Road Report #21 – Nova Scotia

I caught the ferry from St. John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia the afternoon of June 3rd.  The 2.5 hr ride crosses the Bay of Fundy, known for having the most extreme tides in the world. 

 From the ferry terminal in Digby, I drove southwest along the Bay of Fundy coast to spend my first night camped out behind the Cape View Motel at Mavillette Beach.  The owner of the motel, Russell, was fantastic and hilarious and it was my first taste of the famous Nova Scotian hospitality.

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Mavillette Beach

Roo and I walked the beach that evening and the following morning, both times having the beach all to ourselves.  I spent hours checking out rock formations and tidal pools and waterfalls trickling down off the cliffs.   There were these little slate rock formations that jutted up out of the sand, covered with bright green moss, that looked like little miniature mountain ranges to me. 

It was very peaceful and beautiful and I had a moment on the beach that evening when it hit me.  Wow… I was in Nova Scotia, a destination that had just been a vague pie-in-the-sky idea when I set off last year.

June 4th I started poking my way up along the Bay of Fundy coast, an area where the communities have strong ties to the early French settlers.   I popped in in out of the towns, stopping to check out lighthouses and churches, including North America’s tallest wooden church.

For lunch, I stopped back in Digby, where I had arrived via ferry the day earlier,  in order to try the famous Digby scallops.  Two thumbs up!

As the day progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse and got quite cold and wet and I decided to motel it just outside the historic town of Annapolis Royal.   I settled in to an evening of binge watching TV. 

June 5th started off miserably wet and cold.  I bundled up and headed out to explore Annapolis Royal.  The town itself is tiny but chock full of things to see:  3 historic sites including Canada’s oldest wooden building, 150 registered historic houses, and North America’s only tidal powered power plants.  Throw in charming cafes and art stores and it proved to be a good place for a rainy day.

From Annapolis Royal, I drove just a short distance down the road to another historic site, Port-Royal, believed to be the first lasting settlement north of Florida.  They’ve done an amazing job of replicating the fort that was first erected there in 1605.  

As I entered the park, I was greeted by a park staff member dressed up in historical garb, including wooden shoes.  I had to know more.  How could wooden shoes be a good idea in cold and wet weather?  He claimed that they were in fact quite comfortable and good insulation from the cold and wet, especially when lined with thick wool. He then told me that these wooden shoes, known as sabots, were thrown into machinery during worker rebellions, which led to the word, sabotage.    How fun is that! (I know, I’m a nerd.)  Wikipedia disputes that this is the exact source of the word but damn you, Wikipedia!  I prefer the park staff member’s version.

Anyway, on my way out of the Annapolis Royal area,  I stopped to take a tour of the tidal power station. The tour, led by an engineer, was informative and technical and I found it fascinating.  The tidal power plant is an experiment that’s not likely to be replicated.  Although it’s extremely cheap to operate, the negative environmental impacts are too great.

I meandered that afternoon, driving around to check out more towns.  I drove inland a bit to check out the town of Bear River, which turned out to be this adorable, sleepy little riverside artsy village with a great coffee roaster.  From there I went to the town of Wolfville.  Loved the vibe there.  Acadia College is there and there’s good food and art to be found.  Enjoyed some of the best Mediterranean food ever.  I walked along their little waterfront park and got a good idea of how extreme the Bay of Fundy tides really are.  

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Low tide along the Bay of Fundy Coast.  It’s very low.

Late afternoon I drove out to the Blomidom Peninsula which took me through the main agricultural area of the island, known as The Valley.

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Blomidon Peninsula

I get the sense there’s a strong farm to table movement on the island as I passed numerous farm stands along the drive.  Unfortunately, the bout of cold weather that had blown in was doing a number on the crops.  The news was reporting that the frost that morning had impacted 90% of the crops.  Yikes!

That afternoon, I arrived at Blomidon Provincial Park to camp for the night.  Roo and I hiked that evening and the following morning, checking out a waterfall and the red cliffs and red sandy beaches.

I retraced my route back down the Blomidon Peninsula on June 7, stopping in the tiny town of Port Williams to hit a restaurant that had caught my eye the day before, The Noodle Guy. 

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Oh my lord, this place was amazing.  Hand made noodles, served in both italian and asian inspired dishes.  I ordered a variety of take out dishes, filled up the fridge in the van, and my camping lunches and dinners for the next couple of days were STELLAR!

I decided to head across the island to a section known as the South Shore.  My first stop was the the very picturesque, historic town of Lunenberg.  Roo and I walked around checking out the old buildings and the collection of historic boats on the waterfront.   

I continued south along the coast and landed at Risser Provincial Park for the night, with a camping spot right off the beach.  The beach was fantastic and they had a neat boardwalk that traced the river and tidal marsh. 

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I spied kite surfers off in the distance while walking the beach and I jumped back in the van to try to go get a closer look . 

They were just up the road at Crescent Beach.  Wow!  So fun to watch. 

I kept following the road out past Crescent Beach and was delighted to discover that it connected to Bush and Bell Island and I poked along the roads checking out the picturesque little coves and bogs.

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Bush Island

Roo and I returned back to our camping spot at Rissers and repeated our beach and boardwalk walk during the sunset hour.

