Trailing Around Nova Scotia's North Shore

Published: March 5th 2012
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Victoria's Historic Inn & Carriage HouseVictoria's Historic Inn & Carriage HouseVictoria's Historic Inn & Carriage House

Wonderful B & B in Wolfville!

Trailing Along The Glooscap and The Evangeline Trails

As we drove westward from Charlottetown to Wolfville after spending too few days on the Gentle Island (Check out our blog: Prince Edward Island Days), our first stop on the northern shores of Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy, was Truro to grab a bite to eat and see the Tidal Bore, a wave of water that moves upriver against the current of the Salmon River twice daily as a result of the incoming Bay of Fundy tides. Unfortunately, timing is critical when it comes to seeing the Tidal Bore and since we still had a long day of driving ahead of us to get to Wolfville, we continued on our merry way since Truro was no more than a pit stop with lots of fast food joints. Stops at the Walton Lighthouse to view the Minas Basin tides from the lookoff and Fort Edward's Blockhouse in Windsor were unremarkable and only worthy of stretch breaks. Windsor marked the end of our drive along The Glooscap Trail and the start of our drive along The Evangeline Trail.

The Evangeline Trail parallels the Fundy Coast from the headwaters of the Bay of Fundy’s Minas
The Bailey HouseThe Bailey HouseThe Bailey House

Fabulous B & B in Annapolis Royal
Basin to the seaport of Yarmouth to the west. Rich in culture because of its history of European settlement that spanned over 400 years marked by conflicts between the French and the English New World settlers mirroring conflicts in the Old World and Nova Scotia's Acadian Deportation and subsequent settlement by United Empire Loyalists, the North Shore is equally rich in natural beauty and natural history. The power of nature along the Fundy Coast with its world-famous tides that rise to a height of up to 16.5 metres or 54 feet is evident in the ever-changing landscape of rocky shores, salt marshes and broad sandy beaches that are home to rich and diverse populations of migrating shore birds and other marine life. Delightful villages, fertile farmlands, fruit orchards and vineyards in the Annapolis Valley and the fishing villages along the coast made our journey along the North Shore a memorable one.

We drove The Evangeline Trail to Wolfville where we stayed three nights at Victoria's Historic Inn & Carriage House, and then to Annapolis Royal where we stayed three nights at The Bailey House. Both fantastic B & B's in lovely towns with lots to see and do!
Acadia University Campus, WolfvilleAcadia University Campus, WolfvilleAcadia University Campus, Wolfville

One of Canada's Top Small Universities

Wonderful Wolfville

Wolfville is enriched both economically and culturally by the presence of Acadia University as its population doubles to 7,000 during the academic year! To complement its beautiful campus, Acadia University offers visitors access to The Acadia University Art Gallery and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens that feature a conservatory with fascinating plants and habitats native to the Acadian Forest Region, medicinal garden, and woodland trails. We recommend visiting both, if time permits.

We also visited the Robie Tufts Nature Centre, built to support a chimney that is home to a species of migratory birds called chimney swifts. Its informative display panels surrounding the pavilion describe the birds and other natural attractions in the area. Visitors can relax, picnic and view beautiful Cape Blomidon from the pavilion.

Although Wolfville is a small town with beautiful scenery of the nearby Bay of Fundy and Gaspereau Valley, historically, Wolfville was an important shipbuilding centre and seaport in the mid-19th century where apples from the orchards of the fertile Annapolis Valley were exported. Today, grand century old homes, elegant B & Bs, boutiques and renowned restaurants on its tree-lined main street offer visitors an enjoyable stay. We highly recommend eating at Acton's Grill and Cafe Tempest where we really enjoyed our dining experiences.

The town's history is presented at the Randall House Historical Museum, a Georgian-period farmhouse overlooking a pond and gardens in Willow Park, featuring local furniture, costumes and textiles, old tools, crockery, paintings, china, and glass.

Tracing our Family Roots in Kentville, Starr's Point, Canning, and Blomidon

After enjoying a good night's sleep and delicious breakfast at our delightful B & B, we headed west to Kentville to spend the day tracing our family roots in Kentville, Starr's Point, Canning and Blomidon. While not on most itineraries, we thoroughly enjoyed our day. Getting off the beaten track always brings special rewards!

Check out our Travel Blog: Planting Our Feet In Nova Scotia if you are interested in our search for our Nova Scotian roots. Who knew when we planned our trip to Nova Scotia that we would be part of the Planter 2010 Celebrations that marked the 250th Anniversary of the arrival of the New England Planters, from which Papa Canuck is a descendent?

