Canada RV Travel Tips – RVing Nova Scotia & the Canadian Rockies!

Taking an RV into Canada to explore the Canadian Rockies or the Atlantic Maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is very easy, but there are a few fun and funky things we thought fellow RVers would appreciate knowing about.

TRAVEL TIPS FOR RVers THAT ARE PLANNING A TRIP TO CANADA:

For starters, you need a passport to cross the border into Canada. The border agent in the booth at the Calais border crossing in downeast Maine asked us a bunch of questions about where we were going and how long we’d be staying. He did not look inside our trailer. It was very easy. Likewise, crossing the border north of Eureka, Montana, at Roosville, British Columbia was a quick affair, and our trailer was not checked.

Coming back over the border the US border in Calais, Maine, the agent wanted to check our fridge for fruits and veggies. The only thing in our veggie drawer was a peach, and he took it. Crossing into the US at Chief Mountain, Montana, the border agent took the keys to our trailer and opened it up and inspected it himself (we offered to get out of the truck and accompany him, but he refused). This time we had no fruits or veggies in the fridge, and nothing was confiscated. Checking things over later, we assume he also looked in the basement compartment of our fifth wheel trailer, as we found it was unlocked when we arrived where we were going, and we’re sure we’d locked it when we’d packed up to leave Canada.

Credit and Debit Cards

To avoid having our cards declined at stores in Canada, we called our credit card companies and banks before we crossed the border to let them know we’d be traveling in Canada.

Because every transaction on a credit card or debit card involves exchanging money between Canadian dollars and US dollars, most credit cards and banks charge a 3% fee for making the exchange, no matter where you use the card (i.e., at an ATM or restaurant or gift shop). This 3% charge on every transaction quickly adds up!

Some credit card companies and banks list the 3% fee as line item on their statement. Others may not.

If you will be spending a long time in Canada, or plan to do many repeat visits, consider getting a credit card and checking account with Capital One. They do not charge a currency exchange fee on their credit and debit cards.

Getting Cash

On each visit to Canada, we were in Canada for three to six weeks and we used only $20-$50 in cash (to do laundry). If you need cash, you can get it without paying an ATM fee by asking for cash over on a small debit card purchase at a big supermarket like the popular supermarket chain Sobeys.

We also had clerks in tiny mom-and-pop stores change a US $20 bill for us so we could either make a purchase from them or could get some coins to finish drying our laundry next door.

By the way, $1 coins are called “Loonies” for the cute loon on the back of the coin and $2 coins are “Toonies” to rhyme with Loonies.

Data / Phone Plans

Verizon MiFi Jetpack in Canada

Verizon MiFi Jetpack shows “GSM” for Global Service in Canada – For a $2/day surcharge.

It’s worthwhile to contact your cell phone provider and mobile internet data provider to see what happens when you take their phone or internet device into Canada. Most companies will charge high rates if their phones or internet devices are used in Canada.

The Verizon MiFi data plan can be used in Canada on the Canadian cell tower system for a surcharge of $2/day. We found a surcharge of $60/month for the convenience of having internet access from inside our RV all the time was money well spent.

An alternative is to suspend the data account. This can be done for a $15 fee for up to 90 days. If you stay longer than 90 days, just suspend it for another 90 days. When you return to the US, whether the 90 days is up or not, simply take the plan off of suspension and your phone or device will be usable immediately.

The number of days the account was suspended will be tacked onto the end of the contract.

It may be possible to swap out the SIM card in a smartphone for one from a Canadian carrier, but from what we saw, it is brand and model dependent. Some can and some can’t. Canada has a lot of cell phone providers and we were overwhelmed by it all.

Internet Access via WiFi

There is ample free and open (no password) internet access in both the Canadian Rockies and Nova Scotia via WiFi at town halls, visitors centers, big box stores like Walmart, restaurants and coffee shops.

Unlike the US where almost all WiFi signals are password protected, there is usually a free signal available in the more populated areas. However, they aren’t always all that fast and, of course, they aren’t secure.

Currency Conversion

The following links give the current currency conversion between US and Canadian dollars:

Canadian Dollars to US Dollars
US Dollars to Canadian Dollars

Gas and Diesel prices New Brunswick Canada

1.10 $C / liter = $3.30 $US / gallon
Note: diesel is cheaper than gas!

Fuel Costs – Converting Canadian $ per Liter to US $ per Gallon

Contrary to many crazy rumors we’ve heard, fuel prices in Canada are about 20% higher than fuel prices in the US. That’s it.

The easiest way to get from Canadian $/liter to US $/gallon is to bundle it all into one conversion factor taking two things into account:

— There are 3.79 liters in a gallon.
— The current exchange rate (it was 0.8 $C to 1.0 $US when we went)

Converting from $C / liter to $US / gallon uses this conversion factor:

$US / gallon = (3.79) x (exchange rate) for the price you see advertised for fuel

During our visit the conversion factor was: 3.79 * 0.8 = 3.03 or approximately 3.

So, we multiplied the advertised gas price (or other liquid liter price) by 3 to get the equivalent US dollars per gallon.

