When we decided to include Canada in our 2018 route planning, we left if very vague as to what areas of the country we would like to visit. As the months went by and decisions needed to be made, we developed two serious options:
- The Short Route: cut into Canada from Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont and head west towards Sault Ste Marie to enter Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This would allow us to visit Quebec and Ontario, possibly New Brunswick, and save us some US mileage since we would not have to dip below the Great Lakes to get to the U.P.
- The Long Route: enter Canada in Maine and turn east, crossing through New Brunswick into Nova Scotia, and include either Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland & Labrador before making the now much longer run back west through Quebec and Ontario to the U.P.
Rose and PKM in their usual travel position, though the cat seems even needier than usual.
We chose option 2. Though it could be in 2020, we don’t really know when we will be back in New England again with the time, weather, and opportunity to hit some of Canada’s eastern provinces, so we are taking advantage of our current position. Besides, unless you are willing to go all the way up to The Hudson Bay at the top of Quebec and Ontario, it is NB, NS, PEI, and N&L that have access to the awesome coastal areas along The Bay of Fundy, Gulf of Lawrence, and Northern Atlantic Ocean.
We left New River Beach headed east into Nova Scotia. Our standard research led us to Sunset Watch Campground in the semi touristy but still quaint town of Tatamagouche. Based on exactly one person saying it for me, the syllabal emphasis is the same as “baba ganoush” and the “gouche is pronounced “gush.” Apparently most locals just call it “Tata.”
Sunset Watch is a 10 to 15 minute ride from downtown positioned directly on the bay. It is a private place, which is fine since we like to keep our campground types varied, shifting between state, county, federal, private, and military options. After discussing site availability with the staff, we were assigned a full hook up site on the front row for two days, followed by a move back a few rows to a power and water only site. This was our choice: if the ocean front was not important to us, we could have taken the back row site for all four days and saved ourselves a move.
Our first site at Sunset Watch. Can’t imagine how they named the place.
While the sites themselves were nothing special, the view and location was fantastic. The price was quite reasonable as well, after conversion we paid $32 USD for the first two days and $29 for the last two. Compared to US ocean side resorts, this is a deal.
And the second site, a couple of rows back from the front.
I can’t say enough about Tatagamouche and the nearby areas. The people, food, bars, shops, shoreline, and drives were just excellent in every respect. More than one local took the time to proudly explain that Tata was one of the few Nova Scotia rural towns that is experiencing growth rather than population decline. I didn’t investigate enough to see how much of this was luck and happenstance vice planning and coordination, but either way it has resulted in a place we would be glad to visit again.
The local economy and moderate tourist action ensures a reasonable variety of experiences for all tastes. In addition to a nice selection of art and gift shops, they boast a moderate sized farmers market on Saturday with a heavy emphasis on prepared foods and local art and crafts.
Any medium to large farmers market is bound to have a jam and jelly guy, and most have a pickle guy. Sometimes they are the same guy. We bought garlic pickles.
They have a solid local craft brewery, a nearby wine vinyard, and more than a couple of excellent restaurant options. The gourmet sandwich and burger food truck, Route 6, was top notch with a memorable burger, topped with smoked cheddar, bacon, spinach, tomato jam and dijon mayo, served with sweet potato fries.
Route 6 Food Truck parked in front of Tatamagouche Brewery. We thought the very young people working the truck were hired hands, turns out they are the enterprising owners. Locals making their town even better.
The Chowder House provided us with the best fish and chips we can recall having ever experienced. It was our first taste of the delicate white meat of haddock, and Chowder House ensured it was perfectly battered. The fish was matched by their truly superb fries. We only wish we had the time to try the lobster and mussels from the small fish market just outside of town, but open as it is for only part of Friday and Saturday, it just wasn’t doable this trip.
We took multiple day trips in both directions along Route 6. To the northwest we hit the Jost vineyard for a tasting. I went with the white, Rose the reds. It was far better than we expected given our West Coast and European bias and the taste poisoning experience of southeastern Muscat based wines.
