My favourite places in Atlantic Canada
As vacation plans loom, here are 10 of my favourite spots around the Atlantic region, in no particular order but all worth seeing.
1. Advocate Harbour, N.S. — With the tide out and looking towards the fat bulk of Cape d’Or looming in the distance, there are few vistas that match this one for me. Getting there is also well worth it: the steep curves and hills of N.S. Route 209 heading from Parrsboro and the flat plains of cultivated blueberry farms are gorgeous, especially if it’s the fall, post-frost, and the berry plants are cycling through their changing colours
2. Rattling Brook Falls, on Newfoundland’s Route 391 past King’s Point in western Newfoundland — The falls are 800 feet high, and you can make your way up the front of them on a trail and a flight of stairs. For the more enterprising, there is a route (good luck) to the top of the falls on a par- tially marked trail that leaves an established snowmobile trail above homes in the town. Exhausting climb, well worth the effort.
3. Blomidon, N.S. on the Pereau Road — There’s a fine red-sand beach that, at low tide, stretches for impossible miles towards the horizon. Its tidepools, fine muck and sea life cry out for kids and buckets, and it’s a beachcomber’s delight, too, stretching for easily walkable miles around cliffs with cliff swallow burrows along the top edge. Nearby Scott’s Bay is a rockhound’s delight.
4. The beach at Jacques Cartier Provincial Park on Route 12 north of Alberton, P.E.I. — Heck, a whole bunch of Route 12 running north. There are plenty of beaches in P.E.I., but this beach boasts everything from fine sand to sweeps of shells that few small hands have yet gone through, backing onto quiet fields. A great spot for thinking.
5. The barrens on Route 10 on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, heading for Portugal Cove South — Dotted with small ponds and watercourses, there’s little in the way of vegetation higher than about two feet tall, except for tress on the edges of rivers that have cut their way down through solid rock. A little foot exploration can find waterfalls, sometimes caribou, and literally not one other single human being.
6. All of P.E.I. Route 321, from the area of Cardross to the edge of Morell — It’s non-beach P.E.I. encapsulated in a short drive: moderate speeds, fields, farms, grass shoulders. I drive it every time I can, preferably in summer, windows down.
7. Grates Cove — a small fishing town on Newfoundland’s Route 70, right at the top of the Avalon Peninsula. Find the right spot on the Back Road, and you can look down at the garden lands where residents have walled in patchworks of plots using mounds of stone pulled out of the cultivated ground. It’s a town nestled into a natural break in the hills — and windswept is the perfect description.
8. At Northeast Margaree on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail — There is one spot, one brief spot, where the Margaree River comes out of the hills to the east and turns right along the highway, clear brown water cutting down through the pinkish stone. The kind of place where you can sit and just watch the water. Around the next corner, a vast riverine grassland valley. Gorgeous.
9. — Rushton’s Beach Provincial Park, at Marshville on N.S. Route 6 — Near River John, the park and boardwalk are a quiet respite on the way to a slightly more stony, but lovely, arcing beach, plus, you’re close to the Blue Sea Beach provincial park, Tatamagouche and the Brule Shore’s fossils. It’s a great area to explore.
10. And the last choice? An obvious one, but at a not-obvious time — The huge Stanhope Beach in Prince Edward Island, but not in summer, when it’s filled with vacationers. No, I like it best in winter, the National Park shut down, the beach vast and empty and windswept, fine snow mixing with fine sand. A treasure. Your own choices? I’d love to hear about them.