A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending the night in St. Andrews. Not the one in Scotland but the one in Canada! It’s full tourist-friendly name is St. Andrews By-the-Sea, aptly named as the town sits on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy, a body of water made famous by its world-record-setting high tides.
Learning coastal history in bucket-loads
Although the population hovers around 2,000 full time residents, the influx of short term summer residents and tourists gives St. Andrews a charming buzz. We arrived on a gorgeous summer day, sunny with a light wind coming off the water, and immediately decided to explore. The town has a unique history, which comes alive as you wander the sloped and leafy residential streets.
The town’s founders were United Empire Loyalists, people who fled the United States during the American Revolution and moved to “British-friendly” territory. When border lines were eventually drawn there were many Loyalists who discovered they were actually in the state of Maine, so they quickly took their houses apart, floated them across the Passamaquoddy Bay, an inlet of the Bay Fundy that separates the United States and Canada, and rebuilt them in St. Andrews.
These and other historic houses are all over town, easily recognized by plaques on the front of the homes, which allow you to read their history as you explore. A local eight-year-old entrepreneur nabbed us as we were reading one such plaque and encouraged us to buy lemonade from his stand across the street…which we did. Always happy to contribute to the local economy!
Making adventurous activities a breeze
The main street of the town, complete with shops and restaurants, runs along the water’s edge. This is also where you will find adventure operators ready to assist you in whale watching tours, kayak rentals and biking adventures. As we walked out across long wharf to get a seal’s eye view of the town, a group of whale watchers had just returned from their tour and were excitedly tallying the number of minke and pilot whales they had seen.
On a previous visit to St. Andrews I went on one of the bike tours, courtesy of Kurt Gumushel of Off Kilter Bike Tours. Not only did I bike the length of the town, including a zigzag through the Kingsbrae Gardens and a cycle along the ocean floor during low tide, but I did it wearing a kilt. A biking kilt to be exact. Kurt’s father, who for years owned a kilt store in town, fashions the specialized kilts, which look somewhat like the one Britney Spears wore when she first hit the music scene. A typical tour is two hours, but Kurt will tailor trips to your needs and skill level. You can treat it like sightseeing tour or do some serious mountain biking.
Relaxing and dining in style
This visit to St. Andrews ended with an overnight stay and a meal at the historic Algonquin Hotel. Sitting atop the hill overlooking the town, the hotel has been a fixture since the late 1800’s when Sir William Van Horne, the President of the Canadian Pacific railway company brought the railway and visiting tourists along with it to experience St Andrews.
The hotel has been completely renovated since my last visit to St. Andrews and looks fantastic. After a cocktail in the rocking chairs on the front veranda, we headed to dinner in the hotel’s Braxton’s Restaurant & Bar. The menu offers a bit of everything, but being in the Canadian Maritimes, there is a definite focus on seafood. The seafood chowder and halibut were outstanding!
A fond farewell
The following morning on our way out of town we swung by local favourite Station on King for a quick breakfast. Unfortunately there were no tables available but two local women invited us to join them at their table. A taste of local hospitality, good karma for our lemonade investment the day before….or maybe both?