Introducing St Stephen
Right on the US border across the river from Calais, Maine, St Stephen is a busy entry point with small-town charm and one tasty attraction. It is home to Ganong, a family-run chocolate business operating since 1873, whose products are known around eastern Canada. The five-cent chocolate nut bar was invented by the Ganong brothers in 1910, and they can also be credited with developing the heart-shaped box of chocolates seen everywhere on Valentine's Day.
The tourist office is in the former train station. The old Ganong chocolate factory on the town's main street is now the Chocolate Museum, with tasteful (and tasty) interactive displays of everything from antique chocolate boxes to manufacturing equipment. The adjacent shop (open daily year-round) sells boxes of Ganong hand-dipped chocolates and is free to visit. Try the iconic chicken bone (chocolate-filled cinnamon sticks) or the old- fashioned Pal-O-Mine candy bar. The museum also offers a guided heritage walking tour of St Stephen from mid-May to mid-October. Once a year, during Chocolate Fest, the town celebrates all things chocolate with a parade, tours of the factory with unlimited sampling of the goods, and games for the kids.
There are five very comfortable rooms complemented by a quiet garden at Blair House, a fabulous Victorian home. You can walk the main street easily from here. There are also a few run-down motels on the outskirts of town if you are desperate.
Home cooking is served up at Carman's Diner, a 1960s throwback with counter stools and jukeboxes (that sometimes work) at the tables.
The Red Rooster Country Store doubles as the Acadian Lines bus stop, 4km east of town. There's daily service to Saint John ($29), which connects to Moncton ($55) and Halifax ($88). There's also a daily bus to Bangor ($38), but you have to purchase tickets in person. In Bangor, immediate connections are available to Boston and New York.
Across the border in Calais, Maine, West's Coastal Connection buses connect to Bangor. They usually leave from Carmen's Hometown Pizzeria on Main St, but call ahead to confirm. In Bangor, buses use the Greyhound terminal and connect to Bangor airport. Greyhound passes cannot be used from Calais.