So return with us, dear friends, to early September of 2019, when we explored the pretty and historic village of Annapolis Royal, moseyed down the coast for an exciting day of whale watching, and got chased out of town by a hurricane.
A Brief Stop At Kejimkujik National Park
Leaving Lunenburg, we traveled 85 miles across Nova Scotia to Annapolis Royal on the west coast. Short travel days allow for exploring en route, so we spent a couple of hours at Kejimkujik National Park for a lunch break and short hike.
Why did we not plan to stay here, you ask? We always stay at national parks. But Kejimkujik is famous for hordes of mosquitoes, black flies, horse flies, and deer flies. We do our best to not deliberately make ourselves miserable.
Wouldn’t you know it, we didn’t hear the buzz of even one annoying insect. Maybe because it was September? Seeing all of the bike trails and kayaking opportunities made us wish we had planned to stay for a few days. Next time…(although I still wouldn’t go there in summer).
Moving on, we had two desires for our time in Annapolis Royal and the surrounding area: We wanted to visit the homeland of the Acadian people, and we wanted to see humpback whales in the Bay of Fundy. Oh, and we wanted to eat scallops from Digby, the scallop capital of the world!
In the early 1600s, farmers from southwest France came to North America and settled in the lush, beautiful Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. They farmed the rich tidal lands, established friendly relationships with the Mi’kmaq, and called their new home Acadia, which means “idyllic place.”
The Acadians evolved into a French-speaking culture distinct from their European ancestors, intermarried with the Mi’kmaq, and lived peacefully for 150 years. Then, the British arrived and did very bad things, including exiling the Acadians, splitting up families, and burning Acadian villages. The Acadians were scattered far and wide, with thousands perishing during the deportation.
A few thousand Acadians found refuge in the bayous of south Louisiana, where they adapted to life in the swampland. We’ve spent a lot of time in Cajun Country, and found it fascinating in Nova Scotia to connect the dots of Acadian and Cajun cultures. These are some seriously adaptable people, with a Joie de Vivre that belies their painful history. (If you haven’t been to Cajun Country, here are a couple of posts that might entice you: Roseate Spoonbills and Zydeco and In The Heart of Cajun Country.)
Port-Royal National Historic Site
About nine miles northwest of Annapolis Royal is Port-Royal National Historic Site. Established by French explorer Samuel de Champlain as a fur-trading outpost, it was one of the earliest European settlements in North America. Port-Royal was the capital of Acadia from 1605 to 1710.
Because the French treated the indigenous peoples with respect, the Mi’kmaq, who had lived in the region for thousands of years, welcomed them. They formed a friendship and mutually beneficial alliance.
Our guide was a proud Acadian with family roots that go back nine generations in the Annapolis Valley.
A Day With Humpback Whales
The day after visiting Port Royal, we headed out on an excursion to see humpback whales. Getting there was an adventure involving a 20-mile scenic drive down Digby Neck to Brier Island, which required two short ferry hops and careful timing (meaning, don’t tarry or you’ll miss the ferry!). Good thing Eric is always on time and drags me along.
The rich feeding grounds in southwestern Nova Scotia make the Bay of Fundy one of the world’s best sites for viewing marine mammals, including the humpbacks. These school bus-sized gentle giants are known for their acrobatic maneuvers.
We hoped to see the whales leaping out of the water and performing other spectacular antics, but honestly, we were happy to see them at all. (On our visit to Telegraph Cove a few years ago in British Columbia, we saw lots of orcas, but our only view of the humpbacks was their spouts.)
Despite their gigantic size, humpback whales consume only shrimp-like crustaceans or tiny fish. Instead of teeth, they have special fringed filters in their mouths called baleen. (Baleen is made of keratin, the same stuff our hair and fingernails are made of.) The whales gulp enormous quantities of seawater and filter the water through curtains of baleen to trap their minuscule prey.
The humpback whale gets its common name from the distinctive hump in front of the dorsal fin and from the curvature of their body when they make deep dives. They travel alone or in pods of two or three, and journey about 3,000 miles each year from their breeding grounds in sub-tropical waters to their summer home in colder northern waters.
