I get a lot of helpful information here so wanted to give back after my recent trip to Nova Scotia. Last year we (2 middle aged ladies - longtime friends) did the Cabot Trail and Louisbourg areas and loved the scenery, beaches and activities. This year we decided to do the southern areas thinking that we will then have "done it all" in NS. Not so! We want to go back again to see/do other things. Nova Scotia really does have a lot to offer. So maybe this will help other travelers who like to plan ahead.
Left central Maine at 8 am destination Advocate Harbor NS arriving about 7 pm Atlantic time. We only made a few rest stops along the way (there is a homey little restaurant called Karen's downtown serving good, inexpensive meals and sandwiches for sit down or take out - nice to visit these places that are really part of their communities).There is a Label Shopper clothing store and a well stocked Maine visitors center in Calais as well as an international money changing place where you can get some Canadian money for a decent exchange.) AH is about an hours drive over rough road (lots of filled in potholes) from the big NS tourist info center in Amherst. We had hoped to arrive in time for dinner at Wild Caraway and we did since they stay open late on weekends. Don't miss this restaurant - in fact go out of your way for it. Everything is very special and so fresh. Love the dining area and simple but inviting decor. I had the halibut which was delicious and my friend had the fish and chips (so good). www.wildcaraway.com - check it out and make the trip. We stayed at Reids Guest Cottages 1391 West Advocate Rd. which is only a few minutes from the restaurant. This property is really a working farm. They have built motel units which have only one bed in each unit and 2 cottages. The hostess is Donna Reid very pleasant and helpful. We stayed in a cottage (I would call it a guest house). It has 3 separate bedrooms and could sleep 6 people easily, a large living room, kitchen and separate shower room from the bathroom which makes it convenient. It was certainly more than we needed for one night - had lots of room to spread out. Also has a deck and a BBQ (I think). WiFI is quite spotty but Donna says works fine in her main office area and guests can go there to connect. Our stay here was very comfortable and quiet. The place is vey clean as well.
Sunday July 27
You can certainly come prepared to make your own breakfast if you like. We did not, so took Donna's advice and went to the store in town where they sell just about everything including full breakfast with a sit down little dining area. This is a family run business - the lady owner cooked our food and her daughter served it and the husband (I think) checked us out. Very nice folks. We even returned later in the day to buy a loaf of their very good cinnamon raisin bread, cinnamon buns and since they have ice cream we got that as well. Oh, it is also a gas station so we filled up - one stop shopping. The highlight of AH (even beating out Wild Caraway) is Advocate Harbor Boat Tours. Else and Werner give fabulous boat tours of the area in a fixed hull zodiac boat that is a great ride - so much fun. They are the perfect guides and hosts - very safety conscious and knowledgeable of the area. We took the 2 hour tour to Isle Haute - so wild, picturesque and home to all kinds of seals and birds. This is an adventure as you get on and off the zodiac at the beach from a mobile ramp - can be tricky but Else and Werner make it work. Take a look at the videos on their facebook. I 100% recommend that you take one of their tours - in fact go there just to do it (and of course to eat at Wild Caraway). It was a beautiful sunny day and in the afternoon we drove to the Eatonville area (about 30 minutes from AH back towards Joggins). The road in to the Eatonville Visitors Center is mostly gravel but in pretty good shape. I was driving a Chrysler convertible and didn't have any trouble with the road. There are several picturesque beach areas to stop along the way for walking and picking up rocks and shells. The Eatonville visitor Center is not staffed - not sure why as it is a nice big building with restrooms inside although there is a clean outhouse on the trail to three sisters. The Three Sisters are sea stacks rising from the bay of Fundy shoreline producing a very scenic area. It is the picture you see on many of the tourist brochures for this area and is part of Cape Chignnecto Provincial Park. It is an easy under an hour hike depending on how long you stay at each of the overlooks. Very worthwhile and enjoyable. There is another hike here to Squallley Point but the Three sisters is probably the more popular. Time to move on as we must be in Truro tonight which is about two hours from AH. We stopped to have a look around Spencer's island which has another beach area to walk, a stop near Parrsboro to see wasson bluffs where you can hunt for jasper and agates on the beach and dinner at Harbor View Restaurant OnPier Road. I ordered the haddock sandwich which turned out to be a very tiny piece of fried fish on a hamburger bun very disappointing. This place seemed pretty popular though and they have those huge adirondack chairs for big kids like me! This area has a lot for rock hounding and enjoying the bay of fundy. Will need to return.
