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Story and photos by
Brad Hathaway
High on Adventure, July 2019

Canada flag

My wife Teddie and I had a wedding to attend in New Hampshire and had decided to fly in early to take a driving tour of the Maritime Provinces of Canada before the nuptials. We wanted to meet the people and stop in many places that might not offer hotels or even motels, so we decided to give Airbnb a try.

We called up the Airbnb website and booked accommodations throughout Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Some were rooms in the private homes of our hosts while other were well-established bed and breakfast inns. One thing we noticed was that the proprietors or hosts all seemed to prefer to be listed just by first names. I suppose this has something to do with security online.

We flew into Boston and rented a car for a two-week tour that would take us as far north as Gander, Newfoundland. Why Gander? Because we love the musical "Come From Away." It tells the story of how the people of that town of 9,000 welcomed the over 7,000 passengers on the 38 airliners forced to land at their airport when the United States closed its airspace in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. We wanted to meet some of these people whose welcoming of strangers during a time of terrible tension reaffirmed our belief in humanity.

We pointed the nose of the car northward for our first Airbnb, a delightful home advertised as a "European Dollhouse with River Views." The river visible outside our window was the Piscataqua that forms the boundary between Maine and New Hampshire. How far into Maine? Just over 170 feet!

This was very different from a hotel or motel stop. It was at the end of a cul de sac and the "Dead End" sign, being on the edge of a small local cemetery, seemed altogether appropriate. A neighbor came out of an adjacent house and told us of the history of the cemetery. He pointed out that all of the graves were positioned with the deceased's feet toward the east so they could "stand facing God on judgment day."

  Maine River   Maine cemetary  
The Maine River view from our window
The dead end at the cemetery

As our first Airbnb rental for the trip, we were pleased to find that the accommodations were completely comfortable.

  Maine B&B exterior   Main M&B interior  
Our first B&B of the trip
The cozy room with a view
Maine lobsterhouse

Our hosts, Crystal and Jim, welcomed us, made us feel completely at ease and recommended a riverside lobster house for chowder and lobster rolls.

First thing the next morning we drove into Portsmouth, Maine to catch the high-speed CAT ferry to Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, Canada. This modern ferry is a 349-foot catamaran that can reach nearly 40 miles per hour. It is a roll-on/roll-off ship originally designed to take military tanks to battle areas but is now a luxurious civilian ferry cutting the time between Maine and Nova Scotia to a mere six hours.

  The river is visible out the lobster house window      

We drove onto the car-deck and then climbed up to the lounge for what approximated "a day at sea" on a cruise ship. Nothing to do but read, relax, nibble on a snack and watch the water go by - my kind of vacation!

CAT Ferry
The CAT ferry. (photo courtesy Bay Ferries Limited)

For our first night in Canada we were welcomed by our Airbnb hosts Charlie and Bev into their home in a residential neighborhood of Yarmouth. The entire lower floor was at our disposal.

We had a good night's sleep before heading off on a scenic drive around the southern tip of Nova Scotia. First stop: the Black Loyalists Heritage Center in Shelbourne. It was to this location, during America's Revolutionary War, that the British evacuated African-American slaves who had escaped into the British-held New York City before George Washington re-took Manhattan. The museum brought home the drama of their plight.

  B&B Yarmouth   Nova Scotia Black Loyalists Heritage Center  
Our first Airbnb in Canada
The Black Loyalists Heritage Center

We drove on to Halifax where we encountered our first and only real difficulty with Airbnb. The host informed us that the previous tenant had departed with the only key so we couldn't get into the apartment for the night. We ended up staying in a commercial hotel before driving further north to Sydney to catch yet another ferry - the over-night boat to Argenta in Newfoundland. We had booked a cabin for the night and found it a tight fit.

