The Algonquin and St. Andrews-by-the-Sea

The Algonquin Resort is set to re-open later this year after a massive, top-to-bottom renovation. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Algonquin Resort is set to re-open later this year after a massive, top-to-bottom renovation. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Tim Ostrem cuts an imposing figure in the New Brunswick town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Standing well over 6 feet tall and possessing a deep, authoritative voice, he’s not a difficult man to pick out in a crowd. As the General Manager of the Algonquin Resort and Spa here in St. Andrews, he is easygoing, proud of this community, and seems to be on a first-name basis with most of the town.

In fact, it’s tough to discern the relationship at play here: is the Algonquin part of St. Andrews, or is St. Andrews part of the Algonquin?

Tim Ostrem, General Manager of the Algonquin Resort & Spa in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea stands in front of the iconic New Brunswick resort. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Tim Ostrem, General Manager of the Algonquin Resort & Spa in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea stands in front of the iconic New Brunswick resort. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

As it turns out, it’s a little of both. And to truly understand the special nature of the Algonquin, you have to understand the beautiful town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea.

I arrived here this morning after taking a three-hour crossing aboard Bay FerriesPrincess of Acadia, sailing from Digby, Nova Scotia to Saint John, New Brunswick. Because I can – and do – tend to blather on about ships, I’m going to devote an entire article to this unique vessel and the crossing on Monday. There’s lots to tell, too: I was fortunate to be able to spend the entire voyage admiring the view from the ship’s Navigation Bridge.

St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, as seen from the water. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, as seen from the water. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, or St. Andrews, is about a 60-minute drive from Saint John. You’ll think you’re getting lost in no-man’s-land when you drive out here, but keep coming: you’re heading the right way. But this is no sleepy little town located at the end of the road; instead, St. Andrews has an enormous population of families and young people, lured to the town by its enormous artistic community and Government and University-supported research facilities.

Classic architecture and clever, artistic touches reflect strongly upon the arts community in St. Andrews. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Classic architecture and clever, artistic touches reflect strongly upon the arts community in St. Andrews. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

After getting checked-in at the gorgeous little Treadwell Inn, which features just six rooms located in the heart of St. Andrews, it was time for some whale-watching with St. Andrews Ocean Adventures.

Out for a day of zodiac whale-watching adventure! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Out for a day of zodiac whale-watching adventure! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Fitted with a full-blown Helly Hansen floatation suit, we embarked the Hurricane, an extremely nimble orange Zodiac raft. We also saw people getting aboard larger whale-watching ships, sans Helly Hansen suits. But honestly, what’s the point to that? If I’m going to go whale-watching, I want to feel the spray on my face and the salt in the air.

And I certainly got that.

The whales were certainly out and about during my visit to St. Andrews. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The whales were certainly out and about during my visit to St. Andrews. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The whales were out in full-force, with four or five continually circling our Zodiac and two of the other whale-watching vessels in the bay. A few even breached right next to us, emerging so close to the Zodiac that the auto-focus on my camera wasn’t able to keep up with them. And you don’t realize until they’re right up on you how enormous – and how fast – these beautiful creatures are.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It's an awful photo, but this shows you just how close these whales were coming to our Zodiac. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It’s an awful photo, but this shows you just how close these whales were coming to our Zodiac. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Whale watching - albeit slightly drier - with a CBC television crew onboard. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Whale watching – albeit slightly drier – with a CBC television crew onboard. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Half the fun for me were the enormous swells that rocked the Zodiac to and fro. We even rode one memorable one down, only to have the next one come cascading over the top of the Zodiac. The Helly Hansen suit kept me nice and warm, though that one wave did send seawater cascading down my open collar!

My Off-Kilter Cycling Tour took me through the striking Kingsbrae Garden in St. Andrews. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My Off-Kilter Cycling Tour took me through the striking Kingsbrae Garden in St. Andrews. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Back at the dock, I traded my Helly Hansen survival suit for a different garment: a kilt. Off Kilter Biking Tours is run by Kurt Gumushel, whose father Fuat first moved to St. Andrews in the 1960’s and set up shop as a tailor. He eventually turned to making kilts (in a nod to St. Andrew’s Scottish heritage), which made it a natural fit for his son Kurt to incorporate the kilt into his cycling tours.

As we were a bit crunched for time, Kurt kindly took me around to all of the different places people can visit on his cycling tours, which can range from easy tourist rides around town to full-blown, all-day mountain biking adventures.

