As we continue in our quest to encourage readers to “See Canada from Sea-to-Sea-to Sea,” we decided to promote a little-known bed and breakfast in the Maritimes called Step-Aside B&B. Here you’ll find the genuine hospitableness and kindness that Maritimers are famous for. After journeying with my son to the Calgary Stampede (see our December 2006 issue), I decided it would be fun to take a quick long weekend trip with him to New Brunswick to see the Bay of Fundy, Magnetic Hill, Moncton Mid Saint John.
I also wanted to take a tour of the Saint John River Valley and visit the Village of Gagetown, which Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine has called “one of the ten prettiest towns in Canada.” Upon arrival in Saint John, my friend suggested we boat up the river to Gagetown, a resplendent summer’s afternoon journey that took us through some of the most scenic-landscapes in eastern Canada.
We arrived at dusk at the Village of Gagetown, a beautiful and charming community that
attracts boaters and tourists seeking a ‘step-back-in-time’ experience: pastoral scenes of rolling hills, farm fields, apple orchards, cattle grazing on interval islands, sailboats and rowel’s passing on Gagetown Creek, and ospreys and eagles languidly soaring overhead. The total effect makes visitors feel like they have stepped back into the 18th century. The town also attracts people of all ages seeking a great little community to live in. Gagetown has a wealth of heritage properties and two designated historic sites: the Queens County Court House Provincial Historic Site and Sir Leonard Tilley House National Historic Site. A real draw in the summer is a full-service marina and public boat launch ramp. The marina comes complete with fuel tanks, boat rentals, laundry services, showers and pump outs. Adjacent to the marina are a sports bar and restaurant (The Old Boot Pub).
Founded in 1758, the Village of Gagetown takes its name from Col. Thomas Gage, the original grantee. It shares its claim to be the oldest English settlement in the St. John River Valley with Bunon and Sheffield-Maugerville but, unlike them, on the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists in 1783, it was transformed into a well-laid-out village.
Gagetown is also a recognized birding area attracting over 260 species of waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and songbirds. The marshes, islands and varied landforms surrounding Gagetown are a favourite destination for birders. During the spring migration, the islands nearby become a staging area for thousands of waterfowl, primarily black duck and common goldeneyes.
As we tied our boat to the community dock, we were met by Maurice and Elaine Harquail – proprietors of the Step-Aside B&B. With a spectacular view of the Saint John River, the Step-Aside B&B must be one of the Ten Best Bed and Breakfasts in Canada. This charming hostelry has four bedrooms, as well as a new deck and glass sitting room. It was named after the town of Step-Aside on the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland. In the 1920s, a tsunami destroyed the town.
The Harquails are the penultimate hosts. A definite highlight of our two-day stay was breakfast served in the sitting room, which overlooks the river. Full breakfasts include homemade muffins, bread, jams and a wonderful selection of egg dishes served up with Maurice’s witty banter.
On our first night at Step-Aside, Maurice insisted that I drop by The Old Boot Pub, for a nightcap, which lasted for hours as the regular patrons and weekend boaters started up a regular down-home Kitchen Callee. You would be hard-pressed to find a pub in Ontario where people meet and have a drink or two and then within 30 minutes pull out the guitars and play the spoons for a real shivaree. Such is the wonderment of the Marinnies’ culture. A hearty breakfast the next morning did much to assist me in the post-pub recovery process.
When in the Village of Gagetown, plan to spend a little time strolling around. The village is home to some of New Brunswick’s finest artists and artisans. You can see their creations in shops, studios and a contemporary gallery. The village offers a guided walking tour of heritage properties and historic sites.
Gagetown also boasts a farm cidery and winery, craft stores outlets, small meat and grocery and liquor stores, a picnic area, cottages and a heritage inn.