I woke up in Bangor, Maine, on Sept. 20, 2021 with excitement for an adventure ahead, an open road to someplace new and an opportunity to use my passport for the first time in two years.
Canada had just opened to American tourists in August, and I was on my way from my Massachusetts home to see two provinces on a four-day trip.
The requirements for entering Canada were: 1. Download the Arrive Can app and upload pictures of your vaccination card; 2. Get a COVID test within 72 hours of your visit; and 3. Be willing to accept a random COVID test at the border and a rapid COVID test at the Prince Edward Island border.
It was with confidence and a backup plan that I got tested the previous morning and headed to Bangor for the night to wait for my results, which I received the next morning. I tested negative, and after a front desk clerk printed the results out for me, I was off to New Brunswick, Canada.
When Canada first reopened, the lines at the border were miles long. On this day in late September, I drove right up, showed my documentation, submitted to a random COVID test and was on my way. I was happy to get tested, I feel grateful that the Canadian government has a plan and protocol for letting us visit.
My first stop was for coffee and a walk around St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea. Just over the border from Maine, St. Andrews, is a cute little village known for being Canada’s first seaside resort. Next stop was the largest city in the province, St. John. I had lunch and visited the three sites I had planned, the Reversing Falls, the city market, and Irving Nature Park. The stops were nice, but didn’t take me long, so I headed up the coast to Fundy National Park. In the little town of Alma, I got to see large fishing boats sitting on crates to keep them out of the mud at low tide. The tides here are so huge that the top of these boats was below the pier, amazing. The boats plan their daily fishing schedule based on the tides.
The next day I stopped at Hopewell Rocks, an iconic Bay of Fundy tide location. The tide is 46 feet here. I got lucky. Low tide was at 8 a.m. and I arrived in time for the 9 a.m. opening of the park.
Prince Edward Island
My travel style is get to where I’m going, see it, get back on the road. Just after 10 I was headed to Prince Edward Island. To get to PEI, I crossed an 8-mile bridge. It’s really something to see, it helped that the weather was perfect that day. Once across, I had to stop for a COVID rapid test. The island has kept COVID at bay with its ability to control who comes in. I did hear at dinner that there was a recent uptick in COVID, traced to a school, so they had put back in place mask mandates. Since I didn’t get a call about my rapid test, and my border test results came back negative (that’s three tests in three days for me), I was free to explore PEI.
My wife has a friend who has spent a lot of time in PEI. Her husband emailed me a detailed list describing a three-hour drive I could take and get a good feel for the island. I followed the itinerary, starting with a restaurant in Charlottetown, where I probably had the best fish and chips ever. PEI is just amazingly beautiful, and it helps that the weather was perfect and there are not a whole lot of tourists around.
One of the things I couldn’t do last year on my “48 states in 48 days” trip is hang out and talk to people. That night I picked up some good information at a restaurant while having dinner. The first was from a guy who grew up on Prince Edward Island. When I told him I was thinking of driving to Cape Breton Island the following day, he said he had been there once in his life, during high school. His team had a sporting event, and they drove there overnight – it was five or six hours away. The second piece of information was that New Brunswick had instituted a new travel policy that day to cut down on COVID. Everyone had to apply to travel through the province.
I confirmed the distance to Cape Breton, and quickly ruled out trying to make it there and back to New Brunswick in one day. So, it’s now a destination for a future trip. On the second piece of information, I was able to download the form I needed, attach my vaccination record, and submit it to the province for approval to travel.
Now that I had extra time in Prince Edward Island, I went back over my list of things to see in and decided to backtrack on some of the places I missed. I don’t think I have ever been to a more picturesque place. Everything is just stunning from the color of the houses to the boats, to the landscape and the ocean. I was so glad that I slowed down to appreciate what was in front of me, rather than rush off to the next destination.
Back in New Brunswick
In Fredericton, New Brunswick, I had to show my vaccination card at the hotel and at every restaurant I went into. It is the capital of the province and a nice little city on the river. I walked along the river and crossed over on a bike bath converted from a rail line.
Do you think Canadian’s are nice? Yesterday before dinner, a guy walking down the street saw me about to put money in a meter, and he said “don’t waste your money. They don’t collect after 5.” I replied that the meter said to pay until 6 p.m. (It was 5:30.) He told me “don’t worry about it, they are all union and don’t work after 5.” The next day, as I was paying at another meter, a women walked by, pointed to a nearby parking lot and said: “It’s a lot cheaper, over there.”
My final day was the drive from Fredericton back to my home just outside of Boston, an easy six-hour drive. The roads in Canada are good and uncrowded at that time of year. I noticed they are not big on rest areas, but it was no problem finding gas stations and anything else I needed right off the highway.
If you are looking to use your passport, want to get the feeling of excitement for new places, and want to visit a nice area, I recommend New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.