Photo Story

Exploring My Atlantic Home

© Sandy Sharkey

Feeling ready to start travelling again? Atlantic Canada is a great place to go if you’ve got a post-pandemic travel bug! Scroll through just a few of the stunning vistas you can have the chance to see on your next visit.

With the pandemic slowly but surely coming to an end and the promise of travel resuming, I find myself in a reflective mood. While I wasn’t able to travel to the Arctic for the past two years, one thing the pandemic gave me was a stronger sense of appreciation for the place I call home.

Photography is the perfect medium to see the world around us, to capture moments in time and focus on what is important. I have been casually interested in photography for as long as I can remember, but I have become more motivated to develop my skills recently thanks to great photographers I’ve had the pleasure to travel with on Adventure Canada and Students on Ice Foundation expeditions.

I am also fortunate to call home a small community with a depth of photographers, whose work has inspired me to express myself through the lens of my camera. This photo story highlights my community of Sackville, New Brunswick, as well as my broader regional home here in Atlantic Canada—many of which you’d have the pleasure to visit on one of Adventure Canada’s Atlantic expeditions!

Highlights of New Brunswick

3x2 Waterfowl Park Sackville New Brunswick GD

© Garry Donaldson

The heart of Sackville is its Waterfowl Park, a network of trails and boardwalks that was a blessing for fellow Sackvillians looking for a taste of nature at a respectable distance from others. Distancing is especially easy in the early day when the soft morning light brings a glow to the wetland.

3x2 Bay of Fundy mud flats sunrise GD

© Garry Donaldson

Sackville sits at the head of the Bay of Fundy, where the farthest reach of the world’s highest tides have sculpted a landscape defined by productive salt marshes and extensive rich red mud flats that look especially nice in a hazy summer sunrise.

3x2 Bay of Fundy sandstone geology GD

© Garry Donaldson

Hiking local coastlines, it’s hard not to admire the bedrock in the inner Bay of Fundy that consists of sandstones made up of sediments laid down more than 300 million years ago. Look closely to stones like this and you will see black fossilized plant fragments from the Carboniferous Era.

16x9 Baie Verte saltmarsh GD

© Garry Donaldson

This day I was rewarded for getting up early to capture a soft sunrise over the saltmarsh at Baie Verte, New Brunswick. Known as Green Bay in English, this area is named for the colour of the summer saltmarsh and can easily be explored via the Trans Canada Trail that runs along its western edge.

16x9 semipalmated sandpipers bird flock GD

© Garry Donaldson

Not far from Sackville are extensive mudflats that host huge flocks of shorebirds, or flings as they are collectively known. Most are semipalmated sandpipers which fly here directly from the Arctic. They stay just long enough to feast until they have gained enough fat to fuel the rest of their fall migration—a non-stop, three-day transoceanic flight to South America. Quite a spectacle!

16x9 Tintamarre national wildlife area GD

© Garry Donaldson

Fall colours in Tintamarre National Wildlife Area

The name Tintamarre was borrowed from Acadian settlers and translates roughly to "a raucous racket" that describes the joyful hullabaloo of their annual celebration of Acadian culture, which is not unlike the sound of thousands of ducks and geese that use these wetlands during migration.

3x2 Hopewell Rocks GD

© Garry Donaldson

Hopewell Rocks is an icon for the province of New Brunswick and is a place you can either choose to hike or paddle among these sandstone outcrops depending on water levels. It is hard to not be impressed by the life that thrives in this intertidal world washed by rising and falling tides twice each day.

Other Delights from Around Atlantic Canada

16x9 Sable Island horses GD

© Garry Donaldson

Sable Island is a remote gem off of Nova Scotia and is dually protected as a Migratory Bird Sanctuary since 1977 and a National Park Reserve since 2013. The wild horses here are famous and seeing them is on many a bucket list but my draw to the island is its bigger wildness and remoteness.

16x9 sanderlings shorebirds GD

© Garry Donaldson

L'Anse-Aux-Meadows is known by many as the location of the only known Viking settlement in North America, but it is also a thriving community. I found these shorebirds—one dunlin with a darker brown head amongst a grain (flock) of sanderlings—taking a break next to a wharf en route from their Arctic breeding grounds to the south for winter.

16x9 Gros Morne national park GD

© Garry Donaldson

Fall in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador, is truly a sight to behold. This view is from the Trout River Pond Trail.

16x9 harebell flowers Cape Breton GD

© Garry Donaldson

Broad landscape images delight me but I try to stop and look at my feet now and then to take in the fine details in my surroundings. In this case, these harebells eeking out a living in a crack by the ocean in Cape Breton Highlands National Park were casting playful shadows that caught my eye.

16x9 beach driftwood PEI national park GD

© Garry Donaldson

Driftwood on the beach at Robinsons Island, Prince Edward Island National Park. I like these cool sunny autumn days where the golden hues and low angle of the sun makes for warm contrasts and textures.

16x9 Louisbourg lighthouse Cape Breton GD

© Garry Donaldson

I like to look for non-standard subjects at well-known and often-photographed places. This image of a monument was taken at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, just beside the famous reconstruction, looking across the harbour to the Louisbourg lighthouse.

3x2 Grand Manan lupins GD

© Garry Donaldson

A classic summer Maritimes scene with lupins, a common roadside plant, and a fishing boat, boat house, and wharf slightly obscured in the fog

16x9 Cape Breton Island ocean GD

© Garry Donaldson

There is nothing like the meditative benefits of looking out over the ocean. This soft morning sun was captured at Cape Smokey Provincial Park on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

The ongoing pandemic continues to bring a wide array of challenges to our lives, but within that, I am thankful it has delivered me a new appreciation of my home, discovered through photography. I hope you'll choose to visit this beautiful region sometime soon, and I hope you too can find beauty in the place you call home.

About the Author

Garry Donaldson

Garry Donaldson


Garry is a Canadian Wildlife Service biologist managing programs for migratory birds and the twenty-six Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and National Wildlife Areas in Atlantic Canada. This job is mostly carried out from behind a desk in Sackville, New Brunswick—but he enthusiastically grabs every chance he can to escape on bird surveys or visits to National Wildlife Areas.

He dabbles in photography and enjoys exploring wild places in his spare time. Each summer, Garry looks forward to travelling to the Arctic to share his passion for birds and conservation with others on Adventure Canada and Students on Ice expeditions.