It was a massive surprise. I thought I’d seen every kind of destination...
The crowded, beautiful beaches of Spain, France, the Caribbean, and the less crowded ones in Cape Verde; I’ve walked through the magnificent glens in Scotland (and fought off the midges!); I’ve camped in Cornwall and Wales; driven thousands of miles across America; I’ve cruised around the Middle East and around the Indian Ocean and gasped at the giant tortoises; but nothing prepared me for Atlantic Canada.
To be honest I didn’t know much about the destination. I’d read ‘Anne of Green Gables’ decades ago but that was about it so I wasn’t expecting much when I was invited to join Dame Esther Rantzen on a trip to Atlantic Canada last October.
The Air Canada flight was direct from Heathrow to Halifax and took about the same time it used to take me to drive to Cornwall in the summer – six and a half hours – and it was a lot nicer than being stuck in traffic on the A30.
We drove from Halifax to New Brunswick and began to get a sense of the scale of the country as we started our quest for the fireworks of the autumn colours. Every now and then we caught a glimpse of a single spectacular maple blazing red, alone in the acres and acres of rolling forest. Staring out as the miles and miles of trees flashed past I suddenly caught sight of a huge dark haired animal standing on the edge of the forest – it was a moose. Apparently they are quite shy and so it was a rare sighting. I wasn’t prepared for how enormous it was.
Another first for me was Hopewell Rocks, which has astonishing 46ft. tides - I thought the 12ft. spring tides in Cornwall were dramatic but this was something else.
The government has placed some beautifully designed, large red chairs in scenes of particular beauty. We saw them at Cape Enrage with its restored red and white lighthouse, where another first for me is a local delicacy called ‘Fiddleheads’ which are the tasty fresh spring leaves of bracken. From there we drove on to the Funday Trail which is for the more adventurous traveller who can spend four days walking through its beautiful wilderness.
I could go on and on, about the picturesque town of St Andrews; the fantastic food at Savour at the Kingsbrae Gardens; the most sophisticated bed-and-breakfast in Frederickton that I have ever stayed in; the safe, welcoming atmosphere everywhere we went.
We left New Brunswick and crossed to Prince Edward Island, the home of ‘Anne of Green Gables’, and drove along their charming Heritage Roads – red soiled routes through the countryside - and began to see more and more of the promised autumn colours with bright red and gold foliage. The island is ringed with soft white sand beaches, completely unspoiled and great for beachcombing. Charlottetown – the birthplace of Canada’s Confederation – is lined with pretty historic houses, manicured lawns, well-kept flowerbeds and has some great restaurants and hotels.
We then took the ferry to Nova Scotia, arriving in Cape Breton for the Celtic Colours Festival (running this year between October 7 -15) for its delightful mixture of Celtic music and the glory of the sight of mile after mile of hills covered with a riot of gold, red and orange leaves; natures' Autumn fireworks.
Atlantic Canada has a lot to offer British travellers. With just four-and-a-half hours’ time difference they won’t get jet lag. There is something for everyone – sun worshippers, foodies, adventurers, all with the sophistication one expects from North America. Canada feels safe and the people are welcoming and friendly.
One last thing. I love lobster. In Canada they are half the price we would normally pay and you can eat lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
As an example of itineraries Audley is offering a 19-night 'Maritime Treasures Self-Drive' package from £2,930 per person. Highlights include whale-watching in the Bay of Fundy, a Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island and the UNESCO heritage village of Lunenburg, and the price includes flights from a choice of airports including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
For more information visit audleytravel.com/canada/itinerary-ideas/maritime-treasures and atlanticcanadaholiday.co.uk