Looking down at the whales, we could see their long white pectoral fins, which look like wings. The scientific name for humpback whales, Megaptera, translates to “big-winged.”
Tragically, humpback whales were almost hunted to extinction. In the mid-1960s, we finally started protecting these magnificent creatures, and they’ve made a spectacular comeback. Lucky them. Lucky us. Let’s hope that someday we stop pushing creatures and nature to the brink of disaster.
Exploring Annapolis Royal
Annapolis Royal is a pretty, peaceful town of 200 on the Annapolis River. The French established a fort here in 1630, and held onto it for only 80 years before the British defeated them. This marked the conquest of Acadia and began the dominion of the British over Nova Scotia.
Fort Anne is in the center of town, with a grand view of the Annapolis River.
Annapolis Royal is home to many art galleries, a brewery, good restaurants, and a farmers’ market. We had planned to stay a couple more days in the area, but heard rumors of a hurricane heading our way. “Nothing to worry about!” said the locals. However, we thought differently as we saw Hurricane Dorian picking up steam. A hurricane may not be a big deal in a sturdily built home, but it is a big deal in a travel trailer.
Click on photos for a larger image
Where We Stayed
Just look at that waterfront site, with no other campers in view! This is the delight of camping after Labour Day in the Maritimes. Actually, even in high season, we never felt crowded in the Maritimes.
Thank you, Christine! Nova Scotia is wonderful.
Merci! A whale of a tale.
Haha!! We loved seeing the whales, Sheila. We had our best sighting of humpback whales in Nova Scotia. Next on my list of desires is to see beluga whales. :-)
Love your leisurely mental stroll back in history . . since COVID I’ve been reading more history books and one is about how the British after chasing out the Acadians because they were French, horror of horrors! the British enticed American slaves to obtain “freedom” in Nova Scotia in exchange for fighting with the British during the American Revolution. But the ex-slaves were cheated and denied when they arrived in Nova Scotia, same old same old story as in the southern USA states. Some stayed but many eventually migrated to better jobs in Canada’s larger cities just like ex-slaves in the USA. For history buffs this is a good link . . https://www.bccnsweb.com/web/our-history/
I appreciate your thoughtful comment and the link, Terri. You always have something interesting to contribute! Learning about the history of the people and places we visit makes our travels so much more meaningful. I would love someday to get together with you in person and talk about our respective travels and experiences.
Wow, I’ve never visited that area but your pictures and stories make me want to fix that oversight. I didn’t know the history of the Acadian people and how/why many ended up in the bayous of Louisiana… fascinating. I love the whales too – how nice that you were able to see them up close.
Janis, if you have the opportunity to visit Nova Scotia, definitely do it! Our time there was one of the highlights of our seven years of full-time traveling. We also love Louisiana and Cajun Country, and it was fascinating to experience the homeland of the Acadian people. And the whales were wonderful. :-)
Nice! Thank you.
Thank you, Charlie! We loved our time in Nova Scotia.
Those scallops look wonderful, but I’d be having the mussels. My one and only trip to that region of Canada was to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia on a cruise ship some years ago. I had the best mussels of my life on Prince Edward Island. Thanks for sharing a bit of history. Beyond the photos, that makes a place all the more interesting.
Suzanne, we enjoyed a bounty of incredible seafood in our two-and-a-half months in the Maritimes, including plenty of mussels on Prince Edward Island and in Nova Scotia. I do love scallops, and Digby scallops are fantastic. They are enormous compared to our Florida bay scallops, but still tender and sweet.
I’m glad you enjoyed the Acadian history…exploring the history of an area and people adds so much richness to our travels.
Lovely post! Thank you. We really love the Maritimes. Probably about 15 years ago we stayed in a little place in Briar Island. I was enchanted with that land. About five years after that, we came up in a camper with the kids and we were greeted full force by the bugs. I will always remember the sound of the buzzing of the insects and all four of us stuck in the camper! Glad you are catching up on your posts. That reminds me, I am late with one!
