Annapolis Royal Stories and Tips

Port Royal and the North Shore

St. Mary's interior Photo, Nova Scotia, Canada

(note, this is part of a "long weekend journal" but Port Royal could be visited as a day trip from Halifax, as well. It's about a 2 and a half hour drive on the highway, a little bit far but still doable)

We were up at 8 and down to the dining room for breakfast which was wonderful! Julie and Greg are great hosts and are very friendly and Greg is a fabulous cook! The dishes always arrive looking like works of art, too!

Our first destination is Port Royal, on the other side of the river. This is the site of the original settlement in 1605 making it the oldest permanent settlement north of Florida. It was recreated in the 1930s from original plans. It's not really a fort as such, it was a fur trading post that housed up to 44 men. The building surrounds a small courtyard and we had a look through most of it, chatting to the summer students dressed in period costume about the history of the fort and what life was like back then.

We retraced our route back through Annapolis and then took route 1 towards the north shore of the province. This is a predominantly French speaking area (but yes, they do speak English) and the road passes through small rural villages along the sparkling water of the bay that leads out into the ocean. On the opposite side of the bay is a long narrow peninsula and a few islands that separate this slice of water from the Bay of Fundy proper. There are a few whale watching tours available from there.

We passed through many small villages and towns and came to Saint Bernard where there is a large European style stone church that was built by local residents over 30 years in the early 20th century and consecrated in 1942. We parked up and went in for a look. The interesting thing was the inside of the church. It looks like it's all granite stones but it was plastered and the plaster was scored while still wet to look like blocks of stone. It had to be done in the space of about 30 minutes before the plaster dried! Behind the church, the graveyard slopes down to the water and it looks like a very peaceful resting place.

We got back in the car and couldn't turn the key!! What's going on???!!! We looked and tried various things, thinking there must be a button or release for it but no joy! In desperation, as there was absolutely nobody around, we called my nephew from whom we'd rented the car. He said we'd locked the steering wheel and were to jiggle it while turning the key. Wtf??? This sounded pretty daft but sure enough, it worked! Whew! At least we'd know what to do if it happened again!

Some miles down the road further, we stopped at another church in the community of Church Point, this time an early 20th century wooden one with a huge, tall spire. Apparently St. Mary's church is the biggest and tallest wooden building in North America with the top of the spire over 50 metres high! Impressive! Constructed between 1903 and 1905. The spire is over 50 m. tall and is ballasted with rock because of the strong winds off the bay. Inside the church is a model of it near the altar. The church is on the campus of Universite Sainte-Anne which is the only French university in Nova Scotia and only one of two in the Maritimes. The other is in Moncton, New Brunswick.

We looked around inside which was quite pretty. This church had stained glass which the other did not and a little gift shop manned by a student. Since we really hadn't noticed a lot of restaurants that appeared to be open, (though apparently we just weren't that observant!) we went to the small cafeteria in the university library next to the church for a sandwich and drink.

The road continued. We find it rural, with lots of nice little houses and lovely views over the water. Our final destination is the provincial park at Mavillette Beach by the village of Cape St. Mary. We arrive and walk through the dunes to the long sandy beach. No, we aren't planning on swimming, just walking the sands and enjoying the fresh sea air and breezes, watching people splash about in the waves and kids enjoying the sand. Nova Scotia is so lucky to be nearly surrounded by water and you're never very far from a beach.

We rejoin route 101 on the way back towards Annapolis but stop at the exit for the town of Digby, the largest populated centre along here. We need gas and food but decide to eat at the restaurant that's attached to the Irving station. Our meal is pretty good and we share a huge piece of coconut cream pie to top it off. The town of Digby is quite nice, with a pretty boardwalk along the waterfront, great seafood restaurants and a couple of small museums.

We also make a stop at Gilbert's Cove where we'd seen a sign for an old lighthouse and a cafe with craft shop. Unfortunately, the cafe was closed though they'd forgotten to take down their roadside "Open" flags. Ah well. We had a look and a photo stop at the old square lighthouse at the end of a dirt road. It, too was closed by now but does have a little gift shop and tea room in it. It was decommissioned some years ago but had been run by only two different people over nearly 70 years. Both people were members of the same family! Not a father and son, I don't think, but they were related.

Since we'd already eaten, we didn't have to find a restaurant in Annapolis. We sat in one of the antique filled sitting rooms for a bit, looking at the newspaper and choosing another dvd for later which we didn't end up watching as both of us had tired eyes from watching the road in all that sunshine! I did make use of the free wifi with my iPod touch but it was an early night for us! It doesn't seem right, going to bed early on a Friday night when you're on vacation but driving and getting in and out of the car and walking around can wear you out!

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