Located in the former King's County Courthouse, we toured the King's County Museum in Kentville that featured a fascinating and powerful documentary on the New England Planters, part of a Parks Canada National Commemorative Exhibit titled “Planter Generations: The Cultural Legacy” featuring artifacts and documents from the surrounding New England Planter townships.

We spent the better part of a day driving the country roads that criss-cross the pastoral landscape, stopping at graveyards and New England Planter landmarks. We toured the Prescott House Museum and Gardens located at Starr's Point. Charles Prescott’s “Acacia Grove” is an elegant Georgian home that was built in 1812 and refurbished to its former glory in the 1930s with family portraits, antique furnishings and Miss Prescott’s collections of hand-stitched samplers and tribal Oriental carpets. The museum’s knowledgeable interpreter brought the history of the home and the Prescott family to life. It was fascinating to learn how as a horticulturalist, Charles Prescott cultivated Nova Scotia’s apple industry in the Annapolis Valley from 1811 to 1859.

Another recommended stop is Port Williams' Fox Hill Cheese House where you can sample and buy fresh dairy products. Fox Hill Cheese House produces over 20 varieties of cheese using milk from their own herd of Holstein cows, as well as milk and gelato. Their products can also be bought at their Halifax store by
Amazing View from The LookoffAmazing View from The LookoffAmazing View from The Lookoff

King's County on the shores of the Bay of Fundy
the same name!

We also stopped by St. John’s Church located in Cornwallis. St. John’s Parish was marking its 250th anniversary and the 200th anniversary of the current church building. Unfortunately, the doors were locked as we found was the norm as we toured around Nova Scotia and PEI. We were told that it was not that many years ago that all the church doors were left open to visitors - a sad commentary on life today, even in rural Canada.

After stretching our legs in Canning, we drove to The Lookoff. At 200 metres above the Minas Basin, we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the patchwork of farms, rows of fruit trees and scenic farmhouses that dot the valley of emerald green farmlands that contrast the rusty receding waters of the Bay of Fundy. What a spectacular sight!

We then drove down to the water's edge to dip our feet in the Minas Basin after knocking off our shoes and socks. We walked along the red rocky beach hugging the rusty coloured overhanging cliffs while keeping sight of the tides that are the highest in the world to make sure we were not caught by surprise. After all, we were visiting the shores of the Bay of Fundy on the day when the highest tides in 2010 were expected.

Grand Pre

The next day we headed eastward to tour the Grand-Pre National Historic Site of Canada, site of the church and cemetery of the 17th/18th century Acadian village that became the scenic setting for Longfellow’s narrative poem: Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, commemorating the Acadian Deportation. Acadians, descendents of French colonists, populated Nova Scotia's Northern and Eastern Shores until the 1750s when they were deported and their vacant dyked farmlands were granted to the New England Planters.

Lovely sweeping gardens and a memorial church, as well as a multimedia presentation in the visitor reception centre, were all surpassed by the very entertaining tour by a band of theatre students who re-enacted life as 'romantic' Acadians with a comedic flair that brought tears of laughter to our eyes.

Domaine De Grand Pré Estate, a beautiful vineyard located in the historic town of Grand Pré, is an award-winning winery that features a fabulous restaurant, Le Caveau. As Nova Scotia's first operating winery, it offers tours of its winery, wine tastings and a wine store. Being on a budget, we chose not to eat at Le Caveau on this trip, but hope to return in the future since it has been rated as one of the world's best vineyard restaurants.

Before we write about our stay in Annapolis Royal, we made a second trip to Wolville in 2011 while staying in Mahone Bay. The trip from Mahone Bay or Halifax is just over an hour one way so it is definitely a doable day trip if you don't plan to stay overnight in the Annapolis Valley. On our second visit, we drove the lovely winding roads eastward along The Glooscap Trail to hike around Burncoat Head Park, located just west of Maitland. It was a sunny day and at low tide we were able to walk along the shores of the Bay of Fundy. Getting covered in fine reddish silt and navigating the slippery rocks, we were able to get close up to the sea stacks that line the shores of the Bay of Fundy. Although not as impressive as the 'flower-pots' of Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick, it was interesting to see how the power of the tides shape the landscape and have sculpted the reddish cliffs.

