Tourism New BrunswickSTUNNING SCENES: New Brunswick is so much more than a 'pass-through province'
Like an astronaut about to set off on a mission to Mars, I strapped myself into a bright orange boiler suit to embark on an adventure of discovery to see the largest mammals on earth.
Moments later I was shuttled onto a high-speed Zodiac boat, zooming full throttle towards the horizon as the sky and the sea blurred into one shade of blue.
Beating through the waves with my hair whipping at my face, the sun sent glitter dancing on the water ahead as I eagerly scanned the waves for life forms, hoping to see a familiar fin or a knobbly head.
All of a sudden, the roar of the engine cut out and I froze, floating and hushed, eager to clap eyes on the sight I’d been waiting to behold.
TOURISM NEW BRUNSWICKDIVE: You can spot humpack whales off the shores of New Brunswick
Little did I know I would hear it before I saw it – an explosive eruption of air broke the silence as an enormous humpback surfaced to take a breather.
It wasn’t long until the mighty whale reared up to flash a glimpse of her tail, before submerging herself for a good 10 minutes as she hunted for food in the depths of the ocean.
Seeing the majestic beast at home in her natural environment was a true highlight of my trip to Atlantic Canada and the province of New Brunswick, but it was by no means the only sight to behold.
The best way to see New Brunswick is by car and I’d highly recommend splashing out so you can do it in style. I lived out my North American dream in a larger-than-life Jeep Grand Cherokee, blasting country tunes from the radio while cruising along the wide, open roads.
SARAH BUCHANANTHRILL: Seeing a whale in the wild gets your pulse racing
Although there are plenty of scenic routes to explore, I stuck closely to the southern shores of the province following the 286 mile (460 km) long Fundy Coastal Drive.
Making pit stops for $1 supersize cups of pop and sugar-loaded candy snacks keep you fuelled up for the ride, before burning it all off by taking a hike in Fundy National Park, the province’s premier nature reserve.
New Brunswick has been previously been dubbed a “pass-through province” but I found plenty of reasons to pull over and stay awhile.
The Bay of Fundy is a bucket list must because it’s been named one of the natural wonders of the world and it’s home to a unique phenomenon: the highest tides on earth.
GETTYLONG DRIVES: The roads in Canada are wide and open, perfect for a road trip
Perhaps the best place to see the 14 metre (46 ft) high tides is at Hopewell Rocks, where the ocean has carved flowerpot formations out of the stone.
Twice a day 100billion tonnes of water flows back and forth, filling and draining the bay like clockwork.
As the tide ebbs, it’s possible to stroll along the ocean floor and marvel at the sculpting skills of the sea – but you have to be quick.
In a matter of hours, the whole bay becomes swamped by the strong tides, obscuring the stone-faced statues once more.
TOURISM NEW BRUNSWICKCANADIAN COAST: Follow the Fundy Scenic Drive for a maritime adventure
After road tripping around New Brunswick for a week, the one place I fell most in love with was the pretty port town of Saint Andrews, affectionately nicknamed St Andrews By-The-Sea.
Once a summer resort for the wealthy, Saint Andrews was founded in 1783 and is steeped in history but you’d never know it from the polished parade of shops and colourful cafes dotted along the harbour.
The quaint town is a great place to stopover while enjoying all the nautical excursions on offer – including catching a glimpse of the Old Sow, the second largest whirlpool in the world.
Saint Andrews is also quite the culinary hotspot with something to suit everyones’ taste and budget, from lobster rolls served up at a roadside shack to sumptuous cuisine in an elegant restaurant.
SARAH BUCHANANSTOP OFF: Saint Andrews is a great place to stay while enjoying daytime excursions
At the Rossmount Inn, Swiss chef-owner Chris puts a European fine dining twist on local maritime fare with dishes that won’t cost the earth – expect to pay around $24 (£14) for a main.
Whether it’s salmon straight-from-the-sea or mushrooms picked from the hills behind the inn, the food is so fresh that the menu changes daily, keeping regular patrons on their toes and promising that no two visits will ever be the same.
Close by, the Fundy Isles are well worth exploring and I jumped at the chance to experience the rugged coastline first hand.
After making my way to a secluded beach hut on Deer Island, I met with adventure junkie Bruce who promised to expertly guide me through the waves.
SARAH BUCHANANOLD SOW: New Brunswick is home to the second largest whirlpool in the world
This time commandeering my own vessel, I sliced through the saltwater on a kayak, weaving around mini islands and basking in the unusually stifling autumn sun.
As I floated along, curious harbour seals bobbed up to turn their beady eyes on the boat and bald eagles kept watch from the tops of the tall pine trees above.
Snacking on some salty sea lettuce straight from the sea, I soaked in the stunning scenery and hoped to hold on to these picturesque memories for as long as possible.
TOURISM NEW BRUNSWICK/SEASCAPE KAYAK TOURSSEAL SPOTTING: The Bay of Fundy is a great place for kayaking
I travelled to New Brunswick in Atlantic Canada courtesy of Atlantic Canada Holidays (atlanticcanadaholiday.co.uk).
Air Canada offers more daily flights from the UK to Canada than any other airline. Economy return flights from London Heathrow to Saint John, New Brunswick (via Toronto) start from £614.81 per person (including taxes). It is cheapest to fly during the low season (from 25 December 2017 to 23 March 2018). Find out more at aircanada.com or call reservations on 00 800 6699 2222.
Heathrow Express trains will take you from London Paddington to the airport in just 15 minutes, with services running non-stop every 15 minutes. You can book £15 tickets every Saturday until the end of December.
Tourism New Brunswick has plenty of advice and insider tips for visitors in the province (tourismnewbrunswick.ca).