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Report 18: Charlo NB to Sydney NS

Highlights

From Charlo, in north-eastern NB we visited the Acadian Village, well worth the time. It chronicles the Acadian experience from the time of the expulsion in 1755 almost to present day. Farms and businesses of each period have been reconstructed at the site and the staff, dressed in period costume, provides excellent interpretation. One could spend all day there, or rush through in a few hours. The drive along the NB north shore continued to display nicely kept houses. Before turning southward, we drove out to the easternmost tip of the Acadian Peninsula to see the lighthouse and grave yard. This is an unspoilt area without water slide parks, fast food joints on every corner and so on. The small cemetery was very touching, as it gives a glimpse into the travails and dangers of the fishing life.

We opted to drive down to St. Andrews on the Miramichi River Route, a big disappointment. It was not particularly picturesque and the road was marginal. We recommend anyone following our tracks to continue farther down the east coast.

Lunch and a visit to the Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews is a must. This old, former CN hotel is striking, on manicured grounds. We also enjoyed visiting Minister's Island, the site of Sir William Van Horne's cottage and farm. The partially restored cottage is actually a mansion on a 500-acre tidal island. Access is by driving along the 0cean floor at low tide. There are also historic churches and other old buildings worth seeing in St. Andrews; we thoroughly enjoyed the court house and nearby gaol.

Saint John has some nice old houses and an interesting Market Square. We enjoyed the New Brunswick Museum and the Martello Tower. For the more hardy, a jet boat ride over the reversing falls rapids, or the near by zip line would be fun...we did not partake. To get the best of the Reversing Falls, one has to go twice, to see both the ebb and the flood tides.

We did not do much at Moncton, apart from visiting friends. As we lived there for over five years, we'd seen most of it already. Others would enjoy Fundy & Kouchibouguac National Parks, the rocks at Hopewell Cape (try to get there just before low tide). A visit to Magnetic Hill to experience coasting up hill is fun, even though the area has been turned into a tourist trap “village”.

Halifax has a lot to offer. We spent hours exploring the Citadel, which also has some good film presentations. The Maritime Museum was fascinating; it too has some excellent videos, except for the 3D Titanic Documentary which was blurry and boring. We visited one of the Titanic disaster grave sites with a guide,; this is the only way to do it as the stories and anecdotes are key to enjoying the visit. The drive out to Peggy's Cove is very scenic and highly recommended; it's a gorgeous, rocky coastline. The highlight of our Halifax visit was the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo; we were lucky to also have a back stage tour. This is the biggest indoor performance in the world and is no longer limited to military performers. This alone is worth the trip to Halifax (note it only runs for a week and is usually packed).

Cape Breton is home to the Alexander Bell museum in Baddec, very well done, but only worth an hour or so. The Cabot Trail drive, which we did in a bus with a guide was very nice. It has rugged and interesting scenery and even a few good tourist stops. We enjoyed the little museum attached to the Cheticamp Artisannale Co-operative restaurant. Just five minutes up the road there is a hooked rug museum at the Trois Pignons Centre, with some truly amazing displays. If you are into arts and crafts be sure to take in both places, as each has its attraction. The food at the Co-op was pedestrian fare, but good; the service was excellent.

No trip to Cape Breton would be complete without a visit to Fortress Louisbourg. Most archaeological digs are not reconstructions; either they dig and rebury, or they expose old foundations, leaving the imagination or story boards to fill in the rest. In the case of Louisburg, huge volumes of records were available documenting the precise details of the place, right down to the last nail. So, they reconstructed the fortress and many of the out buildings. This is no longer done, even at Louisburg, making it a unique experience. Having the guides dressed in period costume adds greatly to the experience. Moreover, most of them are quite knowledgeable of the culture and travails of life at the time. One can even have authentic food of the day in restored restaurants. We had a delicious home cooked dinners of turkey and salmon.

Route

From Charlo NB we travelled south on NB-11 to Miramichi, where we took NB-8 to Fredericton. From Fredericton, we took NB-3 and 127 into St. Andrews. St. Andrews was the start of the Winnebago Club Atlantic Canada Rally. From St. Andrews to Saint John we took NB-17 to TC-1. We could have followed this into Moncton, but diverted shortly after Saint John from the caravan onto the Funday Coastal drive, a rather bad but scenic piece of road. We rejoined TC-1 near Sussex and took it into Moncton; while at Sussex, the caravan took the eastern loop of the Funday Coastal Drive to Hopewell Cape, which we bypassed (been there done that). From Moncton we drove straight to Halifax on the Trans-Canada, and from there took NS-102 up to TC-104/105 into Sydney NS (Cape Breton Island).