For instance, the sign says diesel is 1.097 (Canadian) per liter (call it 1.10 Canadian). Multiply that by 3 and it’s around $3.30 (US) per gallon, or a little over.

In 2015, we had been paying $2.79 per gallon on the east coast, so paying $3.30 per gallon in Nova Scotia was not that much higher (about 20%).

In 2016, we had been paying about $2.39 per gallon in Montana, so paying $2.70 to $3.00 per gallon in the Canadian Rockies was not that much higher (again, about 20%).

We also found that New Brunswick was slightly higher (averaging around $1.25 per liter) than Nova Scotia (averaging around $1.10 per liter).

The highest we’d seen in 3 months of travel up from Florida through Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia through New York to Maine had been $3.39 in Pennsylvania. Most of the places we’d gassed up had been below $3.00 / gallon.

Sales Tax

If you see a great sale on something because the price is low and the conversion math in your head makes it seem like a steal, don’t forget that there is a much larger sales tax than in most American states.

During our visits, the sales tax in New Brunswick was 13%, the sales tax in Nova Scotia was 15% and the sales tax in British Columbia was 12%. Alcohol is taxed a little extra and other goods are taxed a little less.

Comparative Cost of Groceries and Beer

We found that groceries were just slightly more expensive than the eastern states and New England where we had been traveling prior to visiting Nova Scotia. Groceries were perhaps 5% to 10% higher for identical items. The same proved true in the Canadian Rockies as compared to Idaho and Montana.

Beer and cigarettes are heavily taxed, and we found the typical cost of a six pack of darker beer was around US $10-$12.

In the National Parks in the Canadian Rockies, everything is priced a little higher simply because these are heavily visited tourist destinations.

Microbrew Beer

For lovers of dark ales, porters and stouts, the selection in Nova Scotia is almost non-existent. After trying every “dark” ale we could find, and discovering that they were all just a shade darker than Bud Light, we discovered a wonderful brew called Propeller Porter.

Propeller Porter Beer in Nova Scotia Canada

We really liked Propeller Porter.

In the Canadian Rockies we had much better luck with finding good darker microbrew beers.

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

Parks Canada (similar to the National Park Service in America) offers various ways to pay the entrance fees at the national parks. There are day rates but there is also an annual pass called the Discovery Pass.

The easiest way to get the Discovery Pass is when you arrive at the entrance gate to a National Park. The fee when we got ours in 2016 was C$136.40 per couple/family group.

Because Canada is celebrating its 150th year of confederation in 2017, all the National Parks entrance fees will be waived in 2017. So, the ranger happily informed us that our 2016 pass would be effective for two years, which is another way of looking at it.

There is more info here: Parks Canada Discovery Pass Info

Entering Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Knowing we’d be in Canada’s National Parks for a while, we bought a Discovery Pass as we drove into Kootenay National Park near Radium Hot Springs

Navigating the Web

The first time you do a Google search in Canada, you may be surprised to see that rather than www.google.com you end up on www.google.ca. The search results are quite different, because the search is done primarily on Canadian websites.

This is a wonderful chance to see how cyberspace looks from another vantage point, and we truly enjoyed browsing the internet with a Canadian slant.

However, if you get lonely for the Google that you know, simply enter the following:

http://www.google.com/ncr

The “/ncr” will go away the next time you visit Google.

Time Zone

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are in the Atlantic Time Zone which is one hour earlier than Eastern Standard Time, so you will need to set your clocks forward when you cross the border.

We have atomic clocks in our RV that beam up to satellites every so often to get the current time of day according to the time zone they think they are in (we tell them what time zone they are in via buttons on the back of the clock).

Unfortunately, these are American clocks that don’t have a setting for Atlantic Time. So, we spent three weeks in Nova Scotia not really knowing the correct time. The manual override on the bedroom clock worked okay, but the living room clock insisted on beaming up despite being set on manual, and unfortunately the satellite it got its time from was four hours off.

Oh well! The computers had the right time, and who really cared what time it was anyway?

Canadian Tire

There are lots of great boutique stores and wondrous shopping experiences to be found in the Canadian Maritimes, and Walmart and all the other big box stores have a strong presence in urban parts of New Brunswick (less so in Nova Scotia). One incredible store that is well worth a visit is Canadian Tire. It is a combination of Walmart, Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Target all rolled into one. They also sell tires.

Weather

Nova Scotia was having a cool summer during our visit in June and July, but more important than that was the variability of the weather. In general, we found the coast could often be foggy or rainy, so we tried to make hay when the sun was shining.

Here’s a classic eight day forecast for the pretty twon of Lunenburg on the South Shore:

Lunenburg weather 10 day

What’s the forecast? A little bit of everything!

We visited the Canadian Rockies ahead of the main tourist season in May. We saw high temps ranging from as low as the 40’s to as high as the 80’s (Fahrenheit). We saw low temps get as low as the 20’s. We saw beautiful sunny days, snow, sleet and rain. Be prepared for anything and everything!

