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Some tips on
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Digby to Annapolis Royal
Nova Scotia

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By Pat Mestern

DigbyLooking for succulent scallops? You can't go wrong in Digby, home to one of the largest scallop fleets along the eastern seaboard. Digby is located fifty miles from Yarmouth and overlooks both the Annapolis Basin and Digby Gut. Memorial Look-Off on Water Street in downtown Digby, affords a good view of the scallop fleet and wharf area. The Look-Off is part of Admiral's Walk and the waterfront Boardwalk. Digby is so enamored with scallops it holds Scallop Days Festival in August each year and bills itself as the Scallop Capital of the World.   

Evagaline Trail - Gift ShopArea restaurants certainly believe in the claim. Good scallop dishes are included on many menus- scallop sandwiches, scallop laden seafood stew, scallop chowder. Mmm good! Try lunch at Digby's Café & Bookshop at 9 Water Street where homemade breads are used for sandwichesand soups are thick and hearty. Other local specialties include dulce, Solomon Grundy and Digby Chicks.

As Digby is an active port, its main retail area has all the services needed for a small town including some nice nautically themed gift & craft shops. A well-stocked Visitor Information Centre is located in the heart of the downtown. Digby is suppose to be the most romantic place in Canada. Ask Visitor Information staff why. Other attractions including the Digby Heritage Centre and Admiral Digby Museum, are within walking distance of the main street.

Bear RiverNo visit to this area of the Evangeline Trail is complete without driving inland a few miles to Bear River which advertises itself as the Little Switzerland of Nova Scotia. The name stems from the number of buildings along Main Street that sit on stilts in the tidal river. Driving into the tiny village has its own visual appeal as the community is situated in a wooded river valley. The area is home to a number of good artisans and crafts persons. In usual Nova Scotian individualism, some buildings in Bear River are brightly painted and a real eye-treat. Flight of Fancy on Main Street represents more than 200 professional artisans, working in various mediums. Their second floor Art Gallery features the works of well-known Nova Scotia artists.

Bear River -The WindmillBear River Visitor Centre is located in a windmill just behind Main Street. One of the most unique area attractions is located right behind the Centre in the form of an environmentally friendly, solar aquatic waste treatment facility. Visitors are invited to take a peep at the operation by walking around the outside of the greenhouse. Visuals explain the operation of the treatment plant. Very interesting!

After visiting Bear River, return to the Evangeline Trail-Highway #1 for a pleasant drive along high ground and through dyked marshlands to Annapolis Royal. Plan to spend several days in this gorgeous historic town. Day trips can be make from Annapolis Royal to places such as Kejimkujik National Park and Caledonia.

Port Royal HabitationFrench settlement of the Annapolis Royal area began in 1605 with the erection of Port Royal Habitation, site of the first mainland European settlement. The habitation was designed by Samuel De Champlain. After an expedition from Jamestown, Virginia looted and burned Port Royal in 1613, no further habitation was undertaken for many years.

Port Royal InteriorThe re-creation and interpretation of Port Royal is a credit to Parks Canada. In a beautiful and sympathetically done reconstruction, twentieth century craftsmen duplicated the work of 17th century shipwrights. Reconstruction of the fort was completed in 1939-40 using the original Samuel De Champlain plans. Shipwrights, carpenters and builders, some nearly eight years old worked on the project. Look for curved support beams, pegged joints and fine finish carpentry.

North Hills, another interesting attraction, is located at Granville Ferry on the road down the peninsula toward Port Royal. The wood-shingled salt box is one of the earliest European structures still standing in Canada. The home is tucked between the oldest traveled road in Canada and a low drift known locally as the North Hills, hence the name given the property by Robert Pallen Patterson, a successful antique dealer in Toronto. After retiring to the home, he did sympathetic addition and restoration on the building which then became the focal point for his extensive collection of c1714 - 1830 Georgian textiles, glass, furniture, silver and ceramic. After his death in 1974, the property was bequeathed to Nova Scotia Museum. As part of the museum complex, North Hills is open to the general public. Both Port Royal and North Hills are within six miles of Annapolis Royal.