  Canada, Argenta-Newfoundland Ferry car deck   Canada, Argenta-Newfoundland Ferry cabin  
Where our car slept the night
Where we slept the night

Before retiring for the night, however, it was time to adjust my watch - a confusing situation if ever there was one. Newfoundland has its own time zone that is only one half hour ahead of Nova Scotia's. So I turned my watch forward 30 minutes. However, our first stop after arriving in Newfoundland was to be a short overnight visit to an island off its coast that is another 30 minutes ahead.

  Newfoundland, Saint Pierre time zones clocks   Saint Pierre Ferry  
Time zones half an hour apart
The Saint Pierre and Miquelon Ferry

That island is Saint Pierre - one of the two small islands that form the "Overseas Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon" (or Collectivité d'outre-mer de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon in their native French.) It is part of the nation of France - not a colony, not a possession, but a part of France! It seems that, back before the American Revolution, France lost a war with England and was forced to cede all its possessions in North America. But they managed to retain these tiny islands that they have kept in order to maintain fishing rights off the coast of Newfoundland. Barely 6,000 people live there now, but they are all French citizens and they spend Euros, not Canadian dollars.

The ferry from Fortune, Newfoundland takes about 90 minutes and there you are in France - not just legally, but culturally. The capitol town (it is certainly not a city) is colorful, picturesque and very hospitable.

They don't have an Airbnb on the island, so we booked ourselves into the Hotel Robert (clearly pronounced "otel ro-bear" by all the locals). It dates back to prohibition days - it is said that Al Capone used to stay there when looking over his operation to smuggle liquor, that was legal in France, into the officially dry United States.

  Canada, Saint Pierre town scenic   Canada, Saint Pierre Hotel Robert  
The charming town on Saint Pierre
The Hotel Robert

A night in the fairly spartan hotel room was preceded by a delicious meal in one of the town's superb restaurants. The next morning, we found a typically French pâtisserie for a croissant and coffee before the ferry back to Canada. Before the ferry departed we had time to check out the local phone booth (looking all together more British than French) and a colorful merry go round.

Canada, Saint Pierre phonebooth
Canada, Saint Pierre carousel
This is a French phone booth?
Saint Pierre's colorful carousel

Back in Newfoundland, we drove to our Airbnb, the well named "Abbie's Garden Bed and Breakfast" in Grand Bank where we found a fully functional laundry room next to our bedroom and a lovely garden in which to sit while we refreshed our supply of clean clothes. Dinner at the rustic Burin Peninsula Hotel was nourishing as well.

Newfoundland Grand Bank Abbies Garden B&B
  Newfoundland Grand Bank Abbies Garden B%B  
The garden at Abbies Garden B&B
Teddie in the laundry room

After a full breakfast and a pleasant chat on the deck in the early morning light with our hostess Donna, we drove inland on our way to Gander. Thus far we had been skirting the coasts, but now we began to feel the immensity of Canada. It looked like a short drive on the map but turned out to be nearly 250 miles before we reached Gander. It was mid-afternoon and we quickly exhausted the tourist attractions: the airport where the planes landed on September 11, 2001, the Silent Witness memorial to an earlier crash that took hundreds of lives, and the shoreline of Gander Lake which, were it in Scotland, would be called a "loch" as it is 30 miles long but only a mile wide.

  Newfoundland, Gander Airport   Newfoundland, Gander Memorial   Newfoundland, Gander Lake  
Teddie at the Gander Airport where it all began
The Silent Witness memorial for the losses in a crash
Brad on the shore of Gander Lake


As I’ve explained, our visit had been prompted by our love of the musical "Come From Away." One of our favorite scenes in the show takes place in the Tim Hortons restaurant where the Mayor of Gander receives the news of the dozens of jumbo jets on their way to his town. We just had to visit the real Tim Hortonsx...but which one? Tim Hortons coffee and fast food restaurants are as ubiquitous in Canada as McDonalds are in the US. There are three in Gander to serve its just over 10,000 population, so we visited each one at least once.

