Driving through Canada’s Acadian history
Heading south from Shippagan, the raw oceanfront scenery of meadow-topped cliffs and hidden sandy bays calls like a siren song. Tranquil Kouchibouguac National Park, around 200km away, is the perfect way to see the region as early Acadians would have. Fringed by the sea and streaked with tidal rivers, it is studded with beaches, birdlife and breathtaking sand dunes. There is also some easy hiking – go for the 1.9km Bog Trail’s boardwalk route, a one-way nature walk that includes a viewing tower vista of grass-fringed Kelly’s Bog.
By the time your reach the town of Shediac, 95km south, you will likely have worked up an appetite. A popular summertime destination – not just during July’s Lobster Festival (10 to 14 July 2013) – visitors often come for lobster-tasting boat trips. Shediac Bay Cruises will take you out on the water, pull pots onto the boat and show you how to crack and eat the finished product like a local.
Off the map
From here, many veer from the official route and take a 25km detour to Moncton. One of New Brunswick’s biggest cities, it is an ideal place to grab an end-of-day beer. Like a hard-working Acadian who has been in the field all day, pick a pint at downtown’s Pump House brewpub, where the malty Fire Chief Red Ale and a seat on the sun-licked side street patio is recommended.
But Moncton should not be the end of your Acadian exploration. Just more than 22km southeast of the city, the town of Memramcook’s Monument Lefebvre is one of Canada’s most important Acadian sites. Symbolising the culture’s 19th-century renaissance – Acadians began returning to the region in the late 1800s – the handsome red sandstone college building became Atlantic Canada’s first French-language degree-granting institution in 1864.
Now an Acadian cultural centre, the interactive exhibits explore the long story of the region’s Acadian people. There is also an excellent bookstore; look out for tomes on Acadian cooking. The recipes – including such exotic fare as roast porcupine and goose tongue – show how the early French colonists adapted to their surroundings, making use of the all the ingredients they could find as they built their new lives in the New World.