By Tim Johnson
As rich in culture as it is natural beauty, New Brunswick’s Acadian Coastal Drive offers a lovely mix of sun-kissed beaches, delicious roadside cuisine and the wonderful joie de vivre of the Acadiens. Although it’s just 150 kilometres from Moncton to Miramichi, you should take your time and enjoy—split the drive into two or three days to make sure you properly soak up the sun, tucking into some poutine râpée and seafood pizza along the way.
Modes of Transport
You’ll need a car, but you don’t need to drive across the country to do it—Moncton (sometimes known as “Hub City”) is very well connected to the rest of the country. The city lies on the main Maritime rail line (with regular departures on VIA Rail), and the Moncton International Airport provides air connections to major cities across the country aboard Air Canada, WestJet and Porter.
Just north of Moncton, Shediac, long home to lobster fishermen and wonderful lobster dinners, is also—not surprisingly—home to one of the world’s largest lobsters, a giant roadside monolith and a great photo op. While you’re in town, make sure to stop in for a dip at Parlee Beach, one of Atlantic Canada’s favourite beaches (as many as 30,000 sun worshipers line its golden sands on busy days), has some of the warmest salt water north of Virginia. Then head a little further up the road to Bouctouche, where you can visit Le Pays de la Sagouine, a fascinating living history museum that re-creates centuries of life in a traditional Acadian village through music, song and costumed interpreters. A little bit past Bouctouche, the Irving Eco-Centre preserves the longest natural sand spit in North America, a 12 kilometre dune traversed, in part, by a wooden boardwalk. And then visit the seven distinct ecosystems at Kouchibouguac National Park (pronounced Koo-she-boo-gwak, a Mi’kmaq word for “river of the long tides”), but tarry for awhile in the nearest village, Saint Louis de Kent, which features a quirky wooden bridge and largest Acadian flag in the world.
In Bouctouche, make sure to stop in at Restaurant La Sagouine, which features a great street side patio and homemade Acadian favourites like poutine râpée, which has absolutely nothing to do with its Quebecois counterpart—the Acadian version, which dates back hundreds of years, is essentially a ball of mashed potatoes with salted pork in the centre. Eat it like the Acadians by dipping each morsel in brown sugar, a mix of sweet and savory in every bite. In Saint Louis de Kent, make sure to visit Restaurant Pizza 5 Etoiles (506-876-4700), which serves up a world-famous seafood pizza (travelers from as far away as France have come seeking it)—the dough is made fresh every morning, and it’s loaded up with local scallops, lobster and shrimp on white sauce and baked in a stone oven. And once you reach Miramichi, celebrate with a decadent slice of bee sting cake, which puts together honey, whipped cream and crunchy almonds.
Bouctouche is about halfway between Moncton and Miramichi, and a good place to stop for the night. At Le Gîte de la Sagouine, you’ll find a charming six-room inn furnished with antiques in a 19th century home, but with modern conveniences like wifi and private baths. And at your destination, bed down at the Rodd Miramichi River, an hotel set on a beautiful spot along the banks of one of Canada’s most famous rivers—from there, you can park the car walk to a number of great restaurants and bakeries just around the corner, in the central part of town.
While listening to a bunch of traditional sea shanties is never a bad idea on any coastal drive, there are more modern options available that also fit well with the local surroundings. Spin Radio Radio’s breakthrough hit “Jacuzzi” from their debut album Cliché Hot for a taste of French-language Acadian rap, get a little pop from Wilfred Le Bouthillier, a native of the Acadian Coast and winner of the first Quebec edition of the mega-popular reality singing show Star Académie, and if you’re looking to kick it old school, put on something by Roch Voisine—the original Acadian pop star.