I’m half Acadian and thrilled to guide you on this Acadian culture tour. It’s filled with history, gorgeous scenery, great family activities, and a laid back vibe. You’ll see the Acadian flag flying everywhere and its colours (red, white and blue) gloriously utilized all over.
This scenic route hugs the eastern coast of New Brunswick for approximately 750 km (460 mi) if you drive its entirety. Here, your family will be fascinated with the stories of a people expelled from their land, their hardship and perseverance, and proud return.
The Acadians were the first French settlers in North America, arriving to the Maritimes in 1604, in a land that once bore the name Acadie. They grew to prosper but were expelled from their lands in 1755 by the British. Many have since returned from that exile with still growing pride and dignity. Others remain in the lands to which they fled: throughout Canada, France, New England, and about a million in Louisiana. Acadians, although they have no official political or geographic status, now stand about 3 million strong worldwide with about 300,000 in the Maritimes.
Acadian heritage is being conserved and promoted here at the Village Historique Acadien. Buildings dating from the 17th century to modern times have been reconstructed and restored and you’ll learn about the courage of a proud people. There are costumed interpreters, summer plays, concerts, celebrations, reenactments, kids educational programs, and farm animals.
You can even stay at a period hotel in the village, where you’ll be transported to the past with period décor and meals.
Caraquet, a lovely coastal fishing town, is the epicenter of Acadia and home to the most fabulous festival every August.
For a bite to eat, I highly recommend déjà BU! (recognized by “You Gotta Eat Here” on the Food Network) for a fun twist on traditional foods and great seaside views. Here they take mac and cheese to a whole other level, with lobster pieces, a creamy mornay sauce, and truffles. Owner and sommelier Robert Noel says, “My goal is to be the best wine bar experience east of Montreal”. But if you can’t get in, (it’s popular), you’ll find lots of other great choices.
The best time to be in Caraquet is in August during the Festival Acadien de Caraquet. There are parties, main stage concerts, cabaret shows, fireworks and more. It’s been voted a Top 100 Event in North America about fifteen times by the American Bus Association. But the pièce de la resistance is the tintamarre on August 15 when crowds of thousands are in the streets flamboyantly dressed in red, white and blue. With noisemakers of all kinds, the air explodes with sound at 17:55 pm (remember that the expulsion was in 1755), a declaration to the world of joy and solidarity.
Miscou Island has been described with a Phoenix Award, as “one of the single most beautiful spots in the world”. This natural paradise is popular for kite surfing, kayaking, fishing, and birding. In the fall, the island rolls out a magnificent cranberry red bog carpet towards the lighthouse at its tip.
Do your kids resist organized religion (or maybe you do)? They may relate to a rebel in his own right, Father Gérard D’Astous. In the 60’s, he directed the work of decorator Paul Gauvin to paint Sainte-Cécile church in a really wild yet meaningful way.
There was a public outcry to the “candy church” and a report made to the bishop, but the magnificent artistry remains. You rock Father D’Astous! The international baroque music festival has been held here for over 30 years with world-class concerts.
Your kids can touch a blue lobster at the aquarium in Shippigan! And they’ll see and learn about other fish and invertebrates that thrive in the waters of eastern Canada. Don’t miss the seal feeding times at 11 and 4 pm when you’ll enjoy their slippery antics.
Stop and stay a while in lovely Grande-Anse. There’s a boardwalk, a beautiful beach with public facilities, bird-covered rock formations sculpted by nature, a scenic church and graveyard, and a colourful Acadian lighthouse.
The city of Miramichi, world famous for its salmon fishing, is well worth a visit for meaningful memories. Float down the Miramichi River on an inner tube, take a river boat tours, camp in the trees, and a whole lot more.
You’ll love walking the boardwalk through the sand dunes to Kelly’s Beach in Kouchibouguac National Park. The park boasts four seasons of activities best reviewed on the Parks Canada website.
Learn about being a park biologist for a day, paddle a voyageur canoe to a colony of grey seals, attend a wigwam gathering, laze on 25 km of sandy beaches, bike 60 km of trails, and star gaze in this dark sky preserve.
Join the party here! This tourist attraction on a small island in Bouctouche is a fanciful reproduction of a prohibition-era fishing village. Award-winning Acadian writer Antonine Maillet founded it. “La Sagouine” was her most notable literary accomplishment and the celebrated star of that novel is reenacted here along with others. There’s theater, music, comedy, dance, cuisine, and seasonal youth programs. Sample the once illegal specialty, la bagosse (lemon rum in apple juice with vanilla syrup), at the bootleggers.
Enjoy some lazy, hazy days on Parlee beach. When the tide goes out the sand stretches a long way to the sea with the warmest waters north of Virginia. And don’t miss your Facebook/Instagram moment posing with the largest lobster in the world, a specialty of the area.
Very family friendly Moncton is your best point of entry if you fly to the region. Your kids will love the zoo, the water park, and Magnetic Hill where your car will magically roll uphill.
There’s so much more to see and do so please be sure to do your research at: http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/TravelInfo/ScenicDrives.aspx. Come join in the fun, and for a few days you can be Acadian too. Bienvenue!