Though our sommelier suggested we could just park at the end of the road and take the fresh mowed path to the nearby shore, the heavily faded no trespassing sign encouraged us to push on down the road. We found Blue Sea Provincial Park in Malagash for a bit of sea glass hunting. The expansive beach provided a handful of pieces and a pleasant walk.
To the east we visited Brule Point for a different sort of sea glass hunting. Located next to a marina at the very end of the point road, the small beach is completely covered in stones and pebbles, and looking for the glass entails digging through that rather than walking with head bowed. We would never have known that had it not been for a friendly and helpful older couple and their talkative granddaughter that showed us the way. We found a good share of tiny to small pieces to add to the collection.
I don’t think many of us from The States associate Canada with beautiful beaches, but man, we are two for two in stops that had them. Near Tata you had to go looking, and obviously the weather is critical, but the beach at Malagash was stunning.
We continued another 20 minutes east to Seafoam Lavender Farm near River John. It was tiny compared to the farms we saw in Sequim, Washington during our trip to the Lavender Fest, but the property was beautiful and staff informative and helpful. They were a lot less restrictive about allowing us to explore the actual lavender field as well.
Back at the home base we observed the campground’s dramatic shift from a relatively quite weekday resort to a kid filled and party oriented campground on the weekend. We were forewarned by reviews to expect this, so we were in the right state of mind to tolerate the increased noise level and alcohol induced parties all around. As Key West veterans, we are in no position to complain.
Most everyone was quite friendly, and we got in our quota of socializing with the locals, during which we learned one more thing we wished we had known about in advance and made time to experience: gathering oysters and mussels directly from the campground’s rocky shore at low tide for steaming. Once again: next trip!
Repurposed washing machine tubs as fire pits on every site at Sunset Watch
On our last evening, and continuing into the morning of our departure we handed out a good number of Florida Fighting Conch shells to the local kids. They would stop by in pairs once word got out that interesting and free stuff was available at site 2-19. Leave it to the obliviousness of children to completely ignore your busy pre-departure activity level and practically demand, as one red headed, possibly 7 year old did, that you stop doing such nonsense and help him inflate his bike tire. Which I did, bemused, particularly after I finished and he informed me that he had the same type of foot pedal air pump back at his RV. What can you do but appreciate the absence of helicopter parenting in favor of free range kids given permission to roam the safe confines of a seasonal neighborhood.
Just taking the cat for a walk on the ocean shore, like most of us do.
Ending this post, like the last one, with “RVing in Canada” lessons we learned during our latest stop:
- Harmonized Sales Tax: A fancy term for the combined federal and provincial 15% sales tax levied on practically everything in the five eastern provinces. Obviously this needs to be taken into account when price shopping.
- Making things a bit more complicated: the advertised price in some places often already includes that HST, whereas many other establishments advertise the pre-tax price. We are still working to break the code, but so far the three campgrounds at which we have made reservations included HST in the advertised price. Sweet!
- We were told that the price of alcohol is outrageous in Canada. We have not found it so. At least, not for liquor, spirits, or wine. First, at least in Nova Scotia, all take home liquor is sold at provincially controlled stores, resulting in amazingly consistent prices from town to town. Second, the prices are not that bad. As an example, I bought a 1.14 liter bottle of Canadian Club whiskey for $41 Canadian (tax included in advertised price!) which works out to $31 USD. Scale that down to a standard fifth and you are talking $20.40. You can find better in The States, but that price is not terrible.
- Beer, however, is a different story. I am not sure what structural factors are in play, but every beer, import or domestic, craft or mass produced, exists in a surprisingly narrow price band. We beer snobs are used to paying $10 or more for a six pack of craft, but we are also used to seeing cases of Bud Light go for $19.99. This is not what we are seeing in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, where the cheap stuff is not much less than the high end, small batch options. I’m talking $27 Canadian ($20.50 USD) for a 12 pack of Coors.
- Canadian RV terminology: We generally refer to camp sites as “Full Hook Up” when power, water, and sewage are included, “power and water only” for the obvious connection options, and “dry camping” when no services are offered. In Canada the preferred and advertised terminology is 3 way, 2 way, and unserviced. So far we are noticing 30 amp is far more common than 50 amp compared to the US.