There are at least 150 reasons to visit this year, as the country celebrates its 150th birthday. Here Alison Gray selects ten from her trip to New Brunswick
Get close, but not too close, to black bears
Richard Goguen, aka the bear man, and his wife Vivianne, known as Mama Bear have built up a relationship with the black bears that have visited their property over 24 years. You’ll arrive at their place at dusk before boarding a ramshackle minibus and rattling your way to the eight-metre-high wooden observation tower Richard built by hand. Watch as he lays out treats of peanuts and cashews (as well as really big pieces of meat) in a clearing and you won’t have to wait for long before the animals emerge from the forest. We counted 18 bears over two hours. Spellbinding.
Little, Big Bear Safari, www.bearsafari.com
Stay in the best B&B in North America
Voted the best B&B in North America, Debra Quartermain offers the very warmest of welcomes to her beautiful property on historic Waterloo Row in Fredericton, the capital of NB. The bedrooms are exquisite with bespoke bed linen, throws, pillows and cushions so you can recline in absolute luxury. There’s a coffee machine and cookies, a claw foot bath and even a tiny vial of peppermint oil and instructions for inhaling. Breakfast of rhubarb and strawberry compote with natural yogurt on the side followed by maple toast, scrambled eggs and a couple of well fired strips of bacon was memorable.
Quartermain House Bed & Breakfast, e-mail welcome@QuartermainHouse.com
Go whale watching
We had our very own Captain Ahab moment when Captain Pat Mowatt of Fundy Tide Runners Whale Watching and Nature Tours took us out into the whale feeding grounds of Fundy Bay in search of minke, finback and humpback whales. It was pretty early in the season when we whizzed out in the zodiac (tip: if you’re on the afternoon tour, make it a light, abstemious lunch) so unfortunately there were no leviathan sightings for us, although we did catch up with some playful porpoises, so close we could hear the air coming out of their blow holes.
Learn how to successfully eat a lobster in the ‘Lobster Capital of the World’
Everyone is super nice in the Maritimes as the eastern provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are known, and we found this out for ourselves when we came perilously close to missing our excursion with Captain Ron Cormier of Shediac Bay Cruises. A misunderstanding over directions saw us phoning the pier to offer a rambling apology for getting lost. “Where are you?” piped up Ron’s wife Denise. “Hang on, I’m coming to get you.” Thank heavens she did as Captain Ron’s funny and illuminating presentation on the business of lobster fishing, not to mention his efficient eating demonstration – it was like watching a mechanic strip down a car – was a highlight of our trip.
Visit the other St Andrews – clue, it’s not in Fife
St Andrews By-The-Sea is where Canadians go on holiday and you can hardly blame them. There’s a sleepy seaside vibe about this place which doesn’t appear to have any connection with its Fife namesake apart from the fact that the staff at the Algonquin – a gloriously redeveloped Victorian resort hotel which simultaneously reminded me of the Old Course Hotel and Kellerman’s out of Dirty Dancing – wear kilts. Take the hotel shuttle bus out to the Rossmount Inn for dinner where the food is exquisite (www.rossmountinn.com).
Research the historical ties between Scotland and Canada
Early on in our trip we met a waiter who confirmed our suspicions: “Everyone’s either from Scotland or Ireland, although I’m Welsh.” Our past is around every corner. We met Brenda and Blair Stirling who run AppleMan Farms Ltd and have become deeply interested in researching the role of their Gagetown home in the history of child migration linked to Paisley’s Dr Cossar and the British Home Child Association. If military history is more your bag, retired Canadian Army Intelligence Officer Hal Skaarup was our guide to the 42nd Highland Memorial Cemetery, which is located in a bucolic spot that could almost be Perthshire.
Take in the Hopewell Rocks
Otherwise known as the “flowerpot” rocks, these atmospheric sea stacks created by wind and tide over thousands of years are a must-see. View them from lookout decks and then get up close on the ocean floor. Favourites among visitors include stacks that resemble E.T. and a baby elephant. The world’s highest tides occur here, rising up to four metres an hour to a maximum of 14 metres. Visit at high tide and you’ll need a kayak.
Discover the story of the first Scot to settle in New Brunswick
Shawn McCarthy and his merry band of historic reenactors will escort you to Beaubears Island, one-time home of William Davidson, shipbuilder and later politician, now a treasured site which is steadily giving up its secrets connected to the 19th century wooden shipbuilding industry.
Visit the national parks
As part of the Canada 150 celebrations there is year-long free general admission to National Parks, National Historic Sites and Marine Conservation Areas across the country, courtesy of Parks Canada. Check out the golden sands of eco paradise la Dune de Bouctouche, or trek along Dickson Falls Trail, part of Fundy National Park.
Eat corn chowder and discover the Canadian comfort food that is poutine
Holidays are all about trying some different eats, and there’s plenty of novelty as well as familiar fare for visitors. You’ll see lobster a lot but it could be served in a roll or feature in a poutine – a French-Canadian classic which consists of French fries, fresh cheese curds and gravy. Chowder is a sea-faring dish and you’ll get it most places, with freshly baked cornbread on the side if you’re lucky.
Westjet (www.westjet.com) flies from Glasgow to Halifax, Nova Scotia until 22 October with return flights starting from around £700.
Car hire from Budget (www.budget.com) starts from around £271 for a week. www.barrheadtravel.co.uk