Later in the season, the Canadian Rockies is much warmer, but can still throw a cold day at your. The trade-off is that the number of tourists sky rockets.

 

DECIPHERING THE ROAD SIGNS IN NOVA SCOTIA

Striking off on the highway in New Brunswick was ordinary enough until we noticed some of the highway signs flying by. Canada’s official languages are both English and French, so the road signs are written in both languages. What a cool truck scale sign!

Truck scale sign New Brunswick Canada

We’d never seen a truck scale sign like this before!

Then we were reminded that Canada uses the metric system for all units of measurement, including speed.

Speed limit 110 km-hour road sign

WOW!!
Oh, wait, that’s kilometers per hour. Darn!

This includes not just kilometers per hour for speed but Celsius for temperature too.

Bridge Freezes Road Sign Canada

Bridge may be icy

Including both English and French words on a small sign can get crowded, so lots of the highway signs in Canada use creative imagery instead. It was really fun to look at the signs and try to figure them out.

Highway entrance ramp roadsign

Eye catchers on the side of the highway

Did a lighthouse picture mean there was a lighthouse somewhere? What about that snail vine looking thing?

Lighthouse and snail roadsign_

What???

We got an eye full when we pulled off the highway and had to decide which way to go.

Road sign New Brunswick Canada

That’s a lot to take in all at once!

Wait a minute — can we see that again up close?

Road sign up close New Brunswick_

Oh my goodness. What are all those things?

The traffic piled up behind us as we studied the icons and tried to guess their meaning. Our route was to the left, despite all the wonderfully artistic imagery that tried to lure us off to the right.

We got back on the highway only to pass an exit that made it very clear we were now traveling in a foreign country. English might be spoken here, but then again, maybe not!

Confusing road sign New Brunswick Canada

Where are we, exactly?

The icons are really imaginitive, and at first glance, going by at 60 mph, it was impossible to know what they all referred to.

Exit road sign with icons New Brunswick Canada

Some of these are obvious, but some…what the heck are they??

Icons on highway road sign in New Brunswick Canada

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Was the “@” sign something with email? Was the flower and barn a nursery? Were the masks a theater?

There was a key icon — we sure could use a key to unlock the other icons!

It became a fantastic game to spot these signs whipping past us and to try to remember all the icons we saw and to guess what they represented.

Egg spinning wheel and vase road sign New Brunswick Canada

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International road sign Canada

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Icons on international road sign Canada

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Icons on road sign New Brunswick Canada

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We stopped at a visitors center, and the hosts shed some light on a few that they knew. The egg in an egg cup was a bed and breakfast. The wrapped gift was a gift shop.

They had never noticed the barn with the people in it waving, so they weren’t sure what that was. We had seen several — one had a silo and another was under water with a fish swimming above… who knows!

There was a seahorse and there was a father and son looking off to sea with a spyglass and pointing. There was a tulip in a house and a vase on a hand. Just wonderful, but utterly baffling!

Inventing meanings for these signs sure beat the old alphabet game we used to play as kids in the back of the family station wagon!

We learned later that some were icons for designated scenic drives, and the hosts at the visitors center told us that one time a fellow came in and was very irate because he had followed all the lighthouse signs to the end of the road and had never seen a lighthouse. They’d had to explain to him that the lighthouse icon stands for a scenic drive that has lighthouses along the route, but you have to get off the route to see them!

Cuttlefish road sign

Mystifying

Another mysterious icon for a scenic drive had triangles and stripes that looked to me like a fish skeleton. I don’t know what that indicated, but when we saw the beer stein icon we knew for sure that a brewery was nearby.

Brewery Sign Nova Scotia Canada

Ahhh… follow that sign!!

Some signs were very familiar and very obvious.

Moose Sign New Brunswick Canada

This one we know…

Others were familiar but had a special twist. McDonald’s puts the Canadian maple leaf in the middle of their logo, and we later noticed that many online retailers like Amazon put the red maple leaf on their websites too (along with the “.ca” extension rather than “.com”).

McDonalds Road Sign Maple Leaf New Brunswick Canada

…and this one too, but it has a special maple leaf twist~

Within a few days, though, the novelty of these exotic road signs wore off and we felt very much at home.

 

That’s about it. Going to Canada to do some RV travel is pretty darn easy. I hope these little tips and insights are useful to you, and have fun RVing the Canadian Maritimes!!

Our RV travel posts from the Canadian Rockies:

Our RV travel posts from Nova Scotia:

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Cabot Trail Highlights – Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island

July 2015 – Nova Scotia is a big island, and we sampled some of the most scenic and quaint areas on the South Shore as well as on the Northumberland Shore. But Nova Scotia is probably best known for the Cabot Trail in the far northeastern corner that takes in the dramatic coastal views on Cape Breton Island.

Cape Breton Island Cheticamp

Our first glimpse of the dramatic Cape Breton coast on the Cabot Trail

Many people tackle the 185 mile Cabot Trail scenic drive as a daytrip, starting at one of the more southern towns and driving around the loop either clockwise or counter-clockwise. We debated for a long time how to do this drive more slowly to take it all in.

