Driving New Brunswick – a road trip through Atlantic Canada, part II

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the views over Florenceville-Bristol

Dusk was slowly descending over the Saint John River and I was seriously considering settling down for an evening with Ben and Gerrie. And I don’t mean a misspelt tub of ice cream, but Benjamin and Geraldine, the gorgeous and very fluffy resident cats of Tannaghtyn B&B, a country house set near the banks of the river on the outskirts of Florenceville-Bristol, in the central western part of New Brunswick. On the surface, this scenic, largely rural province seems positively made for quiet nights in with cats, in-front-of an open fire, but scratch said surface and you’ll find that this place has a knack for making tiny locations more interesting.

Florenceville-Bristol, formerly two separate towns merged in 2008, making it New Brunswick’s newest town – somewhat ironic, since the history of both goes back several hundred years. Florenceville, incidentally, was named after Florence Nightingale and one can only assume Bristol to be named after its UK namesake. Quaint and quirky historical facts abound throughout the province and the people of New Brunswick are quite an enterprising lot – in the smallest of settlements you often find the most unusual of initiatives.Florenceville-Bristol, much to my surprise, offered one of the trip’s best fine dining experiences ata restaurant called Fresh, in a converted Canadian-Pacific railway carriage, enough of a temptation for me to spurn the cats and head out for dinner.

Fresh restaurant

Fresh; a restaurant in a Canadian Pacific old carriage


The following morning it was time for my driver and me to hop back in the car and continue our journey south, through a mixture of agricultural land and forest, all the way down to the coast and the pleasant seaside resort of St. Andrews by-the-Sea, spitting distance from Maine in the U.S., just across Passamaquoddy Bay. Throughout the journey place names and signposts continually stirred the imagination – surely New Brunswick is one of the best provinces for road trip entertainment value and good distractions? First there was Nackawic, proudly proclaiming to be “home of the world’s largest axe”. Then along came Pokiok and Mactaquac, followed by a church near the hamlet of Harvey advertising “drama and dessert” and there were plenty of lovely old ramshackle farms to admire along the way.

Feeling vaguely envious of a local population that was delivered dramatic desserts instead of sermons, we reached the seaside and Water Street, the main street of St. Andrews. It was definitely living up to its name – the water was literally chucking it down from the heavens. Luckily the open heavens had put a lid on it by the following morning and the sun was out again, allowing us time to explore without getting soggy. The resort town, home to less than 2,000 permanent residents, manages to pack in an awful lot for such a small place.

olde world feel of Water Street

Water Street in St Andrews

There are varied shops and boutiques, a well-established artists’ community, a gallery, good whale-watching in the bay and several of the province’s best hotels and restaurants can be found here. St. Andrews dates back to 1783 and original, old-world architecture adds further to the seaside charm, along with several grand murals, near the waterfront.

One night wasn’t nearly enough here, but there was plenty more of New Brunswick to see and I only had one day left in which to see it. Following the coastline of the Bay of Fundy, famed for the highest tides in the world, we drove past Saint John, the largest city in the province, towards somewhere altogether smaller. In fact, our first stop after leaving St. Andrews was a barn. The Barn in Bloomfield  is, as the name suggests, a huge barn, built in 1901, with a shop and gallery at the front and a workshop at the back, where owner/manager Brent Rourke makes shaker boxes and furniture. It’s all open to the public, so people can watch Brent at work. The barn sits in a beautiful and peaceful location and every year they host several themed events, including live music and springtime sheep shearing.

After a nice stop admiring the beautiful pieces in the barn’s gallery, but sadly failing to do any quality sheep shearing, we continued southeast towards one of the two national parks in the province which I mentioned previously, Fundy National Park, passing Moosehorn Creek, home to a smaller version of the covered bridges New Brunswick is known for, and the oddly named Mechanic Settlement (a new home for the world’s displaced mechanics, perhaps?).

Fundy Trail

the Fundy Trail in the national park

Throughout the forested areas of the park there are excellent hiking trails, while the waterfront is home to unusual rock formations and pristine beaches. The tide was coming in as we followed the hiking trails along the coastline, so we opted against venturing down to the rather muddy-looking ocean floor and instead enjoyed the views from the loftier heights of the viewing platforms. Our shoes were ever grateful.

Our journey, which began in the very far north-western corner of New Brunswick, was almost at end as we were reaching the far south easternmost corner, continuing into neighbouring Nova Scotia. Before crossing the province border, though, New Brunswick had a few more choice place names in store for us, including a Salem or two, and a Crooked Creek. We near enough stopped in Curryville, it sounded so promising and were even more sorely tempted by the Swamp Donkey pub in Hopewell Hill. This had been a road trip to remember.

Getting there:

There are direct flights from the UK to nearby provinces Nova Scotia and Québec with connecting flights to one of New Brunswick’s four regional airports. It’s also possible to arrive by coach or rail from either neighbouring province.

Where to stay:

Tannaghtyn, 4169 Route 103, Florenceville-Bristol, T: 506-392-6966, 4-star b&b complete with fluffy cats – beautiful, welcoming and excellent service.

Algonquin Resort, 184 Adolphus St, Saint-Andrews-by-the-Sea, T: 506-529-8823,  One of the finest hotels in Canada, recently restored. Elegant rooms, fine dining, pools, spa, and excellent cocktails.

Rossmount Inn, 4599 Route 127, Chamcook nr Saint Andrews, T: 506-529-3351 . Countryside inn with a focus on gastronomy. Seasonal, organic food, very comfy rooms.

For further information about New Brunswick, click here.

For further information abot Canada, click here.

First UK Rights

Images other than those of Florenceville- Bristol © Anna Maria Espsäter

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