New Brunswick Classic Celebrates 125th Birthday
By: Ian Cruickshank
St. Andrew by-the-Sea N.B. – We are driving hard through the rain, following Route 1 above the Bay of Fundy from St. John to the resort town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. The rain is biblical in its proportions, flooding the windshield wipers and we breathe a sigh of relief when we reach the parking lot at Ozzie’s.
From the outside, it looks like just another Maritime seafood shack but Ozzie’s is one of the culinary landmarks of New Brunswick. The outdoor sign boasts that Ozzie’s is home to the best seafood in North America and while I’m no expert, I gobble down a plate stacked with fried clams in about 30 seconds and happily wipe my hands on the paper napkins.
Refueled, we set out again and within half an hour pull into the circular drive of the Algonquin Resort. Almost on cue, the rain stops and the sun slices through the cloud cover. It seems fitting. St. Andrews may be the prettiest town I’ve ever seen, with dozens of 100 and 200 year old homes painted in stark whites and creams, offset by dark blue and green shutters, tucked into the hill, peaking out over the water. Just off the main street is the small harbour where the lobster fishermen are repairing their traps, waiting patiently for the tide to rise. Also around the corner is the Algonquin, one of the very best courses in Eastern Canada.
This year the venerable Algonquin resort is celebrating its 125th birthday and the famous red-roofed resort still straddles the high ground overlooking the town and Bay. The big news is that the resort now has new owners and is a member of the prestigious Marriott’s Autograph Collection of resorts and hotels. It has also undergone an extensive, multi-million dollar renovation which includes everything from a new indoor pool to Wi-Fi throughout. However, while it’s decked out with all things digital, the Algonquin has retained its 19th charm with sweeping verandahs, wicker chairs, hardwood floors and a bagpiper.
Golf made its debut on the Algonquin’s vast front lawn in the 1890’s and then expanded down by Joe’s Point Road with input by architect Donald Ross. It was a charming layout but was short and didn’t take advantage of its waterside location. Former owners Fairmont purchased another 20 hectares that sloped down to the shore and then hired Toronto’s Tom McBroom to work his design magic. It was more than a renovation. McBroom admitted that he blew up the original layout and with the extra land opened up the vistas overlooking the Bay and the town. Today, the course plays to a full-bodied 6,908 yards with a front loop that curls through the pines, picking up steam as it rolls down to the water. My favourite of the new holes is the 12th, a 154 yard par 3 that seems to teeter on the edge of Passamaquody Bay. Below, in the eroded cliffside, is a faded red chimney, all that is left of a cottage once owned by Mr. Christie of Mr. Christie’s cookies fame. (The Algonquin is also a great golfing deal – green fees range from $35 to $85.)
New Brunswick is a small place so nothing is much more than a couple of hours away. There are lots of other good courses worth playing in the province including Kingswood, Royal Oaks, Fox Creek and Edmundston. The closest course to the Algonquin takes a little effort to get to but is worth the trip. There is a fun nine hole course on Campobello Island that can be easily reached by car ferry. The course, which skirts the sand and pebble beach, was designed by Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Geoffrey Cornish, a Stanley Thompson disciple and was built on land donated by the Roosevelt family who summered here for decades. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s former home is open to the public. Built in the Arts and Crafts style, the rambling `cottage’ stretches to 34 rooms including 18 bedrooms.
There are a couple of other `must do’s’ before leaving St. Andrews. Visit Minister Island which is accessible from St. Andrews by causeway and tour the home of William Van Horne who ramrodded the Canadian Pacific Railroad across the country. A man of gargantuan appetites, he once claimed, “I eat all I can, I drink all I can, I smoke all I can and I don’t give a damn for anything.”
Talking about gargantuan appetites, try a whale watching tour out of the St. Andrew’s harbor. With 100 billion gallons of saltwater racing in and out of the Bay of Fundy, the massive tides churn up the plankton making these waters the perfect buffet table for up to 15 different species of whales, including minkies, pilots and the glorious humpbacks.
And finally, remember to save room for the clams at Ozzie’s.
For more information about the Algonquin, go to www.algonquinresort.com