Hit the road Jack (planxty in this case)
Favorite thing: Canada is a country I had often thought of visiting but only really in abstract terms. My problem is that it is so vast that public transport is not really an option and I do not drive a car so transportation was always going to be an issue. Certainly there are organised tours utilising buses and / or trains but that type of trip would be total travelling Hell for me and so I had put the whole idea on the back burner whilst I travelled elsewhere, mostly in Asia.
It was something of a windfall opportunity therefore when VT member Ravenswing aka Lynne offered me the chance of a road trip in a campervan (or RV as they are called in North America) in the summer of 2014 and one which I naturally jumped at and I am so glad I did as it turned out to be one of the best trips in a life that has been fortunate enough to have made a few.
A campervan (or RV in Canada) is an ideal way to see this beautiful country although again with the caveat that I only saw a small proportion of it namely Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island with an all too brief couple of days in New Brunswick. I am constructing this tip primarily to suggest some resources for anyone that may wish to "hit the road" in this way.
Firstly, there are two main ways you can do this. You can either buy, beg, borrow or steal (only joking) an RV or else hire one. We were lucky enough to have our own, a venerable 33 year old Glendale body on a Chevyvan chassis. Sadly Glendale are no more having filed for bankruptcy in 2010 by which time they had been building RV's for 60 years but Chevrolet seem to be going strong. It is a shame about Glendale as they built some lovely rigs and we certainly saw plenty of them on our travels. Ours was 23 feet C class which was more than adequate for our needs and could theoretically sleep six, two in a bunk above the cab, two in a pullout settee in the rear and another two in a bunk which was made by folding down the dining table although that wasn't too long and would only have been good for kids. I think six would have been pretty cramped and I should explain that a Class C is the type of RV based on a truck chassis with a "cabover" profile although I didn't know any of this until I started the trip.
If you cannot get your own RV then the other option is renting and there are plenty of companies offering the service although from my experience the largest by far seems to be Canadream but this is certainly not cheap. An RV similar to ours although slightly longer (they start at 24 feet) would cost an eye-watering $8330 to recreate our journey in 2015 although admittedly they are very well appointed. We bought our old beauty for a fraction of that and even though it blew up and died on the last day we saved ourselves a fortune.
Once you have secured your vehicle you then have two options as to where to spend the night. The first and most obvious option is to go to one of the many RV / Campgrounds available and which I found to be of a uniformly good standard with varying levels of facilities like swimming pools, kids playgrounds, shuffleboard, volleyball courts, the list is endless. In a Class C of our length you can expect to pay between $30 and $50 per night although obviously the longer your vehicle the more you pay.
A quick primer here for the uninitiated (as I was) about some of the jargon associated with campgrounds. As the name suggets a pull-through is a pitch where you drive in and drive out forwards again without the need to reverse and I have to say I would not like trying to reverse some of the monster rigs we saw.
An unserviced site is merely a piece of ground where you park up for the night and you have the opportunity to use the onsite facilities but you need to be self-sufficient for water and electric. A two way site provides both of these and a three way site provides both and also a sewage pipe to empty your sewage tank. Electric generally comes in either 30amp or 50 amp supply. With 30 amp you can only run a limited number of appliances in your rig but a 50 amp will allow you to run anything you want although obviously it is more expensive.
A very limited number of sites are now even offering an additional service of a cable TV hook up on your pitch.
The second option and one which amazed me when I first saw it is that of parking in the carpark (parking lot) of a shopping centre or supermarket and Walmart seems favourite for this. Obviously you need to be self-sufficient to do this so it was not an option for us as we had no leisure batteries and only had running water when hooked up but plenty of people seem to do it. Indeed in one Walmart carpark we saw about half a dozen rigs all pulled up together in what was obviously "RV Corner". They had the awnings out, chairs and tables and even barbecues out and I could not believe my eyes as in the UK you would be moved on in no time flat. Lynne explained to me that the supermarkets don't mind as you are not costing them anything and on the very reasonable assumption that you may well stock up on whatever you need from their premises and / or use their catering faclilities if you don't feel like cooking yourself. I suppose there is the added benefit that the very visible presence of people may deter crime at night so everyone's a winner. Lynne and I are currently looking for another RV for summer 2015 and beyond and have decided that it needs to be "Walmart compliant" as I have dubbed it.
I suppose carpark RVing all depends on what you want to do. We basically travelled all day and only wanted somewhere to stop at night, use the washrooms and perhaps the laundrette and that was it. If you want to stop for a day or two in pleasant surroundings, fish, go for a swim or avail yourself of the other leisure facilities then RV parks are the way to go. I know supermarket carparks are not exactly the most scenic of places but you can save a lot of money if you are literally just looking for somewhere to spend the night. I should mention that just parking up in the countryside somewhere is not permitted in Nova Scotia. I cannot speak definitively for PEI or New Brunswick but I would be surprised if it was any different. You are OK in the carparks as it is private property.