Near the end of our Maritimes Adventure, we'll set out on an Off-Kilter Bike Tour! Photo courtesy of Off-Kilter Bike.

Near the end of our Maritimes Adventure, we’ll set out on an Off-Kilter Bike Tour! Photo courtesy of Off-Kilter Bike.

So how popular is Off-Kilter biking? Very! Even when I was taking the luggage out of my car at the Treadwell Inn, a group of kilt-clad bikers from Kurt’s tours cycled past me. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better guide than Kurt – he knows nearly every trail and road in the town and its surroundings, and most importantly, he’s passionate about what he does. I look forward to going back someday for a full-day kilted ride.

Kurt deposited me at The Clubhouse, the Algonquin’s brand-new dining venue located on their striking 18-hole golf course. However, I’d have a tough time pulling myself onto the greens – and not just because my game is terrible.

Hole 12 at the Algonquin Resort's 18-hole Golf Course. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Hole 12 at the Algonquin Resort’s 18-hole Golf Course. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

When I first met Tim Ostrem in Halifax last week, he joked that the best was being saved for last on my itinerary. And while I haven’t had a bad meal on this entire trip, he certainly must have been thinking about the food at The Clubhouse. If this dinner menu doesn’t make your mouth water, I am not sure what will.

Hole 13 offers a magnificent view overlooking the town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Hole 13 offers a magnificent view overlooking the town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I was able to sample a little bit of everything on the menu, including the Lobster Mac and Cheese, which I typically shy away from, as I like more seafood than cheese in mine. This one hits that bill perfectly – you can taste the lobster predominantly, and the cheese only compliments it.

The other thing I’ve been craving every moment since I had it was the amazing Lobster Sliders, which are paired with smoked pork belly for a taste that’s out-of-this-world.

Check out the Lobster Sliders and the Lobster Mac and Cheese in the foreground. Delish! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Check out the Lobster Sliders and the Lobster Mac and Cheese in the foreground. Delish! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This brings me to dessert. Try the Whoopie Pie – an enormous chocolate sandwich-style creation served with a Bailey’s milkshake, or the Granite Town Farms Blueberry Cheesecake. I’m not a huge dessert fan, but these were stunningly good.

In all honesty, if you had to ask me what the best food I had this year is, it is unquestionably the meal I ate at The Clubhouse. Which makes me very eager to see what the meals are like at Braxton’s, the Algonquin’s Signature on-site dining venue.

Dessert was delectable, and taken within sight of the surrounding course. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Dessert was delectable, and taken within sight of the surrounding course. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Which brings me to the Algonquin itself. On their own website, the hotel says, “Deciding to make history, not surprisingly, takes time.” It’s a very accurate assertion for a hotel that isn’t just undergoing a refit – it’s undergoing a complete transformation.

I toured the property extensively. Top to bottom. Bottom to top. From wing, to wing, to wing. And at every stage, my jaw was left hanging open. Behind the construction tape and the parking lot filled with semi-trailers lies a work of art in progress.

The Algonquin's refit is extensive and exacting - right down to the telephones. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Algonquin’s refit is extensive and exacting – right down to the telephones. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

What impressed me most, though, is that the Algonquin isn’t simply trying to live off their rich past history like many historic hotels do. Instead, they’re respecting the past, but creating new traditions at the same time. Picture enjoying port wine and entertainment at night outdoors, by the new firepits overlooking the hotel. Or stepping out onto your own private balcony overlooking that same music – balconies that were never there before, and had to be added onto the structure at great expense.

New fixtures are modern, while still evoking a sense of grandeur. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

New fixtures are modern, while still evoking a sense of grandeur. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Imagine basking in the outdoor pool during the summer months, or retreating into the brand-new heated pool and waterslide complex during the winter months. Or indulging in a warm drink within Braxton’s Bar, which seamlessly blends with the resort’s lobby, Veranda and courtyard patio spaces.

For a 233-room hotel, the sheer amount of space in this property is mind-blowing. Every square inch of it is covered in magnificent glass windows – most of which were restored to their original splendour, right down to the original panes, whenever possible. When complete, the revitalized Algonquin will also boast 19,300 square feet of meeting space and an on-site A/V team – not to mention a helipad.

