St John, New Brunswick to Deer Island and Campobello

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July 14th 2011
Published: August 27th 2012
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Week 6

July 14

Fifty degrees and windy will get your attention at 6:45am. That was the weather when we drove into Tim Horton's for a coffee to warm and wake us up for our hour long wait to board the ferry. The Princess of Acadia was quite a big ship with two restaurants and a small movie theater (Dave thought it should have had beds for the $164 three hour crossing fee.) I happily settled into a Liam Neeson movie to take my mind off my queasy stomach.

By the time we docked in St. John, New Brunswick, Dave had forgotten all about the fee and was excited to watch the crew handle the boat as it docked. As we drove off the boat we passed oil refineries and big brown Crosby Molasses tanks each full of slippery brown stuff. The tides were close to their 6 hour high so we drove over to see the famous Reversing Rapids, a powerful tidal phenomenon that forces the St. John River to flow backwards as the Bay of Fundy reaches high tide. One hundred billion tons of water pours into the Bay of Fundy from the Atlantic Ocean every 12.4 hours, an amount equal in volume to all the water that flows in every river on Earth in a 24-hour period! The narrowing shape of the gorge and an underwater ledge combined with the powerful tidal force creates a head-on collision of waves and rapids as big as a small house.

Since it was high tide when we arrived we decided against staying another six hours to tour Fundy National Park and instead went into St. John for a delicious lunch at theInfusion Tea Co (chosen as one of the 110 best buys in Canada by Where to Eat in Canada!) After lunch we took a walking tour of this historic city. It was fascinating to see the variety of stone used in the construction of the older buildings. Many of the homes and churches seem to be crumbling away as the various kinds of sandstone erode over the years from exposure to the elements.

After exploring the architecture, culture and history of this city I had finally thawed out from the chilly morning crossing and we left St. John for points west. We consulted our maps and decided the better route to Campobello Island would be to go to Deer Island first by ferry, spend the night there and leave in the morning on a ferry to Campobello. By 4:30pm we were on the free car ferry to tiny Deer Island. It was low tide when we arrived and the harbor boats were well below the tall docks and close to being beached. The hilly island is quite rural and lovely with its winding roads and tiny inlets exposing views to the bay. We found the perfect little resort tucked away near the little village of Fairhaven, about 20 minutes from the ferry. Sunset Beach Cottages and Suites is perfectly named for our view to the water turned out to have the best sunset we have seen on this trip. After a wonderful dinner at Fisherman’s Cove Cafe, in Lord’s Cove, we returned to Sunset Beach and I walked on the exposed mudflats (including a slip-slide on the seaweed) then put on my bathing suit and soaked in the hot tub. Dave chose the hammock by the sea before coming into our little living room suite to enjoy the water view and relax.

July 15

What a gorgeous morning! Beautiful blue skies with light clouds and a cool sea breeze complemented the view from our deck which was amazing in the early morning light. The tide was in and we could see fishing weirs standing like sentinels in the harbor and the early morning kayakers drifted by in their bright red and yellow boats adding a colorful punctuation. I cooked us a hot oatmeal breakfast, gave Dave a haircut and enjoyed our neighbors company until we left. Harold and Merle (vacationers from Maine) were in the hot tub with me last night and were also heading to Campobello. After some helpful trip info for Maine we ended up following them to the ferry. I had seen a sign about an “old sow whirlpool” and we were both intrigued so while we were parked for the ferry Merle and I walked to the end of the point for a view of Eastport, ME and Campobello Island to investigate this “old sow”. It turns out that this old sow is the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere and swirls between Deer Island, New Brunswick and Moose Island off of Eastport, ME. Merle and I had a great view of the swirling tidal vortex below us as we were perched high above on a cliff but I couldn't hear the pig-like sound of the churning waters, likely because the tides were not high enough yet. We didn't stay long because our respective husbands would have been way too nervous about us missing the ferry. (It turns out Merle and I have a lot in common.)

The ferry to Campobello only took half an hour and it was only a short distance beyond to the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, the only free park of its kind. We all toured the Roosevelts' very comfortable, almost spartan, summer home that was complete with its original furnishings. I could have been very comfortable as a guest in this large (34 rooms) but mainly unpretentious “cottage”. The views to the bay and the remote, rugged location were a balm to the spirit which of course is why the Roosevelts chose this as a retreat. A coal and wood-fired cook stove in the kitchen also served to heat a copper boiler providing hot water to the rest of the house. There were many little oddities throughout the house like a metal box scales in a bathroom that looked quite unstable, in fact it looked better suited to weighing a bag of potatoes than a full grown person. The only obvious reminder to the President's physical challenges was a birch litter propped against the wall of a large outdoor porch that faced the water. It was used as a conveyance to get the President down to the shore.

Harold and Merle left for Maine and Dave and I had a picnic lunch then walked the grounds before having “tea with Eleanor” at the Hubbard Cottage. The Hubbards were good friends of the Roosevelts and had a stately yet modest cottage next door. It was in this beautiful home that a tea and lecture was given about the life and times of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Dave and I left Campobello in the late afternoon and crossed the US border in Lubec, Maine around 4pm. It was only then that we were able to get our cell phones to work although the signal was sketchy out in the hinterlands of Maine. I quickly called the people with the puffin tours to schedule a trip for tomorrow (these people came highly recommended by some friends who recently took this trip.) After finally reaching them I was told they had been booked through August and the company that my friends had used was no longer in business! This was to be my birthday present and the highlight of the trip! I asked Andy, the owner, if there were any cancellations to please call me. He said he would but offered little hope. We had driven mistakenly to the tiny fishing village of Jonesport, Maine where the puffin tours had been located last year only to find that we were an hour south of where we needed to be....if in fact there even was a cancellation. Dave, good-natured, generous soul that he is, walked the harbor with me, checked out an inn and then drove over to Beals Island for take-out lobster while we waited for the phone call that would tell me if I stood a chance to get on this boat tour in the morning. Finally at 7pm the phone call came telling me there was only one cancellation leaving one spot left and I could have it! Dave kindly offered to play golf to let me have my day with the puffins.

End note on New Brunswick and Nova Scotia:

Don't rely on the information centers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to plan your trips. Do your own homework and ask local people for advice. The information centers' suggested itineraries were either not well thought out or downright impossible to achieve in the time allotted. It soon became obvious that their goal is to convince you to stay in their area rather than move you on to another location. Case in point: the highly recommended “beautiful drive” along the northern coast of New Brunswick turned out to be a very long waste of time and a highly recommended burger joint that Dave salivated for miles about, was probably the worst burger he has ever tasted. In most cases we found there are better places both to eat and to stay than what they recommended.


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