Amazing Annapolis Royal

Annapolis Royal is a small, beautiful sea-side town that is steeped in history. Settled first by Samuel de Champlain and Pierre Dugua of Sieur de Mons in 1605, it is one of the oldest continuous North American European settlements that was eventually granted to the British after being colonized by the French. The British made Annapolis Royal the first capital of the Colony of Nova Scotia in 1710 and built Fort Anne to defend it against seaward attacks. Annapolis Royal remained the colonial capital until the founding of Halifax in 1749. Unlike the Halifax Citadel, also built by the British Army, Fort Anne had a colourful history of being attacked.

With a vibrant arts and theatrical community and quaint waterfront shopping area with good restaurants and a streetscape that has been designated a National Historic District, as well as being home to Fort Anne National Historic Site, there is a lot of history and culture to take in!

King's Theatre, located on the main street in one of the many heritage buildings, presents a variety of entertainment from feature films to live performances. Although we missed the Annual Summer Festival, the playbill for our visit included a fundraising variety show that demonstrated the spirit of small town Canada. A slice of Canada that Vancouver urbanites found enlightening, if not a little bizarre.

We loved staying in Annapolis Royal for three nights at The Bailey House, the finest of Bed & Breakfast establishments. Ideally located along the waterfront, The Bailey House had beautifully appointed rooms that were immaculately kept and the hostess served delicious breakfasts. We loved staying in the newly opened coach house that featured two bedrooms, one bathroom and two small seating areas. We enjoyed taking riverside strolls along the waterfront boardwalk where our favorite restaurant, Cafe Restaurant Compose, was situated next to boutiques and galleries. We also recommend eating at Leo's whose strawberry shortcake was to die for!

Highlights of our Stay in Annapolis Royal

Fort Anne National Historic Site features well-preserved earthwork fortifications, an early 18th century French gunpowder magazine and 1797 British Officers' quarters. A tour of Fort Anne and seeing the impressive Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry depicting 400 years of history should not be missed. Taking over four years to complete 20,000 hours of stitching by over 100 cross-stitchers, this impressive tapestry (8 ft by 18 ft) was unveiled for Canada Day Celebrations in 1995. It is absolutely gorgeous!

Starting at sunset, our Candlelight Graveyard Tour was a highlight eventhough we were eaten alive by bugs. Despite covering ourselves from head to toe, without insect repellent, we had clouds of bugs swarming around our heads with Mama Canuck managing to get bitten in the eye. Ouch!

Our tour of the Oldest English Graveyard in Canada with the oldest tombstone dating back to 1720 started at Fort Anne. With candlelit lanterns in hand, we crossed the steep grassy, slippery slopes and learned about the history of Fort Anne, those buried in the adjacent graveyard, and the history of graveyard art.

Heritage Interpreter and Ghost Tour Guide, Alan Melanson was not only knowledgeable about the history of the Fort and Annapolis Royal, he was very entertaining! He and his brother, also a Port Royal interpretative guide, in fact, are descendents of one of the oldest Acadian families in the Valley. This fact only added to the drama of the stories he recounted in our day-time tour of Fort Anne as a decendant of Acadian deportees who were victimized by the British and surplanted by Papa Canuck's ancestors, the New England Planters. The humour of the situtation, since another guy on the tour was the direct descendant of one of the British Officers who manned the Fort, was way too funny for words since Alan did not miss a beat when framing the irony!

The next day, we toured the world-class Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens comprised of a Victorian Garden, Governor's Garden, Innovative Garden, Knot Garden, Rock Garden, Perennial Garden and a 2000 bush rose collection, including a Rose Maze. To complement an amazing collection of trees, grasses and plants displayed beautifully over 17 acres, there was an interesting collection of garden art and garden features, including a replica of a 1671 Acadian house complete with thatched roof and an Acadian garden. The Annual Rose Festival in early July was in full bloom when we visited the gardens. With one of the largest rose collections in Canada, it was the perfect time to visit!

We also visited the Annapolis Tidal Power Generating Station, North America's only saltwater tidal power generating station harnessing the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy, through the Annapolis River, just located on the edge of town before crossing the bridge to Granville Ferry. The Station has the largest straight-flow turbine in the world that generates more than 30 million kilowatt-hours per year, enough electricity to power 4,500 homes. A tour of the display of the tidal-power plant and the scenic view of the tidal flow at the interpretive centre were worth a short stop.

