COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JOHN PATRICK FORD

Hospitality and lobster on North Atlantic coast

It’s impossible to avoid a meal with lobster in Canada’s Maritime provinces and the state of Maine.

A huge full-shell lobster dinner, lobster rolls and lobster chowder are offered on most menus and marketed along the back roads of the North Atlantic coast.

But there is much more than delicious seafood to enjoy in this rugged seacoast realm. Let’s start with the historic French and British heritage that shaped the casual and friendly lifestyle that welcomes visitors.

The Bay of Fundy, which separates Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, is an unusual shipping lane serving the inland settlements south of Halifax. The world-record daily tide change is 70 feet.

It was also the area where French colonists settled in 1605 before the English colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth.

I explored the north and south shores of the bay to learn more about the development of the Acadian culture that flourished here before the British took over Canada and exiled many of the French settlers.

Most Acadians refused to swear allegiance to King George or convert from Catholicism. Read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline” for this tragic example of racial cleansing in North America.

Both coasts of the Bay of Fundy are lined with picturesque fishing villages where scallops, lobster, clams and fish are bountiful. In between are forests of pine and maple — plenty of fall color — and green pastures, reminding a traveler of Devon in England.

A three-hour ferry ride from Saint John, New Brunswick, to Digby, Nova Scotia, saves a long mainland drive from Halifax if you enter Canada from Maine.

At Annapolis Royale and Grand Pre, you are in the heart of Acadian culture along the Evangeline Trail. French is spoken here in a bilingual mix of Acadian and Celtic cultures.

Besides abundant fresh seafood, most restaurants feature country-French cuisine and rich desserts with local favorites such as blueberries and whoopie pie. Seek out the family-style cafés or resort hotel restaurants for delicious fresh meals that have a European flair.

If time allows more travel after exploring the Bay of Fundy, stop over in Maine, just two hours from Saint John, to the U.S. port of entry at Calais.

The rugged Maine coast provides new territory to explore. Stop at historic Campobello for a tour of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s summer home and a cozy lunch at nearby Fireside Lodge.

Continue on to Bar Harbor where the century-old resort town still draws a heavy tourist crowd and gigantic cruise ships. The waterfront promenade offers upscale shops, galleries and restaurants.

Acadia National Park wraps around Bar Harbor to encompass Mount Desert Island. The loop road takes you through prime forests to the rocky coast and up to viewpoints of the vast maritime area.

The gravel Coach Road with 16 picturesque stone bridges is for exclusive use of horses, mountain bikers and hikers. The 57-mile scenic route was built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. to provide an exclusive horse-and-carriage course through the park.

I prefer the Maine coastline south of Bar Harbor with small fishing villages tucked in obscure inlets and pine forests of the archipelagos with views of offshore islands.

Deer Isle is casual and Down-East friendly.

From a base here, Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor are accessible. A day trip to Castine for lunch at Dennett’s Wharf is another back-road adventure far from crowds.

In Blue Hill, the Boatyard Grill serves the best lobster roll of the hundreds I have sampled.

Matt, “the lobstah man,” brings them in fresh daily. It really is a junky boatyard, so don’t be put off by outside appearances. It’s a fun hangout for locals with a true fisherman flavor.

In Stonington on Deer Isle, several cozy restaurants serve up gourmet fare with a focus on fresh local seafood. The most popular are upscale Aragosta (lobster in Italian) and the casual Fisherman’s Friend on the wharf.

There is a wide range of bed-and-breakfasts, and country inns in Stonington, Maine, listed in the Island Guide on deerisle.com.

Options for access to Nova Scotia are flying to Halifax or driving from Maine, depending on travel time taken. Both areas need a week to 10 days, or stay over with a wide range of vacation rentals along the Maine Coast.

The round-trip car ferry from Saint John to Digby is expensive, but saves many driving hours.

While in Nova Scotia, there are two comfortable inns near the Digby ferry landing. The friendly Admiral Digby Inn and the more upscale Digby Pines Resort make a good home base for exploring the Evangeline Trail along the Bay of Fundy.

For travelers who must have their digital devices, be aware that cellphone service is spotty in most of rural Maine and not available in Canada, except by special service connection.

Wi-Fi is generally available in most accommodations.

Just leave all that at home and enjoy the scenery.



Ford is a freelance writer in San Diego and can be reached at johnpatrick.ford@sddt.com.

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1 UserComments
Apiwat Ford 12:00am July 16, 2015

Great article and brought back great memories.