I don't think I've ever met a culture so fiercely determined to celebrate its history and so modern in how they do it.
The Acadians of New Brunswick are fully present and not to be missed. This New Brunswick road trip is your perfect introduction to Les Acadiens.
Despite the British attempt to remove them from British North America in 1755 a few remained and eventually gathered in Caraquet, the unofficial capital of Acadia. Their population grew and now spreads along the New Brunswick's east coast. You can feel the Acadian presence in the French you hear (with an accent that I didn't find difficult), the food you eat, the music you listen to and the activities you enjoy.
The road trip along New Brunswick's Acadian Coastal Drive offers:
- The Acadian Village (animated historic village)
- Le Pays de la Sagouine (animated village inspired by the novels of Antonine Maillet)
- Traditional Acadian food and fine cuisine often featuring incredible seafood
- Beaches, both managed and wild.
- A beautiful National Park
- Coves to explore
- Fishers to meet
- Fly fishing to try
- Birds to watch
- And the amazing amount of noise they make at Tentamare, the annual event on August 15th where, for one hour, people make as much noise as they can as a declaration that “We are Still Here!!!”.
As I continue to travel this year I find myself telling the stories from this August trip again and again. For a trip through a seemingly quiet rural countryside, it has certainly left me with many stories and anecdotes to pass along to you. Here I want to share my road trip itinerary with tips and photos.
New Brunswick Road Trip along the Acadian Coast – Itinerary
This is a five-day itinerary for the Acadian Coastal Route. I flew into Moncton and spent one day on either end on the Bay of Fundy. So I'll start with Day 2 of my trip, Day 1 of the Acadian Coastal Route.
Acadian Coastal Drive Day 1, Drive to Miramichi
Get away from Moncton early so that you have time to:
- Spend the morning at Le Pays de la Sagouine in Bouctouche. The name means the country of the washerwoman. This is a fictional community based on the novels of the renowned Acadian novelist Antonine Maillet. From the welcome center you take a boardwalk to this community where characters from the novels bring Acadia of the Prohibition Era to life. When you get there you'll find live theatre, music, comedy, dance and cuisine. It's very clever how they designed their main performance area. There are two stages with seating in between that can be flipped in the direction of the stage with the performance. I could have eaten there but I moved on to go to a restaurant in town.
- Have lunch in Bouctouche at Restaurant la Sagouine for real Acadian food and other options as well. After a brief wait in line I was offered a table for one. The couple behind me spoke up and asked me to join them. I had lunch with Mike and Cheryl from Nova Scotia, both Acadian – she from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and he from Bathurst, New Brunswick. I had Acadian Clam Pie, Cheryl had Rappe, a potato pancake, and Mike had a lobster roll. It was a wonderful lunch and, wouldn't you know, I met them again at the Tentamare in Caraquet a few days later.
- Stop in at Irving Eco-Centre on the north side of Bouctouche. You can spend a while and walk the 12km boardwalk along the dune or climb the tower for the view and move on.
- Watch the coastline for fishers in action as you drive north. If you're lucky you'll see fishing boats going into harbour. Make a detour to the harbour to see how they bring in their catch. I spent an hour at Cap Lumiere watching the goings-on and talking with the people there.
- Arrive Miramichi and check into Rodd Miramichi. The Rodd, as it's known locally, is the premier hotel in the area. Positioned perfectly on the river it's recently undergone a full renovation which makes for a very pleasant stay.
- Have dinner at O'Donaghue's Pub in Miramichi. I saved the Rodd’s restaurant for my second night. On this first night, I had dinner at O’Donaghue’s Pub which is a 5-minute walk from the Rodd. It’s a popular spot and they often have live music on the weekend.
Acadian Coastal Route Day 2 – Spend the day in and around Miramichi
The Miramichi River looms large in my mind. My late husband's family lived mostly in New Brunswick and this river was always referred to as the Mighty Miramichi. It's a grand river and the focus of leisure activities for locals and visitors alike.
- Spend the morning standing in the river learning how to flyfish on the Little Southwest Miramichi at Upper Oxbow Outdoor Adventures. The half-day adventure includes lunch which was delicious but the best part is being on the river and learning the technique involved in casting a fly just so. It takes time to learn but eventually I got it – kind-of – at least most of the time. Sometimes I'd cast too far back and snap the water behind me which would result in the line bunching up in a pile in the river in front of me rather than touching down lightly. Fly fishing is an art form that, I'm guessing, isn't ever actually perfected. And if you have can do so on one river, you won’t necessarily be able to on another. Regardless, it’s a wonderful way to spend the day.
- Drive south of Mramichi to explore Kouchibouguac National Park. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the Acadian Coast has the warmest beaches north of Virginia. Take the long walk along the boardwalk to Kelly’s beach, swim or just lie on the beach and bask in the sun. There are also fishing harbors in the park. I never got tired of talking to the fishers about their lifestyle. By the way, while the names of the boats suggest that women are out fishing as well, I didn’t actually meet any.
