St. Andrews, NB (August 5 – 14, 2019)

On Monday, August 5th, we left Lubec, ME and drove 70 miles to St. Andrews, NB (a.k.a. St. Andrews By-the-Sea). The village of St. Andrews traces its roots to the days of the Loyalists. After the American Revolution, New Englanders who had supported the British were made to feel unwelcome and moved a short sail away to the peninsula of St. Andrews.

Crossing the border into Canada took us about 30 minutes and Phil was asked a lot of questions by Canadian Border Services. Jan was in the car right behind Phil so she got less questions. Monday was New Brunswick Day so, when Phil’s GPS directed him to drive down the street one block away from downtown St. Andrews, he encountered cars parked on both sides of the narrow street. Fortunately, the few cars that had been trying to drive in his direction pulled over to the curb and allowed Phil to get by.

We will spend nine nights at Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping. The campground is at Indian Point, the easternmost part of St. Andrews, on the edge of Passamaquoddy Bay which connects to the Atlantic Ocean. We had reserved an oceanview pull-through site. However, these pull-through sites were different from the usual ones. Rather than leave the truck parked in front of the fifth wheel, we were required, after disconnecting, to move the truck to behind the trailer. The sites were quite narrow and, after disconnecting the trailer the first time, we discovered that there was not enough room to open our off-door living room slide. We had to reconnect and move the trailer a few inches forward. The next challenge was to squeeze the truck and car in behind the trailer. We managed to get them both parked, with the Mazda slightly intruding on the neighbor’s site. However, due to the tight fit, we had to walk sideways to get between the vehicles.

After getting set up, we enjoyed sitting outside with a strong breeze coming off the bay. That evening, we went for a walk across the road to the beach access.

Panorama of Passamaquoddy Bay at low tide

On Tuesday morning we walked downtown along Water Street and visited many of the shops. We also strolled out on the wharf where the whale watching and sport fishing cruises depart. We then ate lunch on the patio at Water Street Diner and enjoyed people watching while we waited for our food.

We returned to the beach after dinner and experienced it at high tide for a change.

On Wednesday, the weather had turned quite a bit cooler. We went for a 4.4-mile hike along the Van Horne Trail which was an easy path that took us from Water Street, near the campground, to Katy’s Cove. At the beginning of the hike, we spotted a nearly all-white fawn along with a group of does. We detoured along the way for a hike through Pagan Point Nature Preserve to the beach.

That evening we went for a long walk along the coast and up Prince of Wales Road. There were lots of deer grazing in the fields and neighborhood yards. The deer obviously felt quite safe as they allowed us to walk very close to them. We visited the Kingbrae Garden, a 24-acre public garden on the grounds of a long-gone estate. Although the gardens were closed, the café was still open so we were able to explore the plants and sculptures in the parking lot.

On Thursday morning we went downtown to the St. Andrews Farmers’ Market. We strolled past the many stands and purchased some produce and snacks.

That afternoon we strolled the beach at low tide and walked out on the point nearly to the end. We only stopped when the footing became too slippery. This long stretch of land is completely submerged at high tide.

On Friday we drove 30 minutes to the neighboring town of St. Stephen. Our first stop was at the weekly Community Market where we only bought some snacks. We strolled along the downtown district and stopped at the Chocolate Museum. St. Stephen hails itself as “Canada’s Chocolate Town.” We had intended to take a tour of the museum but the next tour was going to be in French. We visited the gift shop and admired a sculpture that had been carved out of a 500-pound of chocolate. Ultimately, we decided not to wait for the next tour in English and opted, instead, to visit the local covered bridge. The Maxwell Crossing covered bridge, built in 1910, was not as interesting as the ones we had seen in Iowa last fall. That evening we walked around St. Andrews again. We visited the Pendlebury Lighthouse that was built in 1833 and operated until 1933.

On Saturday we returned to the Van Horne Trail. This time we hiked from Water Street to the eastern side of Katy’s Cove, then returned via the shoreline until we reached the Pagan Point Nature Preserve.

For dinner, we walked downtown and ate at The Gables Restaurant. This clapboard structure was named for the three-gabled roof line and built as a private residence in 1870. Since then, it has been a rooming house in the 40s, a guest house in the 50s & 60s, a rock and roll burger joint in the 70s & 80s, and as The Gables Restaurant since 1989. We sat outside on the patio overlooking the bay. It started to drizzle as we were finishing our meal but, fortunately, the rain didn’t last long.

On Sunday we visited Ministers Island. We drove across the bar and hiked five miles around the perimeter of the island and a loop near the mansion, Covenhoven.  The island is only accessible during a 5-hour window centered on low tide. During this time, cars can be driven to the island across a rocky bar that is underwater at other times.

Reverend Samuel Andrews bought the island for £250 pounds sterling in 1790, thus the name “Ministers Island.” The island remained in the Andrews family until 1891, when a large parcel was sold to Sir William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Van Horne built a 50-room mansion (Covenhoven), a circular bathhouse that led to a natural saltwater pool (when the tide was up), the largest heated greenhouses in Canada, and a 3-story state-of-the-art barn.

On Monday, Jan toured the Kingbrae Garden. This 27-acre public garden opened in 1998, using the former grounds of a long-gone estate that had a history of fine gardens. The Garden features a cedar maze, two ponds, streams, a wide array of birds, butterflies and insects, a woodland trail through an Acadian forest, animals, sculptures, and more. For lunch, we returned to the Water Street Diner and sat on the patio to people watch.

We spent much of Tuesday preparing for our return to the U.S. on Wednesday. In the afternoon, we visited the St. Andrews blockhouse and gun battery. This is the only remaining blockhouse in Canada from the War of 1812. When the war broke out, the citizens of St. Andrews had little fear of an invasion by their neighbors across the bay in Maine. The main threat was of privateering. In wartime, governments licensed private businesses and ships to seize enemy vessels and cargoes, as well as to loot homes and businesses. The battery consisted of three “18-pounder” guns (named after the weight of their shot) that overlooked the entrance to the harbor. These guns could fire as far as Navy Island, across the harbor. The blockhouse was constructed soon after. From inside, soldiers armed with muskets and a small cannon could defend the battery. The defense worked. Although privateers captured many ships at sea, they never attacked St. Andrews. After touring the blockhouse, we went down on the beach and watched lots of people digging for clams in the low tide.

It was with regret that we had to leave the Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping campground. Although it was an adjustment to our body clocks being in the Atlantic time zone (one hour later than Eastern time), we certainly enjoyed being able to sit outside every afternoon and enjoy the cool breezes coming off the Passamaquoddy Bay without having to deal with mosquitoes. Jan went outside early on Wednesday morning to capture a picture of the sun rising over the bay.


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