Where to start? Locals told us that the best parts were on the northwestern and northern parts of the loop. Which direction to drive? Seasoned travelers suggested we go counter-clockwise so we could be on the shoreside of the road the whole way. Could we take the buggy and park it somewhere and do shorter trips? Well, the Cabot Trail itself is has many sharp twists and turns and a rumored 23% grade somewhere. The road can also be quite rough, especially after a tough winter like this past one.

In the end we decided to start from the French town of Cheticamp and to drive the truck by itself clockwise as far as we could manage in one day and then turn around and drive back.

Just a few miles outside of Cheticamp the Cabot Trail became truly dramatic. The land rose up in steep hills and mountains, and sheer cliffs dropped off to the sea. The Cabot Trail clung to the edges of the cliffs offering us stunning views as we drove.

Cabot Trail Nova Scotia Canada

Wow! The Cabot Trail snakes along Nova Scotia’s highlands
on Cape Breton Island

It turns out that this is moose country, and no sooner did we turn away from the coast for a moment than we spotted a moose by the side of the road. It was early morning and the moose raised her head to check us out as we drove by. She watched us approach and stood stock still. Just as I got my camera aimed, however, she bolted and vanished into the forest.

Moose Cabot Trail Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

We hadn’t been on the road half an hour when we saw a live moose!
But we didn’t get a great pic, so this will have to do!

We stopped at Pleasant Bay to have a look around. This is a small fishing village that is home to a fleet of colorful lobsterboats. Life was pretty quiet there in the morning hours, and not a soul was around.

Pleasant Bay Harbor Nova Scotia Canada

The Cabot Trail passes several quaint fishing villages. Pleasant Bay is lovely.

Boats Pleasant Bay Harbor Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

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We took a detour at the top of the island to explore some of the remote communities that dot the far northeastern end of Nova Scotia. As we drove the final miles of the little bumpy road into Meat Cove, we wondered if we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, but when the view opened up we knew why the locals had sent us out here. It is spectacular!

Meat Cove Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia Canada

Gorgeous Meat Cove has a campground set high on these cliffs.

There is a campground overlooking the water that seemed absolutely enchanting. Our rig wouldn’t have fit, but for truck campers and popup tent trailers, a few days here would be a heavenly getaway.

Truck camper RV Cape Breton Island Meat Cove Nova Scotia

Now that’s a camping spot!

Camping at Meat Cove Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

A popup or truck camper is ideal for this classic spot in Meat Cove.

A picnic with your truck camper and a friend’s tent right there on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean — what an incredible spot to stay for a few days!!

Picnic camping Meat Cove Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

Right out of a brochure!

We continued on the Cabot trail and stopped here and there to take pics of the views. At one stop we noticed a bunny watching us from beneath the protection of a bush. He quietly munched the grass and kept an eye on us while we crept closer and closer to get better and better portraits of him. We completely forgot about the view behind as we each took 100 bunny shots!

Rabbit

This little bunny had no fear of us at all!

The road to Bay St. Lawrence lured us to a sweet fishing harbor filled with colorful lobster boats.

Lobster boats Bay St. Lawrence Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia Canada

Bay St. Lawrence is a charming small harbor.

Bay St. Lawrence Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia Canada

Back on the Cabot Trail, as we passed Asby Bay, we found ourselves driving alongside marshes and flat landscapes with the coastal mountains rising up in the distance.

Cabot Trail Nova Scotia Canada

Traveling the Cabot Trail in the vicinity of Aspy Bay, we saw flat lands and salt marshes.

Quaint fishing villages dot this entire coast, but perhaps the most lovely was the little harbor at White Point where the lobster boats were painted in primary colors.

White Point Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail Nova Scotia

White Point is home to a fleet of colorful lobster boats.

Neil’s Cove, just a little further on, was pretty sweet too!

Neil's Harbor Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail Nova Scotia

Cute Neil’s Harbor was our turnaround point.

We turned around at this point and headed back to Cheticamp. As we drove along the dramatic twists and turns just north of Cheticamp that make the Cabot Trail famous, we stopped and took a stroll on the fantastic pebble beach. Looking up towards the road, we saw an RV flying by. A young girl was grinning and held her hand out the window to wave at us!

Girl waving from RV window

A true joy ride.

The stones and driftwood on this beach were very engaging. The perfectly flat shale stones were ideal for skipping, and there were enormous driftwood logs everywhere. Between the beach and the road there were bushes that were just covered with vivid pink flowers, and as I began trying to work these beautiful flowers into my photos, I kept smelling an absolutely exquisite smell.

Beach roses Cape Breton Island Cabot Trail Nova Scotia

Beautiful pink flowers filled the bushes near the beach.

After a few minutes, I finally put two and two together and realized that the deliciously sweet aroma that kept wafting around me was coming from these flowers. They were beach roses!

Beach Rose

The flowers turned out to be roses.
What a fragrance they had!

Nova Scotia had given us some beautiful images, but we were ready to continue our journey. For the first time in months, we turned the buggy in a westerly direction!