- Return to the Rodd Miramichi for the night. Treat yourself to dinner at the 1809 Restaurant and Bar where chef, Jesse MacDonald, delivers local flavors with wonderful flare.
Acadian Coastal Route Day 3 – Driving to the end of the road and Caraquet's historic village.
- Drive north from Miramichi to Miscou. Miscou is an island at the very northern tip of New Brunswick. It's quite remote. There's a lighthouse at the end and bird watching stations along the peat marsh which turns a bright red in the fall. I love driving to the end of a road and that's exactly what you can do on the Ile Miscou. As you enter the island stop in at the local visitor information center to get an overview of the island. One of the tidbits of information I loved learning there was about the emergency crash landing of a Russian monoplane on the island. Vladimir Kokkinaki and his co-pilot Mikhail Gordienko were attempting a non-stop, cross-Atlantic flight over a northerly route but fell short. The people of Miscou helped out. From Miscou the pilots made it to Moncton and from there they flew to New York. The attempt was later known as the “Moscow-Miscou” flight.
- Go to the Village Historique Acadien. After Miscou head to Caraquet, the heart of Acadian country. Just east of Caraquet is the Village Historique Acadien, unique in that it covers two periods of time, the 1770s and the 1940s. You start in the earlier period and after crossing a covered bridge you enter the 1940s. There are over 40 buildings and all the characters speak both French and English. At minimum, a half day is recommended.
- Check into Gîte “Le Poirier” B&B where Alain Boisvert is your host. The B&B is very sweet and immaculately kept. Alain, as you can see below, serves wonderful, amazing, delicious breakfasts! He's also a wonderful source of advice on exploring Caraquet and the history of the area if that's your interest.
- Explore Caraquet. Alain's B&B is on the main street of Caraquet. I was there during the Festival Acadien de Caraquet so there was lots going on. I went to a free concert at their community centre featuring Ten Strings and a Goat. The hall is such that everyone gets a great seat. The band was fantastic!
- Another lobster roll. Yum! After the concert it was late for dinner so I wanted something light. I stopped into a Dixie Lee, a fast food chain, and had a great lobster roll. I don't generally go to fast food restaurants but I've found that fast food outlets in New Brunswick do a lobster roll well. It's my go-to if I don't have much time.
Acadian Coastal Route Day 4 – High Spirits and the Festival Acadien de Caraquet
For me, day 4 was August 15th, the big day for the Festival Acadien de Caraquet. However, there was much I could see before the festivities started.
- Explore Sainte-Anne-du-Bocage. Sainte-Anne-du-Bocage is a sanctuary in Caraquet than includes the original church with an addition on the back for outdoor services. Through the woods there is a Stations of the Cross walk and a Rosary walk. The Sainte-Anne Chapel was built on the site of the first church in Caraquet and has been an important pilgrimage site for more than a century and a half.
- Visit Distillerie Fils du Roy. I still have much to write about this trip but I was inspired to write about this distillery right away. The story of Sébastien Roy, its founder, and how he interweaves his spirits with Acadian culture and history is amazing. Please read Learning from Travel: A Lesson in Following Dreams.
- Attending the Festival Acadien de Caraquet. If you are so lucky as to go to Caraquet during the Festival you are in for a big, big treat. There are concerts throughout the day. At the official ceremonies Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke as previous prime ministers have done. And at 6pm sharp the famous Tintamarre begins. The town people and visitors walk up and down the mains street making as much noise as possible as evidence that the Acadians are still here! Make sure that you buy an Acadian flag, paint your face appropriately and get a noisemaker to join the fun. What a fantastic evening.
- Got to the Méchants Party. Méchants means nasty, naughty or mean. The Méchants Party runs on the last night of the festival. It offers even more music and dancing.
- Drop into bed at Gîte “Le Poirier” B&B. Sleep well with the knowledge that Alain will have one of his wonderful breakfasts for you in the morning.
Acadian Coastal Route Day 5 – Drive to Shediac and a lobster cruise!
I was concerned that after the festival the road back to Moncton/Shediac would be busy but it wasn't bad. I arrived in time for to check into my hotel and get to the lobster cruise in time.
- Leave for Shediac. Driving south to Shediac take the coastal route as much as you can because it's very pretty. As I was not certain about traffic I drove the coast for a while but the main road for much of it.
- Check into the Hotel Shediac. The Hotel Shediac is a fairly new hotel located near the centre of Shediac.
- Take a Lobster Tales cruise. Ron was our captain and host for the two-hour Lobster Tales cruise. And could Ron tell a tale. He was great fun, entertaining children and adults as he educated us about lobster, the fishery and the best way to cook and eat this delicacy. I learned that I have been cooking it the wrong way all these years and discovered that I could love lobster even more cooked Ron’s way.
Five Days on a New Brunswick Road Trip
So there you have it, my five-day New Brunswick road trip itinerary. It truly was a fantastic time. It will be on my recommended solo road trips post I'm planning for our series of 2017 trip planning posts.
This week-long road trip was supported by Tourism New Brunswick. It was fantastic! I have so much to tell you. As always the opinions and experiences are my own.