monday July 28
I chose the Holiday Inn because it has a nice pool which we like to use in the morning before hitting the road and long before anyone else is in the mood for swimming. this HI is pretty standard no breakfast included but Tim hortons is close by. Highlights for today are the glooscap heritage center offering the history of the native people of this area. Very interesting and an extra nice gift shop with native items. Also a helpful info center here http://www.glooscapheritagecentre.com/ we took the glooscap trail to Burntcoat Harbor to see the very low tide. This is a scenic area be sure to walk down the stairs to the rocks at the bottom. Also stopped at Walton for the oldest lighthouse. I liked the drive through this area very much. Fertile fields of corn and tidal shoreline all along the ride. although it is a slow ride, do it if time. Next highlight was the Avondale Sky winery. These folks rescued an old church and floated it to Avondale and built it into a winery complete with stained glass windows and alter table. Very interesting story and area although a bit hard to find because it is surely off the beaten trail. Try the Tidal Bay wine! Late in the day we got to Grand Pre World heritage site.http://www.grand-pre.com/index.php One could easily spend an entire afternoon here delving into the story of the Acadian people. Unfortunately we had only half an hour so will have to return. Go to the just us coffee shop nearby if you enjoy a great cup with samples! http://www.justuscoffee.com/ The best highlight of the day was unplanned and serendipity. We had located the covenanters church near Grand pre and happened onto their annual memorial service to the Acadian people who had been displaced so many years ago. It was a service of music and reflections with a wonderful message by Rev Robyn Brown Hewitt. One of those things that seemed meant to be. Staying at the Courtyard on the waterfront in Halifax tonight. Glad to get there before dark as the drive is foggy and drizzly. This was the best lodging of the trip. We even had a balcony and I suppose if there had been no fog there would be a view of the water. Valet parking here is $20 . Stay here and splurge if you are going to Halifax. Nice pool and small eatery but the location is the draw here as it is right in the middle of the waterfront activity. We chose Mckelvies for dinner. A bit pricy but very good and only a few blocks from the hotel. Try the lobster pouting and get your picture taken with the Mountie in the lobby.
Tuesday July 29
I am sure there are lots of great breakfast places in Halifax but I always enjoy Cora's when visiting Canadian cities and there is a good one right near the citadel. Www.chezcora.com You can walk up there from the waterfront easily enough except it is all uphill. Otherwise find metered parking or a garage.The Citadel is a must do in Halifax. We spent the whole morning and thoroughly enjoyed the reenactment, bagpipes, canon blast and all. They do a great job here. Would love to see more here and have another night at the Courtyard. Peggy's cove was our late afternoon destination. This is obviously where the tourists go but the setting is fabulous and if you like to take photos this is a super place. There are several nice gift shops here as well but the scenery is the star attraction. Don't miss this area so close to Halifax.We were fortunate enough to watch a wind surfer in the cove. How strong he must be to challenge that wind and those waves! From here to lunenburg it is maybe an hour and a half. We were supposed to check in at Boscawen inn by 8 pm but didn't make til almost 9. Late arrivals ring a bell to get the night manager to let you in. We felt like bad kids but oh well. Had dinner at the the grand banker bar and grill which is one of the few to stay open late. They serve a very decent fish sandwich.