If you have decided to use an RV site, how do you know which one to use? Actually, there is a wealth of information available and we almost exclusively used two particular guides. The first was one that Lynne had picked up from free the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) as she is a member and the other was Woodalls. Woodalls are an American company but do very comprehensive guides to Canada as well as operating the Good Sam scheme which attracts discounts at participating sites and Lynne's CAA membership also scored us a few discounts.
Another good source of information are the various Provincial tourist boards which I found to be extemely helpful and with a good range of literature including their own RV site guides. You can check here for Nova Scotia and the website is excellent although I am a bit low-tech and was quite happy just to use to good old-fashioned brochures.
So that is the technical side of the matter but why did I include RVing as my favourite thing about Canada? Well, it is frankly. I had always fancied the idea of an RV trip and this certainly did not disappoint. In the same way as I love canal narrowboats in the UK it is the idea of complete independence and the ability to go or stay at will. I mentioned at the top of this tip that an organised tour would be my idea of Hell so I suppose that with RVing being the complete antithesis of that then this must be my idea of Heaven. When we were discussing this trip Lynne asked me what out our plans were and I told her there weren't any. In fact, it became something of a standing joke between us, "No Planning"! I realise that she was not entirely happy with this arrangement but very gamely allowed herself to go along with it and I think she is much more comfortable with it now. It is how I always travel and I would not have it any other way.
I have mentioned above about the fairly basic facilities in our RV and to me this only added to the appeal of the whole trip as it took on the feel of an adventure rather than a holiday. Obviously some of the rigs now, especially the rental rigs are completely luxurious with every conceivable comfort like microwaves, plasma TVs and Heaven knows what else but why bother?
Basic or not, I found our van really comfortable and I even had the joy of cooking on a gas cooker which is a pleasure denied to me at home where I have to use electric due to building regulations. To explain this a bit further Lynne did all the driving and mechanicing (there was a bit of that to be done!) and I did the navigating and cooking in what may seem like something of a traditional gender role-reversal. I don't drive and know less than nothing about vehicle maintainance and Lynne detests cooking while I love it so it worked perfectly although it did cause the odd raised eyebrow when we spoke to people about it.
I think I have waxed lyrical about this subject quite long enough and so I shall end this tip here. I fully appreciate that this style of travelling is not for everybody and far be it from to to tell anyone how they should travel but I hope that if you have not considerd RVing as an option that you may do so and if you have considered it that the information in this tip may be of some assistance to you.
I apologise for my ugly feet in the main image but to me that it encapsulates entirely what I have been writing about. Bare feet up on the dash in an RV on an open, empty road with nowhere specific to go and complete independence. That is my idea of travelling.
Fondest memory: I do not wish to sound overblown about this but my fondest memory of Nova Scotia is every single day I spent in that wonderful old van with a dear friend travelling round one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
Favorite thing: Useful links for Nova Scotia:
Start site for the Province
NS Traffic Cameras
Personal shuttle service from Halifax over the ProvinceRelated to:
- Road Trip
Joe's Scarecrow Village
Favorite thing: This is a fun, sort of silly stop just outside Cheticamp. By now you are getting closer to the Cape Breton Highlands and you are really looking forward to seeing this great park that so many people talk about.
All of a sudden you see this field, Look closer and you will see they are all scarecrows, artfully
dressed up. You have bikers, you have political figures (Maggie Thatcher, Ronald Reagan)
Its just a fun place, there is nothing historic about it.
11852 Cabot Trail. Cap Lemoine, NS
no admission charged, but donations gratefully accepted.Related to:
Autumn in Nova Scotia
Favorite thing: If you want a wonderful experience see Nova Scotia in autumn. The days are fresh, not too cold yet, nights a jacket is definitely needed, but nothing too heavy yet. Expect a bit more fog near the water, but i was surprised to see how nicely it cleared up leaving some gorgeous days while i was there.
The leaves start changing in Nova Scotia from late September through the end of October. The colors were especially stunning in Cape Breton. Hiking with the colors changing and the background of the water was something special! Make sure to see the Cabot Trail and the Highlands Park on Cape Breton for some awesome fall scenery.
Nova Scotia Foliage Map
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
SEAL ISLAND LIGHT MUSEUM - BARRINGTON NS
Favorite thing: A 35 foot replica of the 67 foot original lighthouse situated on Seal Island, the SEAL ISLAND LIGHT MUSEUM displays lighthouse equipment and memorabilia of the Barrington and Cape Sable area. The structure is topped by the cast iron lantern which was removed from the tower in 1978.
From the third level, you can climb the iron stairs to see the original clockwork mechanism and the only installed multi-panel Fresnel Lens in Nova Scotia.
