A couple of years ago we went to New Brunwick to visit my wife’s family.
We plan to go back again this summer. As I started planning our airflights and other connections I recalled highlights of our last trip.
I recorded these in and article which was published in the Winnipeg Free Press. I hope you enjoy it.
New Brunwick…a Canadian Treasure
To fully appreciate an Acadian portrait of New Brunswick it is helpful to understand an essence of the history that shaped the region into the unique personality it is today.
Over 400 years ago the Acadians landed in Nova Scotia from France and spread themselves from there through the coastal areas of New Brunswick. In 1755 many of the original families were torn asunder as the British forced those who would not sign oaths of allegiance to be deported to various states of America. The remnants of these families still share scars and resentment over those actions, and today form the basis for a culture and a lifestyle that is fiercely proud in their adherence to traditional values of community and family. You can see this pride in the waves of Acadian flags that can be spotted everywhere on poles, benches, and even wood carvings scattered throughout the region.
It is this almost ostentatious display of culture that makes a stay on this coastal region so satisfying. You can drive Highway 11 from Moncton to Miramichi in less than three hours, but if you drive along the coastal roads and use one of the counties as home base you will gain a lifetime of memories in a 7 to 10 day vacation. Acadian New Brunswick is a region that in many ways stands apart from the rest of the Canada. Walk into a store or restaurant and you are most often greeted in both official languages. Rugged coastal waters and un-crowded beaches abound. Fresh seafood is on most menus. And everyone seems to greet tourists with genuine interest and appreciation.
It is the rich blend of English and French history that enhances the flavour of the Acadian experience.
It is noteworthy that the only British Prime Minister not born in England was from a community almost in the centre of the Acadian coast. From his birthplace in Rexton N.B. where his home is now an interesting museum, Bonar Law returned to England after his mother died when he was just 12 years old. He would become a successful businessman and was elected Prime Minister of England in 1922.
Some of the best scenery and craft shops can be found along the roads less traveled. Route 505 takes you to Cap Lumiere along the coast past craggy ocean cliffs, secluded beaches and two of the most interesting shops in the region. Hudson Oddities specializes in making earrings, broaches, and other jewellery style items out of glass found along the shores that have been worn by ocean waters.
They look like precious gems and make for unique gifts which cannot be found in many other places in the world. While handcrafted soap shops can be found in most tourist areas, the Olivier Soapery, which identifies itself as Canada’s only soap economuseum, offers almost a 150 ecological and biodegradable homeopathic products. Regular live presentations present an informative overview of the evolution and techniques of soap crafting.
While Kouchibouguac National Park is a must visit for tourists, where you could spend any number of days enjoying its environmentally protected areas and beautiful beaches, the Dune de Bouctouche, only minutes from the Olivier Soapery, is in its own way, even more awe inspiring. Think Grand Beach and then add a few kilometers of sand and you gain a feeling about this exceptional sand dune. Over 11 km. long, with a boardwalk that follows this sandbar for a significant part of it, one never has to fear overcrowding.
For fun and frolic, look for the information boards in shops and grocery stores where local entertainment options are frequently posted. While the usual trendy music venues can be easily found, try to take in a country style dance or other traditional music option. You will meet the people who built the foundations for the communities you visit, and gain memories beyond what you will get from the rock stars of the region.
For most travelers dining is a vital link to the complete experience. From Shediac to Miramichi, summer offers up fresh lobster in most good dining restaurants. Fresh mussels, clams, and crab, with other choice catch of the day options round out the seafood extravaganzas. Try buying fresh lobster and cooking it up yourself at a campground. A large pot and boiling water is all you need to create a camp memory which will last a lifetime.
The Habitant Restaurant in Aldouane, in addition to excellent food, features a large serve-yourself wine cellar with an extremely wide range of brands with a very fair pricing model. Selections are available for all, including high end choices for the connoisseur.
New golf courses seem to be opening on the Acadian Coast almost every year, particularly around Moncton and Shediac. But one of the hidden gems can be found in the heart of Acadia not far from St. Louis de Kent. The St-Ignace Golf Club will test the skill of most golfers regardless of handicap. While just under 6500 yards, its elevations change dramatically from hole to hole offering a challenge and scenic beauty one expects from the mainstream brand courses most have heard about from major tournaments.
While some choose to walk the course, unless you are in good physical condition power cart rental is advised.
Wherever you travel in the region you will come face to face with Acadian history. Perhaps the best way to feel that history personally is through time spent at Le Pays De La Sagouine, possibly the best known destination in the entire coastal area. Its presentations are a living representation of the food, the trade, and the daily life of the Acadian pioneers. Offered in both English and French, and constructed around a traditional village environment, this summer long activity and information based centre will take you back 400 years giving you a better insight into why that pride of tradition is still so strong today.
If you go:
Where to Eat: don’t miss the seafood pizza from the 5 Star Pizza Restaurant in St. Louis. It is a local favourite and needs to be tasted to be appreciated. Restaurant de la Sagouine in Bouctouche features fried clams in addition to other traditional Acadian items. In Shediac you will find a good choice of dining options all along the main street. Auberge Gabriele specializes in French cuisine including crepes and seafood. For more family dining take in the Green House restaurant, situated in an interesting old house.
What to Do: Parlee Beach near Shediac is most famous for tourists but up the coast you will find so much more that is not as well known. Guided canoe or Kayaking Adventures are offered Miramichi as is guided fishing www.miramichifish.com.
Where to Stay: Most of the major brand hotel properties are situated around Moncton with lesser known but good quality hotels all the way up the coast. There are a number of good bed and breakfasts along the Acadian Drive. Go to www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca for a good rated listing of B&B’s and smaller lodgings.