As we were leaving, the fun and crazy parting shot we got from this corner of the world was of a front yard filled with cut-outs of The Simpsons. What a hoot!

The Simpsons House Nova Scotia

Lawn art depicts Homer, Marge, Bart and scenes from The Simpsons

Nova Scotia’s roads had been very hard on our rig. We have always had a funny way for judging just how bumpy a ride had been: after we parked the trailer, if we opened the trailer door and found the table leaning on one of our chairs, then it had been a rough ride! Out west this happened perhaps two or three times in a season. In Nova Scotia it had happened every day. We had reached the point where we put spare pillows on the chairs to give the table a soft landing!

More troublesome, however, was that our rear trailer axle was bent and needed to be repaired. We decided to do this repair in Bangor, Maine, and have described the event here.

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Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore – The Quiet Side

July 2015 – Nova Scotia is a big province and many of the most popular places to visit are spread far apart. The South Shore had delighted us with three beautiful places all in very close proximity: Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg and Mahone Bay and Blue Rocks.

On the opposite coast on the north side of the island, we spent some time exploring the Northumberland Shore.

Pictou Harbor Nova Scotia Canada

Pictou Harbor at sunrise.

The town of Pictou is a quiet town that is a little off the beaten track. While wandering around the waterfront we were surprised when two different locals come up to us to tell us about the area. One told us about the beacon from a lighthouse that is on display and showed us a photo he had taken years ago when the beacon was still atop the lighthouse. The other handed us some tourist literature. Both expressed hopes that we’d stick around a while.

Pictou Nova Scotia Canada

Historic street in Pictou, Nova Scotia

At the heart of the small waterfront there is a replica of an old ship, the Hector. It is a three masted ship that brought the first wave of Scottish highlanders to Nova Scotia in 1773. 189 people were crammed aboard this boat to make the voyage across the Atlantic. The shocker is that it is only 85′ long!

Immigrant ship Hector Pictou Nova Scotia Canada

Immigrant ship Hector carried 189 Scots to their new home.

Nova Scotia was settled by the French in the 17th century as part of Acadia, a colony of New France, in the northeastern part of modern day Maine and Canada’s Maritime provinces and parts of eastern Quebec. The Scottish came to Nova Scotia 100 years later, but unlike the French who didn’t continue populating the area with more boatloads of people, the Brits came in ongoing waves, and they soon outnumbered the Acadians by a large margin.

Pictou Harbor Nova Scotia Canada

Pictou

In the end, the conflict between France and England over the territory in northeastern North America ended with the British in control and the Acadians being exiled. Some Acadians went to Louisiana, and we now refer to them as Cajuns, while others scattered or steadfastly hung on as best they could in the northeast.

Many towns in Nova Scotia towns identify deeply with their Scottish or French roots, and they celebrate their unique and distinct histories.

Old storefront Pictou Northumberland Shore Nova Scotia

Historic building in Pictou, Nova Scotia

In Pictou, a lovely path winds its way from town out along the waterfront and we enjoyed a bike ride by the shore.

Trans Canada Trail Tatamagouche Nova Scotia

Pictou has a lovely walking/biking trail from downtoan.

Heading west from Pictou, the coastal road between Tatamagouch and Caribou Island was another lovely drive.

Over the years, we had heard from several sources that Nova Scotia was an awesome place for boondocking, and we really looked forward to finding little spots here and there to tuck in and go exploring. However, I don’t know why it was, but we didn’t have the kind of luck that other people seem to have had, and we found it difficult to find good spots in Nova Scotia. We did see one fifth wheel parked in an ideal spot overlooking the Atlantic near Seafoam, but it appeared to belong to the guy who owned the land!

RV fifth wheel Northumberland Shore Nova Scotia

What a great spot!

Here and there we found wonderful little harbors with lobster boats or pleasure boats moored inside. The colors were captivating.

Toney RIver Nova Scotia Canada

Lobster Boats at Toney River on the Northumberland Shore

Boats in Northumberland Shore Nova Scotia

Sailboats on the Northumberland Shore

The Northumberland Shore has lots of farmland, and we saw some lovely spreads as we drove around the area.

Farmlands in Northumberland Nova Scotia

Beautiful farmland in the Northumberland Shore on Nova Scotia’s north coast.

Getting out onto some of the more remote roads, the traffic lightened up considerably, and we found ourselves sharing the road with a big old tractor!

Driving behind a tractor Nova Scotia

A tractor sets the pace as we drive on these country roads.

Then we saw an RV go by that was all done up in wild colors.

RV in Northumberland Nova Scotia

A Class C with a crazy paint job drives past us

One scenic drive that we enjoyed went from the town of Antigonish out to the lighthouse at Cape George.

Cape George Lighthouse Antigonish Nova Scotia Canada

Cape George Ligthouse

A little further north was the delightful shoreline of Ballantynes Cove where lush farmland sits on a plateau overlooking the ocean. At the water’s edge, the land falls away in red cliffs.

Ballantynes Cove Nova Scotia Canada

Ballantynes Cove Nova Scotia Canada

Mark spotted an especially beautiful wildflower in our wanderings.

