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The Canadian Maritimes, a Land of Tides

Canada celebrates its 150th birthday this year. And it’s the perfect time to explore the history and beauty of the nation’s Maritime provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. In honor of the celebration, all Parks Canada sites on your itinerary will offer free admission during 2017.

Bordered by Maine, Quebec, the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St. Lawrence, New Brunswick is a land of extremes. From its Aboriginal history to the capital city of Fredericton, itinerary possibilities are numerous. The Bay of Fundy separates New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and is famous for its dramatic tides and 15 species of whales.

In Nova Scotia, Halifax combines a modern metropolis and bustling seaport as Atlantic Canada’s largest city. Rural Nova Scotia retains its Celtic traditions, and the Gaelic culture still thrives on the province’s Cape Breton Island.

Prince Edward Island is known for red-sand beaches, lighthouses and fertile farmland. The capital city of Charlottetown boasts Victorian architecture and was the birthplace of the Confederation. The Cavendish countryside became the inspiration for the beloved story “Anne of Green Gables,” experienced today at Green Gables Heritage Place and numerous other sites.

Historic Sites and Rising Tides in New Brunswick

The historic and cultural heart of New Brunswick’s capital, Fredericton, is the Historic Garrison District. Located next to the St. John River, the Garrison intermingles musicians, artists, historic re-enactments and attractions. From Canada Day to Labour Day, costumed guides offer walking tours while they recount local history and folklore. The red tunics of the British regiment can be seen during Changing of the Guard ceremonies, which take place in the district.

Fredericton’s cultural scene presents outdoor summer theater and concerts, an Under the Stars Film Series and Music at the Cathedral. Expansion of the world-class Beaverbrook Art Gallery will be completed this fall. The city is also known for its variety of popular festivals, such as the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. Canada’s Irish Festival on the Miramichi features Irish music, dance and cultural workshops. Fredericton boasts the highest concentration of craft breweries and tasting experiences in the Maritimes.

There’s more to explore in other parts of the province. Originally settled by an Aboriginal community, Metepenagiag Heritage Park in Red Bank showcases New Brunswick’s 3,000-year-old roots. Guided tours begin with the cooking fire and traditional food and include the Interpretation Centre, ancient storytelling and sampling seasonal fish or summer game with wild rice, traditional bread and fragrant cedar tea.

Also on display throughout New Brunswick are elements of the Acadian culture, brought by French settlers who arrived in the area in the early 1600s.

“Acadians are a passionate people, and groups can experience their joie de vivre, or love of life, through dance, music, laughter and celebration,” said New Brunswick Tourism spokesperson Rose Arsenault.

Perhaps the most popular attraction in New Brunswick is the Bay of Fundy, where tides rise at the rate of 3.3 feet per hour. The tides yield edible treasures, such as mineral-rich sea salt and dried seaweed. The Fundy Trail features a 12-mile drive that hugs the coast, with stunning views, more than 20 lookouts, a waterfall, rock formations and a suspension bridge. Tides are best explored at Hopewell Rocks.

“At low tide, you can walk on the ocean floor, leave your footprints in the mud and marvel over the fact that the nearby cliffs have been carved into huge flowerpot-shaped rocks,” said Arsenault, “then return at high tide to kayak above the same spot.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent his summers on Campobello Island in the Bay of Fundy, now designated Roosevelt Campobello International Park. His “cottage” is preserved almost exactly as it was in 1920, the summer before he was stricken with polio. Tours explore his 34-room summer home, and the Visitor Centre showcases exhibits and artifacts. Groups can enjoy Tea with Eleanor, a fact-filled hour with entertaining anecdotes about Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and accomplishments during a tumultuous period of U.S. history. Eleanor’s favorite blend of tea and a variety of cookies are served on fine china and linens.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.