at the cottages and enjoy the park next door. The hosts of Shangri-La Cottages were very helpful with suggestions on what to do and where to go while we waited for our cottage to be ready - we arrived early.
We drove down the coast to Walton to see the lighthouse and have lunch at the Walton Pub, 39 Shore Rd, and pick up some supplies for the night as the cottages are 21km from restaurants/stores. Once we drove back to the cottage and checked in we went to the park and walked down to the ocean floor and explored for a few hours - incredible. This was one of our best stays with the lovely cottage and the fabulous location - we just stepped out our front door and walked over the lawn to watch the tide come in below.
Burntcoat Head Park is free, they do ask you to register at the lighthouse if you are planning on going down to the ocean floor for a walk. There are no fences/gates on the property so you really can access the park at anytime. We met some people fishing there after the lighthouse/park had closed and the tide was coming in - they said it was the best time to catch striped bass. I was expecting the bottom of the bay to be a thick, sticky mud but the majority of the area is sand or rock - do wear old shoes because you are still going to get messy with the red mud/pockets of water and watch out for the green seaweed, it is slippery.
Sun 15 - We were up and on our way early this morning because we wanted to drive to Truro to see the tidal bore at 8:56. I didn't really know what to expect but it was impressive when the tide did come in to the lookout area and eventually the river filled up fully. Worth the trip. Since it was Sunday again there wasn't a lot open in Truro so we moved on to our next stop, Parrsboro. On the the way we found and went into the Masstown Market - combination coffee shop, grocery store, deli, ice cream shop, bakery, gift shop........
Arrived in Parrsboro and tried to find the rock/mineral shop/museum but we had a very hard time with directions and road signs and we ended up in another rock shop. Did a bit of beach walking - looking for gems but I don't think I would recognize anything, other than quartz, in it's natural form even if I was looking right at it. Went to the Black Rock Bistro 151 Main St. in Parrsboro for lunch - fish tacos, scallops pasta - very good but I'm still not used to paying $17 for just a bowl of pasta, even if it did have some scallops in it.
Next we are off to Advocate Harbour and our stay at a chalet at Driftwood Park Retreat. The drive was pretty but filled with lots of ups and downs and turns - could be a bit hard on people who get motion sickness. We checked into our chalet - very, laidback, easy going owners. Loved the views from the living area on the upper level of the chalet - you could sit on the couch and watch the tide come in. We went for a walk on the huge beach - very windy day but also nice and sunny. We left the beach and drove to Spencer's Island beach to check it out but it was too rocky for a comfortable walk, too many twisted ankle opportunities. Back to our chalet and our beach for the day.
Next day is in our return home (in part 1)