Wednesday July 30
This is a very nice old Victorian built in the late 1800s. It is beautifully cared for with inviting common areas and quaint guest rooms. Very nice lavender products in the bathroom. Breakfast is served downstairs in what appears to be a large function room. Interesting way to serve poached eggs and very good coffee. I liked that each party had their own table so you can chat with others if you want but can read your maps and guide book if you would rather. We took the morning walking tour with Sheila. She is a local person and offers history, architecture and stories of local people. Very entertaining and gives the visitor a good connection to the area. Especially enjoyed visiting the two churches and hearing the story of fire and rebuilding at one of them. These people have great fortitude. http://www.lunenburgwalkingtours.com We were fortunate to see the Bluenose II in port on the colorful Lunenburg waterfront. Evidently it has been elsewhere being restored for quite some time. Very impressive! lots of shops and restaurants in this unesco world heritage town. Get up early for photos on the waterfront and nearby misty Blue Rocks a scenic area on the water about 20 minutes from lunenburg. Had planned to walk the beaches and explore the shore between lunenburg and Liverpool but rainy weather got in the way. Will put that on the list for next time. The two hour ride on rt 8 to Annapolis Royal is not very interesting. Lots of trees and not much else unless you are going camping or canoeing at Keji National Park where we stopped for a short walk to a waterfall. This is surely a place to get away from it all. Annapolis Royal is a very interesting historic town. We really enjoyed the candlelight graveyard tour sponsored by the historic society. This was a lot of fun and really well done. It is very popular with about 50 people there on a Tuesday night www.tourannapolisroyal.com/graveyard.html Do this but don't stay at the Annapolis Royal inn, this was the only negative of the trip. The place is old, the rooms are run down, the furniture is worn, the paint is chipped, the lighting is awful, the towels are thin.I guess it was clean but was afraid to look very close. They do offer a continental breakfast. The front desk lady was nice as are all of the Nova Scotians we met. Stay at one of the nice inns or b and bs in town.
Off to whale watching on Brier Island. You have to make two ferry connections which turned out to be easy and only cost $5each round trip. Brier island is a special place. Both sandy and shingle beaches, fields of wild flowers,dirt roads to ride, three lighthouses, trails to explore,nice people and great whale watching. We went with Mariner cruises http://www.novascotiawhalewatching.ca/. Penny and her crew give a terrific tour. We went out on the mega nova which has plenty of viewing room plus an upper deck where they allow ten people at a time. We saw at least ten humpback whales, some really close including a mother and baby. Could see and hear them blow. Of course the tail in the air is a classic view from these big guys. Perfect weather, very knowledgeable guides and a good vessel made for a super tour. I highly recommend it. Overnight was at the Brier Lodge. Other than a couple of B and B type places the lodge is the only option on the island. Although kind of pricy, I liked it. Big windows give you a view of the water. The rooms are large, clean and pleasant. No wifi though, you have to go to the office where there is a nice common room for relaxing. I had the best scallops of the trip at the lodge restaurant. There is a little cafe type place in town where you can get fried food, sandwiches and snacks if you don't want to eat at the lodge. There is also a grocery store and gift shop in town. Up a side street is http://www.hookingbythesearetreats.com/. The owner has a miniature horse and very cute alpacas along with other assorted animals. She also spins and sells some gorgeous yarns. A really nice lady offering Canadian hospitality. Go to the western lighthouse at sunset for some nice photos.
More whale watching this am. This time we suited up and got on a zodiac. This was a hoot and you get a totally different experience than being on the big boats. Much more adventurous. Only ten people on this trip with http://www.brierislandwhalewatch.com/ and we saw two fin backs and some humpbacks. They were so close you just felt surrounded. It was awesome as is the island itself -truly a special place. Tonight stayed in Digby to catch the 8 am St. John ferry. Admiral Digby Inn is very close to the ferry terminal but I wouldn't choose it otherwise. It is old and dated but comfortable enough. the restaurant caters to the ferry schedule with an early breakfast. Digby is a good town to explore with lots of shops and restaurants. I enjoyed taking evening photos of the scallop fleet in the harbor and the nearby point prim lighthouse at sunset. Don't miss the digby scallops. We got some takeout at eds famous seafood out on the main highway. Very good.
Ferry plans didn't work out mechanical issues cancelled the 8 am crossing which meant a much longer drive home. Oh well we made it and discovered the best herb biscuits ever in Brooklyn at the bread gallery and got to listen to an entire David Baldacci audio story. Everything happens for a reason!