St Andrews By the Sea: The Quintessential Canadian Maritime Holiday
Serving as a popular summer retreat for more than a century, St Andrews By-The-Sea in New Brunswick on Canada’s eastern coast is one of those timeless seaside towns that after visiting makes you want to return each year as well. Sitting on the Bay of Fundy, an area famous for having some of the highest tides in the world – they can reach up to 30-feet!
The area is rich in history too. Loyalists settled the town in 1783, making it one of the oldest towns in the province. The homes and buildings many Loyalists shipped over from Castine, Maine during the American Revolution are set up on Water Street, where you can also find boutiques, sweet shops and restaurants housed in buildings with colorful facades. ‘
What makes this area especially notable though is that a fire never destroyed the main street, which means the buildings are original from the 1700 and 1800’s. With so much to offer, it is no wonder St. Andrews is still attracting a summer people crowd in search of a quintessential maritime holiday.
Here are 5 ways to make sure a trip tops:
Stay Where the History Is
It takes an incredible property to be so vacation worthy that you travel for the experience of staying there. But at the Algonquin Resort (part of Marriot’s Autograph Collection and the first resort in Canada), a Tudor style castle with a red slate roof and timber façade that sits on a hill overlooking the Bay of Fundy, I found myself perfectly content staying on the grounds.
The first night, I planned on getting to bed early but first made a stop on the porch to wind down for what I thought would be a few minutes. Nearly two hours later, I was still in my staked out spot, watching families play games of chess and Monopoly and others sitting by the fire pits outside where guests were passing along a guitar and singing tunes.
The property also boasts tennis courts, an outdoor and indoor pool with a waterslide and rooftop terrace where you can catch some of the best views of the area. One of the star amenities, however, is the 18-hole golf course with Passamaquoddy Bay views. It is one of the oldest golf courses in Canada and currently undergoing extensive renovations.
When it comes to dining on property, try Braxton’s (named for a former chef at the resort that was the first African-American chef in Canada) for the short rib poutine served on gnocchi or the Verdana for Breakfast where the salmon lox bagel became my go to each morning. You can also have food delivered to any of the public areas. Another cool offering here are ghost tours led by the resort’s bellmen that talk about the hotels haunted heritage in various rooms.
The hotel is walking distance from Kingsbrae Gardens, where you could easily spend a full afternoon exploring the different paths that lead to everything including a sculpture garden, rose garden and even an edible one.
Inside there are more than 50,000 varieties of trees, shrubs and plants spread over 27 acres. You don’t want to miss the chance to spot one of the oldest and most rare trees in the world, a Wollemi pine thought to have been extinct for more than two million years. Or, a visit to the Scents and Sensitivity Garden, designed for the blind, showcasing plants that have an interesting smell or texture and with names labeled in Braille.
To get the most out of the experience, enjoy a meal at the onsite café, Savour in the Garden, where the focus is on both seasonal and regional. A top pick is the lobster roll, which is served toasted and best enjoyed from the restaurants patio where you can watch the alpaca feeding at noon.
Island Quest Whale Watching Tour
The Bay of Fundy’s high tides comes nutrient-rich waters filled with little fish that attract more than 12 species of whales including finback, minke and humpback. And beyond whales, you may even spot dolphins, porpoises and seals.
To test our luck, we head to sea on a lobster yacht with Island Quest with biologists on board to talk about marine life along the way. On the way we enjoy the different coastal sights of lighthouses, rocky shoreline and seemingly endless stretches of sea.
As we approach deeper water, we are told whale sightings today are looking promising because birds are gathered feeding on the same fish (herrings and sardines) that the four fin whales we see next are also circling for.
We learn that these whales are the second largest species after the blue whale and can grow up to 80 feet and swim faster than most at up to 20 miles an hour. When the whales surfaced from the water high enough, we could see the symmetry in the color of their face, with one side being white and the other black. We must have seen the whales skim the surface a few dozen times and each time was exciting as the last, many of us passengers on board pointing and yelling “look” as soon as another would surface even though we knew it wouldn’t be long until another would soon follow.
Turtle Shore Adventure Jeep Tour
Another fun option in town is to take a Jeep Tour with Turtle Shore Adventures, where you will cover a lot of history with owner Genny Simard. She also offers beach and history walks but there is something that drew me to her convertible style burnt orange four wheel Jeep.
We start by talking about some of the quirky stories of town and visiting spots like the old jail built in 1832 that sits next to the courthouse built in 1840. We cruise down to the Pendlebury lighthouse, which is the oldest lighthouse on New Brunswick mainland that was once lit with sea, porpoise or whale oil back in the early 1800’s.
As we look out to see the shore, Genny tells us that at low tide you can find all kinds of artifacts from the past like old pieces of China and coal that would have come from England when it fell off the ships.
Next, she drives us to Ministers Island where we explore the restored former summer home of Sir William VanHorne, builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
To get there, you have to time it at low tide because you drive across the rocky ocean to get there. Time it differently and the road is impassable in a car. Once on the island, we walk through some of the 50 rooms in the Edwardian Cottage.
You don’t want to miss the chance to walk down the stone bathhouse where a natural swimming pool was buil
t taking advantage of water at high tide filling the pool. You can also see one of the largest livestock barns in North America, and the old windmill that used to power the island.
Oppenheimer-Prager Museum at Dayspring
St Andrews By-The-Sea is famous for its Loyalist era homes, and paying a visit to the Oppenheimer Prager Museum allows you to peek inside the largest home in town. But you’ll also get to explore a museum, which was opened by Vincent Pranger to showcase the work of his grandfather, Joseph Oppenheimer and mother, Eva Pranger.
One of the most notable parts of the museum is seeing a replica painting of Albert Einstein painted by Eva after her father’s portrait of Einstein (a friend of his) went missing during the Hitler regime. You also don’t want to miss seeing the photo of Pierre Trudeau, a friend of Eva’s, painted at the time he was Prime Minister. You will also find jewelry, toys, furniture and other memorabilia from Lady Beaverbrook who lived inside the home before Vincent purchased it.