Sept 25-27, 2021 Minister’s Island

We got up early in the morning and rushed to St. Martin to visit the St. Martin Sea Caves.  The Sea Caves are only accessible during low tide which happened to be at 9:15 AM and it is an hour’s drive from Sussex to St. Martin.  The tides at St. Martin can be up to 38 feet high.  When the tide is low we would be able to walk on the exposed bottom of the sea and look at the caves.  We arrived around 10 AM which was fine since the tides are on a six and half hour schedule.

The small village of St. Martin’s claim to fame is a set of sea caves

It was cool walking on the rocky bottom of the sea and even onto a seaweed forest which resembled a big green mound without the water.  Once the tide came back in the seaweed would float and become a forest again.  The caves themselves were roped off and looked like… caves although it was interesting to look at the rocks which were 250 million years old.  What was more interesting was experiencing how fast the tide came in.  It was rising at over an inch a minute so after taking a few pictures by the gently lapping waves we would walk away, look back and see that the spot we had been taking pictures just minutes ago was now under water. 

The tides in the Bay of Fundy are so big that the sea caves are inaccessible at high tide.

As we headed back to Rover it started raining so we drove to the nearby town of St. John.  St. John proved to be a bit of a disappointment as despite having a historic downtown with many buildings over 100 years old, it was practically deserted even though the rain had stopped.  We walked around a bit but didn’t see much interesting other than a few churches with very pointy green roofs. 

St. John’s other claim to fame is the “Reversing Falls” which is actually a section of the St. John river which has some white water rapids going downstream at low tide but reverse and the rapids goes upstream at high tide.  Far from actual reversing falls or even white water rapids, the view would be more accurately described as turbulent water going one way and if you wait six and a half hours, going the other way.  Interesting but not nearly as exciting as, say rifting a tidal bore.

The reversing tides were a bit underwhelming.

To top it all off when we started making dinner we discovered that we were out of propane and we could not find a single place in St. John to refill our propane tank on a Saturday evening.  We tried five or six places and all they had was propane tank exchanges, not refill.  Dinner was not a big deal since we just ate out but the problem is that our refrigerator runs on either propane or electricity and it had been rainy or cloudy the entire day so we were out of propane and our batteries were not doing so hot either.  In the end, we found a nice Starbucks with few customers, parked outside and rudely ran our generator for a couple of hours to fill our batteries so we could run our refrigerator off of electricity overnight.  It is a good thing we upgraded our electrical system and batteries so this was possible and we did not have to run our generator all night.

The next day was Sunday so we left St. John and drove an hour down the road to a gas station that could refill our propane tank. After that we drove to our last stop in Canada, St. Andrews.  There we parked at a cute little park featuring some cannons and a wooden blockhouse built during the War of 1812 to defend against the Americans.  Here we could see the United States just across the bay although St. Andrews was never attacked. 

The reason we came to St. Andrews was to visit Minister’s Island.  This is a part time island with a causeway linking it to the mainland only when the tide was low. It was too late to visit that day so we bought tickets for the next day.  St. Andrews is too small to have a Walmart so we found a small parking lot at the local sports field to spend the night.

This wooden guardhouse was built to defend against an American invasion that never came
We love our small RV that lets us park in beautiful spots like this.

We had to wake up early the next morning again since the island was only open for a five hour window during low tide.  It was a short drive to the causeway and it was interesting to realize that we were actually driving on the bottom of the ocean and when the tide came in the causeway we were driving on would be under over 11 feet of water.  Our RV is 11 feet 4 inches tall so if we were on the causeway at high tide Rover would be almost completely submerged.

We were literally driving on the bottom of the sea
When the tide is high, the water would be over the top of our motorhome

Minister’s Island is a 490 acre island famous for being the summer home of Sir William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He was responsible for building Canadas Trans Pacific railway linking New Brunswick on the Atlantic to Vancouver on the Pacific.  Van Horne is responsible for naming and founding the city of Vancouver and also for building the beautiful Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec.

Between 1892 and 1901he built a 10,000 sq. foot house on the island with 50 rooms with all the most modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing.  It struck us that despite being the luxurious and high tech home of a very rich person, a regular house today would be much more comfortable and luxurious.  The Van Horne house did not have things we take for granted like central air conditioning and heat, electric lights, washing machines, and even gas or electric stoves.  The kitchen was tiny and featured a cast iron wood burning stove, light was primarily by candle and heat was provided only by fireplaces.  Frankly, except for the servants, a regular person today has a much nicer house than the elite did back then.

At 10,000 sq ft. this house was considered a summer cottage.
The grounds on Minister’s Island were very pretty
Although it was a rich mansion for its time, today it looks quite plain

Van Horne also built the nicest barn ever.  It looks a little bit like something out of Harry Potter and for a while it was the largest freestanding structure in Canada.  It is really huge and nicer looking than many people’s houses.  We had to leave promptly at 1:30 PM and by 2:30 PM the causeway was underwater and Ministers Island was an island again.

The Barn on Minister’s Island was fancier than the house
The huge barn looked like a castle.

With that our Canadian adventure was done.  We drove to the border at St. Stephen, stopped at a gas station which had a free dump station to dump our tanks and spend the rest of our Canadian cash before going through the very small border crossing to Calais.  There was no check out for Canada and the US border agents let us through with a cursory review of our passports.  Since the US was still closed to Canadians we were the only vehicle at the small crossing.  It was a good thing we were the only vehicle too since we had to driver through the US Custom and Immigration building and it was so small that we were afraid that our RV would not fit through.  I really doubt that a big class A RV would be able to use this border crossing.  It is good to be small. Just like that, we were back in America!  It looked a lot like Canada.  In fact, almost exactly like Canada, except the signs were all in English instead of English and French and we were back to using miles instead of Kilometers.  OK, maybe the sun was a little bit brighter and the flags a little bit prettier.  We drove a couple of hours to Ellsworth, Maine where we parked at a Walmart, which was exactly like the Walmart in Canada.

To see more of our adventures in New Brunswick, check out our video!

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