Susie, it sounds like you stayed on Brier Island, which is where we went for our whale watching cruise. What a sweet place! I imagine it would have been wonderful to stay there. The bugs on your second trip sound horrific, though. That was my fear about camping anywhere inland in the Maritimes. I chose every place we stayed according to whether or not it had a good ocean breeze, LOL!
The connection between the people who called this region home and those who ended up making parts of Louisiana what we think of when we think of Louisiana is fascinating and unexpected. A sadly familiar tale, unfortunately, but interesting to learn about from your travels through both regions.
It looks like there was plenty of activity to watch on your whale watch and your photos are fantastic. I especially love the one of the two swimming next to each other, perfectly coordinated in their movements. I still don’t understand how animals that big can get by on that diet. It would be like saying your average NFL linebacker only ate celery and carrot sticks. Are you sure they’re not sneaking extra calories somewhere below the surface of the ocean – like raiding the refrigerator at 2:00 a.m. when no one’s looking??? :)
Haha!! I had the same thought, Laura! How can those enormous humpback whales grow so big and maintain their size eating only tiny crustaceans and plankton? They definitely must be raiding the refrigerator and eating peanut butter straight out of the jar, LOL!!!
We have always loved Cajun Country, and it was fascinating for us to trace the Acadian culture back to the Maritimes.
Beautiful images and writing is what you deliver. Love Kejimkujk National Park.
Thank you so much, Kathryn. We would love to return to Kejimkujik National Park, especially now that we know the bugs aren’t a problem in September. It is so beautiful and serene!
I so wish the Maritimes weren’t so far away. We’ve been to Nova Scotia twice but I’d really like to go back to travel all area again. Your whale photos are absolutely spectacular!
Pam, one of the good things about us having a home base in Florida is that we’re so much closer to the Maritimes. We would love to return for more exploring and more whale watching. We’re doing to do our best to make good use of our time on the east coast. :-)
I love traveling with you….just a reminder of how much we missed the last few months…Martin and I both have much heritage in the Digby and New Brunswick areas…Nova Scotia is one beautiful province. Black flies are usually present in June and early July. After that you are safe!
Julie, going back through our photos and memories makes me so grateful for the travels we’ve experienced, and also inspires me to get busy planning travels now that life is (hopefully) getting back to normal. It’s so cool that you and Martin have so many ties to the Digby and New Brunswick areas. It would be fun to meet up there with you guys! Thanks for the insider info on the black flies…
You’re doing a great job of helping me plan next year’s RV trip. Beautiful pictures and a tip on where to find good scallops make for a great post. I hope you’ll let us pick your brain later for more information. Have a great weekend! Joe
Joe, you and Helen are going to love the Maritimes! We would be happy to answer any questions you might have…how about some visiting around our fire pit this winter?
We’re in! Thanks for the invite! Joe
Lol, make your reservations early! The little campground here on Magnolia Bluff is filling up! :-)
How I wish I’d been with you. Just let me know if you ever want to return. The 3 of us spent several months camping in a tent in the Maritimes in the 90’s after Carrie had won a bet to read all of the Little House books. We had a wonderful time and I’d love to go back especially after reading this. All that seafood – my favorite. YUM!
Sherry, how fun that you have such great memories of a family trip to the Maritimes! I’ll bet those memories are dear to Carrie, too. We would love to return, and it would be fun to share some adventures with you up there!
She read the Little House books and we took her to North Dakota to stay in a sod house but what this should have said was she read all the Anne of Green gables books and that’s why we went to Prince Edward Island
I was figuring that’s what you meant. I’m just now reading Anne of Green Gables and wondering why I waited so long! The books are delightful.
What beautiful memories you are going back to! I wonder if it makes you want to full time again???
We never made it to the maritimes so I am thoroughly enjoying living vicariously through you!
I’m so glad you’re enjoying our travels in the Maritimes, Lisa. As I write these travel-related posts, it does make me want to get back to our travel adventures. We’re not so certain about full-timing anymore, but that may just be the after effects of a very long, hard sixteen months (losing my folks/dealing with their estate/pandemic).
We’re both enjoying having time to pursue other interests that we don’t have time for when we’re traveling. But we’re getting inspired to do some long trips, starting next spring! How about you, do you ever miss full-time traveling?
