My wife and I packed up our trusty minivan and hit the road to explore the natural wonders and unique bed and breakfasts along the Atlantic Coast of Canada.
The Maritime province of New Brunswick was our first port of call. It is home to some astounding natural sights, including the Bay of Fundy and its mind-boggling tides. Thanks to its long, narrow shape, this bay has the highest tidal range in the world with an unrivaled height difference between low tide and high tide. It also means that you can walk on the beach and literally watch the water level either going up or down.
One place where this tidal action stands out is Cape Enrage. This is a long, narrow spit of rocky land that trails off into a deadly underwater reef near Fundy National Park. The combination of rapidly changing tides and jagged rocks has resulted in the Cape being the graveyard of many a ship. Within a few hours, an apparent bay of water beside the lighthouse drains into a grassy salt marsh; then returns to sea again. The stairs at Cape Enrage cut through high, treacherous cliffs to take you down to the rock-strewn shore. Takes your breath away!
Leaving Cape Enrage, we stopped by the Hopewell Rocks. Often called the Flowerpot Rocks for their distinctive shapes, these rocks will amaze you. Whether carved into pillars or arches by Fundy's monstrous tides, the Hopewell Rocks are the remains of a Pangean-era mountain range more ancient than the Appalachians and once taller than the Rockies. The Flowerpot Rocks march down the coastline for a considerable distance, ensuring something new and different around every corner.
Be aware of the tides. The sea rises fast and high in the Bay of Fundy. You must keep watch, in order not to get trapped.
A third marvel we witnessed while in the seaside city of Saint John is the famous Reversing Falls. This is actually a narrow channel where the Saint John River meets the Atlantic Ocean. At low tide, the river is higher than the sea, and thus the water roars through in one direction. At high tide, the sea is higher than the river, and thus the falls, really a series of rapids, reverses its flow. In the process of all this change, there are whirlpools and wild rapids which you can experience firsthand by crashing through them on a jet boat tour.
New Brunswick has a long tradition of fishing, so seafood is a staple of life here. For down-home, local-style seafood, usually fried, try the family-run Tides Restaurant. It is located on the road from Saint John to Cape Enrage, inside the Parkland Village Inn at the small seaside town of Alma. We had a fine lunch of fresh fried clams, haddock and potatoes. Hummingbirds sipped at feeders mounted on the windows, as we looked out across the bay to Nova Scotia and watched the lobster ships come in.
We went downtown to Billy's Seafood Company in the Saint John City Market (the oldest farmers' market in Canada, dating back to 1785). This is a well-managed combination fish market/restaurant. Order his signature seafood chowder packed with salmon, scallops, shrimp, and white fish. And don't miss the Lobster-Stuffed Haddock, topped with a roasted garlic, red pepper and fennel sauce.
In Moncton, we were wowed by the incredible cuisine at the Pisces by Gaston restaurant. The Pisces is owned by Chef Gaston Frigault. The mouth-watering quality of the seafood clearly benefits from his meticulous attention to detail. Ask about the day's specials. My wife had a cedar-planked salmon special that was, bar none, the most tender and succulent we've ever tasted!
While in Saint John, we relaxed at the Homeport Historic B&B. This bed and breakfast, made from two 1858 shipbuilders' mansions, have been transformed into an elegant, luxurious and wonderfully warm Maritime oasis. Owners Karen and Ralph Holyoke's restoration and choice of antiques will take you back to a 19th-century world of handcrafted, high-ceilinged rooms. Don't miss expertly-cooked breakfasts with home-baked goodies, fresh fruit and local sausages.
We had a unique stay at the Magnetic Hill Winery and B&B in Moncton. This 1867 house has been passed down in co-owner Jeff Everett's family. He and wife Janet have both restored it, and brought it up to modern standards. The Everetts make a number of fruit-based wines that not only win awards on a regular basis, but are good enough for the finest table and I say this with years of experience in the wine bar trade. The winery and wine story/tasting room are in the basement of the bed and breakfast. Chances are you will walk out having bought a case of 13 wines (for the price of 12) to share with family and friends.