  Canada, Come from Away musical, Tim Horton's   Canada, Tim Horton's in Gander  
The Tim Hortons scene in the musical "Come From Away" (photo by Matthew Murphy)
The real Tim Hortons in Gander


Having satisfied ourselves that the people in Gander are, in fact, welcoming and generous, we set out to see more of Newfoundland. We drove north to Twillingate Island on Newfoundland's north shore where we found beautiful views of natural features and a few man-made facilities.

  Newfoundland, Twillingate scenic   Newfoundland, Twillingate shops  
Rock formations off the coast of Twillingate Island
Man-Made facilities

Twillingate is well situated for boat tours out into the iceberg channel and there is even an "Iceberg Guy" with a store and a boat. But the weather was a bit too choppy on this day so, while the store was open for inspection, the boat was securely fastened to the pier.

Newfoundland, Twillingate Iceberg boat
  Newfoundland, Twillingate Iceberg shop  
The Iceberg Guy's boat at the dock
The Iceberg Guy's store

A lengthy drive across the center of Newfoundland put us in the charming village of Corner Brook in time for an afternoon sailing on the Crystal Waters Tours scenic cruise around the Bay of Islands, an inlet from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Visually, the bay feels like a fjord, which effect is visible out the window of our Airbnb.

  Newfoundland, Brook Bay of Islands tour boat   Newfoundland Brook Bay of Islands view   Newfoundland Brook Bay of Islands boat window view  
Crystal Waters Tours boat
The view from the tour boat
The view from our room

Driving down Newfoundland's southwestern shore gave us some fabulous views of the Gulf and got us into Port aux Basques in time for the noon ferry back to Nova Scotia. The ferry MV Blue Puttees, named after a Canadian regiment of World War I, had a capacity of 1,000 passengers. We left the car on the lower deck and found seats of equivalent comfort to those in the first class cabin of an airliner. The ship's public address system broadcast a warning of the "possibility of a rough crossing" but the voyage was smooth enough for Teddie to sleep for the first two hours of the crossing and I slept for an hour toward the end.

  Newfounland, Port aux Basques ferry Blue Puttees   Newfounland, Port aux Basques ferry Blue Puttees lounge  
The Marine Atlantic Ferry MV Blue Puttees exterior
First class-quality seats in the lounge

We arrived refreshed in North Sydney, Nova Scotia and drove only a mile or two to one of the finest Airbnbs of the trip, an absolutely gorgeous and charmingly restored 200-year old home on the waterfront of Sydney Harbor. Our hosts Paul and Paula showed us to our quarters - the entire second floor with two bedrooms, a sitting room, a sleeping loft and bath. Over tea they briefed us on the history of the house, the town and the province. Then they recommended a fine restaurant (the Black Spoon.)

  Nova Scotia North Sydney B&B interior   Nova Scotia North Sydney B&B exterior  
Our bedroom in the B&B in North Sydney
Teddie says goodby to Paul and Paula the next morning

Our next stop was a bluff overlooking Glace Bay where Guglielmo Marconi built the first wireless station in North America ever to receive a message from across the Atlantic. That was in 1902. The message was received, but the station was not well located for reception in difficult weather so Marconi had the tower taken down and rebuilt on a larger site further down the coast. The original site is protected now, and there is a small museum on an adjacent parcel, but it had already closed for the season by the time of our visit. Still, I had the thrill of standing where the original tower stood and I could take a picture of an old photo of the original tower on an informative poster at the museum.

  Nova Scotia Glace Bay scenic   Nova Scotia Glace Bay Marconi Tower site   Old photo of Glace Bay Marconi Tower  
Gorgeous Glace Bay

Where Marconi's Tower Stood for the first wireless transmission across the Atlantic to North America
An old photo of the tower


A three-hour drive took us to the most bare bones accommodations of our trip - a manufactured home on a lot on the south side of Pictou Harbor, but it had all the necessities we needed for a one night stay.

Nova Scotia, Pictou B&B
A manufactured home for the night

As we drove through the town of Pictou we spotted the deCoste Performing Arts Center in which a musical called "Voyage" was to be performed that night. Being a retired theater critic, I could hardly miss out on such an event, so we purchased tickets and then went to dinner next door at the Breakwater Family Restaurant and waited for showtime.