Whale sightings are always a thrill, especially when it’s a species that was hunted to the brink of extinction! I am so glad you had up close sightings since it can be very hit or miss (says a person who has been on MANY failed wildlife-viewing tours). It’s even better that you were able to combine exciting wildlife with interesting history and good seafood. Some places just have so much to offer, and I’m glad you’re finding them so we can someday shamelessly copy your itinerary.
Yes, seeing whales is always a thrill! We’ve been skunked on many whale watching attempts (mostly from land on San Juan Island), but we’ve had great success on our boat trips in the San Juan Islands, on Vancouver Island (Telegraph Cove), and on this most recent trip in Nova Scotia. But we have yet to see the humpbacks doing their cool acrobatic maneuvers, and I’m determined to see that in person. So there’s more whale watching in our future…
Shannon, you and Ken will love the Maritimes and the combination of outdoor adventures and rich history the area offers. I will attempt a wrap-up post at some point with a map! And of course, even better is if we chat about plans over happy hour. :-)
Yay! I’m so glad you’re sharing more of your travel stories. Your whale-watching expedition looks like fun. We see a lot of gray whales just off our coastal walk, which is always a thrill, no matter how many times you see those “blows.” A few of my friends have seen orcas offshore (they’re after the baby gray whales), but we always seem to miss them.
Your campsite looks lovely! We are currently in the Redwoods (Myers Flat) as we head down to San Diego (at a very leisurely pace) and had a large family in the site next to ours yesterday. The kids were being kids and the parents were having a good time, but it was a little too noisy for our liking. Rod is busy working on a new book and I was trying to get a blog post drafted, so we were wishing for a little peace and quiet. We were relieved to see that family head out early this morning. Now, all we hear is the wind rustling in the trees and the occasional chirping of birds.
Thanks for all your great posts and recommendations! I’m counting the days until we get back over to Hwy 395 and the food truck at June Lake. :)
Les, I appreciate your enthusiasm about our travel posts! And I love that you enjoyed Hwy 395 and the little food truck at June Lake. It’s those unexpected small treasures that make traveling such a delight. Reflecting on our travel adventures and reading our friends blogs makes me inspired to start planning some travels.
Noisy camping neighbors, ugh. I’m glad they left you in peace so that you could enjoy the sounds of nature. I’m looking forward to your posts about your trip through California. Have fun!
Great commentary on the Acadians. In Louisiana, we visited a Harvest Host site – Vermilionville Living History Museum & Folklife Park. We were able to get a perspective on the Acadians, their journey from Canada, and the merging w/ the Cajun culture. My grandparents are french and immigrated from Canada so this history is neat to understand. We’ll need to head to the Maritimes to get the northern perspective. The British were especially brutal!!
Thank you so much, Richard. How cool that you stayed at a Harvest Host site at Vermilionville! We visited there several years ago on one of our many trips to Cajun Country, and it was one of our favorite places. Now I want to stay there!
Given that your grandparents are French and immigrated from Canada, you will find Acadia especially interesting. It’s such a beautiful area, and the history is fascinating. As you said, the British were brutal, but the Acadians managed to survive and somehow maintained their strong cultural ties and joy in living.
Those Acadian settlers cottages look positively elfin! Very cool that you’ve been able to connect the northern and southern history in your travels.
How could those whales refuse to show up? Look at how nicely the watchers are sitting 😄 So exciting when the critter you’re hoping to spot makes such a grand appearance.
Thanks for staying dedicated to the travel posts 🥰
Joodie, elfin is a perfect description for the Acadian cottages! The gardens were beautiful, too. It seemed to be a peaceful, pastoral life with the Acadians and Mi’kmaq living harmoniously until the British arrived. :-(
All of us whale watchers were sitting properly until the whales showed up, and everyone ran from one side of the boat to the other, LOL. Fortunately those boats are very stable and seaworthy.
Such a beautiful area, I have to figure out a route that gets us there at the right time of year! How wonderful to visit the “homeland” of the Acadians who we’ve also enjoyed learning about in Cajun Country. The whales!! Thanks for sharing your time with those amazing animals. Eric captured a lovely pic of you too :-) Your site on the water looks like another perfect find. Loving getting caught up with your travels.
