Road Trips – Nova Scotia
June 6, 2009By Charles Hofer
as appeared in Campclub USA May 2009 The Guide
The RV lifestyle is built for escaping to exotic, far–off lands. Not that we always think in this manner, but why not? True, filling up the rig with supplies and heading off to a foreign land can be daunting, but not when you have such a hospitable spot just over the border in the form of Maritime jewel, Nova Scotia. Touring the province is like stepping back in time, where Acadian fiddle music and artisan crafts abound, all along the backdrop of romantic fishing villages and the charm of rolling emerald landscapes that spill into the Atlantic. So, who’s with me?
Entering Nova Scotia from the west, take some time in the town of Truro, a hub city where seemingly all the major routes in Maritime Canada come together. This is where you’ll get your first taste of the local natural phenomenon — the tides in the Bay of Fundy, which rise and fall twice daily to astounding limits. Keep moving eastward and you’ll find yourself in the town of Parrsboro, home to Maritime Canada’s most recognizable features, “The Brothers Parrsboro,” massive outcroppings that rise out of the Bay of Fundy. Explore the Fundy Geological Museum and showcase of the natural wonders of Nova Scotia and the Bay while in the area.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, nestled along the northern–most point of Cape Breton in Northeastern Nova Scotia, simply can’t be beat. Heading north along the western shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, catch up with the Cabot Trail, a nearly 200–mile trail which follows much of the coastline, passing through romantic sleepy Acadian fishing villages, then tip–toeing by breathtaking cliffs that drop into the rocky gulf shores.
The park itself is home to six campgrounds, not all of which are RV friendly. Doing your research here before heading up will certainly pay off. Few roads allow access to the park and many miles can separate stops and access to resources. However, the trip is well worth it and surely one of the finest stops in Eastern Canada.
Cape Breton also is home to many of the creatures Canada is famous for; it will be pretty difficult to pass a couple hours without seeing at least one moose. While in the Highlands, be sure to take advantage of one of the many whale–watching excursions available. The rich Gulf of St. Lawrence offers a bounty of food for these large marine mammals and, in turn attract, legions of giant creatures all of which feed right off shore.
Besides its namesake park, Cape Breton is a vacation unto itself. Be sure to soak in much of the region’s culture at any one of a seemingly endless list of Nova Scotia villages along the way. Traveling along the western shore of the Cape, the town of Cheticamp welcomes visitors with open arms, especially during the summer months. Try the village of Ingonish along the Cape’s eastern shore, where one will find scenic and colorful Maritime architecture, as well as fantastic hiking trails along the rocky coast right outside of town. On your way out, be sure to hit Baddeck, a charming and upscale resort town nestled along the shores of Bras d’Or Lakes. A visit to Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, a sprawling 25–acre estate summer home of the famed inventor, pays homage to his remarkable life and career.
As you explore Cape Breton, be sure to pick up some of its many souvenirs hand–crafted by Acadian artisans. Jewelry, rugs, pottery, artwork — the list of Cape Breton artisans sharing their unique wares is endless.
Once you leave the Cape and head south back to mainland Nova Scotia, take a side trip to the eastern shore to visit the Fortress and Louisbourg National Historic Site in Louisbourg. Billed as the “largest reconstructed 18th–century French fortified town” in North America, the Fort is truly a marvel. After the French surrendered Acadia to the aggressive British during the early 1700s, a group of French retreated to this isolated encampment along Nova Scotia’s Northeast coast. This massive fort refuted siege after siege before finally surrendering to the British in 1760, who, naturally, immediately burned it down to the ground. Thankfully, the reconstructed fort is one of the continent’s finest and a certain can’t miss for history buffs.
Before heading down to Halifax, take some time to enjoy the province’s Eastern Shore, truly a step back to simpler days where Nova Scotia heritage is proud and true. Visit Sherbrooke Village, the province’s largest living history museum, where the areas late 19th–Century boomtown heritage stands on display. Nearly 30 buildings have been restored to make this a worthwhile destination. Nestled along the shore also is the spectacular yet quiet Taylor Head Provincial Park, which boasts several outstanding hiking trails along the peninsula that juts into the chilly Atlantic. The town of Tangier is a paddler’s destination along the Atlantic, with scores of kayaking outfitters ready to create an adventure you’ll never forget.
Of course, no visit to the region would be complete without spending at least a few days in the provincial capital of Halifax. An incredibly charming city, Halifax is part San Francisco, with it wide array of culture and bay atmosphere, and part Cape May, New Jersey, where sleepy charms and splendid architecture create an alluring visit. Like all great cities, Halifax is meant to be explored on foot. Park the RV near the city center and put on your walking shoes. It won’t be long before you and yours are immersed in cafes, restaurants, and shops, all lining historic streets along the waterfront. At night, musicians abound and the city’s folk roots can be found in any of the numerous alehouses. A stroll among the Halifax Public Gardens and the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site that towers over the city center are musts.
For help planning your getaway, contact the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism at 800/565–0000; www.novascotia.com.Charles Hofer is a freelance writer from New Brunswick, New Jersey.