Locate along Highway 3 in Barrington NS
EGLISE SACRE- COEUR
Favorite thing: Located in Saulneirville NS, EGLISE SACRE-COEUR was founded om 1880and is the oldest parish church in the region. The Church was renovated many times during its first century of existence, but especially so between 1977 and 1979 in preparation for its centennial celebration.
As the door was open, I went in to see the interior, which was beautiful.
ST. MARY'S CHURCH / MUSEUM
Favorite thing: Eglise Sainte-Marie / Musee' or ST. MARY'S CHURCH / MUSEUMwith its steeple rising 56.4 meters ( 185 feet) is the largest wooden church in North America. St. Mary's Parish was the first Roman Catholic parish to be established in the St. Mary's Bay area.
Located on Route#1 in Church Point NS
EGLISE SAINT - BERNARD
Favorite thing: Located in Weymouth NS along Route #1 in the Acadia Shores, this large granite Church EGLISE SAINT BERNARD took a group of Acadians over 32 years (from 1910 to 1942) to build. The First Mass - Premiere Messe - was held in 1942. The Gothic style architecture is simply amazing and BIG. Hans and I both said "WOW" when we first laid eyes upon it. It is just that impressive.
The site hosts many classical music concerts during the summer.
GILBERT'S COVE LIGHTHOUSE
Favorite thing: Sunday, September 9, 2012
A Provincial Heritage Property overlooking St. Mary's Bay, GILBERT'S COVE LIGHTHOUSE, was built in 1904. The original light keeper was "Willie Jane" Melanson, his wife May and their five children tended the kerosene lantern in the top tower for over 60 years. An electric red light now shines from the tower.
The Lighthouse is located between Yarmouth and Digby on St. Mary's Bay just off Highway #101, at the end of the Lighthouse Road.
Open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. mid June thru mid September
Favorite thing: Located off the Minas Basin on Pier Road, Route #215, the WALTON LIGHTHOUSE , built in 1873, is Walton Hants County last remaining shingled wooden lighthouse. Out of use since the 70's, the lighthouse remains a popular tourist stop.
You can climb to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy a panoramic view of the cliffs and the Fundy tides.
Donations are kindly accepted
May 15 to October 15
8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Favorite thing: An inlet of the Bay of Funday COBEQUID BAY is located at the easternmost part of the Minas Basin.
The eastern end of the bay hosts the estuary of the Salmon River, whereas the west end of the bay is less well-defined, typically delineated by Burntcoat Head on the southern shore and Five Islands or Economy Mountain on the northern shore.
The highest tidal range in the world was measured at Burntcoat Head where average tidal ranges measure a 12.4 m (41 ft) vertical difference in water level between low tide and high tide.
A Plaque overlooking Cobequid Bay reads:
"One of the most remarkable phenomenons of nature occurs right here. Every 6 hours the tides of the Minas Basin ( one branch of the Bay of Fundy) rise and fall an average of 15 metres or approximately 50 feet, and it happens right before your eyes!
Every 24 hours, 115 billion tons of water move in and out of the Bay of Fundy, a volume equal to the discharge of all the world's rivers. Stay awhile and walk the beaches as you await the return of another tide; Photograph the sea lavender, watch the bass fishermen, or be brave and buy some dulse!"
HST and Things to do.
Favorite thing: Try this for info on the HST. http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/visitors/
There are lots of places to stop between Yarmouth and Lunenburg. Without kowing what you want makes it hard. Try this www.destinationsouthwestnova.com/
Favorite thing: Thanks Babygrand and Tourtech. We will stop in Annapolis Royal for lunch at Brown-eyed Susans and Public Gardens. Planning to spend some time at Peggy's Cove. We will do Louisburg and the Cabot Trail drive as well. Thanks for your input. Kids are a little old for the Tugboat but we may check it out. Not old enough for the Louisburg Murder Mystery unfortunately as it falls on the evening we've planned for Louisburg.
Wild Flowers - A Show of Colour Along the Roads
Favorite thing: One of the things I noticed as I drove around the province were the wild flowers, and in particular the Lupins - such beautiful display of colour.
Along with the lupins were the wild roses, especially bordering the beaches, and then the profusion of rhododendrons.
So many homes had beautiful flowers surrounding their property - some of it was obviously planted, but others just seemed very natural, and growing as nature had planted them.Related to:
- Road Trip
The Province of Nova Scotia
Favorite thing: The Provice is known as the Atlantic Playground and this is so apt such a lot of outdoor activities are offered here. I loved the great outdoors, the vast open spaces. You are never far from the sea here and the landscape is simply stunning.
Fondest memory: I loved the diverse beauty of Nova Scotia especially Cape Breton ..............ah how I miss this little piece of HeavenRelated to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Family Travel
Province of Nova Scotia Hotels
This place is overpriced. The are nice places to stay in Halfax that are cheaper than this.more
Sitting on top the restaurant of the same name, this place has very nice clean rooms at a reasonable...more
96 Starrs Rd, Yarmouth, NS B5A2T5
Good for: Solo
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