The Trans-Canada Highway is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2012 and the centennial anniversary of the first coast-to-coast road trip made in the country — accomplished by Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney, travelling from Halifax to Victoria. Vacay.ca writers have hit the road to come up with great tales to tell along this vital and historic route. Previously, Katie Marti suggested tips on how best to see the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec legs of the route. In the seventh installment, she lets you in on places to stop in her home province.
Story by Katie Marti
SAINT JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK — For as long as I’ve been a proud and preachy resident of New Brunswick, the province has been enduring a bit of an identity crisis. About a decade ago, with tourism decreasing and the so-called brain drain seeing many budding young graduates heed the call of the shiny west coast, there was a campaign launched to try and come up with a fresh, new provincial slogan that might inspire a bit of loyalty among locals and, at the same time, pique the interest of potential visitors to the most westerly of Canada’s Maritime provinces. Ideas were tossed around but none really stuck and still, today, NB lives without a clever little catch phrase and the goals of the tourism industry continue to fall a bit short. Hometown musician and CBC Radio darling David Myles even wrote a song called “Don’t Drive Through,” the lyrics of which appeal to would-be travellers with a wide variety of exciting and culturally infused reasons to stop and spend time in New Brunswick on their next trip out east.
Suffice it say, this article is one big “ditto.”
Enjoy Acadian Heritage in New Brunswick
Being Canada’s only officially bilingual province means the Acadian vibe is strong in New Brunswick. Caraquet, on the shores of the Gulf of St Lawrence, is a bit of a hub for all things francophone, with the Acadian Historic Village nearby and a colourful Festival Acadien, which runs for the first two weeks in August each year. In fact, this year marked the 50th anniversary of the festival, celebrating Acadian culture and heritage through music, tours and, of course, food. Bon appétit, indeed.
If a detour to Caraquet doesn’t make the itinerary, however, Moncton and the Shediac/Cap Pelé region will be happy to have you join them for a feed of fresh lobster or a day of seaside fun at Parlée Beach Provincial Park. Technically, National Acadian Day falls in the middle of August, but that doesn’t stop residents from hanging flags, baking meat pies and fiddling up a storm 365 days a year.
Fredericton, the province’s capital city, does its fair share of beckoning, with pristine parks, a charming downtown core and an art gallery that boasts fabulous pieces by the likes of Tom Thomson and Salvador Dali. When in town, be sure to grab a pint of local brewery Picaroon’s wide selection of craft beers, served in virtually every pub in downtown Fredericton, and sold alongside other Picaroon’s merchandise at the perfectly named Brewtique located on beautiful Queen Street. If you’re able to work a Saturday morning visit into your travel plans, promise me you’ll head to Boyce Farmer’s Market for some local produce, decadent treats and people watching galore.
An hour down the road, Saint John makes for a great overnight destination, especially if you’ve packed a healthy appetite. The city is full of tasty spots in which to sit and enjoy the region’s bounty. Some top-notch spots include Billy’s Seafood Company, Suwanna and Wild Carrot Cafe. For a thorough rundown of some of the city’s best eats, check out my blog and let your tastebuds make the call.
Of course, a city is more than a pile of delicious and creative restaurants. Saint John’s prime location along the Bay of Fundy make it the perfect base camp for some of the area’s most scenic attractions. Day trips to spots like Saint Andrews-By-The-Sea, Fundy National Park or Grand Manan Island are all within a couple hours’ drive of Saint John, and may well turn into layovers once you get a taste of the good life. Paddle or bike remote islands, hike coastal trails or just sit and watch the world’s highest tides ebb and flow, exposing the underbelly of the Atlantic at low tide and allowing visitors to literally walk on the ocean floor.
I really can’t say enough about my home province and, were it not for deadlines, maximum word counts and other external forces beyond my control, I’d be quite happy to babble on about New Brunswick and sing its praises until the cows came home. Literally. (Usually around 4:30 pm.) But I think you get it.
Hopefully these tips and tidbits will be enough to inspire you not to drive right through on your next Maritime road trip but, instead, to take in the understated beauty and natural wonders that abound over here in picture-perfect New Brunswick.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TRANS-CANADA! Have you got a great photo to share or story to tell about the Trans-Canada Highway? Share it with Vacay Nation! Email it to us at email@example.com and we’ll publish it during this 50th anniversary of the highway, which opened on September 3, 1962 in Rogers Pass, British Columbia. (Photos should be sent as hi-resolution JPEG images.)