Friday, July 15, 2011

Canada's best seaside golf, whale-watching...and a haunted hotel?

Distance in Canada is gauged by kilometers, not miles, and time, as opposed to range, is used as description in order to make travel appear more palatable. Although most of the world is accustomed to a metric way of life, as an American, I was a bit flustered!

Fox Creek Golf ClubJeff, our host and golf partner for the first leg of the trip, thought nothing of the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Fredericton, New Brunswick, to Moncton as he was born and raised in the Maritimes but I must admit that I was relieved to finally arrive in the French community of Dieppe in order to play Fox Creek Golf Club.

I could see why we were brought to Fox Creek: this challenging championship-caliber golf course has been host to Prime Ministers, hockey legends and PGA golfers and now we were to experience its splendorous beauty and pristine conditions.

Fox Creek and Kingswood Golf Club were designed by Graham Cooke. Both are very well maintained with commendable practice facilities as well as a number of tee boxes for all level of golfer so family members can play together (we played from the white tees, about 6,045 yards). I struggled with my golf game more on Fox Creek, perhaps because of the rippled terrain and in spite of the helping hand I was receiving from the GPS on my cart.

Fox Creek Golf Club

Always take into account that being unfamiliar with any golf course will lead to the occasional missed opportunity. In this case, be aware that Fox Creek is a tree-lined, target-oriented golf course which is unforgiving with wayward shots.

My happiest memories of Fox Creek are the wonderful views from the Clubhouse, the Smoked Salmon appetizer which I had before my round and the immaculate condition of the golf course. My score? Do you want it in metrics? Well, I might come back to challenge this course again one day ...enough said.

The first lobster during my journey was procured at the recently opened Catch 22 Lobster Bar in Moncton. The restaurant, located in the middle of a small, charming town, had great service, live lobsters clammoring to get out of their tank and plenty of windows for people-watching. A walk afterwards through this very clean town provided a welcome diversion of roller derby girls surveying the crowd for possible joiners and a live performance by French accordionists.

Algonquin Golf CourseThe next morning another long drive awaited, this time from Fredericton to St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, in order to play golf at the history-filled Algonquin Signature Course.

We arrived at the Algonquin with time to practice and to take in the beautiful views of the Passamaquoddy Bay and Atlantic Ocean: keep your cameras at the ready from the tenth hole forward as vistas were breathtaking. The 12th hole, in particular, a short downhill, is considered the signature hole. Here are a few things to note while playing the Algonquin Signature Course:

  • Every putt rolls towards the Bay of Fundy
  • Many of the greens are optical illusions: you think they break away but they always break towards the bay
  • Trouble fescue lines the fairways which is unforgiving
  • This is also considered to be a good walking course

Algonquin Golf CourseAlgonquin Golf Course

Algonquin Golf CourseThe history of the Signature Course is plentiful: the oldest clubhouse in Atlantic Canda still sits on the grounds. Originally a nine-hole pitch-and-putt, the course was expanded in 1896 to eighteen holes with the original footprint still in place in certain areas.

From Donald Ross' inspiration to a reconstruction by Thomas McBroom, The Algonquin, a top-100 golf course in Canada, is a must-play while in New Brunswick. Although challenging to play, the Signature Course offers up a satisfying and enjoyable experience.

Fairmont Algonquin hotel

I was visually pleased as we entered the stately Fairmont Algonquin hotel, sitting just down the road from the premises of the Signature Course. It's old world charm is grand and elegant. If you travel during the summer months, be sure to reserve a room in the new wing as the old portion of the hotel does not have air conditioning; the fourth floor is very hot, even with the windows wide open and a fan provided for comfort...we stayed in the old wing.

Internet access is only provided for free if you sign up at the front desk for the President's Club, which also offers additional amenities such as free local telephone calls.

Fairmont Algonquin hotel

Fairmont Algonquin hotel

Kilts are in fashion here at the Algonquin, from the bellhops to the bagpipers who play on the front lawn. Firepits are lit in the evening and are warm and welcoming but be aware that the call for "last log" is at 9:30 pm and that a town and/or hotel ordinance forces vacationers inside at 11 pm. If you are found outside sitting by the fire with a glass of Chardonnay later than 11pm, hotel security will call the police to escort you back inside the hotel...oh, and the only guest elevator in the entire hotel was broken.

Fairmont Algonquin hotel roomThat being said, there were numerous positives to staying at the Fairmont Algonquin: ghost stories about a headless lady in an old photo at the front desk and an old bellman still walking the hallways were told around the firepit. I also heard that Maine resident, Stephen King, based his book turned movie, "The Shining" on the Algonquin...heeerrrre's Johnny!

Each room in the hotel is said to be slightly different. Although the bathrooms are very small and efficient at best with no areas to stash your privates, the feel of each room is cozy, classy and elegant. The beds are extra plush and we had a beautiful distant view of the Bay of Fundy.

Fairmont Algonquin hotel room

Down the road in the usually sleepy town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea (walking distance from the hotel) could be heard the roar of motorcycles as Atlantic Canada's answer to Americade came to town, a once-a-year event.

Atlanticade Motorcycle rally

Atlanticade was a welcome sight for my husband, Barry, and I as the town stayed open a little later to accomodate the crowd.

Stacy Solomon in CanadaWhile checking out the motorcycles and hanging out in the quaint seaside town, we ate at Harbour Front Restaurant as we watched the Bay of Fundy ebb from the shoreline. My seafood casserole was enjoyable and, from the look of my husband's ultimate fish platter, it too looked yummy. The town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea was very relaxing  ......

seal watchingThe final day of our Atlantic Canada vacation was spent at Quoddy Link Marine sailing the coastal waters in search of whales and other ocean life. We saw a few Minke whales, porpoises and Harbour seals frolicking in the Bay of Fundy.

bald eagle
Our group also caught sight of a bald eagle and saw salmon jumping within the confines of their breeding pens all with the assistance of our tour guides and marine biologists, Jolinne and Danielle, who served hot cocoa and appetizers while offering tales of mammals in their native habitat. This is truly a "must-go" adventure for families and anyone interested in seeing marine life up close!

USA Canada border sign
The United States borders Canada less than a half-hour from St. Andrews by-the-Sea at Calais, Maine. No matter where in this world you live, crossing back into your own territory feels like a you're almost home.

Stacy Solomon in MaineInstead of the final leg of our journey being a long drive stopping sporadically at local rest stops, Barry and I took the off-ramp at Ogunquit, Maine and spent the afternoon eating crab sandwiches and gazing at the Atlantic Ocean. This side trip took the sting out of our drive home.

Visit for more information on the wonderful golf courses you can play in New Brunswick and in Atlantic Canada!

Special thanks for the hospitality to:

Golf New Brunswick
Fox Creek Golf Club
The Fairmont Algonquin
The Algonquin Signature Golf Course
Harbor Front Restaurant
Quoddy Line Marine

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