International travel without a flight

Marie Havenga • Sep 2, 2017 at 4:00 PM

International travel doesn't have to involve a long flight abroad.

It can be as simple as a road trip east to Maine, then into the Providences of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada, with plenty of entertaining stops along the way.

The sites, signs and sounds will make you feel like you've ventured much farther than you have.

The deeper you go, the more you'll feel immersed in a different culture. Many signs are duo-language, both French and English.

Entering New Brunswick, if you're a chocolate lover, you're in luck. The border town of St. Stephen features a generations-old family-owned chocolate factory. Tours include free samples.

An early, can't miss highlight in New Brunswick is Saint Andrews.

Be sure to check out the Discovery Aquarium, a fairly new addition to the local landscape, featuring local sea life exhibits, including lobster and halibut, and even an entertaining 15-minute seal show.

It's a gem for young kids, and interesting for adults, too. Plus, it's not a vacation day-sucking attraction. A couple hours here and you'll feel your family has truly experienced and learned about local sea life with no need to spend a whole day to justify the admission price.

Next in Saint Andrews, venture down to the waterfront for some great shopping and dining options. If time allows, jump on a whale watching cruise. We recommend the Jolly Breeze Tall Ship Whale Watching Adventure.

As 6-year-old Lainey Gibson Havenga wrote in a letter to a friend while onboard: “Hi, it's Lainey. I'm on a real pirate ship.”

It seems that way. The Jolly Breeze team lets the kids pick out pirate costumes before the voyage, then proceeds with face-painting and other kid-friendly fun onboard.

Our tour included half a dozen whale sightings. The Jolly Breeze seemed to be consistently hitting right place/right time mode while competitor whale-watching boats played catch-up after radio calls.

We also spotted harbor seals and porpoises en route, and were treated to a steaming hot cup of split pea soup on the return trip, a nice touch after several hours of chilling ocean breezes.

Next, we ventured into Nova Scotia, but given the scope of this providence, felt it best to save the bulk for a future trip.

We skimmed the northern surface, then returned to New Brunswick for a couple of days on Prince Edward Island.

PEI, as its affectionately known locally, has an awesome Gateway Village Welcome Center, with maps, brochures, friendly staff and locally-themed stores. But be forewarned, you won't pay a dime to get to Prince Edward Island, but you'll pay a hefty bridge fee once you leave.

If you're an “Anne of Green Gables” fan, you'll love the PEI providence. Author Lucy Maud Montgomery was born here and penned her story after her life experience and surroundings.

But don't get so caught up in a fictional story that you forget to experience the real life Prince Edward Island.

Head to the shoreline and pull into one or two of several national parks for a stroll to the ocean.

The cliffs and rock formations along the shoreline drive are rugged and mesmerizing, the water, well, pretty cold.

Explore the small towns, quaint shops and grab some local seafood.

Traverse the rolling farm fields and photograph in your mind and on your SD card the colorful fields of lupine and pristine pastoral settings.

After you've explored this providence, and they've soaked you for the bridge-crossing fee, relax a bit in nearby Shediac, New Brunswick.

The water is warm here. And so is the reception at the kid-friendly EcoCentre Homarus, where you can get a super cheap guided tour that teaches you a lobster's life cycle. The EcoCentre boasts every color of lobster that exists, including a lovely blue species.

Wade in the water near the EcoCentre and you can catch your own hermit crabs. They're plentiful. But a tough pet to take home. Enjoy watching them flit around a bucket of salt water dipped from the ocean for an hour or so, then turn them loose.

After some ocean time in Shediac, head a bit further south to Hopewell Rocks for a truly tidal experience. The tides here vary more than they do anywhere in the world. You can visit at high tide, and see kayakers paddling around rock formations. Visit at low tide, and you'll be walking on the ocean floor, amidst the same formations that formerly floated boats.

While you're in the area, and particularly if you're looking for a campsite, check out Fundy National Park. The park offers several different campground areas, some more kid-friendly than others.

We camped here for one night, but were bummed that the heated salt water pool was closed for repairs.

For a scenic short excursion (less than 20 minutes) from Fundy National Park, head to Cape Enrage, a glorious area that some dub the most beautiful place in New Brunswick. The jutting cliffs, smooth shoreline rocks and a stellar lighthouse make this spot a “must see.”

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