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Daniel_Williams Jul 12th, 2017 05:24 AM

*Port aux Basques*

I ended up taking Gateway Bus Lines ($36) from the Millbrook Mall to Port aux Basques instead of DRL since 1)it left Corner Brook at 3:45pm rather than 6pm, giving me a 4 1/2 hour layover in Corner Brook rather than DRL's 7 hour wait and 2)it left from the exact spot that Martin's Taxi arrived from Woody Point, so saved me from getting an extra taxi to the DRL stop.

While there were pleasant stretches of road sprinkled throughout, my favourite part of the Transcanada Highway from Corner Brook south was the mountains approaching Port aux Basques, which to me had a beautifully distinct look with what appeared to be slots between some lakeside flat-topped green mountains, as well as the near-pyramid-shaped verdant mountain that reminded me a bit of some Guatemalan peaks.

I almost instantly liked the look of Port aux Basques upon arrival. The 4000-person-town I think offers a delightfully atmospheric beginning to the island for those arriving in Newfoundland there via the shorter ferry from Nova Scotia with its slightly-elevated, barren, moss-green rocky coasts visible in one direction and low-rise painted fishing-village-like wooden homes visible in the other direction with sea beyond. Scott's Cove in the heart of Port-aux-Basques, right next to the St. Christopher's Hotel where I stayed, had some cute colourful vendors' mini-shacks surrounded by flags in the shape of rainbow-coloured sails or boats. These flags gave the waterfront area a delightfully festive look that I assumed (incorrectly?) was unrelated to a Gay pride event there.

Walking from my hotel the next morning to the Marine Atlantic Ferry Terminal, I was sorry that I had only planned an evening and a morning in Port aux Basques, as I would have liked to have explore more. All I ended up having time to do was walk a bit on the boardwalk and have a fish cake supper at the 1 Ton Pub & Grill during my rainy evening. By the way, beware if you do decide to walk to the Ferry Terminal from the St. Christopher's Hotel that even though it LOOKS like it's only a 10-minute walk given the distance on a map, that the terminal is at a lower altitude and is gated in the direction of St. Christopher's. To get to the terminal, it took me 25-30 minutes as I had to cross a pedestrian-unfriendly bridge quite a bit past the terminal and then come back toward the terminal on the shoulder of a curvy road; I was starting to get anxious about being late for the ferry boarding!

*Ferry Port aux Basques-North Sydney. Final Thoughts on Newfoundland*

I felt a certain sadness to be returning to the Mainland as I boarded the MV Highlanders boat on the Marine Atlantic-provided mini-bus. Whether it was leaving the warmth & friendliness of the Newfie-accented folk or leaving the phenomenal scenery and hiking opportunities, I felt that even though it was Canada's 150th anniversary and passengers had gotten an $150 voucher for their next Marine Atlantic trip, that there wasn't the same sense of festive excitement and anticipation to be leaving Newfoundland as there was on the MV Atlantic Vision ferry I took to Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula some 10 days earlier. It seemed almost a communal sadness to be pulling away from that magical isle that is Newfoundland. However, it is quite possible that I was projecting my own thoughts onto others as I ate my rather disappointing meal where I had a choice of mostly burgers-and-fries type options in the dining area, comparing it to the superb meal I'd had on the Argentia,Nfld.-bound ship a week-and-a-half prior.

*Next: North Sydney-PEI. I return to the Gentle Island after a 7-year Absence*

nfldbeothuk Jul 12th, 2017 08:02 AM

First, I admire your intrepidness (if that's a word). I've lived in NL most of my life, and I'd hesitate to travel here without a car,unless it was to visit St. John's and environs.
I'm glad you found a way to make it work, happy that you saw the beauty of my often-dismissed hometown (Corner Brook), and sorry that you didn't get to see more of Gros Morne (which really needs more than 2 days even if you have a car!).
Yes, the multi-coloured flags in Port aux Basques are there all summer to attract visitors to the vendors, and I THINK the colours are meant to evoke the Colours of Newfoundland tourism commercial (

Daniel_Williams Jul 12th, 2017 11:15 AM

*North Sydney-PEI*

I only realized after I purchased my ticket that getting from Cape Breton Island to PEI involved three different buses: Sydney-Truro NS; Truro-Amherst NS; Amherst-Charlottetown. While this might sound like an ordeal, the schedules at Maritime Bus are really well thought-out, that only a half-hour wait in Truro and a 15-minute wait in Amherst were involved.