Wildflower

The town of Antigonish had a fantastic fireworks display on Canada Day (July 1st) and we had fun catching the explosive colors on camera. At the northeast end of town we found Antigonish Landing, a little hiking and biking trail that goes along the water for a ways.

Antigonish Landing bike trail

The walking and biking trail at Antigonish Landing

We loved the churches all around Nova Scotia, and we found a beauty in Antigonish.

Church in Antigonish Nova Scotia

Church in Antigonish

Sometimes in this blog I find photos that I forgot to include with a particular post, and this next church is another beauty that is actually in Peggy’s Cove:

Chuch at Peggy's Cove

Church in Peggy’s Cove.

The Northumberland Shore is not as quaint and heavily visited as the South Shore destinations of Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove, but the towns are lovely and less touristy.

As a note to RVers headed to Nova Scotia, perhaps the thing that surprised us most was that it takes a lot of driving to get from place to place. Studying the map ahead of time and planning where to drive and leave the RV and where to drive the tow vehicle or toad on daytrips is very worthwhile.

We had both thought of Nova Scotia as a fairly compact island, when it is actually very large and expansive. We found ourselves driving 100 miles a day to get to the places we wanted to visit, and even then, we discovered we were barely scratching the surface!

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Mahone Bay & Blue Rocks on Nova Scotia’s South Shore

July 2015 – Nova Scotia’s south shore served up some wonderful scenery during our RV travels there, with the beautiful lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove lit up at sunset and the classic seaside village of Lunenburg. So, we decided to take a drive along the coast to the village of Mahone Bay and the tiny hamlet of Blue Rocks.

Shoreline Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Canada

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Mahone Bay is a small town that hugs the shore, and we walked along the waterfront taking in the pretty views.

Storefronts Mahone Bay Nova Scotia

Waterfront views.

Mahone Bay Nova Scotia

Mahone Bay

Mahone Bay is a tiny strip of a town with just a few buildings, but they were very attractive.

Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Canada

Mahone Bay has some cute eateries and shops

Mahone Bay Bandstand Nova Scotia Canada

There’s also a bandstand on the water’s edge.

Church Mahone Bay Nova Scotia

The distinctive church in the center of town.

Mark spotted a shop called The Tea Brewery, and being an avid tea drinker, he headed on in. This place was filled with canisters of exotic teas, and he got into a lively conversation with the shopkeeper about tea leaves, tea types and how to brew the perfect cup.

The Tea Brewery Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Canada

The Tea Brewery is dedicated to all things TEA!

From Mahone Bay we took the coastal road past Lunenburg to Blue Rocks. Summer is very short and very much treasured in this part of the world, and on the way we passed a place selling colorful lawn chairs that looked very inviting. They had enough seating for an outdoor summer concert!

Colorful chairs LaHave River Nova Scotia Canada

Ready for a summertime party!

Our first glimpse of Blue Rocks was a tiny cove where there was a pile of beautiful new lobster traps that were built in the traditional style with rounded wooden tops, although this style seems to be very much in use in Nova Scotia today.

Lobster pots Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

Our first glimpse of Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

A lobster boat was anchored in the small bay.

Lobster boat Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Canada

A lobster boat in the bay at Blue Rocks

We didn’t see anyone around except a few tourists like ourselves who were enjoying the scenery — and it was lovely.

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

A cove in Blue Rocks.

Cove at Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

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Blue Rocks Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Canada

This is a quiet and scenic spot on Nova Scotia’s south shore

The cove opened up to a small rocky beach where a family was picnicking.

Family at Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Canada

A family enjoys the beach at Blue Rocks

We turned a corner and there was a small harbor where some people were coming in from a kayak ride.

Harbor at Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

Kayakers paddle in to shore in the Blue Rocks harbor

Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, isn’t far from the big city of Halifax, but the serenity of this little cove made it seem worlds away. Lobstermen live a simpler life harvesting their catch from the sea, and they have been doing it pretty much the same way for generations. The fast pace of modern society doesn’t exist out here.

Lobster pots Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

New lobster pots built in the traditional style ready for launch.

Lobster Pots in Nova Scotia

Old retired lobster pots that have served their time.

We continued our drive along the shore and came to a really fun little ferry crossing. This is the LaHave – East LaHave Ferry that zips back and forth across a very short distance. There are lots of little ferries like this down in these fingers of land and peninsulas on Nova Scotia’s south shore. We didn’t take it, though, and instead turned north along the LaHave River. Next time!

LaHave East LaHave Ferry Nova Scotia Canada

Cars board the 10 minute ferry from LaHave to East LaHave.

Just a bit further up the coast, we passed St. Mark’s Place, a wonderful church that stands proudly on a spit of land overlooking the water.

St Mark's Place Church Nova Scotia Canada

The church at St. Mark’s Place has a fabulous view

Nova Scotia is a big province that can be daunting to try to see in one short trip by RV. Which way to go and what to see?? Little scenic daytrips like this one were jewels in our travels there.