The following morning, I headed south from Rissers further along the coast to Thomas Raddall Provincial Park.  I was really surprised (and delighted!) at how light traffic was every I went on the island.  It was the weekend and the weather was gorgeous and I was so surprised at how I could drive stretches of highway without seeing another car in either direction for minutes at a time.   It was just easy, mellow going and perfect road tripping conditions for Greta.   

There was hardly anyone at Thomas Raddall park and Roo and I spent a couple of hours that afternoon poking around on a beautiful crescent beach, with a river letting out into the bay and never saw one other person.  Crazy!

That evening, Roo and I hiked to another beach and bay on the other side of the park to watch the sunset.   It was amazingly peaceful.   During this road trip, I’ve deliberately sought out locations free of any artificial noise and it’s surprisingly hard to find.  So often after sitting in a place for a while I’ll realize that I can hear the buzz of some machinery off in the distance.  But that evening, while Roo and I watched the sunset from the beach I realized we had found it.

The following day started with a long hike which traced the shoreline of a peninsula at Kejimkujik National Seaside Park.   The water was remarkably clear and would turn shades of turquoise when the sun came out from behind the clouds.  Seals rested on the rocks off shore and a curious baby seal came in close to shore to play and eye the curious tourists while her nervous mama hovered in the water near by, giving out a series of sharp barks every now and then.  

After the hike, I returned to the car and started a thorough check of myself and Roo for ticks.  I found 3 on myself and 12 on Roo.  YUCK!  One thing about the island, it’s crawling in dog ticks. Over the next 24 hours following this hike I would find more than 30 ticks, mostly dead in Roo’s dog bed.  I guess that’s proof that her tick meds are doing their job.

After the hike I started to retrace my path back up the south shore, stopping to check out a sculpture garden behind Cosby’s Garden Center outside of the town of Liverpool.  It was weirdly wonderful.

Later that afternoon I landed in the charming, tiny town of Petite Riviere to spend a couple of nights camping in the yard of a couple I had met at a Canada Information Center in New Brunswick on my way to catch the ferry to Nova Scotia several days earlier.

My visit with Jane and Stuart was fantastic.   I met up with Jane one afternoon at her art studio to get a lesson in rug hooking. 

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Evenings were full of music (Stuart is a very accomplished musician) and we sat around playing the uke and guitar.  One evening I tagged along with them to the community baked ham dinner.  The communities are constantly hosting dinners and brunches as fund raises for local services such as the fire department.   During the days I poked around the south short more, finding good eats at the Le Have Bakery and the Broad Cove Cafe and experiencing more fabulous beaches like Cherry Hill Beach, a surfing favorite for locals.

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Cherry Hill Beach

June 11 I pushed off from Jane and Stuart’s, reluctantly.  I was really enjoying the south shore and starting to fantasize about finding a long term rental and staying put here for a bit.  I was completely smitten with Nova Scotia, despite all of the ticks.

I had a long drive ahead of me that day.  I was catching the ferry that night to Newfoundland  and the ferry terminal was on the north end of Nova Scotia, about 6 hours away.  I was breaking my rule of no more than 4 hours total drive time in a day.  But I figured I had all day and didn’t have to be in the ferry line till 9:45 pm so I was making an exception. 

About an hour and half into the drive, I decided I had plenty of time to check out Peggy’s Cove, outside of Halifax, a must see according to all tour guides.  Yep, it’s pretty dang picturesque.  And it’s crawling in tourists.  Still worth a stop.   

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Peggy’s Cove
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Peggy’s Cove

I got back on the road and was coming around the north side of Halifax when all of a sudden my gas petal went limp.  I coasted into a pizza joint’s parking lot, called my mechanic in Seattle and as I suspected, the probable culprit was a broken throttle cable.   I figured I was going to miss my ferry but experience told me not to panic, just start working the problem and trust that things would work out.  Well, miraculously they did.

First of all I was starving and I had coasted into a pizza place parking lot.  That was a good sign.  Then Canada AAA showed up within 30 minutes and towed me to one of the few VW mechanics in Nova Scotia that turned out to be just 20 mins away (no joke!). 

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Greta hitching a ride in Nova Scotia.

The garage didn’t have the throttle cable in stock I needed and it was going to take a few days to arrive but when they got under the van they realized there was enough excess cable remaining that they could repair the existing cable.  I was back on the road before they closed for the day and I drove straight to the ferry, making it to the ferry line by 10:30 pm, just squeaking in under the wire. 

WHEW!  It had been a long and exhausting day and fortunately I had been granted a sleeping berth that I had been on a wait list for.  After loading onto the ferry I went straight to my berth and crawled right into bed.  Before falling asleep I thanked my lucky stars.  I could not believe how the day had gone. Unlucky to break a throttle cable but SO lucky how everything worked out after that.  I’m convinced someone out in the universe is looking out for me and has my back at each turn on this adventure.  

I slept like the dead and did not wake until the announcement came 7 hours later for passengers to prepare to return to the cars.  I  was about to lay eyes on Newfoundland…I was SO excited… but I’ll save that for the next road trip post.

I LOVED my time in Nova Scotia.  It is one of my favorite places I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit and I fantasize about returning for a much longer stay at some point.   

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