Along the road, clapboard and shingled barns and houses that have weathered many winter storms give way to brighter bungalows, many decorated in the Acadian colours (the French red, white and blue flag with a gold star in the corner), in the town of Caraquet (population 4,000), the home of the August Acadian Days festival. Drive farther along Route 113 to the fishing towns of Shippagan and Lamèque, all the way to the northeastern-most point of the province, Miscou Island (two hours from Bathurst). Miscou, population 650, was connected by bridge only in 1996, and its beach and lighthouse are grand and unspoiled. It's also the best spot in the region to see the endangered piping plover.
Back at Bathurst Marina on Youghall Beach, my aunt and I decide to go for a sail in Charles Richard's Cozy Cockpit sailboat. Growing up, I had been told that people from the north shore should take pride in their hospitality (and I hoped I had offered it myself) but, I wondered, would I receive it as a tourist? Charles and his son, Pierre, take us out along the beach and out to the bay for a pleasant excursion, the breeze warm against our cheeks. I lamented that a planned fishing trip to the Miramichi River wasn't going to work out (the weather was too hot even for the salmon). Suddenly out come the fishing rods. We pull up beside a couple of other pleasure boaters, and a couple bobbing in a fishing vessel. Don't worry, it's legal, Charles reassures us.
We stay on the water an extra hour, and my aunt, a novice fisher, has caught three mackerel. Charles and Pierre cut off their heads, feeding them to a yellow-headed gannet and some competing seagulls, and we take the rest home for supper. A great day, and a great meal that was not, at first, on the menu.
PACK YOUR BAGS
By train Via Rail runs an overnight train from Montreal that stops in Bathurst before 9 a.m. six days a week. Trains from Halifax stop in Bathurst six days a week.
Bathurst is less than two hours from Montreal, with Air Canada servicing the Bathurst Regional Airport (ZBF) twice daily. Greater Moncton International Airport (YQM), served by most major airlines, is a two-hour drive to Bathurst; Porter Airlines flies to Moncton from the Toronto Islands airport.
Where to stay
Private summer cottage rentals are hard to come by, but can be secured if booked far enough in advance. Bathurst's Visitor Information Centre (506-548-0418) keeps a list.
Carey's Beach Chalets : 26 Janeville Beach Rd., Janeville; 506-546-1611. Artist Tomi Carey runs this compound of six beachside cottages (with full kitchens and bathrooms), offering beautiful sunset views, a 15-minute drive east of Bathurst.
L'Étoile du Havre : 405 Youghall Dr., Bathurst; 506-545-6238; www.etoileduhavre.com. Modern stylings and plenty of lush allegorical paintings by co-owner Denis Landry are prominent in this new six-room bed and breakfast, directly across from the Gowan Brae Golf and Country Club.
Danny's Inn : 1223 rue Principale, Beresford; 506-546-6621; www.dannysinn.com. This is the closest hotel to Youghall Beach and features a basketball and tennis court. Danny's is run and owned by members of the DeGrace family, and consequently, serves Dannyburgers.
Where to go
Bathurst Farmers' Market , 150 Main St.; Saturdays to 1 p.m. Local crafts, produce and all forms of maple products (syrup, candy and butter) are on sale here. Immigrants sell at the market as well; Nairobi-born Ngala Odiyo sells camel-bone jewellery and slippers made from the tread of tires sourced from Kenya.
Village Historique Acadien. Highway 11, between Grande-Anse and Caraquet, 40 minutes east of Bathurst; 506-726-2600. This re-creation of life in an Acadian village, animated by locals in period costume, was an object of dread for visiting schoolchildren, but has been spruced up in recent years; it now includes such 20th-century additions as a vintage Irving Oil gas station, in addition to the blacksmith workshops and printing presses of yore.
Mother Earth's Journey. Pabineau First Nation, 15 minutes south of Bathurst; 506-548-9211. This guided walk includes a visit to the Pabineau waterfalls, and introduction to the medicinal herbs of the area, and a sweetgrass ceremony.
Within a 90-minute-to-two-hour drive of Bathurst are, to the west, Mount Carleton, New Brunswick's tallest, and a good day-long hike; and, to the south, fly-fishing for salmon on the Miramichi River or a visit to Kouchibouguac National Park.