At the time when the Algonquin was constructed, few rooms were of the exact dimensions. This forced the project team to come up with unique solutions for each room, like these space-saving sinks. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

At the time when the Algonquin was constructed, few rooms were of the exact dimensions. This forced the project team to come up with unique solutions for each room, like these space-saving sinks in certain guest rooms. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

If you stayed at the Algonquin before, forget everything you know or have seen about the property. The walls have been stripped down to their frames. The entire building has been winterized to allow for year-round operation. New details have been added, from new uniforms and custom-cufflinks made in town to Braxton’s signature coffee – also made in town. The entire experience will be brand-new, yet decidedly local.

I’ve also decided this: I’m going to offer a few photos here. Not much – just a few. Because I don’t want to ruin the surprise for the people of St. Andrews later this year, when they can see what an exquisite masterpiece is situated just up the hill from them. After all, you wouldn’t show an early version of the Mona Lisa.

One of the guest rooms at the Algonquin. Photo courtesy of the Algonquin Resort. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

One of the guest rooms at the Algonquin. Photo courtesy of the Algonquin Resort. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

We’ve come to the point in the article where I am going to stick my neck out and make a rather bold prediction: I don’t think that the re-launch of the new Algonquin will be good for just St. Andrews, or just New Brunswick, or just the Atlantic Provinces. I think it will be good for Canada as a whole; every bit as prestigious and innovative as the original Canadian Pacific Hotels were when they were originally conceived by William Van Horne. It will be the first Autograph Collection hotel in Canada, and I’d hate to be the second Autograph Collection hotel in Canada.

They’re going to have a very tough act to follow.

Historic photographs of the property line the halls of the Algonquin Resort. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Historic photographs of the property line the halls of the Algonquin Resort. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Algonquin isn’t just slapping a new coat of paint on and calling it a day. They’re honouring and respecting the storied heritage of this great hotel. More importantly, however, they’re creating new traditions and experiences that will be experienced and cherished by an entire generation of new travellers; travellers who will remember the Algonquin Resort and St. Andrews by the Sea long after you and I are gone.

Is the Algonquin part of St. Andrews, or the other way around? Neither. When the Algonquin re-opens, they will be as they always have been.

Together.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Trip Report through Canada’s Maritimes has sadly come to a close, but stay tuned for a recap Monday – and the start of our next Live Voyage Report on Saturday, September 21!  Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.


 

27 Responses to Canadian Maritimes Live Trip Report – Day 7

  1. heidirenee says:

    Thank you SO much for drawing attention to our amazing community here in Charlotte County, NB – this makes me so proud to call this area my home. I’m so glad you enjoyed your stay and hope that you will attract many more visitors to our glorious shores!

  2. Pam Vincent says:

    What a wonderful article about St. Andrews!. Thank you.

  3. Linda Ross says:

    What beautiful pictures. I grew up my whole life in St. Andrews in the late 50’s and early sixties as Linda Harris. I have never stopped loving St. Andrews. I played on the porches when it closed with tricycles and bikes for hours with friends and make beleive. My husband and I moved to the Sates in 1968 to Illinois. We come back if not every year then every other to visit. We will certainly book a stay at the hotel. It will be interesting to see how it has all changed. I am so happy for the people of St. Andrews to have this magnificent hotel reopen. I was so sad when it closed. There is nothing like growing up in a seaside town and knowing everyone. Best childhood anyone could have Best Linda Ross

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Hi Linda,

      Everything I have seen personally indicates that the best may still be ahead for the Algonquin and St. Andrews. I think it’s going to be great, and the people of St. Andrews are second-to-none. You were very fortunate to have grown up there; I can see why you come back so often!

  4. Allan & Carolyn Speight says:

    This will be amazing. The Hotel prior to renovations was spectacular but it will be more beautiful when totally completed. Congratulations and Best Wishes for the future.

  5. […] Canadian Maritimes Live Trip Report – Day 7 […]

  6. Lisa Frost says:

    You know its funny I have lived just outside St. Andrews my whole life and you see different articles about our beautiful town, but this is the first time I have ever taken the time to actually read every bit of an article and cannot believe how you actually have described everything about the town and different businesses so extremely well that just makes me want to take in everything that we so much just take for granted.we have the best of every different kind of worlds and are not missing anything.We should be so blessed to have so much and now with the new Algonquin, sorry it will always be this is my mind but how could you not want to come and enjoy it all.

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Thanks for the kind comment, Lisa. You’re very right: St. Andrews really does have it all – and not every small community can say that. You should be rightly proud!

