In Shediac, after the lobster roll at Le Moque-Tortue, we pose next to a nearly 200,000-pound lobster sculpture and learn about the crustacean’s life cycle at the compact yet impressive Homarus Eco-Centre on Pointe-du-Chêne wharf. There’s a terrific chocolatier, Adorable Chocolat, where we snag almond-chocolate croissants before zipping 30 minutes up Route 11 to Le Pays de la Sagouine, which translates to The Land of the Washerwoman. It’s an über-colorful theme town with food and music based on the fictional Acadian playground in Antonine Maillet’s La Sagouine, a novel that celebrates its 50th birthday in 2021. Visitors walk a footbridge to Île-aux-Puces, a small island in Bouctouche Bay, where costumed actors bring the characters to life. Jokes fly and fiddles blaze, though there are serious moments too. An important part of the experience is learning about Le Grand Dérangement, the French colonists’ shameful expulsion by the British from 1755 to 1763.
This is beach country, home to Canada’s warmest saltwater (up to 84 degrees Fahrenheit in summer). To see it right, cruise coastal Route 475 to Irving Eco-Centre: La dune de Bouctouche, where three sets of stairs from a wooden boardwalk grant access to one of the last great dunes in this corner of North America. Estimated to be 2,000 years old, the dunes change with every major storm. When it’s windy, you may see only seagulls. When it’s calm, there are often cranes, foxes, and deer.
Before our night’s stop in Miramichi, a village steeped in Irish influence and fabled salmon fishing, we push up Route 117—past tidy homes, steepled churches, and cliffs carved by wind and wave—to a monument at Escuminac wharf commemorating the 1959 hurricane in Miramichi Bay. The ground beneath our feet is where scores waited for news: 22 of 45 boats lost, 35 fishermen gone, and 24 widows and 83 fatherless children left behind.
En route to the Acadian Peninsula the next day, we rent bikes from Kayak Péninsule near Villégiature Deux Rivières Resort in Tracadie-Sheila. The cycling route, Véloroute de la Péninsule Acadienne, wows with nearly 200 miles of paved path paralleling small communities, forest, marsh, and sea. Giddy and grateful for the freedom, we sail through this sprawling nature, pausing by a little bridge to snap photos and breathe in the salty air.
Fishing’s importance to the area is evident in Shippagan, home to the New Brunswick Aquarium and Marine Centre, where massive, colorful crab boats sit in moorings during the off-season. “We’re definitely going there,” exclaims my husband. “Did you see the size of those boats?”
Crossing later to the Acadian isles, at the tip of the peninsula, we stop in Lamèque to see the shingled Sainte-Cécile Catholic church. Its plain exterior belies an unusually beautiful—and acoustically gifted—interior that explodes with candy-colored imagery painted by a former parish priest and helpers. I don’t know where to look first: In 1968, Father Gerard d’Astous splashed joy into every nook. Pastel candles, crosses, and more peek out from walls and ceiling.