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Need a break? How about an out of the box, Two-Country Vacation?

We’d like to state the obvious. Most of us are overworked, stressed, and chronically sleep deprived, a perilous situation which leads to dire health consequences like chronic fatigue and inflammation. What to do? We suggest taking small steps to build new habits, practice self-care,  and elevate your health and wellness game. One such step is taking a vacation. Yes, a vacation! If you are like us, you are adept at self-delusion which allows one to think that adding an extra day or two to a work conference is a vacation. Well, we’re here to tell you (and to admit to ourselves) that it’s not! So, step away from your desk, put down your tablet, drop that cell phone, and get packing.

Now please keep an open mind, because we’re about to recommend a foray into what we believe may be the most underrated province in Canada, New Brunswick. Yes, we said New Brunswick! Although the third smallest of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories, this little region boasts stunning scenery, incredible natural wonders, top notch hotels, and wonderful cuisine. Bordered by Maine to the west, Quebec to the north and the Atlantic Ocean and Bay of Fundy to the east and south respectively, New Brunswick is easily accessible by land, sea, or air. But where to start…

We decided to add an American state and another Canadian province to round out our seaside adventure. Heading north from Massachusetts (a state worthy of an article unto itself), we crossed into Portland, Maine, famous for its unique shops and fantastic seafood. We popped in for a delicious breakfast at The Front Room Restaurant and Bar to indulge in their delicious brunch menu that features homemade biscuits and breakfast gnocchi. Feeling artsy, we headed to the Portland Museum of Art to behold one of the high points of American neoclassical sculpture, Benjamin Paul Aker’s superlative The Dead Pearl Diver (1858) and Elizabeth Colomba’s stunning contemporary portraits of historical black women in period garb in her show Mythologies (closes September 3, 2023).

After crossing into New Brunswick (first known as part of Mi’kma’ki) at the Calais, Maine border, we did not take the expected route to the pretty town of Saint John. Instead, we headed south to the quaint seaside town of Saint Andrews, nestled along Passamaquoddy Bay in southern New Brunswick. There’s a reason why this town is a national historic site. It looks like an eighteenth-century time capsule, which for Canada is quite rare.

Fig. 1: Water Street, Saint Andrews, New Brunswick


Before the newly freed black Loyalists arrived alongside the white Loyalists and those they still enslaved during the Revolutionary War, the Passamaquoddy First Peoples knew this place as Qua-nos-cumcook. The political, social, and legal dominance of the white Loyalists transformed the region, transplanting their mid-Atlantic and southern slaving practices and reifying the racial segregation that had already existed in the province.[1] Saint Andrew is also worth the trip because it is the birthplace of an unsung nineteenth-century, African Canadian, pathbreaking artist, Edward Mitchell Bannister. Stroll down Water Street, take in the bay and contemplate how Bannister, a mixed-race man born around 1828 before slavery had been abolished in Canada (1834), boarded a ship as a sailor and ended up an esteemed, award-winning American painter, teacher, and founder of cultural institutions.

Fig. 2: Gustine Hurd (1833-1910), Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828-1901), African American Painter(c. 1880), albumen silver print, 14.5 x 10.2 cm (image), 45.7 x 35.6 cm (mat), 46.5 x 36.4 x 3.2 cm (frame), gift of Sandra and Jacob Terne, NPG 76.66, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution/Art Resource, NY.


If you’re looking to stay in a franchise hotel in a larger town, choose Saint John where there are several with views of the St. John River. But if an out-of-the-way treasure is more your speed, keep driving southeast of Saint John until you get to St. Martins. Perched on the Bay of Fundy, the Beach Street Inn is a family-run business comprised of a cluster of houses rebuilt after the great fire of 1900. Purchased and renovated in 2021 by the husband-and-wife team of Paul and Beth, the Beach Street Inn also boasts Periwinkles Restaurant where the chef’s creations feature fresh local ingredients. Choices to savour? How about the Marinated Beets with Goat Cheese Salad and the Seafood Newburg with lobster, shrimp and Bay of Fundy scallops baked in a velvety cream sauce and topped with puffed pastry?

After a relaxing night or two in your comfy room with the Bay view, hit the road to Halifax, Nova Scotia by way of the Fundy Trail Parkway. This winding, two-lane road takes you through a provincial park dotted with majestic cliffs and captivating sea views. The park fee is money well spent since it also boasts hiking trails, waterfalls, and beaches. So be prepared to stop at one of the many observation areas because you’re sure to take a few photos enroute.

Fig. 3: Fundy Trail Parkway, New Brunswick


Next stop, Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park where you’ll witness the majestic sea stacks, sculpted over millennia by the Bay of Fundy’s massive tides. Depending upon when you arrive, you may be able to walk on the sea floor, or then again, it may be completely hidden by a high tide that can rise as much as sixteen metres. Since these dramatic tidal changes are on view twice daily and occur every six to eight hours, it’s fitting that the park tickets are good for two days.

Fig. 4: Hopewell Rocks, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick


If your plan is to head to Halifax by dinner time, get back onto the main highway and head east. Once you cross the provincial border into Nova Scotia, it’ll likely be time for lunch. We stopped at The Portlander, a brightly coloured, cute Jamaican restaurant in Amherst. The owner/chef features different daily specials. We had a delectable curry goat meal with roti, rice and peas, and sauteed vegetable all washed down with a Ting! But plan ahead. Right now The Portlander has limited hours and is closed Saturday through Monday.