The show turned out to be an intriguing production telling the tale of the arrival of the first immigrants from Scotland who landed here in 1773 aboard the three masted sailing vessel Hector. As we left the theatre after the performance we could see the replica of the Hector that is docked at a quay just a block from the theater.

  Nova Scotia, Pictou, Decoste Performing Arts Center   Nova Scotia, Pictou, sailing ship Hector  
The audience gathers for "Voyage"
The Hector docked in Pictou, Nova Scotia

We said goodbye to Nova Scotia and hello to New Brunswick where our first stop was the Hopewell Rocks. Here the extraordinary tides of the Bay of Fundy have carved the cliffs into fantastic shapes emerging from the muddy "floor of the ocean" on which you can walk at low tide. From there we headed strait to our Airbnb, the Catch the Wind Bed & Breakfast in Shepody, one of the most sumptuous of our trip. We had the entire second floor of an 1870's home with a bedroom, walk-in closet and sitting room.

  New Brunswick, Hopewell Rocks   New Brunswick Hopewell Rocks   New Brunswick, Shepody, Catch the Wind B&B   New Brunswick, Shepody, Broad Leaf Ranch  
Tourists stroll on "the floor of the ocean" at Hopewell Rocks
Brad well below the high tide line

Catch the Wind Bed and Breakfast

The Broadleaf Ranch


We asked Art, our host, for a recommendation for dinner and he came up with an experience. He told us that a "dude ranch" called the Broadleaf Ranch welcomed drive-in visitors to their restaurant. We watched rodeo-like competitions from the patio before going in for a good basic meal.

Art also told us that the views of the Bay of Fundy were even more spectacular from the Cape Enrage Lighthouse and he gave us directions for a detour from the main roads to get there. The Lighthouse itself dates to 1870 that makes it one of the oldest on New Brunswick's coast. Today, the site is a park with a zip line available to the adventurous, but we were satisfied with the view from the interpretive center.

  New Brunswick, Cape Enrage Lighthouse   Bay of Fundy from Cape Enrage  
Brad at the Cape Enrage Lighthouse
Teddie enjoys the view from the interpretive center

Our last night in Canada was at an Airbnb in Saint Andrews where both the bed and the breakfast were delightful. Our hosts didn't hear us knock when we arrived so we went into town for dinner and then returned to a very warm welcome. Our hosts Stephen and Darlene joined us for breakfast the next morning on the enclosed veranda and we enjoyed exchanging stories of their travels as well as ours.

  New Brunswick Airbnb bedroom   New Brunswick, Saint Andrews Airbnb breakfast  
The standard lens captures the bedroom

The bubble lens captures Brad and Teddie enjoying breakfast in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick

For our last stop in Canada, we first had to drive into the U.S. in order to take the Roosevelt International Bridge over the 800 feet of water that separates Lubec, Maine, from Canada's Campobello Island. This is where Franklin Delano Roosevelt's family retreat is now an international park with participation by Parks Canada and the U.S. National Park Service.

Here is the Roosevelt cottage that has been preserved as it was in 1920 before FDR's attack of polio. The building, built in 1897, is actually called "FDR's Summer Home" but almost everyone calls it the "cottage." We learned from our guide that the term "cottage" wasn't intended to indicate that it was somehow a small house. Rather, it meant that it was built for summer use only and, thus, not insulated for cold Canadian winters. That would explain how a 34-room house with 18 bedrooms and six bathrooms could be a "cottage."

Lunch on the porch of the Prince Cottage - a renovated "cottage" built for a cotton broker named Lawrence Prince - provided an opportunity to contemplate the view over Passamaquoddy Bay that FDR and Eleanor shared. It seemed a fitting and memorable end of a visit to the Canadian Maritimes.

  New Brunswick, Campobello Island Roosevelt Cottage   New Brunswick, Campobello Island Passamaq  
The Roosevelt Cottage on Campobello Island
Lunch on the porch

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