New England to Nova Scotia | Unconventional Spring Break- Part 1
What do the words spring break mean to you? Perhaps warm weather, sandy beaches, palm trees, and drinks with colorful umbrellas? While those things sound perfectly nice, typical spring break destinations also include crowds and expensive prices. Our favorite adventures are to places while they're enjoying their "off" season - or as I like to call, their "local" season. We get to chat with more of the shopkeepers, there's far less traffic, and you can roam the streets of a town and really get a feel for the place as it is without too much tourist driven traffic. Andrew and I traveled with a couple of our friends to Nova Scotia last week. The trip was planned by myself and close friend, Katie, inspired by the local school schedule and a desire to travel internationally without needing to book flights. Verdict: with the right travel buddies, driving a little over 2k miles in 6 days is completely epic. Re-immersion into "real" life is always a little tough, and I'm not going to lie, not having cell service is always something I quite enjoy. I think we'll all be looking back on this trip in 10 years, saying things like: remember that trip where we played cards until 1AM in the morning, took a distillery tour and drank 16 samples of liquor while at the same time attempting to stay seated on stools? That was great, wasn't it? I'd also like to take this opportunity to give a huge shoutout to Ben and Katie for putting up with me for all of the photos. My husband is already well-exposed to enduring my crazy, but I'm always nervous to travel with other people for fear of being that annoying person who pulls over for every random side street shot. True friends are the ones who appreciate the scenic route and even put on a suit and wedding gown on the last night to make all of my Nova Scotian beachy-sunset-wedding-photo dreams come to life (make sure to checkout the last blog post in this roadtrip series to see the result)!
Here's a snapshot of the beginning of our trip:
Driving Itinerary: Groton, Connecticut - Ellsworth, Maine - Acadia National Park - Saint John, New Brunswick - Moncton, New Brunswick (600 miles)
To Eat: Woodhull Public House in Yarmouth, Maine - Picnic in Acadia (an absolute must) - Big Tide Brewing in Saint John, New Brunswick
We set out from Connecticut about 2:30PM on Tuesday, first destination Ellsworth, Maine en route to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Although generally sticking to a pretty tight list, one of the best things about road trips is not having to be quite as concerned about packing light or saving space (sometimes being worried about 3 oz containers and fitting everything in a carry on is just such a hassle). About 30 minutes into the drive we were already breaking out the snacks, an hour in everyone took a nap, besides of course my wonderful husband who was behind the wheel and did a majority of the driving to NS. I soon took to Google to find a local place to eat hoping to find something with quick service, a comfortable atmosphere, and quality ingredients. I happened to find Woodhull Public House in Yarmouth, Maine just as we were approaching the exit. I'll just say this, it far exceeded our expectations: great service, great food, and super chill vibe. The decor of the bar when you walk in is beachy/surfer and menu options include mexican cuisine (speaking from experience their Baja Bowl is absolutely worth a try, because well, corn salsa is life). Basically - a much better stop than any fast food restaurant but didn't cost any more time or money than a fast food stop would have #win.
We arrived in Ellsworth, Maine around 9PM at the Ramada, got a solid night's sleep, decent continental breakfast the next morning and left to explore Acadia National Park via The Park Loop Road which opened April 15. First stop was Hulls Cove Visitor Center to chat with the park ranger and ask about purchasing a park pass. Typically the pass is $25 per car but turns out mid-April is early enough that passes are not required, so we made a donation and went on our way. Some of our stops included: Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. Consensus among the group seemed to be that Sand Beach was an absolute favorite, along with a walk along the trail nearby and Thunder Hole was a hit, but keep in mind this is largely in part to active waves and a storm the day before. If traveling during a more calm season you are likely to be disappointed by the lack of thunder at thunder hole. After we finished the 27 mile scenic loop, complete with a picnic lunch, we made our way to Bar Harbor to checkout the town. My quest to find a hot cup of coffee turned into ordering a scoop of ice cream (in classic me fashion) from Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium - Andrew tried a bite of the lobster ice cream and then struggled to get the crunch of lobster shell out of his teeth for a couple of hours, but the ice cream and chocolate options are endlessly flavorful and the shop is adorable.
From Bar Harbor we drove to the Canadian border, and were able to cross without incident. Our favorite activity throughout the trip was visual verification that everyone had their passports. Not that anyone would have minded being "stuck" in Canada a bit longer. Side note: make sure to know how much alcohol you have in your vehicle because you will almost certainly be asked (or maybe we really did just look like a group going spring breaking with a couple of extra coats). Dinner was in Saint John at Big Tide Brewing - our first interaction with Canadians - some of the streets in Saint John are reminiscent of San Francisco #lovedit. We figured out parking after a few minutes of trying to decipher some confusing street signs and walked into the restaurant. The street entrance actually places you at the top of the restaurant where you have to walk down a set of stairs to get to the bar. The moment we walked in I could feel all of the eyes in the entire establishment on us, a very unsettling feeling. I definitely had a moment where I went back to my psychology roots and started thinking - this is just a thing, when you're feeling self-conscious or out of your element and you create a scenario in your head that is completely out of line with reality. I whispered as we were seated at the only open table left at the back of a bar, "Is is just me or did every single person in the bar look at us when we walked in?" As it turns out, it wasn't a self-created illusion, the bar was actually holding a Trivia Night and the only reason we were able to find an open table is that one of the teams didn't show. For all anyone knew we were a Canadian Trivia team with the audacity to show up late to the festivities, once I understood this I was actually even a little ashamed at our tardiness even though we had no idea about the event. Favorite sentence from the evening was after listening to a couple of 10 second clips of songs someone in our group said, "Man, something is really wrong with their speaker system." Let's just say, although the food was delicious and it was fun to listen in on Canadian Trivia, we were all relieved to get back to the car and listen to a full length song.
At the end of the day on Wednesday we made it to the Wingate in Moncton and can I just say YAAASSSSSSS. A bathroom the size of a bedroom. Classic french accents from super friendly staff ready to welcome us to the hotel at 11PM, beds that were like sleeping in a warm cloud-like embrace, and a breakfast complete with croissants, fresh fruit options, and a modern inspired dining area. If you're in Moncton - you must.
Stay tuned to hear more about our road trip and Nova Scotian explorations!