Northumberland Strait - Maritimes

Northumberland Strait - Maritimes

Photo copyright Province of PEI, 1999

The beauty of the Northumberland Strait is that it is the only body of water that embraces all three Maritime Provinces.  The Strait borders New Brunswick's eastern Acadian shore to the west, northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island to the east, and the heartland of Prince Edward Island to the north.  The Strait is sandy, warm and shallow, with very few rocks, and is virtually fog-free.

Towering over this beautiful body of warm water is the Confederation Bridge, a 12.9-kilometer structure, completed in 1997, which connects PEI to mainland New Brunswick. It is an awesome sight for any boater and can be seen from miles away.

Boaters cruising east from Quebec and Ontario can travel through the Bay of Chaleur, a popular whale-watching spot, off northeastern New Brunswick, and then head south, passing through a drawbridge near Shippagan, and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which leads to the Northumberland Strait.

In the fall of the year, boaters may want to take the outside route around Miscou Island, to catch a glimpse at the fiery red moss peat bogs the island boasts.  Cruising southeast, the French Acadian coastline in New Brunswick is a scenic mix of fishing villages, waterfront cottages, woodlands and further down the coast sand beaches.

About a two-hour sail from Shippagan brings you to the famous Miramichi River, one of the most popular salmon fishing spots in all of Canada.  The City of Miramichi lies about 20 miles in from the wide mouth of the river, which narrows as you go down. The river of more than 12,000 square kilometers is New Brunswick's second largest. It offers good protection, is well marked, and is navigable to Miramichi, a city of more than 18,000 people.  Going upriver, the city is an amalgamation of the former towns of Newcastle on the right side of the river and Chatham on the left. The marina at Station Wharf and the Ritchie Park Wharf are located right along the waterfront, where shops, restaurants and supplies are easily accessible.  The wharf at Ritchie Park in Newcastle boasts a shipbuilding theme and has a nautical playground for children.
Miramichi Yacht Club is situated along the left bank of the river at Chatham, just before you pass under Centennial Bridge.  During the summer months, Miramichi is awash with Irish, folk and roll & roll festivals.

While the Miramichi River winds upriver another 55 miles, the river is only marked for boaters for another five miles past the city, and requires local knowledge to venture further safely.  Cruising from the mouth of the Miramichi further southeast along the Acadian coast, boaters can marvel at the amazing sand dunes that blanket the coastline between Richibucto and Bouctouche, both of which have marinas for boaters.  Bouctouche is the native community of late billionaire K.C. Irving, New Brunswick's most prominent businessman, who left behind a fortune made from oil, lumber and shipbuilding. Located in Bouctouche is the Irving Eco-Centre, with its boardwalks and interpretive trails that provide for sensitive exploration of the long sand dunes.

Another hour's sail along the coast brings you to Shediac, the lobster capital of New Brunswick. The town boasts a monster-sized lobster statue that is certain to draw attention. Friendly and inviting operators of full-service marinas are located both in the Town of Shediac and in nearby Pointe de Chene.  The Shediac area is home to Parlee Beach, a former venue for the real Beach Boys, who performed there in-concert in the 1980's. The popular sand beach has attracted as many as 25,000 people on a single day.

For those that wish to cross the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island, a close port to Shediac on PEI is Summerside, where a private full-service marina welcomes visiting boats.
Prince Edward Island sits like a jewel in the Strait, strikingly beautiful, fringed with beaches ranging from white sand dunes to brilliant red sand bordered by clay cliffs and headlands.
Farmlands, fields, golf courses, fishing villages and lighthouses are sprinkled along the coast. 

Photo courtesy of Tourism PEI, Barrett & Mckay

The City of Summerside offers a host of attractions. The 521-seat Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre hosts both musical and theatrical performances throughout the summer. Island life is captured on canvas at the Pete Exhibition Centre, a nationally recognized art gallery. Museums and walking tours of Summerside are other fascinating features of this seaside port.