While downtown Halifax boasts many waterfront or water view hotels, we tried something new, heading further east to Chocolate Lake (still Halifax), where Best Western Chocolate Lake Hotel sits perched on its tranquil shores. Thankfully, the lake did not get its name from its colour, but from a nineteenth-century chocolate factory that once graced the region. The summer weather was so great when we arrived that we avoided the heated indoor pool and arcade and sat lake side in cozy Muskoka chairs. When dinnertime arrives, there’s no need to leave the hotel. Just wander into the Lakeside Bar and Grill where chef Samantha Clark serves up comfort food with a twist. We went all in on a Feasting Platter featuring pulled pork and BBQ chicken (you get to choose two of five meats), corn bread and onion rings. Tip – be sure to try Sam’s Garrison Ale sauce.

Fig. 5: Best Western Chocolate Lake Hotel, Halifax, Nova Scotia


Up for some shopping? While some will head to the Halifax Shopping Centre, bigger isn’t always better. We chose Dartmouth, NS instead. Too often positioned as the ugly step-sister to Halifax’s Cinderella, Dartmouth is actually a pretty town full of greenery and water. There’s a reason they call it the City of Lakes! First stop, Dartmouth Crossing, an open-air mall that features restaurants, spas, gifts shops, and clothing, shoe, furniture, and kitchen stores. We started the morning right with an almond milk caramel latte at Pür & Simple. But what to eat? Choose to get decadent with one of their skillets or The Gourmet which features two eggs, choice of meat, and half of a waffle topped with bananas, chocolate chips, English cream, and hazelnut chocolate. Or behave yourself and get a healthier choice like the Avocado Toast (topped with poached egg and smoked salmon) or the Keto featuring two eggs, choice of meat, avocado, goat cheese, red and green peppers, and red onions. Oh, and don’t forget their freshly squeezed orange juice and their delectable smoothies. (Ask them to swap out the Greek yogurt for almond milk in the Mango Tango if you’re avoiding dairy.)

Fig. 6: Pür & Simple, Avocado Toast


Need to stretch the legs? Check out athleisure wear at Columbia, Puma, and Under Armour, or get your casual or business looks updated at Levi’s, Reitman’s, Guess, or Banana Republic. If you need a break from shopping, this Dartmouth gem also features green space, a playground for the kids, and a cinema. If pampering is on your menu, book ahead at Gentle Touch Spa and Laser Clinic. For obvious reasons, we love their Farmhouse Fresh Facial, but leave time for their Traditional Pedicure which features a chocolate foot mask.

Feeling peckish again? Shopping is hard work after all! There’s plenty of lunch options including Sushi Nami Royale, La Cucina, and 2 Doors Down. But you can also head across Countryview Drive to Moxie’s. Within the Canadian landscape of franchise restaurants, Moxie’s has maintained its reputation for high quality, innovation, and creativity and always features healthy options and creative cocktails. We shared their Lemon and Asparagus Spaghettini and the Tuna Sushi Stack.

Fig. 7: Moxie’s, Lemon and Asparagus Spaghettini


If you’re keen to see more than city life, head west to Yarmouth, a quaint seaside town. Take in the Cape Forchu Lighthouse and learn about biodiversity, fishing villages, and multiple shipwrecks. Head to the Yarmouth branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where we viewed a contemporary installation featuring artists like Melanie Colosimo and Tyshan Wright. For dinner, why not try Rudder’s Seafood Restaurant and Brew Pub where you can listen to live music while you indulge in freshly prepared seafood and sample four 5 oz beers from their very own microbrewery.

If you’re game to head to the USA again, why not take the ferry! The CAT Ferry makes daily trips between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor, Maine and you can walk on or drive on, the latter being pricier of course. Onboard you’ll find a lounge, a business centre, a café, and a gift shop. If you’re travelling without kids, you may want to avoid the area with the kid’s movie and trivia games which is a bit noisy. The other seating areas feature comfy chairs and a shared movie screening that’s more for grownup tastes. Go out on deck to watch the world go by and, if you’re lucky, you might see a whale or two. Be sure to pack your passports (always) and seasickness meds (just in case). When the water is too choppy, the ferry crossing is cancelled. But for normal “bad weather” which can be hard on the stomach, they sail as usual. Depending on where you’re headed, the ferry can cut hours off your driving time. But while the crossing is only about 3 hours, off-loading can take about 2 hours since you have to clear US Customs and Immigration. Remember, first on, means last off.

Fig. 8: CAT Ferry


If you’re spending some time in Bar Harbour, you may want to try one of the delightful small cottages clustered together in various hotels. But if you’re not looking to stay overnight, do build in time for lunch. Yarmouth (population 7,200) makes Bar Harbour (population 5,535) look like Manhattan! Dotted with cafes, ice cream parlours, tourist shops, and restaurants, you’ll be spoiled for choice. We stopped in at Testa’s for BAHABA Shrimp and BBQ Chix Tacos, their Superfood Salad, and some mind-blowing Blueberry and Peach Margaritas!

If we’ve inspired you to get out to see some new sights, try some new bites, and whale watch at sea, job done! We hope the next time you take a real vacation you’ll think about these possibilities and make some wonderful memories along the way.



[1] Transatlantic Slavery existed in the region under the French and the British long before the white Loyalists arrived. See: Harvey Amani Whitfield, Blacks on the Border: The Black Refugees in British North America, 1815-1860(Burlington, Vermont University of Vermont Press, 2006) and Harvey Amani Whitfield, North to Bondage: Loyalist Slavery in the Maritimes (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2016).