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Yarmouth to Digby
Many visitors arrive in Nova Scotia from Maine via the popular CAT that runs between Bar Harbour and Yarmouth. By doing so, they avoid the long drive through northern Maine and southern New Brunswick to reach Nova Scotia shores. The CAT is a fast and exciting way to cross the unpredictable Bay of Fundy, known for the highest tides in the world. The sleek ship makes several crossings every day, the most popular being the one that leaves earliest in the morning. One never knows what weather will be like on the Bay of Fundy. You can leave Bar Harbor in brilliant sunshine and drive off the CAT at the FerryTerminus at Yarmouth Harbour into a wall of fog. Yarmouth's weather is unpredictable. But that's part of the area's charm.
Whichever way one arrives, Nova Scotia welcomes you with open arms. Throughout the province you'll find excellent Visitor Information Centres, chock-a-block full of publications and pamphlets. Nova Scotia Tourism has made travel easy by dividing the province into a number of special interest routes. The town of Yarmouth marks the beginning of both the Evangeline and Lighthouse Trails.
The Evangeline Trail beckons visitors north with pretty coastal scenery, unique architecture, secluded coves and harbours. It winds through French Acadia, the earliest land settled by Europeans in Eastern Canada. The Trail was named for Evangeline, the mythical heroine in Longfellow's popular Victorian-era poem.
Yarmouth town is known for its contrasts. The shore can change from gorgeous white sand beaches to rocky ledges that sweep dramatically into the Bay of Fundy. You can encounter brilliant sunshine or pea-soup fog. What never changes is the kindness and friendliness of Yarmouth folk. Their warmth and hospitality are legendary. The area is also known for its proliferation of flowers, seabirds and animals. Depending on the season, you'll be treated to displays of wild lupin, iris and brier roses.
Founded in 1761, Yarmouth boasts excellent examples of early retail and residential architectural styles. The community takes pride in its history with museums such as the Pelton-Fuller House, W. Laurence Sweeny Museum, Yarmouth County Museum and Research Centre and Firefighters Museum of Nova Scotia. A self-guided tour, the "Yarmouth Walk", gives a broad perspective on the community's history and architecture. The town is noted for Fish & Chip wagons on the public wharf during high visitor seasons. Vendors have made serving battered deep-fried fish and crispy french fries into to a fine art. Being a seaport, seafood is abundant and well prepared in local restaurants.
No visit to Yarmouth County is complete without touring the Cape Forchu Scenic Drive which ends at Yarmouth Lighthouse. The light sits highon a spectacular rocky prominence that juts into the Bay at the western entrance to the harbour. Signs warn people not to get to close to the edge and not to climb on slippery rocks. The sea has claimed several lives in this area. There are some great beach-combing spots along Cape Forchu Scenic Drive. A monument is erected to all seafaring sons from Yarmouth County at John's Cove, the site of the first ship launch in the county which took place in 1764. Along the Cape Forchu route residents offer folk art and crafts, usually laid out on tables by the roadside. In typical Nova Scotian fashion you pay on the honour system by placing the money in a jar on the table.
Yarmouth County boasts Scots, Irish and French Acadian history. A number of annual festivals are held to honour this heritage including Festival Acadien du Wedgeport, Highland Dance Competitions, the Festival de La Barge and Festival Acadian de Sainte Anne du Ruisseau.
To thoroughly enjoy the Evangeline Trail, be prepared to take a number of side trips down gravel roads that lead to secluded harbours and sheltered coves. These byways provide the most unique experiences the Fundy shore has to offer. Wharfs, breakwaters, harbours and coves await discovery. Places like Pembroke Shore, Chegoggin Point Wharf and Sandfort Breakwater with the smallest drawbridge in North America are a photographer's delight. Salmon River with its old fish drying racks, is an unpretentious "as-is" attraction. These enclaves are unsophisticated, tiny working habitations and as one local fellow said, "We don't gussy-up for anybody. You take us as we come."