  7. Lila Haughn says:

    Thank you for writing this wonderful article of St. Andrews and The Algonquin Hotel. I have lived here most of my life and worked at the Algonquin Hotel as Executive Secretary to the General Manager for forty-two years. I am fortunate to be living in this beautiful Town and having worked at The Algonquin Hotel. Reading your article brought back many memories. Best of luck on your future ventures.

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Lila. You’re extremely fortunate to have worked at such a great hotel, and to have been living in the beautiful town of St. Andrews. Both are truly special places. All the very best from here in Vancouver.

  8. Heather Macdonald-Bossé says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article, Aaron! You’ve captured exactly what I feel is so special about the Algonquin and St. Andrews. Because I work with travel media I’ve been telling the story far and wide, and I’m sure that your words will be on my lips many times!
    Well done.

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Thank you, Heather! It was difficult to put into words why people should travel to St. Andrews and the Algonquin without resorting to just saying “Go there! Trust me!” I am so glad you enjoyed the story; to be honest, I’ve been amazed at the response from readers. It’s really resonated with them. I hope they all get to see St. Andrews someday!

  9. Dave Bennett says:

    Great article, well done it really shows the beauty of and the fun to be had in St Andrews and Charlotte County. It is a treat to live here!

  10. Bill Ross says:

    What a great article on the Algonquin renovations and my home town. I return at least once each year and never tire of walking the tree-lined streets (mostly) and seeing friends and relatives from my past.

  11. Nancy Day Mandly says:

    Thanks so much for writing this wonderful recap of your stay in St. Andrews. I grew up there and now that I am close to retirement I long to be able to spend the rest of my life there…at least the summers!! I was a chambermaid at the Algonquin for 3 summers and had the best time. I am so pleased that it is being updated and will be open year round. St. Andrews to me is paradise…everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime!

  12. So interesting, seeing names I know posting here. I get back a few times a year, mostly hookup with Freddie & Barb since my family all moved away. I’m so proud of being from St.Andrews. My great-grandfather moved there a couple of centuries ago and during the fifties & sixties Williamsons were well known in town (and I think well liked). For me the Algonquin always stood out as a symbol of what the town stood for…affluence, summer resort & a main street that was totally empty at 6:00pm in winter time…LOL.

  13. John MacNichol says:

    Thanks for the memories. My early life was spent in that beautiful town and although I now live in Vancouver and don’t get back often, many times I thank my lucky stars for having had the opportunity to be “from” St. Andrews.

  14. Alice Gardiner says:

    Thank you so much for writing this wonderful article and sharing all those amazing pictures. I can’t wait to visit St. Andrews and this time stay at the newly renovated Algonquin Hotel. Don and I have stayed there many times and have many friends who spend their summers in this wonderful place. Very special indeed.

  15. Tina Beaumaster says:

    Thank you for writing such a lovely, positive article about the Algonquin and our lovely little sea-side town. I was fortunate to have grown up in St. Andrews, and after spending many years away, I have returned back “home”. Over the years I have read many stories and articles about our hotel and town, but you have managed to capture how we “feel”, and as locals, that is our wish for all who visit.
    St. Andrews has a unique energy, I feel very blessed to live here. Come back and visit us again soon!

  16. Sherry Hooper says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article! You have truly captured the essence of our amazing town. I am a very proud resident of St. Andrews and encourage you to come and enjoy all we have to offer. From the majestic Algonquin Resort and Spa,to our many quant bed and breakfasts, and ocean view campgrounds, St. Andrews has everything you need and more! Whether your visiting the Fundy Discovery Musuem or mailing a letter, you will find exceptional hospitality and true pride is evident in all that we do! I look forward to seeing you in beautiful St. Andrews By the Sea!

  17. Jane mark says:

    Aaron, This article has provided such a wonderful glimpse into the next chapter of this Canadian icon. I am proud to represent the Hotel along with Tim, and the entire team. Each of them has such passion for this Resort community.

    Thank you
    Jane Mark
    National Sales Manager
    The Algonquin Resort

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Hi Jane,

      I am thrilled that you enjoyed the article. I truly think the future holds great things for The Algonquin Resort. So many hotels live off their past glories; it’s nice to see a property turn the page on a new and exciting chapter!

      Very best regards,
      -Aaron

  18. betty salter says:

    I would like to know what road you take to diggers take out going in to st Andrew. n. b.
    betty salter

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