*Prince Edward Island*

My friend runs a B&B about 20 km outside of Charlottetown, a profession he unquestionably has a knack for, being one who loves hosting, loves cooking, loves gardening and loves collecting all sort of treasures for his little cottages. I enjoyed experiencing his highly rural living and meeting some of his friendly neighbours, quite a few of whom have the sort-of-country-British-Isles-sounding PEI accent, something I wasn't even aware existed on my only previous visit to the province, when I stayed with an Ontarian couple in Charlottetown in the summer of 2010! Even some children & young adults speak with this accent, as I saw with my friend's plumber and the ever-so-charming Orwell Corner Historic Village, which re-enacted life in a 19th century PEI farming community.

I remembered that PEI had red soil, rocks and beaches, but I think one forgets HOW beautiful it is until you are back within its midst. It's funny how almost immediately after crossing the bridge to New Brunswick, the soil turns back to brown.

In Charlottetown, we saw some glorious tall ships leave Charlottetown Harbour and for $5, I visited the Victorian period Beaconsfield House, which belonged to a wealthy, ostentatious shipowner named James Peake. Actors and actresses walked around town in 19th century costumes to create an early Charlottetown semblance. Walking the streets of Charlottetown was sort of nostalgic after so long an absence; I was amazed how much Charlottetown has grown since my last visit 7 years ago!

At the Confederation Center, we went to Anne of Green Gables, the Musical. I was very impressed with the Broadway-like production quality. What I was expecting to be light, maybe slightly cheesy fun, brought me to tears at times with the stellar acting and singing; I especially loved the actress playing Marilla Cuthbert and the incredible acrobatic dancing.

We also did a tour of a woman's Cornwall garden, which was featured in a recent Victoria magazine article. For such a remote location, there were dozens upon dozens of visitors who were cooing and exclaiming over Ms. Aiken's tearooms, pond, statues, weigelas, mock oranges and delphinium. Well, it WAS quite the stunning garden!

An outing to the Dunes, which has not only a cafe but also a phenomenal collection of Indonesian and PEI art and furnishing, brought us again to yet another spectacularly-arranged garden with a rich blue intercoastal waterway, dunes and north shore all gorgeously visible in the distance. This Dunes visit was capped off by supper at the old-world Victorian charm of Dalvay-by-the-Sea.

Mostly, though, PEI for me was about relaxing. Getting on my bike either alone or with my friend and pedaling for hours on empty manure-smelling roads and the magnificent Confederation (Bike) Trail surrounded by the red soil fields as countless gold finches and yellow warblers fluttered ahead of me and bald eagles swirled overhead. At one point, I even saw a seal bobbing in & out of the Vernon River as it was swept in, along with likely some tasty fish, due to the high tide!

As Maritime Bus left Charlottetown and crossed the bridge toward the steep muddy banks of the Petitcodiac River of Moncton, New Brunswick, from which I would catch VIA Rail back home, I again was a bit sad to be leaving the friendly peacefulness of the Gentle Island. I reflected on what an amazing trip I'd had to Atlantic Canada with each day filled with discovery and yet simultaneously much peace and opportunities for healthy exercise! I hope that each of you visits this magnificent part of the world some day.

In fact, with this trip, I've now spent at least one night in all 4 Atlantic provinces, and adding Newfoundland this year means I've now set foot in all 10 Canadian provinces. Fascinatingly enough, this accomplishment makes me realize the huge amount I have left to discover in each of them, including my home province of Quebec.

Thanks for Reading & Happy Travels! Daniel

Daniel_Williams Jul 12th, 2017 11:34 AM

xcountry-- Some folks saw some bears at the Green Garden Trail the day I did the Lookout Trail. I was HOPING not to see any :). And by the way I know exactly where you're talking about on the North Head Trail and I was VERY GLAD those chains were there as the drop is dizzying!

thursdaysd, laverendrye-- Thanks for enjoying! And no worries, no stretch of highway in Newfoundland I saw resembled in the least I-95 :).

nfldbeothuk-- Thanks for the explanation of the Port aux Basques flags. And while I too am sorry that I didn't get to see more of Gros Morne (Woody Point I discovered books up quite early, so I was only able to get 2 nights), I'm amazed I was able to plan a way to see it AT ALL as I originally thought it would be impossible! PS I've been saying nice things about Corner Brook to everyone I've spoken to. :)

xcountry Jul 12th, 2017 12:09 PM

Daniel you might enjoy this thread which offers different perspectives on trail safety.