North of Yarmouth, from Port Maitland to St. Bernard, the Evangeline Trail becomes the longest, most interesting "main street" in the world. Acadians had a penchant for building homes and business close to the Highway. The overall appearance is of a string of buildings that runs for at least fifty miles on both sides of the highway like a long residential main street. Land sweeps to the sea on one side and to shore-lands on the other. Not only is there great scenery along the route but a wonderful sense of community.
The Port Maitland to St. Bernard area is known as Clare's French Shore on the Evangeline Trail. The highway hugs the shore for twenty-five miles. Each mile gives another intimate glimpse into French Acadian culture. The Acadian language is often spoken along the route but you will find it hard to understand as it is a mix of 17th century French with an interesting twist of Mi'Kmaq and English. In this area, the long spine of land that is Digby Neck slices south and west into the Bay of Fundy, creating sheltered St. Mary's Bay.
Be sure to turn-off Highway #1 to see the fishing village of Cape St. Mary, and Mavillette Beach. Cape View Restaurant at Mavillette Beach serves an excellent Rappie Pie, an Acadian specialty. From this restaurant there are views of gorgeous sunsets over St. Mary's Bay toward Digby Neck. Another local delicacy is pickled green onions and salted fish snacks, advertised for sale from houses along the route.
Smuggler's Cove is next on your list of must-sees. Watch for signs on Highway #1. There's no need to climb down to the shore at Smuggler's Cove. From high bluffs there are excellent views of the Bay and cave. Another stop should be at the Port of Meteghan which is home to a number of fishing fleets. If trailering, be sure to purchase some fresh seafood around the dock area. The community of Meteghan also boasts La Vieille Maison Museum and St. Alphonse Church.
French heritage is most concentrated from Saulnierville to St. Bernard. Important Acadian historical attractions are located in this area and include the Genealogical Centre, lst Acadian Cemetery, The Acadian Centre, St. Mary's Church. The Universite Ste-Anne and Musee Ste. Marie with its great display of church vestments and furnishings, photographs and written material, are located in Church Point.
Acadian history is intertwined with the Catholic religion. Many churches are located along the Evangeline Trail, all of them architectural beauties and well worth a visit. If doors are open and a sign posted out-front, you're welcome to stop and tour. Eglise Ste. Marie is one of the largest wooden churches in North America. The majestic granite-stone edifice of St. Bernard Church, largest along the Acadian route, was built over a period of 32 years.
Lighthouses line the trail and are signed so that visitors can enjoy great vistas over the Bay. In particular, Gilbert Cove has a restored decommissioned lighthouse that is open to the general public June through mid-September.
Your last stop before Digby, should be at the monument to Maude Lewis, Canada's own twentieth century, a primitive folk artist. Maude lived in the Digby and Marshalltown areas all her life. A steel structure, representing the exact size of diminutive Maude's small home sits on the Marshalltown site, along with a plaque that gives some personal details.
Although Digby is only 50 miles from Yarmouth, give yourself lots of time for exploration of tiny shore-side enclaves by spending one day driving between the two communities. If you're planning a trip in May, September or October, be prepared to find some restaurants and accommodations closed. All retail is closed on Sunday. In contrast, the months of July and August can be so busy you'll not find accommodation. It is highly recommended that you make accommodation reservations well in advance of any trip. For an all-day jaunt down the byways, pack a picnic lunch and stop every time you see a restroom facility. If you don't, you'll wish you had! Signage is unobtrusive so watch closely or you'll miss some great areas. Coffee and donut shops cannot be found on every corner. On the other hand, it is most refreshing not to be assaulted by fast food outlets at every turn in the road. Rural Nova Scotia is down-home Canada at it best. Enjoy!
If you chose to spend a night in Digby, dubbed the most romantic place in Canada, you're in for a treat. The town is home to the largest scallop fleet on the east coast. From Memorial Look-off on Water Street there are great views over Fisherman's Wharf, the fleet and The Joggin. Digby offers all tourism amenities including good accommodation, restaurants to suit all tastes and a wide variety of retail outlets.
IF YOU GO:
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
P.O. Box 220
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, B5A 4B2
#1-800-565 RODD (7633)
New Minas, Nova Scotia. B4N 3K8
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