Joining a Destination Canada fam trip to Quebec and the maritime provinces with Elite Canada Specialists allows Madeleine Barber to get under the skin of eastern Canada’s natural features and foodie forays
We’ve hit a wall of hairdryer-hot air that takes all eight Elite Canada Specialists and I by surprise as we charge into St Andrews harbour on a RIB grinning from ear to ear.
We’re on a seven-day fam trip taking in Canada’s four easternmost provinces – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec – and we’ve just spotted a couple of minke whales on the edge of the Bay of Fundy after two hours spent searching the horizon with Fundy Tide Runners, a local whale- watching outfit.
This slice of New Brunswick is where Canada meets the US, with the Maine border easily visible from the RIB as we motor beyond the headland and past seals basking on rocky outcrops, pods of porpoises dancing under the gentle waves and lighthouses that stand out on the flat and forested land.
Out here, it’s a peaceful wilderness where visitors are sure to feel at one with nature. Even back on solid ground in St Andrews the flora and fauna flourishes, with Kingsbrae Garden’s 27 acres hosting more than 50,000 perennial plants, ponds, streams, alpacas, pygmy goats and themed plots.
Billed as one of the top attractions in this quaint, seaside town, the garden is also home to spectacular sculptures, an art studio complete with classes for visitors, and Garden Cafe, where guests can indulge in dishes made from its produce.
On the eastern side of the headland we visit Ministers Island. Access here is commanded by the daily tides (you have to cross a gravel causeway when the water levels are low enough).
The island’s 19th-century estate was once the home of Sir William Van Horne, the driving force behind the Canadian Pacific Railway, and in one of the grand house’s many bedrooms a clever quote from him catches my eye: “If we can’t export the scenery, then we’ll have to import the tourists”.
This, I think, is a phrase that rings true as we clamber down to the sea floor at Hopewell Rocks in the crook of the Bay of Fundy. Here, the highest tides in the world have eroded copper-coloured cliffs for millions of years, creating unique sea stacks and arches.
It’s not long before we’re making tracks towards our next stop, Nova Scotia, to visit Peggy’s Cove, where the most famous of the province’s 160 historic lighthouses can be found.
The surrounding fishing village presents a scene more typically found on a chocolate box – brightly coloured cabins hover on wooden stilts at the water’s edge above giant rocks worn smooth by the sea and boats that gently bob in the harbour.
Another iconic lighthouse we visit is Cape Spear in Newfoundland. It’s the province’s oldest surviving lighthouse and the marker of the most eastern point on the continent.
If we were to head east into the Atlantic Ocean, we’d next make landfall in Ireland’s County Clare, which may explain the Irish twang that can be heard in the locals’ accents when we pop into Quidi Vidi village near St John’s.
This small fishing community harvests a special brew, Iceberg Beer, which is made from the pure water found in 10,000-year-old icebergs. It proves to be the perfect tipple to top off a day exploring the city with its multi-coloured jellybean houses, and it’s just as refreshing as it sounds.