Daniel_Williams Jul 22nd, 2017 07:41 AM

Thanks xcountry for sharing this North Head trail discussion, on which people seem to have strong opinions. The trail was a definite highlight of my visit to St. John's. There may have been but I didn't notice if there was a warning sign about possible danger.

unaryan Jun 6th, 2018 11:24 PM

Canadian Idyll
Dear Daniel

During this winter I started researching a 3/4 week exploration of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & PEI by public transport - and found your blog. Thought all my Christmasses had come at once but unfortunately failed to note your details & promptly lost you again. Up early today, decided on one last trawl & eureka, there you were!
Q: We ( archaeologist Con Manning & moi) plan to leave Dublin Irl mid- Aug. Where do you think we should start, Halifax or St John’s, given the likely weather? I’m a huge fan of the late great Alastair McLeod so NS is a must & I’d like to avoid the crowds if possible..
Thanks for your wonderfully informative and entertaining account, I so hope I can now make this work.

Daniel_Williams Jun 23rd, 2018 05:42 AM

Hello Una,

Sorry I'm only now noticing your message. Thank you for your kind words about my report; I'm glad you enjoyed and best of all, found it helpful. August is a good time of year for the Maritimes & Newfoundland. I might be too late in replying but I don't think it matters terribly which you do first. For non-Atlantic Canadian anglophone North Americans, I'd probably suggest Nova Scotia first as Newfoundland feels more different from what they know. Newfoundland also has more dramatic scenery (not that Nova Scotia is a slouch in this regard) and it would be fun to save that for last, to have something to look forward to.

Wishing you a fantastic trip in one of my favourite parts of the world!


unaryan Jun 23rd, 2018 07:56 AM

And P E I??
Great to hear from you Daniel, many thanks. I take your point about seeing some of NS first. However our only direct flight option is to St Johnís.. So Iím considering exploring that area first, then taking a ferry to NS, also PEI, then a ferry back to NFL and exploring the Gros Morne region. Feel free to tell me if thatís bonkers! About PEI- I realise you have a friend there which changes everything. But perhaps you could recommend a base place? And will we need to hire a car there? I hope youíre doing another fascinating trip this summer and writing about it, something else to look forward to!

All best, Una

Daniel_Williams Jun 24th, 2018 05:23 AM

Hi Una,

I have visited PEI only twice so others may be able to advise better. Most people do hire cars frankly everywhere in Atlantic Canada including PEI, as there are precious few public transit options in this part of the world, so one is limited in what one can do without one. Nevertheless, for those who don't drive, I can say basing oneself in Charlottetown can make for a pleasant car-less trip as I did this back in 2010 before I had a friend living on the island. Charlottetown has a lovely walkable core and there were shuttles out to Cavendish (Anne of Green Gables house). We enjoyed some great cycling routes out of Charlottetown and in the Cavendish area if that sort of thing interests you.

Best wishes,, Daniel

unaryan Aug 15th, 2018 01:28 PM

Made it!
Largely thanks to your great blog Daniel, we have just arrived in Halifax & are staying in The Waverley Inn. Following the literary thread, we head to Cape Breton on Friday hoping to pick up traces of the wonderful Alastair MacLeod. Five days there, six days on PEI and 16 days in Newfoundland ( just reread The Shipping News) Finally, weíre not driving ourselves but Highland Tours here have got us off to a good start & we managed to get a booking with McCarthyís Party in Newfoundland. Honestly I donít think Iíd have managed to pull it together if I hadnít found your blog!
Warmest thanks.

Daniel_Williams Aug 18th, 2018 08:57 AM

Hi unaryan,

What fun to think you're at the Waverley Inn! Oscar Wilde suite? So glad things you were able to make this trip happen. How great to be able to get to have such an extended visit to the Atlantic provinces. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! Best, Daniel

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