Nova Scotia’s Acadian Coast is a feast for the senses at any time of year, but particularly in the autumn months when the trees are a patchwork of orange, yellow and crimson.
Fall is Mother Nature’s favourite season to show off and that makes it the ideal time for a Maritime road trip.
A journey from Annapolis Royal to Halifax will take about two and a half hours — if you don’t stop. But stopping is half of the fun, so it’s a good idea to plan to spend a full day exploring this scenic stretch of highway. You will find that this part of Canada is filled with sights, sounds and tastes that reveal the amazing history of a proud, spirited and indomitable people known as the Acadians.
Here are just a few of many suggested stops.
Port Royal — Port Royal was established in 1605 when Samuel de Champlain and Sieur de Mons sailed into the Annapolis Basin and built the Habitation.
It was the first permanent European settlement north of Florida and the first permanent settlement in Canada. It was established two years before the English settled Jamestown, Va., three years before the founding of Quebec and 15 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. It’s no wonder locals call it the birthplace of Canada.
As the first European settlement in Canada, Port Royal has been designated a national historic site and a replica of the Habitation has been built there. Costumed interpreters guide you through historic buildings recreating the look and feel of one of the earliest settlements in North America.
Annapolis Royal — Considered by some to be Canada’s most historic town, Annapolis Royal is a real treat to visit. With a population of fewer than 1,000 people and an abundance of historic buildings, it isn’t hard to imagine yourself back in time. More than 150 homes and buildings in the town have been officially designated as heritage sites and the streetscape has been designated a National Historic District. Be sure to pick up a free touring map at the visitor centre and take in a free self-guided walking tour of the town.
Fort Anne —Fort Anne National Historic Site played an important role in Canadian history. As the former seat of government for Acadia, the site was the scene of many battles between the French and the English as they fought to dominate North America. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the conquest of Fort Anne was considered essential to the domination of the eastern part of Canada known by the French as Acadie and by the English as Nova Scotia (or New Scotland).
Local residents campaigned successfully to have the site preserved and maintained for future generations and, in 1917, Fort Anne became Canada’s first administered national historic site.
Grand-Pré — Located in the Annapolis Valley near the town of Wolfville, Grand Pré is more strongly identified with the Acadian Deportation than any other site.
This is due in large part to the fact that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow chose Grand Pré as the setting for his epic poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, which was published in 1847.
Longfellow’s poem is a story about a young Acadian girl from Grand-Pré who is separated from her betrothed.
The poem touched millions of people around the world and became a symbol of the perseverance of the Acadian people.
Between 1755 and 1763, the British governor and the Nova Scotia Council seized lands and forced the French Acadian population to leave Nova Scotia. In 1755 alone, approximately 7,000 Acadians were deported. They were held on prison ships for several weeks before being moved to their final destinations and more than one-third of them died before reaching their destinations. An additional 10,000 are estimated to have died from displacement during the winter of 1755–1756. There were approximately 23,000 Acadians before the deportation, according to provincial records, but based on British records, less than half survived.
The government of Canada acquired Grand-Pré Memorial Park in 1957 and declared it a national historic site in 1961. The grounds of the site are beautiful and make a great picnic stop and the interpretive signage can tell you a lot about the history.
Wolfville —With fewer than 4,000 residents, the town of Wolfville has a distinctly New England feel to it. The small downtown area is surrounded by shady neighbourhoods with elegant homes. After the Acadian settlers were forced off the land, the area was settled by transplanted New Englanders. It’s worth a stop in town to wander the leafy streets and see the stunning grounds of Acadia University.
If you go:
• There are plenty of wonderful bed and breakfasts and inns to enjoy in this region of Canada. Consider staying at the Queen Anne Inn in Annapolis Royal. The historic mansion was built in 1865 and was selected as one of the top 10 accommodations in the Maritimes. The inn has 12 rooms and rates start at $119 per person during the autumn months, from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30. For more information, visit www.queenanneinn.ns.ca or call 1-877-536-0403.
• If you are looking for quaint accommodations in the city, consider staying at the Waverly inn in Halifax. Located within walking distance of Dalhousie University, the harbour and many major attractions, and points of interest in the downtown area, this historic inn has 34 private rooms and free onsite parking. Rooms start at $109 per night and include breakfast. For more information, visit www.waverlyinn.com or phone 1-800-565-9346.
• Direct flights from Calgary or Edmonton to Halifax can be arranged through Air Canada or WestJet. Prices vary depending upon the departure date. Visit their websites or contact your travel agent for exact pricing for your specific dates.
l For more information on visiting Nova Scotia, visit the official tourism website at novascotia.com or call 1-800-565-0000.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.