I could still remember the rough sketch. I would have 17 days to kill in between two career-related events in the US. One was happening in May, and the other one in June. Where might be a good place to chill? I did not have to think too hard and long.
I flew in from Boston to Moncton to launch my great Canadian adventure. The Raptors were trying to win their first championship, and I love sports, so it was a good time to travel. But the best part was knowing a human being who lived in these parts. I have never heard of Moncton before, and neither did my friend Gail prior to moving there. It is a sleepy small town with a busy enough airport, which serves as a jump-off point for folks mad about Canada’s northeast. There were no crowds and not a lot of noise — Moncton and I hit it off instantly.
I was fortunate to have a friend from waaaaay back in high school who was happy to show me around. I have not seen her in years. She carefully planned our three-day sojourn which entailed a lot of driving. We were in the car for long stretches without the music on. There was no need for it — we had years worth of stories to catch up on while I marveled at the rich bucolic beauty of New Brunswick from my window.
Our first stop was Hopewell Rocks, which opens to the public from late spring to fall. It is where some of the highest tides in the world are found, which happen “twice a day, every day.” I got to walk on the ocean floor!
The next stop was Fundy National Park, where we planned to stay the night at a gorgeous chalet. Where we are both from originally, beaches, not lakes, are commonplace. So to see placid scenes, geese, and trees that line the horizon was a source of inexplicable joy. Our walks were not even long, and yet they led to remarkable natural wonders, such as Dickson Falls and spectacular vistas. Short trek = long term healing.
Fundy reveals itself even more in the morning. I marveled at the views as far as my eyes could see, and as much as my heart could take. At every breath, I was overwhelmed by intense gratitude that I needed to pause. The red Adirondack chairs kept me steady as I took it all in.
We then headed back to Moncton for a quick stop before venturing into Nova Scotia (which, I would soon discover, translates to “New Scotland”). Our next adventure took us to the port town of Halifax, for some seafood delights.
Halifax is about 2.5 hours away from Moncton, and for the food alone I would certainly make the effort. We dined al fresco at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market, which offered a lot of artisanal treats and then walked around the seaport. It probably won’t sound as interesting for residents of port cities such as Boston or San Francisco, so an additional trip to Peggy’s Cove is a must.
Peggy’s Cove is a highlight simply because of its breathtaking natural landscape. I have seen lighthouses before, but not atop sprawling rock formations that took years to manifest. It is a charming rural town that is worth the quick 44-minute detour from Halifax so do plan a half-day trip to see both attractions.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
On my third and final day in Atlantic Canada, we headed east to Prince Edward Island, where the bridge seemed to go on forever. The terrain is predominantly agriculture and the coast is red. Who needs to cut the grass when they sparkle in yellow? And no, I did not really follow Anne of Green Gables, who calls PEI her home, but the setting of her story is indeed picturesque.
The capital of PEI, Charlottetown, is exquisite. Multicolor houses and hotels line the streets. St. Dunstan’s Basilica is a Gothic marvel. And of course, there is nothing more exciting to me than having PEI oysters at PEI! It was the stuff of dreams that did come true.
Atlantic Canada is best explored by car, and the drive, in itself, is definitely soothing. There is no traffic anywhere — a much-needed respite from the cacophony of daily life. I would stay longer at both Fundy and PEI, maybe spend 2–3 days at each on my return, which I hope comes sooner rather than later. Though I am eyeing Nunavut to see narwhals as my next Canadian stop, I would not mind a northeast stopover when the day comes.