The North Hills Museum in Granville Ferry, just a stone's throw from Annapolis Royal and on our way to Port Royal National Historic Site, is a charming vintage farmhouse (c. 1764) that was restored by Robert Patterson in the 1960s to house his fine collection of 18th century paintings, antique furniture, porcelain, ceramics and glassware. While the exterior of this small farmhouse looks like a typical country home, its interior oozes with Georgian elegance. We really enjoyed the tour of the home by a very knowledgeable guide during a short downpour.

The Port Royal National Historic Site is a 1940's reconstruction of the original Port Royal Habitation dating back to 1605 based on original plans. This French fur-trading post, a walled-in collection of Norman-styled wooden buildings surrounding a courtyard, was the first successful, though short-lived French settlement
Whale-Watching BoatWhale-Watching BoatWhale-Watching Boat

Tiverton on Digby Neck
of New France in North America. Well-appointed rooms and costumed interpreters bring living and working in Port Royal during the early 17th Century to life. It made for a fun family outing!

Recommended Day Trip from Annapolis Royal

Digby and Tiverton on the Digby Neck

Digby, fishing capital of the North Shore, is famous for its scallops. A Digby scallop lunch at the Dockside Restaurant & Bar overlooking the harbour with fishing and recreational boats motoring the waters of the Digby Basin on a sunny day was the perfect view to relax after shopping in a few quaint shops.

After lunch, we headed west along the Digby Neck for 45 minutes until we hit the tip of the peninsula. Like whale watchers do, we took a 5 minute ferry to Tiverton where you can board whale-watching expeditions. The waters at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy from the ledges off Brier Island right up the Digby Neck are important feeding areas for seabirds, White-sided Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises and Seals, and Minke, Humpback and Fin Whales. Right, Sperm, Sei, and Blue Whales have even been spotted in the Bay of Fundy! Unfortunately, the next tour was
St. Mary's Church, Acadian LandmarkSt. Mary's Church, Acadian LandmarkSt. Mary's Church, Acadian Landmark

Largest wood church in North America
full so whale watching wasn't an option on this day! Reservations for whale-watching expeditions are definitely recommended.

Trailing West along the Evangeline Trail's Acadian Shores to Yarmouth

After spending six nights in the Annapolis Valley, we drove along the Acadian Shores to Yarmouth to start our driving tour of the South Shore.

We made two stops along the French Shore: St. Mary’s Church is the largest wooden church in North America. It's worth a stop to have a peak at its museum that houses a fine collection of church vestments, furnishings, and photographs; and, St. Bernard Church, a large granite church that took a group of Acadians over 32 years to build, that stands out among its modest Acadian surroundings given its imposing Gothic style architecture.

We stopped in Yarmouth for a short visit where we were impressed by the fine Victorian homes that adorned the streets. Located in a former church, the Yarmouth County Museum, consisting of five period rooms, was worth the price of admission. We enjoyed lunch at Rudder's Brew Pub when the fog lifted and the sun shone down on the outdoor deck overlooking the water.

Unfortunately, we didn't get
Yarmouth County MuseumYarmouth County MuseumYarmouth County Museum

Worth checking out! We visited the city archives looking for family clues to no avail.
a chance to see Yarmouth's Light at the end of Cape Forchu because of heavy fog that plagued our drive from Annapolis Royal to Lunenburg that day. Hopefully, we can see the apple core shaped lighthouse on another trip! We stopped in Shelburne for late afternoon tea at Charlotte Lane Cafe & Crafts, one of Nova Scotia's top- rated restaurants, and took a detour to Lockeport to check out a family homestead where we met a long lost relative, before driving on the highway to Lunenburg where we stayed for three nights before returning to Halifax.

Our driving tour along the North Shore's country roads that pass by rolling farmlands with spectacular views of vineyards, orchards, farmhouses and the Bay of Fundy in the distance rivaled our driving tour of the South Shore. Although coming from British Columbia, admittedly, we felt more at home on the Atlantic's South Shore with its rugged coastline and crashing waves.

Check out our Travel Blog: Lunenburg and The Lighthouse Trail for the highlights of our tour of Nova Scotia's South Shore featuring Shelburne, Lockeport, Liverpool, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Chester and Peggy's Cove. Halifax highlights with our tips and picks for making the most of your time in
Lovely nautical themed room in Carriage HouseLovely nautical themed room in Carriage HouseLovely nautical themed room in Carriage House

Victoria's Historic Inn & Carriage House, Wolfville
Halifax, Nova Scotia's capital city, are covered in our blog Hail to Halifax

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