A cruise of 48 nautical miles east along the southern coast of the island will take you under the breathtaking Confederation Bridge and into the port of Charlottetown, the Island capital and birthplace of Canada's Confederation.  Boaters arriving in Charlottetown can dock at Quartermaster Marine, a full-service marina at Peakes Quay, close to shops, restaurants and other amenities and attractions.  One huge attraction for visitors is that every summer, The Charlottetown Festival stages the musical production of Anne of Green Gables, the internationally popular fictional character, created by island author Lucy Maude Montgomery.  Other key attractions include Province House, Founders Hall and the Confederation Arts Centre.
The waterfront is also a hub of activity and each September is the venue for the PEI International Shellfish Festival. It is a great time to try wonderful homemade fish chowder and watch fishermen go head-to-head shucking mussels and oysters.

Leaving Charlottetown and cruising east along the coastline, there are more picturesque villages, marine mammals, seabirds and plenty of fishing vessels.  The Northumberland Strait is home to many fishing vessels, although the designs here differ from the Nova Scotia inspired Cape Islander. Here the elegant Northumberland fishing boat is built at boat shops on the Strait in all three Maritime Provinces.

Sharing the Strait area is a ferry that shuttles back and forth between Caribou, Nova Scotia and Woods Island, PEI. Boaters cruising east along the Strait need to be aware of this larger vessel crossing.  Once on the eastern side of the Island, there are several marinas to visit, including Murray Harbour, Montague, Cardigan and Souris. Here boaters will find a change of scenery as some of these marinas are accessed through inland, tall-banked rivers. The distance from Charlottetown to Montague, almost mid-way up the eastern side of the Island, is 62 nautical miles. The north shore of the Island, which takes one into the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, offers boaters another experience, less sheltered but marked by sweeping capes and gorgeous sand beaches.

Most popular among those beaches, mid-way along the north shore is Cavendish.  Cavendish not only has a spectacular beach, it is also referred to on the Island as "Anne's Land," because it is where the famed house that inspired the Anne of Green Gables story still sits.  Just west of Cavendish is Stanley Bridge, where there is a marina and a marine aquarium. Further west is Malpeque Bay, a scenic and busy fishing port, and a key spot for bluefin tuna fishermen.

Photo copyright Province of PEI, 1999

Another choice for boaters cruising southeast down the Acadian coast from New Brunswick is to stick to the Nova Scotia coastline, which one picks up after rounding Cape Tormentine.  Following the landscape along the coast, boaters will be cruising parallel with what is known on land as the Sunrise Trail, and to boaters as the Sunrise Shore, with its spectacular sunrises and sunsets. This is the north shore of Nova Scotia.

The first place to berth coming from New Brunswick is at Pugwash, a harbour shared by lobster fishermen, salt boats and recreational boaters. There is both a marina and a yacht club.
Cruising further along the north shore, a fascinating site from the water is the lush private Fox Harbour Golf Course, developed by entrepreneur, Ron Joyce, co-founder of the Tim Horton's coffee and donut shops. The resort area includes luxury waterfront properties and an airport.
Joyce is a native of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, which is the next place along the Sunrise Shore to dock and visit. Barrachois Harbour is home to Sunrise Shore Marina & Cottages and the Tatamagouche Yacht Club, which both share the same location.

Another public golf course is nearby and Tatamagouche is renowned for its Ocktoberfest gathering in September of each year, which draws people by land and sea. Venturing east from Tatamagouche, boaters will next find the waters of Pictou harbour. You can't miss the public marina, Hector Quay, as docked beside it is the tall ship Hector. The ship is on public display and can be boarded. Pictou's Scottish ancestors settled this area after disembarking from the original ship Hector in 1773.  Proud Pictonians celebrate their Scottish heritage each summer with New Scotland Days, which runs from mid-July to mid-September and features Gaelic music and dance. In mid-July, Pictou also holds its annual Lobster Festival, and is home to the Northumberland Strait Fisheries Museum.

Boaters continuing to cruise eastward down the Strait, and rounding Cape George, can take shelter at a popular marina in picturesque Balantynes Cove in Antigonish Harbour, or further down the harbour at Cribbons Point.

The Northumberland Strait, thus, offers boaters a wide range of scenic destinations—along with historical and cultural attractions—for those wishing to experience the true flavour of the Maritimes.

Reprinted with permission from Maritime Boating, Destinations and Marinas 2007 edition
Author Rob Gorham