Thanks to Secret Nova Scotia for inviting us on a media tour! As always, all opinions and hyper children are my own.
It’s a gorgeous, sunny Sunday morning, perfect for cruising along the Glooscap Trail. I’m not sure where we’re going yet, and the best part is that I don’t need to know — it’s all part of the adventure.
I never thought of taking a guided tour of places less than an hour from my house, but I loved the idea of experiencing a bunch of different spots without figuring out a schedule and packing a day’s worth of lunches and snacks. We’ll be spending six hours eating and adventuring, and I won’t have to lift a finger.
“When you go on a tour with us, you’re going to get special perks you wouldn’t get if you visited these places on your own,” explains Tanya Conrad, Secret Nova Scotia’s Chief Operating Officer and one of our tour guides.
Our very first stop is one of those “I’ve-always-wanted-to-go-here!” spots. Our family has driven by the Great Village Antiques Exchange many times on our way to Advocate Harbour, but never stopped to explore the massive historic building. Today’s finally the day!
I’m oohing and ahhing over the antiques right away, and I’m a little nervous the kids will get restless, but they find the place fascinating, too — hurrying around examining old toys, books and housewares. It doesn’t look that large on the outside, but it’s more than 10,000 square feet, crammed with stock from more than 30 different antique dealers.
“Even the building is an antique,” our son whispers as he climbs the old, uneven wooden stairs to explore even more rooms. There are thousands upon thousands of treasures, and it’s the largest multi-dealer antique stop in all of Atlantic Canada.
Armed with a discount because we’re part of the Secret Nova Scotia tour, I scoop up two Hazel Atlas crinoline teacups and saucers, made from vibrant pink and white milk glass. There’s something magical and different about them, and my daughter and I agree we can’t leave without taking them home with us.
Even our tour guides are surprised when we cross the road and run into a wall of … bubbles!
Nova Foam Parties is on the side of the road for a demonstration, and soon we can’t see the kids because they’re buried in fluffy white foam. They’re soaked when they come out, but it doesn’t take long to dry off in the sunshine.
Then we’re off to our next stop: The Wayside Cafe & Gallery in the basement of a decommissioned church. We get to choose from a special menu of snacks, drinks and baked goods — all included in our tour — and spend a while chatting and admiring the art all around us. Even our tables and chairs are antiques up for sale, which means the cafe’s furniture is always changing.
Further up the road at That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm in Economy, it’s already time for another yummy snack: a variety of cheeses ready for us to enjoy with crackers. I joke to my sister that my kids are really only familiar with plain old mozzarella and cheddar, so I’m shocked when they eagerly try every gouda on the platter. Our favourites are Garlic Mix, Truffle, Old Growler, Sundried Tomato and Jalapeño. Ooh, and we once again make good use of our special tour discount in the gift shop!
After our snack, it’s time to visit with the animals. I’d always heard Dutchman’s Cheese Farm has goats, but I honestly had no idea it included a full-blown Animal and Nature Park that also features rabbits, geese, miniature donkeys, pot-belly pigs, Scottish Highland cattle, emus and more. Our tour guides hand us bags of corn feed, and we delight in letting the animals snuffle it off our palms while we pet them.
Many of the animals are freely wandering around, without fences separating us! The pot-bellied pigs are my favourite, and I don’t even mind that they leave my hands all muddy. My sister and the kids go crazy for the tiny, friendly Pygmy goats. We barely make it up their path before the eager little guys are bouncing all over us, nudging us for more feed.
“We NEED to get a baby goat!” our nine-year-old repeats over and over. “Like, seriously. I need a pet goat.” (Our 11-year-old keeps joking about smuggling one home with us, except I don’t think he’s joking — his plan is too detailed.)
When we finally tear ourselves away from the sweet little animals (and scrub our muddy hands), it’s off to Diane’s Restaurant in Five Islands — home of the enormous red and yellow Muskoka chairs that make us feel like doll-sized people. Diane’s is a popular spot and the parking lot is jam-packed, but our tour guides have pre-ordered our lunches and it feels very V.I.P. to skip the line-up.
We grab our fish’n’chips (and burgers and chicken fingers) and head just a couple of minutes up the road to Five Islands Lighthouse Park to enjoy stunning panoramic views of all Five Islands, along with the Old Wife, the Brothers (also known as Two Islands), Cape Blomidon and Cape Split.
Over our tasty lunch from Diane’s, our guide, recent tourism grad Ashley Fudge, teaches us the names of the Five Islands — Moose, Diamond, Long, Egg and Pinnacle — and tells us the 1913 lighthouse has actually been moved back a few times because of cliff erosion. There’s a massive ship-themed playground for the kids, tons of space to run around and colourful hammocks to lounge in while you watch the tide come in.
We’re all tired and happy while we pile back into the Secret Nova Scotia vehicle to cruise back home. Ashley’s behind the wheel, and it’s such a treat to just relax in the air-conditioning and not have to drive. While the tours are great with out-of-province visitors who aren’t familiar with the Fundy Shore, they’re also handy for those of us who live nearby and want to see the sights while someone else takes the reins.
“A lot of these stops are places people know about, but maybe haven’t visited before,” says Tanya. “We take the planning and the driving out of it for you, and you just get to enjoy the day.”
We had a fabulous summer day we’ll never forget, and now the only problem is how much I’m going to miss being chauffeured around beautiful scenery, enjoying meals and snacks that magically appear at exactly the right time. Ahh, it’s the tour life for me!
Secret Nova Scotia’s Tasty Treasure Hunting on the Fundy Shore Tour runs Thursdays through Sundays through the fall. Other tours include Revealing the Tastes of Tatamagouche Food Tour, Revealing the Brule Shore Sea-nic Boat Tour and The Mystery of Maitland Mud Sliding Tour. Visit www.secretnovascotia.ca to learn more or schedule a tour.