The Marvels of Miramichi
Feature image by Brian Atkinson
It is never too early to start planning for summer holidays and this year, there is something quite magical about the idea of traveling within Canada during Canada 150.
What better place to start than Atlantic Canada and particularly in New Brunswick, a founding province of Confederation.
One of the most beautiful parts of the province is in the Miramichi Valley, an expansive area along the Miramichi River (that includes areas such as Doaktown, Red Bank and Miramichi City (Chatham, Newcastle).
The pace is slower, the food fresh (best salmon anywhere) and outdoor activities make this the perfect family holiday destination.
Canada 150 is a reason for everyone to celebrate and in Miramichi there are all kinds of events taking place.
The summer is a hub of cultural activities and the best way to find out what is going on the time you are there is online.
One notable festival is the Miramichi folk festival. This year, it takes place August 6-11 and Natalie McMaster and her husband, Ottawa Valley local hero Donald Leahy and family are headlining.
Suggested Outdoors Experi-ence: You could have a whole holiday built on outdoor activities based around the mighty Miramichi River. Kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding is fantastic.
Tubing down the River is hit with the entire family. (A two-and-a half hour jaunt ought to give you a good experience, for tubing and swimming in the river. Storeytown Cottages will set you up with gear and take you to the right places).
Kids will love the tubing but bring along refreshments to make the outing all the more memorable.
The hospitality and warmth of New Brunswick’s people is everywhere. As you make your way down the river, people working on their property or fishing, will chat you up.
If you are into fly fishing, this is the place to do it. Miramichi has one of the largest, if not the largest, population of Atlantic salmon.
Pond’s Resort, in Porter Cove, will set you up. They have been there for four generations so they know their thing.
Hiking trails abound in New Brunswick. However, keeping it in the area of Doaktown, head to Fall Brook Falls. A small hike will lead you to some incredible beauty.
Escuminac Beach and Family Park is an amazing stop for beachcombing for art. This is a beautiful and wonderful experience for the whole family. It is about a 45-minute drive from Storeytown Cottages in Doaktown.
History: The Miramichi area is brimming with historical richness. One of the most meaningful and memorable visits you can make is to the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation interpretation centre. More than 3,000 years of history is shared via stories and exhibits, but what really brings it all to life is hearing it from one of their storytellers as you wait to enjoy homemade bread cooked in the sand over a fire outdoors.
The peacefulness of the place, the messages of being one with nature, respecting what cannot be controlled and being one with the past are moving.
As the parent of a special needs son, it was fascinating to see the effect of the visit on him. It was soothing and calming and to this day I invoke some of what the Elder said when an emotional de-escalation is required. The complete change of pace, of letting go of hustle bustle was very therapeutic and the wisdom of what the Elder said was timeless.
If you run into rainy weather, actually even if you don’t, head to the Central New Brunswick Woodmen’s Museum. It is located in the geographical centre of the province, in Boiestown, in the heartland of the lumbering industry. Situated on 15 acres, the Woodmen’s provides insight into the vibrant and colourful lives of these individuals, their families and the community. Learn about local history and if you are there in mid-August, be sure to catch the lumberjack competition and witness the skill of this art.
Beaubears Island, only open in the summer and accessible by ferry, is another interpretative centre that brings history alive with characters from hundreds of years ago dressed in costume. Learn about how, during the Seven Years War, Acadians living in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI were expelled from their homeland by the British.
Beaubears Island acted as a refuge for hundreds of these Acadians.
The encampment was known as Camp D’Esperance, and nationally recognized as one of the largest Acadian refuges in the province.
Sadly, many of these Acadians perished through starvation and disease while awaiting rescue.
After 1765, the first English-speaking settlers arrived in the Miramichi area and under their ownership, Beaubears Island emerged as an important shipbuilding site.
There are nature experiences as well with beautiful hiking trails, or you can take a canoe ride.
Middle Island in the Chatham sector served as a quarantine for mostly Irish settlers arriving (in fact, First Nations called it Sick Island), today it is a park with walking paths an interpretive centre and is worth a quick stop and offers beautiful views.
Bridges: Yes bridges.
The Priceville Foot Bridge is worth a stop to stretch your legs. It is the longest suspension bridge in New Brunswick. It is near Doaktown and kids love it.
On the bridge theme, check out the Nelson Hollow Bridge, which was first constructed in 1870 and rebuilt in 1899. It too is near Doaktown.
It is one of only two New Brunswick bridges sporting a cottage-style roof. It is very peaceful.
Fuel: If you are staying at Storeytown you have no choice but to bring your own food as there is no restaurant. If cooking isn’t your thing, Pond’s Resort is a great place to eat with home-style cooking and fresh seafood.
In the Chatham side, do not miss O’Donaghue’s Pub.
The food is amazing and has something for everyone in the family, including a great choice of beer. The restaurant 1809 at the Rodd Miramichi has gourmet and comfort food options to keep everyone happy. Cinnabun pancakes in the morning are de rigueur.
Sleep: Storeytown Cottages is a perfect place to use as home base. It offers a rustic experience surrounded by forest and beautiful scenery.
With an outdoor hot tub, you can warm up from swimming in the Miramichi River or just hang out on the property.
In Miramichi City, you definitely want to stay at the Rodd Miramichi. It has the best pool – saltwater pool actually – that is a great family pleaser.
The rooms are beautiful, some over-looking the Miramichi River.
You just can’t go wrong at the Rodd. Renovated, fantastic accommodations, beautiful pool, gourmet food and incredibly hospitable staff. It is located on the Chatham side.
For alternative sleeping arrangements, try sleeping in a traditional tipi at Metepenagiag. You’ll be assigned a tipi for the night and staff will be on hand to assist with the activities around the campfire and lead the storytelling.
Miramichi offers the chance to slow down, disconnect from the world, learn from history, relax outdoors and experience the hospitality of the Maritimes. There is nothing like the warmth of Atlantic Canadians so take advantage of every chance to embrace their humour, their ‘joie de vivre’ and appreciation for the world around them.
This is a place to unwind in a simple and genuine way.
Grab it. It is rejuvenating.
And if you want your hit of festivals and excitement – that is all there too, especially this summer with Canada 150 celebrations.
Visit tourismnewbrunswick.ca for more details.