Water dominates in the fourth Nova Scotia travel blog, from the vastness of Keji Lake to tidal powered Annapolis and seafaring Digby, there’s no avoiding the stuff.
Kejimkujik National Park (Keji to just about everyone) must surely be one of the gems of Nova Scotia. It’s a vast and wonderful area of outstanding natural beauty – forest trails, glittering lakes and the now meandering, now rushing Mersey. Carefully managed camping and picnic sites do nothing to detract from the place. As an ‘off season’ day visitor only, there are certainly pleasures and experiences yet to be tasted, but it draws me back time and again. A few memorable moments will provide a flavour: sunrise at Kedge Beach on a silver and blue November day; the tumbling, foaming Mersey frozen in a magical still-life at Mill Falls; the same river sliding gently on its sparkling way past Jakes Landing in Spring sunshine; the solitude and autumnal scents the forest trails round Big Dam Lake; watching turtles sunbathe on a fallen tree in a quiet bay. And there’s so much more yet to discover – of all the joys of this province, Keji must be my personal favourite.
And if you’re not pampering yourself with a stay at the Whitman Inn (see Spoilt For Choice), you might try the Mersey River Chalets, self-catering cabins about 7km from the park entrance. The well-appointed cabins are scattered through the forest along the bank of the Mersey and all have easy access to the central on-site restaurant and reception area. Summer visitors can opt to stay under canvas in a tipi and there are regular activities to be a part of – or not, as you please. Most impressively the whole area has been adapted to facilitate wheelchair access, not just token ramps but access to the forest, the river and canoeing on the lake*.
Self-caterers or campers need supplies and a couple of places nearby will cover every essential plus a few non-essentials. New Grafton Variety for all things to eat, a little local knowledge and a lottery ticket, while Ringer’s Garage in Kempt meets motoring needs. Ringer’s is a time-warp of a place, a remnant from different days in the different world that was 50 or more years ago. Yet thankfully it survives when most have long gone, still providing fuel and service to the passing motorist and a story or two told free with a smile if you care to take the time to listen.
40km North-West of Keji on Hwy #8 through the forests and rolling hills, is Annapolis Royal, a charming town on the Annapolis Basin where the Annapolis Valley meets the sea. Like much of Nova Scotia it is packed with heritage buildings and is a bustling centre, even if it has declined in importance since being the capital a few hundred years ago. Alongside the cafes and restaurants there are plenty of other attractions, many of them with military connections like Fort Anne, but all with the understatement that is such an endearing feature of the province. For something a little more out of the ordinary, try North America’s only tidal power station, which sits on the dam across the Annapolis River where it enters the tidal basin.
The other side of that basin lies Digby, close to Digby Gut, the narrow strait between the basin and the Bay of Fundy. With only the briefest experience to rely on, and that on a bitterly cold December day, Digby had instant appeal and demands a return visit. As with nearly all coastal settlements, the town looks to the sea for its living. Famous for scallops and clams, the harbour still beats to the rhythm of the tides, fishing vessels still throng the wharves.
Plenty of places to stay and if you’re on a budget Digby Packbacker’s Inn is highly recommended by those who, unlike me, have tried it. Like everywhere else, choices for eating out are more limited in winter months, but it would be hard to beat the value, friendly service and view of the harbour found at the Fundy Restaurant.
Beyond the harbour, stretching away into the distance, is North Mountain, the ridge that runs nearly 200km separating the Valley and the basin from the wonder that is theBay of Fundy.