Although it’s the first day of spring, the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve enjoyed in Southern Southern Ontario the past few weeks have taken a dip back down into the negative.
On the east coast, winter isn’t over yet either, and I even saw a winter storm warning pop up this afternoon. If I was to venture a guess, I’d say that winter probably isn’t most Maritimers’ favourite season, unless they’re a snowmobiler (the trails looked incredible)! As a traveller, it’s also not the time of year we typically think about visiting the Atlantic Provinces. Ice-packed beaches and boarded-up chip stands in snowbanks aren’t on the tourist brochures for a reason.
When you travel for work though, you don’t get to choose when and where. I simply love Atlantic Canada, and just because I needed a down jacket and Sorrel winter boots for my last visit, my enthusiasm was no less, and I was kind of excited to see a part of New Brunswick I’d never seen.
Canada’s Four-Season Beauty
There is so much beauty in this great country, I don’t think you can fully appreciate it until you’ve witnessed it in all four seasons. This was the realization I had driving through Northern New Brunswick in January. There’s no way you can capture our country’s splendour in pictures, but I snapped a few nonetheless to try.
Next to Labrador, Northern New Brunswick is about as untouched as you will find in Canada. Miles upon miles of pine bush cover the landscape, interspersed with river valleys and muskegs. I had never ventured north of the Trans-Canada Highway (2) which runs from the Quebec border, south along Maine and then east through Moncton to Nova Scotia. I was excited to visit Miramichi, the home of the Mi’kmaq people and a large Acadian and Irish population.
Despite a snowstorm in Toronto when I left, the weather in New Brunswick was reasonably nice. Cool, but cloudy with some sun and very little snow. It made for good driving, but I was still glad for winter tires on the hilly, and sometimes icy, road from Miramichi to Fredericton.
Since it’s not a law to have winter tires in New Brunswick, you still need to request your rental car have them and expect to pay a little extra. I figured our safety was priceless. We also heeded a colleague’s warning and tried to be off the highways by dusk. Moose accidents are common and after dark, these giant creatures are impossible to see.
Driving the Southwest Mirimichi River Valley
It is also along the stretch of road from Miramichi to Fredericton, where we drove through the sleepy and quaint logging villages of Blackville, Blissfield and Doaktown. The latter had several charming old buildings, reminiscent of earlier Maritime days. There were also several local eateries, most closed for the winter, which I imagined served the best Atlantic salmon you would likely ever find. Salmon-fishing is the other main industry in this part of New Brunswick.
Beyond a doubt, the people are what make the Maritimes one of Canada’s jewels to visit. Everywhere we stopped, we were received with warm hospitality and friendly greetings. This included the Best Western in Bathurst (perhaps the best sleep I’ve ever had in a hotel) and the friendly, competitive firefighter and river canoe racer we popped in for a visit when we saw him out working on his tractor!
I would love to return to this area in spring to witness the wilderness coming to life. The many little valleys and bridges would make for some fabulous hiking, and I read it is also well-known for its fiddlehead harvest. I expect the hotel rates to likely be a little steeper than the deals we got in January, but it would be well worth it! If you’re looking for a quieter place, off the beaten-path on your maritime vacation, consider Northern New Brunswick. You won’t be disappointed!