The next stops on our dog-friendly road trip to the Canadian East coast and back are two dog-friendly National Parks Historic Sites that rival any scenic historical preservation sites I’ve encountered to date: Port-Royal Historic Site and Fort Anne Historic Site.
Yes, both Port-Royal and Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia are dog-friendly. Your dog will love the open green spaces, sea-scented shoreline, and winding walking trails popular with locals and their pups.
Oh, and you’ll enjoy it too – especially if you love living history and beautiful East-coast water vistas.
Dog-friendly Port-Royal Historic Site
First, let’s explore dog-friendly Port-Royal Historic Site run by Parks Canada.
The Port-Royal National Historic Site in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia is home to a replica of the original French settlement built on this site in 1605. It’s one of the first European settlements in North America (the first north of Florida). Located in what’s now called the Annapolis Basin, this wasn’t the first choice for a settlement site.
But second time lucky, and this attempt the French settlers located near farmable land, water, and a source of wood for heat – that way, half the settlers didn’t perish within months like the first time. Feeling lucky (and smart), they named Port-Royal in recognition of the French king who gave the settlement’s governor a monopoly on the area’s fur trade.
Unlike future setters, the French actually formed an alliance with the Mi’kmaq people, who have lived in the region for thousands of years, and depended on them for pelts (mostly beaver) and survival strategy. Unlike many historic sites preserved along Canada’s coasts, this site wasn’t built to be a fort but a place of commerce.
The Habitation (not dog-friendly)
Central to a visit to Port-Royal is a tour through the Habitation. What stands there now is replication of the original structure: four walls of buildings that form a square look into a courtyard similar to the farm hamlets common in France during the 1600s.
Only men lived at the settlement in the 1600s, but today it’s a living history museum displaying eighteen buildings including the Gentlemen’s residences, the artisan quarters, trading room, kitchen, dining hall, and bake shop. In select rooms, costumed historic interpreters ply the trade of the day in character as part of the visitor experience.
Fun fact: after the King revoked the monopoly on fur trading, the French left in 1607, leaving the settlement to the Mi’kmaq. They returned briefly in 1610, bogged down with a religious agenda, and that didn’t go well. In 1614, an English expedition looted and burned down the Habitation.
Three centuries later, in 1939, Parks Canada reconstructed the site as a historical destination. It was the first large-scale reconstruction launched by the Canadian Government, and it opened officially in 1941.
Eighty-one years later, my crazy Springer/Cocker Spaniel Cross is running amuck around the grounds of Port-Royal. No, she’s not supposed to be. The minute we pulled into the parking lot, she took one look at the lush green treed lots and bolted out of the car as I barely opened the door. She hasn’t pulled that stunt in a while, so I was unprepared.
My dog then ran circles around the grass, over the walkway, and around the public bathrooms. She’d race back to me as I frantically called her only to dart last minute around me to circle around again. Full tilt she zoomed, with me yelling every command we learned in training, even resorting to the bribe of ‘chicken’ even though I didn’t have any. Finally, she let me catch her.
“You have to keep your dog on a leash,” a park staff member said after watching the whole spectacle. Really? Good news is she became a little calmer now that she has to leash-walk the park, then wait under a picnic table as I joined a tour.
Ok, dog people, here’s what you need to know about taking your dog to Port-Royal Historic Site. Clearly, this is a ‘do as I say, not do as I did’ situation:
Rules for Pet Dogs at Parks Canada
Leashed dogs are welcome at Port-Royal Historic Site, as they are at all Parks Canada sites and national parks across the country. You and your leashed dog can spend the afternoon, strolling the site, picnicking on the grounds, walking along the water, and taking photos in the classic Parks Canada Muskoka chairs facing the bay. However, pet dogs can not go into the Habitation, which is kind of a shame because, really, I don’t think they can do much damage to this sturdy rustic building.
Side note: In the 1600s, the French didn’t keep dogs and cats in settlements like this. Short-sighted maybe? British sites like Fort George (granted built two hundred years later) knew the value of keeping terriers around to reduce the rat and mice population.
At any rate, pet dogs are not permitted inside the Habitation today, but you shouldn’t miss the experience to hear stories about pelt trading, scurvy, wooden shoes, and dining with the native chief. So, your pup will either have to walk around the grounds with someone else (take turns visiting the Habitation, if you’re a team) or wait by a picnic table near the reception area.
If you’re looking for a place for a much longer walk with your pup, schedule a stop at the nearby Fort Anne National Historic Site … next on dogtrotting.net.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria.