5. Dine on the ocean floor
Across the bay in Nova Scotia, the ochre sands of Burncoat Head Park provide the venue for one of Canada’s most unusual culinary experiences. Over half a dozen auspicious dates each summer, restaurateur Chris Velden decamps from his award-winning restaurant in nearby Summerville to a sheltered cove beneath the cliffs to host a unique gastro adventure: Dining on the Ocean Floor.
With time and tide dictating when diners need to vacate their tables, this is no mean challenge for Velden and his team of expert chefs. As they set up burners and tables, guests take a lesson in foraging, combing rock pools for natural edibles.
As the tide begins to turn, the feast begins: organic cheese and charcuterie, followed by pasture-raised beef with juicy lobster tails, are washed down with peaty local Scotch ale and crisp, floral Tidal Bay wine. Ninety-five percent of ingredients come from within twenty miles of the bay – this is Nova Scotian cooking at its best.
Dessert is served as the sun sets and the tide starts sweeping in at speed; by coffee, it’s time to retreat to the safety of the cliffs. And within an hour, all trace you were here has disappeared.
V J Matthew/Shutterstock
6. Snorkel with salmon
Close encounters with the world’s most endangered animals are a rare opportunity indeed. But for just a few days each September, you can go eyeball to eyeball with the Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon. Just don a dry suit, mask and snorkel, and glide downstream in the fast-flowing shallows of the Upper Salmon River, one of the bay’s icy tributaries.
Its population dropping from 40,000 in the 1980s to less than 200 by the late 2000s, the salmon has been saved from certain extinction in recent years by an innovative recovery programme. The young salmon (smolts) spend their first couple of years in local streams, and are then collected and released at a pioneering wild salmon conservation site on the island of Grand Manan. Here they hone their wild instincts – essential for future survival – before being released back to their Fundy breeding grounds.
The salmon snorkelling adventure replicates the park scientists’ “swim throughs”, on which they count the fish as they get ready to spawn.
7. Go on a “caviar safari”
While there may be green shoots of recovery for the Fundy salmon, the plight of the sturgeon – almost extinct in the traditional caviar-producing countries on the Black and Caspian seas – is a tragedy. But not so in the Bay of Fundy, where populations of Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon are thriving in the Saint John River.
The brainchild of biologist Cornell Ceapa, Acadian Sturgeon is an ambitious aquaculture project to farm these remarkable fish ethically and sustainably. At his small fishery at Carter’s Point, New Brunswick, wild and farmed sturgeon coexist side by side and, on reaching maturity, are selectively harvested from strictly controlled quotas. The project is so successful that for over a decade Ceapa has shipped live sturgeon to boost stocks in the Baltic Sea.
Tastings – a nose-to-tail extravaganza (sturgeon tripe, anyone?) running to as many as ten courses – are run year-round at the farm. In July you can even take part in a sturgeon safari, beginning with a 6am boat ride out to check the nets.
The caviar of course is a highlight: savoured from a mother-of-pearl spoon and accompanied – à la mode traditionnelle – by Acadien vodka. Mild and buttery, the farmed varieties are superb but nothing quite matches the eye-popping intensity and richness of the jet-black Acadian Wild as it explodes onto your palate. The only (legal) wild caviar in the world, it’s a uniquely glamorous taste of a more rarefied age.
Ed flew from London Heathrow to Halifax, Nova Scotia with Air Canada. For more information see www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca, www.novascotia.com and www.destinationcanada.com.
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