RV in South Coast Nova Scotia

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Lunenburg, Nova Scotia – Pretty As A Picture!

July 2015 – After our truly magical evening at Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, we continued exploring the southern coast of Nova Scotia. There is a lot to see along the fingers of land that jut out into the Atlantic ocean west of Halifax, and Lunenburg is one of the big highlights.

Docks at Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

Dories at the docks in Lunenburg

Photos of the iconic red buildings along the docks grace many pages of Nova Scotia tourist literature, including the cover of the 2015 edition of the free book the tourist board publishes about the province (available at the many visitors centers all around Nova Scotia). One look at that photo and we knew we just had to go there!

Lunenburg Harbor Nova Scotia Canada

Lunenburg sits on a hillside and its colorful buildings spill down to the sea.

Lunenburg is a small tourist town that is picture postcard perfect in every way, a true delight for photography. Much like Peggy’s Cove, it is utterly quaint, almost to a fault! All the tourists were walking around with cameras held high as they snapped pic after pic. It’s impossible to stop taking photos here!

Row boats Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Everywhere we turned we enjoyed delightfully quaint scenes.

The town rests on a fairly steep hillside that comes down to the water’s edge. A slew of sailboats, many of antique design, bob on moorings out in the pretty harbor.

Sailboats at anchor Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

Sailboats fill the harbor.

Schooners and other unique vessels of a bygone era fill every view.

Schooner at anchor Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

There are lots of bigger ships from years gone by, and many offer tours.

Ships in Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

The working docks.

There was even an old dory standing out in the grass with two old lobster pots propped up against it. This community, like much of coastal Nova Scotia, is all about boats and lobsters and fishing.

Dory and lobster pots Lunenburg Nova Scotia

There are boats everywhere, even a few dories up in the grass!

Many older ships lined up along the docks were offering tours and daysails in the bay.

Old schooner Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Wonderful old boats line the docks.

We watched a group gathering for a daysail on the schooner Eastern Star. They all sat on the deck facing outwards, and the first mate put them through a life preserver drill before they took off. We were within easy earshot of her instructions, and I had to laugh when I turned around and saw there were more of us tourists on the dock watching them and taking photos of them than there were customers on the boat!

Schooner Eastern Star Lunenburg Nova Scotia

A group gets ready for a daysail aboard the Eastern Star

Then the captain picked up a conch shell and blew a long, loud blast. They were off.

Blowing the conch shell aboard Eastern Star Schooner

The captain gives a blast on a conch shell

For non-sailors, there were other kinds of rides available too. A horse drawn wagon made its rounds about town as a tour guide pointed out landmarks and explained the area’s history.

Horse and buggy ride Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

Horse drawn carriages take tourists around town.

And for the truly junior set, there were rides on the docks that didn’t go anywhere but just stayed put on their own rockers.

Toy row boat

Mark finds his inner child.

What we enjoyed most was simply the beauty of the buildings. They were all different colors, and many were very old.

Colorful houses Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Pretty buildings look out on the bay

Front door Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Many of the buildings are historic and the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The red buildings nestled together at one end of town were our favorites.

Dock buildings Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

The red buildings on the docks are the hallmark of Lunenburg

We wanted to get a photo of the whole town from across the bay where there is a hillside and a golf course, so we began walking around the harbor to the spit of land on the other side. It’s an easy walk past all the old fishing buildings and boatyards, and the rich smell of ancient wooden planks evoked vivid images of the seaman’s life a century or so ago.

Red dock building Lunenburg Nova Scotia

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So it was a complete surprise when we passed a tall concrete block off to one side and saw it had writing on it that said it came from the Berlin Wall.

This cracked concrete block stands next to the Lunenburg Industrial Foundry & Education (LIFE) building. It turns out that the Kinley family, which has owned this foundry since the 1800’s, had business ties to Germany dating back to the 1970’s. When the wall was torn down in 1989, they wanted to display a section of the wall in Lunenburg as a symbol of peace.

Berlin Wall piece in Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

From Berlin to Lunenburg

If your RV travels take you to Nova Scotia, a visit to scenic Lunenburg is a must. As a caveat, the roads in Nova Scotia are treacherous, and the small towns are not suitable for driving bigger RVs. But if you keep your rig on the main highways and venture to the scenic spots in your car or truck, a daytrip to Lunenburg will keep your camera humming!

Harbor in Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canada

What a classic seaside village!!

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Mahone Bay & Blue Rocks on Nova Scotia’s South Shore

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia – Reflections At Sunset!

June 2015 – After a heavenly few weeks in Downeast Maine, including a daytrip to Campobello Island in Canada, we crossed the border into Canada “for real” at the small town of Calais, Maine. The province of New Brunswick is very large, and it took us a while to decide whether to dash through it to Nova Scotia or to take our time.

The huge tides and seascapes of the Bay of Fundy beckoned, but in the end we decided to hightail it to Nova Scotia, a place we had both wanted to visit for many many years.

Welcome to Nova Scotia

We’re here!

The island of Nova Scotia is a large province too, extending some 300 miles from end to end. We had had visions of encircling the circumferance of the island very slowly, and started out doing just that along the northern shore.