Jodee, I know you and Bill enjoy Cajun Country as much as we do. I think you’ll love visiting Nova Scotia, not only to explore the history of the Acadians, but also for the natural beauty. We were in the Maritimes in July, August, and half of September, and it was the perfect time to be there. We would really like to return!
So happy to return with y’all to the Maritimes (or anywhere, really–feeling that road calling)! This also brings back memories of our time in N.S. (Kejimkujik) and later (not a road trip, obviously) Newfoundland. Something about the way the architecture responds to the environments there…it just looks so harmonious.
Interested to know when you might begin your roaming lives again. Have cat, will travel?
Gretchen, we were really regretting that we didn’t plan for more time at Kejimkujik. And Newfoundland is still on our list!
As far as when we will return to our travels, we are heading for North Carolina this summer. And hopefully, some short trips this winter in Florida. Next spring, we’re planning a big trip to Michigan to do the route that we were headed for before 2020 derailed us. Magnolia will definitely be part of the crew! :-)
The Maritimes is on our list of places we really want to visit with our motor home … last year was when we had it penciled in. We all know what happened. And now, it will be a few more years before our travel schedule opens up to fit in a road trip in that direction. Oh well … I’ll just travel there virtually with your posts.
Erin, that’s exciting that you have so many travel plans over the next few years! I’m loving following along on your Alaska adventure right now. Definitely keep the Maritimes on your list. Our trip there was one of the highlights so far of our seven years of travel.
Beautiful, beautiful! Love seeing your visit, even a couple of years later. Something we may now never manage, so it is especially poignant to read about it. Love the history of the Acadians and the relationship to the Cajun. I learned a bit about this when we visited Maine on a cruise ship, but hadn’t thought about it much lately. And…mosquitoes, black flies, horse flies, and deer flies seem to be the scourge of the north country. I would imagine that there might have been a frost to knock them down. One of our favorite lakes here in Oregon, Waldo Lake, is impossible during the warmer months, but we have camped in the fall successfully without being eaten alive. Our one summer experience was something we won’t forget…or repeat. Glad you are writing about your past travels and catching up.
Sue, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. The Maritimes are a special place, and I’m so grateful that we managed to get all the way up there to explore. I’m happy that we can share it with you.
I know exactly what you mean about the mosquitoes at certain times/places in Oregon! We had a traumatic experience tent camping at the headwaters of the Wood River one year. The mosquitoes were so thick we only found relief when we were immersed in the river.
We have never camped there for that reason. And it is such a gorgeous spot. Malone Springs is terrible as well. Good for kayak launching if you are quick but not for camping.
Great memories, love the Canadian Maritime! I cant figure out where to revisit in Canada, the Maritime, Vancouver Is, or Alberta?
Thank you for taking us back with you as you juggle back to 2019.
It sure is interesting to learn and connect the dots in history during our travels and you have demonstrated that about the Acadian people.
Good job in catching up with your travels and you have great memory recalling your activities.
How is Maggie?
MonaLiza, thanks for coming along with us while we catch up on our travels. The ridiculous number of photos we take helps jog my memory. I also use the opportunity when I’m writing a blog to delete hundreds of photos and just keep a handful. (I know you understand!)
We haven’t been to Alberta yet, but we would happily return to the Maritimes or Vancouver Island. Or Quebec City! We love traveling in Canada.
Maggie is doing well and is sweet and funny and crazy as ever. She almost has us trained, haha!!
So beautiful, Laurel! What I love about this post is the history lesson behind it. I think knowing the history makes the adventure much more meaningful. To feel the presence of those who were there before us – ah! Gives me chills. Thank you for taking us on this magical journey with you. – Viv
Thank you, Vivian. The story of the Acadian/Cajun people is fascinating and inspiring. As you said, learning something about the history and the people of the places we visit makes our adventures so much more meaningful. I know how much you appreciate people’s stories…it’s a wonderful idea you have to create a forum for sharing your stories and the stories of others on your blog!