Atlantic Adventure: PEI to Cape Breton

photo of red cliffs and low tide at Cape Enrage
After three relaxing days at Cape Enrage, we headed back to Moncton as the springboard for our road trip. Our Atlantic Adventure will take us through three provinces: Prince Edward Island (PEI), Nova Scotia, and back to New Brunswick in three days with stops in Charlottetown, Cape Breton, and Halifax.

Rush Hour in Moncton

Matt and I left Moncton at 8am. Rush hour traffic was surprising heavy for such a small city. Matt started dancing in his seat at one light, trying to get his hourly stand goal in for his fitness tracker – and the woman in the car in front of us started enthusiastically dancing too! We’re not in Toronto anymore 😉

photo of Confederation Bridge

Confederation Bridge

The Confederation Bridge is as important part of the “PEI Experience” as Matt put it. We took the Trans Canada to the 995 past Murray Beach Provincial Park to approach the Confederation Bridge from the side along the Acadian Coastal Drive. It was barely visible on the horizon across the Northumberland Strait at first, but it soon came into focus.

Matt reminisced on watching it being built, walking across the bridge with his mother when it first opened, and taking the ferry along side it another time when there was still service. It is the longest bridge in Canada – maybe North America!

The toll to cross is $47 on the way back, but no coat on the way in. It was so long I couldn’t see it’s end – just disappeared into the sky! At 80km/hr, it took us about ten minutes to cross the bridge. Even though I’m not as fascinated by feats of engineering as Matt is, the Confederation Bridge was still fun to cross!

Charlottetown, PEI

The residential area of Charlottetown reminded me of Niagara-on-the-lake with its pristine colonial houses. Downtown was very underwhelming – a bunch of tourist traps and posh oyster bars. It looked like it be a nice place to go for dinner if you like seafood!

Confederation Building/Province House

To our surprise, the Confederation Building (Province House) was under restoration – during Canada 150!!! Apparently it had been closed for two years and was expected to remain closed for a total of five. Of all historical sites to be closed during Canada’s 150th birthday, you’d think the birthplace of Confederation would be open!

Receiver Coffee Company

We wandered down to the water, past a large cruise ship and fancy pleasure boats. Anne of Green Gables and giant lobsters were everywhere!

We stopped in Receiver, a charming bistro on a pedestrian street. I got a blueberry tea and a pecan square for $7 and we sat on the patio while Matt caught up on the news. Someone at a table next to us had a lovely looking salad and poached egg – looks like a good spot for brunch!

Outside Charlottetown

The drive was very pleasant. There were lush green rolling hills, vibrant red dirt showing through the tractor marks, sweet old farmhouses, and trees all along the property lines. There were lots of vegetable stands along the road. Most sold potatoes, but one had a whole bunch of pumpkins!

There were an awful lot of for sale signs along the road. I had been amazed to learn you could buy a huge house outright on the Bay of Fundy for less than the minimum down payment on a tiny condo downtown in Toronto or to buy a nice hybrid car these days! Now every time I see a for sale sign at a particularly beautiful place, I romanticized for a brief moment what it would be like to leave it all behind in the big city and live in the country again. Matt’s plan to retire down East is more and more appealing.

photo of weathered fishing huts at Wood Islands Provincial Park

Wood Islands Ferry

Pre-boarding

We arrived at the ferry a little ahead of the mandatory 1 hour pre-departure time. The Northumberland Ferry Limited (NFL) from Wood Island to Caribou cost $77 for our vehicle and only traveled every couple hours, so we couldn’t afford to miss it!

We were the third car to arrive. We gave the gatekeeper the confirmation number for our online reservation and pulled up right in front! We wandered along the perimeter, down to the wharf, and over to Wood Islands Provincial Park where there was a lighthouse museum and fisherman huts. It was very picturesque!

There was a really yummy looking menu outside a seafood takeout hut on the wharf (scallop burger anyone?) but it was closed for the season. We wandered around taking pictures until we could see the ferry pulling in. Cars began emptying a little before 12:30 and we began boarding at 12:38. We were the first vehicle on!

photo of a lifeboat on a ferry

On board the ferry

There was a cafeteria on board where you could get seafood chowder for $6.25. As a treat, we decided to get a bowl to share between us in addition to the egg salad sandwiches Matt’s mom had packed us that morning. There was an information booth, a charging station, and free wifi. Apparently there’s live music during peak times too!

We split our time between the top deck, mid deck, and cafeteria. Matt loved how the wind pulled on his moustache! There was a beautiful collie dog on the top deck, it’s long hair blowing majestically in the wind.

We drove off the ferry ramp at 2:19 at Caribou, Nova Scotia. It was fun being right up front and watching the dock come closer and the boat attach to the plank!

Cape Breton

Big Spruce Brewing

Our first stop in Cape Breton was a brewery near Baddeck that I’d seen in a travel guide on the ferry. It was just off the Trans Canada highway, on a hill overlooking the Bras d’Or Lake.

Big Spruce Brewing was a very small brewery with a boutique and screened patio. We ordered a taster flight of three beers at $2 each: an Apricot Milkshake IPA made with lactose, Cereal Killer oatmeal stout, and our favourite – Regetta Ale. In the screened patio, staff were sorting through large tubs of green hops while sipping glasses of beer. The place had a very contemporary hippy, indie feel to it! It was a pleasant stop along the way.

photo of an empty taster glass from Big Spruce Brewery

AirBnB in Sydney, Nova Scotia

The drive from the brewery to North Sydney was particularly beautiful: thick forest, layers of mountains, and blue water. We’d love to come back in fall sometime to see this all a burst of colour!

Our AirBnB was in North Sydney. It had been tricky finding cheap accommodations along the Cabot Trail. It was a lovely old house, decorated very eclectically. Our room had Victorian portraits on the wall, which I found rather creepy, but our hostess was very friendly.

photo of the Cape Breton highlands at dusk

Ceilidh at the Gaelic College

One of the things I’d wanted to do this trip was go to an traditional east coast concert! Matt found a listing of events on the Nova Scotia Tourism site, one of which was a ceilidh at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s.

The college was just off of the Trans Canada Highway. There were two college staff, one on the keyboard, another on the fiddle. The concert was held on a hall that reminded me of summer camp. Entrance was $10 and we were the youngest people in the audience! There was no food or drink for sale and the energy was somber – I felt like I was at a church service!

The music was good and the personal anecdotes were interesting, but we were looking for something more lively. Maybe I’ll go back one day for Gaelic lessons – that would be fun! We decided to check out another music venue after a few songs.

photo of a full pint glass at Governor's Pub

Governor’s Pub

There was daily live music from 8-11pm at Governor’s Pub in Sydney, NS. The music was on the second floor of a charming old building overlooking the Sydney River. There were 6 musicians sitting in a circle and the place was packed! We got the last two seats in the house at 9pm – it was busy for a Wednesday night! They had Big Spruce on tap, so we ordered the Regatta (red) Ale and the Kitchen Party Pale Ale.

Our server was fantastic! Matt had the local haddock (in Big Spruce beer batter!) and I ordered the Mira Bay cold water shrimp fritti.

Driving home

After all of Matt’s driving today, it was my turn to drive home. Heavy fog had rolled in with the moon hidden behind the clouds (apparently the Northern Lights may have been visible had it not been cloudy). Fortunately our AirBnB was just 20 minutes away! We crawled into bed and went to sleep.

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One response to “Atlantic Adventure: PEI to Cape Breton

  1. Really nice summaries and photos of your Atlantic Canada trip!

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