Heritage and High Tides at Annapolis Royal
Take a leisurely walk through the town past the stately Victorian homes and explore the many shops that offer some of the highest quality Nova Scotia crafts to be had anywhere in the province.
Right in the centre of Annapolis Royal are the extensive Historic Gardens that are sure to inspire enthusiasts of horticulture as well as photographers and children who will enjoy the Rose Maze. This garden, one of the genuine treasures of Nova Scotia, is a living display of the botanical history of the settlement of Annapolis Royal.
Near the Historic Gardens is the Port-Royal National Historic Site. It was here in 1605 that Samuel de Champlain and Sieur de Mons established the earliest permanent European settlement in North America north of St. Augustine, Florida. The hardy French colonists cleared the land, built a habitation, planted gardens and fished in the adjacent waters.
Additional colonists arrived with Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt who, as lieutenant governor of Port-Royal encouraged his countrymen to entertain themselves with songs and dances, some of which he composed himself. To alleviate the monotony of winter, Samuel de Champlain created a dining society for the elite in the town called the Order of Good Cheer at which comradeship was confirmed over a banquet, drinking and entertainment that mimicked Parisian society.
The restoration of the Habitation at Port-Royal was one of the first such projects undertaken by the Canadian government. This ambitious rebuilding of 1939-1940 represents the beginning of Canada’s attention to honouring its national history. At Annapolis Royal you can glimpse the early history of Canada by interacting with the costumed guides at the Port-Royal Habitation.
But visiting Annapolis Royal is not only a journey into history for you can get a taste of the future here as well. One of the most intriguing developments in the search for non-polluting renewable resources of power is to be seen at the Annapolis Tidal Station. This power plant located just outside of town has been in operation since 1984, long before the present rush to find environmentally sustainable sources of power. An interpretive centre at the station explains the operation of the plant and the history attempts to harness the tidal power of the Bay of Fundy.
Two observation decks permit visitors to view the incoming and outgoing rush of the sea that powers the turbines and begin to understand the natural phenomenon of the world’s highest tides.
Travel south from Annapolis Royal to Digby, a drive of 37 km (23 mi.), to reach the ferry that travels to Saint John, New Brunswick. On a crossing of the Bay of Fundy on the Princess of Acadia one might see porpoises or, if you are lucky, a whale breaching. Digby has a very busy harbour with fishermen bringing in lobster from the Bay of Fundy, which some say are the finest in the world, and, of course, it is here that the trawlers unload the scallops for which the town is justly famous.
Be sure to check out the various options for whale watching tours. The Digby area boasts some of the best opportunities to get up close to a number of varieties of whales that feed in the sea at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy.