One of our favorite vacation areas is the Maritimes in Canada where you might say we connected a lot of dots on our last trip. The journey began in the port city of Halifax. Always fun for exploring and discovering, we encountered several people there for a “small world” song that would play out across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. After a tasty lunch with Jackie Collins from the Nova Scotian, we sipped a nice pinot noir at the oceanfront restaurant called The Bicycle Thief with Callie, a consultant from Atlanta working with the local power plant.
From Halifax, we drove to Digby Pines Resort and Spa. General Manager Rene Leblanc and Annah Boucher, Director of Operations, combine talents to ensure guests thoroughly enjoy the resort’s golf, food, spa and lodging. Annah is largely responsible for Chef Nichol’s collaboration with an artist on the book from Palette to Palate because of her upbringing as an artist’s daughter. While visiting the local Bear River Winery, they mentioned the labels’ artist’s name which rang a bell. Any kinship to Annah at Digby Pines? Why yes, she is his daughter.
Our departure to New Brunswick from the Digby port aboard the MV Fundy Rose was engulfed in dense fog. That’s ok because the MV Fundy Rose is like a cruise ship. Each side of the ferry has movie viewing in recliner seating, adult titles on one side and kid entertainment on the other. Cozy compartments abound for business travelers with laptops and readers catching up on the latest novel. Full service bars are located on each end of the ship. A curator from the museum shares artifacts and history. Relaxation, whale watching, shopping and game options are numerous aboard the MV Fundy Rose. As we toured the vessel, we heard the familiar song of a violin and realized it was the same entertainer from Churchill’s restaurant at Digby Pines a few nights prior, playing an ensemble of Celtic melodies to the applause aboard. When we decided to try the lobster poutine (an outrageously delicious combo of fries, lobster and rich sauce worth every calorie) we were served by Mary, the wife of Rene at Digby Pines. A small world pattern was developing.
We disembarked at St. John’s, and drove west to the city of St. Andrew’s by the Sea. Our beautiful home for the next couple of days was The Algonquin Resort, fresh from a 30-million-dollar renovation. The famous Algonquin Golf Course had received a four million upgrade with several new holes and a completely different view of the Bay of Passamaquoddy. Jonathan, the starter shared stories and maybe a few yarns to boot. Joining us on the course was Glenn, a supervisor at the power plant in Halifax. As you might have guessed, Glenn works with Callie as well as Jackie at the Westin Nova Scotian, where he holds meetings.
Fredericton is a two-hour drive north of St. Andrews by the Sea where the Kingswood Golf Club opened in 2003 and was designated as Golf Digest’s Best New Canadian Course. Club ambassador Eric took us out on the course in a four-seater golf cart. Flora and fauna are abundant throughout the Graham Cooke and Darrell Huxham layout which flows through the hills, woods and streams in such a fashion that it might be difficult to discern one signature hole. But then, you reach number 14 with a lake to the right and high rock wall in the distance along the fairway with a tall waterfall. This dogleg right par four is a WOW signature hole for sure. This is where Eric shared the story of how owner Bryan Johnson was too close to a blasting zone and was hit by flying debris. A few inches closer and he would have been killed. Getting approval for the course required a lot of give and take. Permits were allowed after negotiating for rock requirements for the nearby highway. A quarry was developed on site for materials needed. The clubhouse was made from wood that was cleared from the golf course as well. Every beam and panel were built onsite, a testament to conservation.
Upon entering the clubhouse, the Sam Sneads Oak Grill and Tavern stands out with motif concerning the legend and his accomplishments. From Ryder Cup bags, clubs used to pictures from his era, it is a very impressive collection. Sam Sneads is rated the number one restaurant out of 180 in Fredericton, quite a distinction. The enclosed patio has an elevated view of the closing front and back nine while enjoying the menu selections or toasting a round.
A new Radisson recently opened next door and the Kingswood property includes an entertainment center with bowling, arcade, gymnastics room and workout facility. We stayed at the Delta along the St. Johns river where the open-air lobby is inviting. The rooms and suites are well appointed and dining options deliver not only great cuisine but a river view. We wish we could have stayed longer but our next stop was Moncton for a round at the Royal Oaks. This was the first course built by Rees Jones in Canada and opened in 2000. Jai Beau, the starter, allowed us to tee off early and what a treat, as we completed the 18 in just over two hours. As with many Rees Jones designs, the course meanders thru the golf community without intrusion of the homes. Several ponds and lakes are navigable with ample driving zones. Large mounded greens make this an enjoyable track to play. This private course is open to the public and has all the amenities one would come to expect, but without the pretense. The clubhouse has a fine pro shop, but we were most impressed with the food options in Crosswinds Restaurant and Bar. The apple brie soup was as delightful as it sounds, and fresh seafood is always available. Their marketing representative Debbie Rihard joined us and shared that she was formerly with The Algonquin, another dot connected.
After lunch, we returned to the Westin Nova Scotian by car for one last night in the Maritimes. We bumped in to Jackie, Michelle and New Castle Hotels’ Glenn for a glass of wine in the lobby bar and shared our connected dots. A farewell dinner at Elements on Hollis and an evening stroll along the harbor boardwalk completed our adventure. We will savor the flavors of the food and wine of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, just as much as in PEI previously. A few more days and we would have acquired all the friends we might need in the Maritimes – a small world we recommend exploring.