Those Quirky Maritimes

Exploring the wacky side of Canada's Atlantic Coast

So you've admired the enchanting lighthouses, wandered through quaint fishing villages, visited the delightful Anne of Green Gables museum, and gawked at the mighty Fundy Tides. There's a lot more. Canada's Maritime Provinces are as quirky as they are charming. Here's our guide to the lesser-known or downright weird attractions of America's northern neighbors.

World's Largest Wooden Nickel
Roadside attractions in the Maritime Provinces proudly follow the "more is more" philosophy. New Brunswick leads the pack, with the World's Largest Blueberry, the World's Largest Axe, the World's Largest Salmon, the World's Largest Wooden Nickel, the World's Largest Lobster and the World's Largest Lobster Trap. Elsewhere, Prince Edward Island's proud potato capital, O'Leary, showcases a giant potato.

Bottled Up
No one can fault retiree Edouard Arsenault for lack of concentration. During the 1970s, he constructed three bottle houses entirely out of mortar and glass bottles, 25,000 of them. After taking your fill of Anne-o-rama, you can visit his three structures, a tavern, a chapel, and a six-gabled house—in Cap-Egmont, on Prince Edward Island. Open June through September.

Magnetically Challenged
Then, of course, there's New Brunswick's Magnetic Hill, which is not magnetic, but never mind. A giant optical illusion, the hill's peculiar topography allows you to put your car in neutral and roll "up" it. Believe it or not, it's the third most popular tourist destination in all of Canada, just behind Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains.

Like Watching Ice Melt
More than a thousand icebergs are estimated to float through the waters off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador each year, gradually disappearing as they melt. No two are alike, and the parade of turquoise-flecked, jagged bergs is strangely hypnotic. For the best views, take a boat tour; numerous coastal towns offer them.

A Busker amongst Us
The Silver Elvis? The Screaming Beavers? No, they're not starving punk bands, but street performers. Each year, jugglers, escape artists, and mimes descend on Halifax for the International Buskers Festival, showcasing street performances from noon till late at night. The festival enlivens the waterfront every August; this year.

Captain Kidd's Money Pit
On Oak Island, near Chester, Nova Scotia, legend has it that a vast treasure lies buried at the bottom of a pit. Some believe that the pit was the cache of notorious pirate Captain Kidd, but theories have roamed freely, up to and including "Incas fleeing the wrath of advancing Spaniards." Since 1795, treasure hunters have been digging up the island, which is not surprisingly riddled with various holes and troughs. You can't visit the island directly, but you can see the pit from the mainland.

Chocolate Mania
The Ganong Chocolate Factory, in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, is Canada's oldest candy manufacturer. You can tour the premises and enjoy delicious samples, particularly the famed cinnamon and chocolate "chicken bones." Each year, St. Stephen hosts the Chocolate Fest, presided over by a Chocolate Mousse moose. Past years' festivals have featured such events as the Almond Bark Breakfast, the "Choc-tail" Hour, and a pudding-eating contest.

I See France
You can get to France very easily from Canada—it's a mere 70-minute ferry ride, in fact. The islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland, have steadfastly belonged to France, both politically and culturally, since colonization. Quaint, insular, and resolutely French-speaking, the islands are home to intricate wrought-iron grillwork, above-ground graves (à la New Orleans), charming inns and bistros, and of course, duty-free French wine.

Published: 24 Jul 2001 | Last Updated: 25 Oct 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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