The Fortress of Louisbourg
by Jim Park
Canada's roots go back a long way. There are reminders of our heritage spread across the country, giving truckers a unique opportunity to conduct some hands-on exploration. Few examples are quite as dramatic, or as well preserved, as the fortress of Louisbourg. Located about 20 miles south of Sydney, N.S., the town of Louisbourg and the fortress once served as naval base, trading center, and the administrative capital for French holdings in Atlantic Canada.
The oldest parts of the complex date back to 1713, when the French established the area as a seaport and naval stronghold. The first lighthouse in Canada was erected at the harbor entrance in 1734, and the first astronomical observatory was built nearby in 1751. Some 30,000 people called the fortress home when the British sacked the place in 1758, only to blast the fortifications out of existence just two years later. It was abandoned in 1768 after the Treaty of Paris turned all French holdings in the New World over to the British.
The Fortress of Louisbourg occupies a small but significant place in Canada's colorful history, and it's well worth a day's visit. It's a great way to glimpse life in a different time, and visitors can dine on food prepared in period fashion in an authentically restored dining hall. And of course the park staff are dressed in period costume to heighten the impression of taking a trip back to a different way of life in a time vastly different from today.
If you really want to score a few points with your spouse while you're in the area, there are several delightful bed-and-breakfast inns in the town of Louisbourg, or you might just take a short walk in the sea air along the pier. At the end of the day, we could all profit from a few moments like that, and Louisbourg is as good a place as you're likely to find anywhere in Canada for an R&R mission.
From the ferry terminal in North Sydney, the fortress of Louisbourg is about a 45-minute drive south of town along route 22. There's limited parking for large vehicles, and it's well worth a day out of the schedule, especially if you're even remotely interested in Canadian history. The beauty of driving for a living is really brought out when you can set aside a few hours, or a day or so to enjoy some of the sights this country has to offer. All you need to do is decide to take advantage of the opportunity.
For more information, call 902-733-2280, or visit www.parkscanada.gc.ca.