North Hills near AnnapolisThe town of Annapolis Royal is known for its wonderful assortment of heritage properties. One good introduction to the community is by self-guided walking tour using a pamphlet - Footprints with Footnotes, A walking tour down Canada's Oldest Thoroughfare.

After Fort Anne, a second military base, was built c1635, a generation after Port Royal Habitation was burned to the ground, the area quickly became the cradle of French Acadie. By 1710 the fort was in the hands of the British. With the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755, several hundred United Empire Loyalists were given land. Fort Anne underwent modifications during both the 18th and 19th centuries. Re-constructed on the original site in 1917, Fort Anne is the oldest designated National Historic Site in Canada. The complex sits in the heart of the town of Annapolis Royal. You can't miss the tall chimneys of the reconstructed Officer's Quarters and outlying fortifications.

Fort Anne    Port Royal Chimneys

Today you can admire the fort's c1702 earthwork fortification, see the Powder magazine, Sally port, Black hole, Bastions and Ravelin. Exhibits in the Officers Quarters detail area history. On display is one of two original copies of 1621 Charter of New Scotland, signed at Windsor Castle on September 10, 1621. The Officer's Quarters is also home to the Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry, a beautiful 8 ft x 18 ft work-of-art that was completed by more than 100 volunteers who used at least three million stitches before they were through.

Check out the military cemetery right next Fort Anne. The oldest English epitaph in Nova Scotia can be found on the c1720 grave belonging to Bathiah Douglass. Try to time your visit for a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday evening when costumed guides give interesting lantern tours through the graveyard.

Annapolis RoyalAn innovative approach to history is apparent in the Frederick Sinclair Inn, a work in progress. The building, dating to the late 1700's is undergoing stabilization and rejuvenation. What visitors see is the restoration of certain aspects of the building's past. Tours are by appointment and worth the effort.

Annapolis Royal Gardens was established in 1981 on a one hundred acre site that portrays the history of gardening and agricultural pursuits. The site includes themed gardens, a Marsh Look- Off and rough dyke trail that illustrates Acadian and modern-day dyke work. As is apparent while driving the Evangeline Trail, low lying bay marshland was extensively dyked during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to provide more productive farmland. The Gardens include a replica c1671 Acadian home and potage garden. Hungry? Secret Garden Restaurant serves lunch and afternoon tea in a pleasant setting overlooking the Knot Garden.

Bear RiverA tidal generating station piques one's interest at Annapolis Royal. The station was built to demonstrate the efficiency of large-diameter, straight flow turbines in salt water. Its Visitor Centre has an excellent video and display that explains how tidal waters create electricity. The Centre also has an excellent selection of area and provincial information.

While in Annapolis Royal, plan to have one meal at Newman's Restaurant on Lower Saint George Street. This facility has been written up in a number of publications as a great place to eat. Proprietors take great pride in serving fresh local produce, seafood and meat. For dessert, try a scoop of their home-made melt-in-your-mouth wild blueberry & cinnamon ice cream over a slice of wild blueberry pie.

Hillsdale House Bed & Breakfast, makes an ideal place to call home for several nights. From centrally located Hillsdale which is close to the public gardens, you can walk to the attractions and restaurants in the historic area. Guests at Hillsdale House, a c1849 early Victorian home with sympathetic additions, enjoy nicely decorated rooms, public areas and great breakfasts!

Annaplos RoyalOutdoor enthusiasts should visit Kejimkujik National Park, known as Keji to the locals. The park is both a national park and a national historic site. Mi'Kmaq have an ancestral history in the area that goes back at least 10,000 years. More than 500 petroglyphs can be found in the park, the most unusual being that of Jipijka'm, the horned serpent. Keji offers camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming and interpretive programs. Caledonia, a crossroads community in Queens County, just south of the park has a great hardware & general store and the North Queens Heritage House Museum. The laid-back Whitman Inn near Keji includes among its amenities a dining room, parlour, library, games room and indoor swimming pool.

A few things to keep in mind when traveling through Nova Scotia. Retail shops are not open on Sundays. Road signs aren't all that good in some areas so pay mind to those you do see. On the other hand, it is commendable and pleasant to see that there are few garish or large sings along roadsides in Nova Scotia. Do take in all the special events that are advertised. You're never a stranger in Nova Scotia and you'll have a great time at community "shindigs".


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