The farmlands and low lying, flat lands of that coast were pretty, but we we had quaint fishing villages and craggy rocks and lighthouses on our minds more-so than farms, so we quickly changed gears and made a dash for the southern coast. We landed at Peggy’s Cove, which is about as quaint and cute a fishing village as there can possibly be.

Boats and homes Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

The small community of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.

This is a tiny hamlet of just a few buildings surrounding a very small harbor that contains a handful of boats. As we walked along the docks, the fishing boats seemed to hover on glassy water.

Harbor at Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

A picturesque scene at Peggy’s Cove

Each building was lovingly maintained to utterly quaint perfection, including the little coffee shop that looked out on the small cove.

Coffee Shop at Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

I love a cute coffee shop!

Lobster traps were positioned along the wharf, and an old deteriorating dory made a wonderful photo op with a red lobster boat in the background.

Lobster pots Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

Lobster pots

Old dory and fishing boat Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

There were ideal photo ops in every direction.

This is an artist’s haven, and a few steps up a hill we came across an artist recreating the picture perfect harbor scene on his canvas. We joined a small throng of people taking photos of him!

Artist painting Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

What a lovely spot to set up an easel and let your creative juices flow!

Just a few steps further on we found another artist, and the throng joined us to photograph her too!

Artist painting Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia Canada

The artists — and everyone else — were loving the charming scenery and landscapes.

This is an idyllic little seaside village that is a photographer’s or artist’s true delight. In some ways it was almost a little too perfect, but we were loving every minute of strolling the very short street that goes from the harbor to the lighthouse.

Before the lighthouse came into view, we could hear the mournful sound of a bagpipe in the distance. As we turned the corner, the lighthouse appeared and the bagpipe player was suddenly right before us. He was wearing a kilt and had an open donation box near his feet. Behind him a couple was taking a selfie of themselves with the lighthouse in the background.

Bagpipe at Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia

We heard the forlorn sounds of the bagpipe long before we spotted the player

We were enchanted by this sweet postcard of a village, if just a little put off by its so perfect perfection and the crowds of tourists arriving from the row of buses that were squeezed into the small parking area. But as the daytime turned to late afternoon, something truly magical happened.

The sky turned grey and black, and beneath the heavy clouds the sun suddenly put on a spectacular display at the lighthouse.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse becomes the centerpiece of a celestial light show.

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is one of the prettiest lighthouses in Nova Scotia — perhaps the prettiest — and to see it with such a stunning backdrop was a true gift.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse at Sunset Nova Scotia Canada

The sun bursts through the clouds

As the sun set, groups of kids, couples and families all came out onto the rocks to watch it drop into the sea behind the lighthouse. And what a show they had that night.

Sunset in Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia Canada

Lots of families and couples and kids sat on the rocks to enjoy the sunset.

Once the sun dipped below the horizon, the sky lit up in shades of peach and orange. Kids were playing all around, suddenly full of energy, and their silhouettes were delightful.

Sunset silhouettes Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia Canada

Weeeee!

The rocks around the lighthouse glowed orange, and the lighthouse began to flash a vivid red.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia Dusk

The light flashes in the last moments of daylight.

We were both in awe to be experiencing such a dramatic sunset in such a breathtaking location.

Sunset Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia

As the sky grew dark, we sat down on the edge of the rocks and looked out at the sea, holding each other in a long embrace. After all those years on a boat, neither of us will ever look at the sea in quite the same way again.

The chill of nightfall began to steal over us as the waves crashed on the rocks below, and the black, open ocean lay in front of us the way it had so many times before on our long overnight passages in Mexico.

Those days seemed like a lifetime ago, but suddenly the memories were just an arm’s length away.

“I can’t believe we were out there,” Mark said suddenly.

“I know — I can’t believe we did it either!” I added.

“I was terrified for four years,” he confessed.

We stood up to go and suddenly noticed some tidepools behind us creating beautiful mirror images of the lighthouse in the water.

We stared out at the darkening sea, sharing a deep sense of awe. We were in awe of the scene, in awe of life, and in awe of having dreamed a dream, made it come true, and come out of it alive, unscathed, and forever changed.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse reflections Nova Scotia

Reflections at Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse

Reflections at Peggy's Cove Lighthouse Nova Scotia

Lucky 7

What a precious and unique moment that was at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia — a sunset we will never forget.

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Fireworks for Canada Day and the 4th of July – EXPLOSIVE!!

We have been enjoying Nova Scotia for the past 10 days or so, and yesterday we found ourselves caught up in the thrill of Canada Day celebrations in the small town of Antigonish on the northern coast.

Nighttime comes late in these parts in the summertime, but as daytime began to fade away, around 9:30 p.m., we suddenly found ourselves quickly becoming surrounded by Canada Day revelers.

It turned out that we were in the ideal viewing spot for the town’s fireworks display!

Fireworks

We grabbed our tripods and got set up, and in no time the show began.

And what a great show it was!! Here are some of our favorite pics — enjoy!!

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

Fireworks

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