There's a relatively new way to research for a vacation: Use the Internet. In addition to writing and calling for brochures, log on and look up information on the Web.
Last fall, my wife and I decided to drive from our home near Boston to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. We had decided to stay at bed-and-breakfasts and country inns. Nicer than motels and hotels, and sometimes cheaper.
So I called the tourism office for New Brunswick, the province on the way to Nova Scotia. Delighted to send some tourism material, the woman said, but the post office likely wouldn't get it there for 10 days. Too late. We would be gone.
Try the Web, she suggested. I did, and it worked. I already had a booklet on New England country inns and started there. But I soon found a Web site for Maine, where we would spend our first night on the way up the Atlantic coast.
Since it was leaf-peeper time, I felt we needed reservations. New England accommodations fill up when the leaves turn multicolor.
Using a search engine (Yahoo!), I typed in "Maine." Up popped a selection, including travel and lodging. Then to the Maine Innkeepers Association. Also Maine's Best Bed and Breakfasts, Inns, and Small Hotels, and Special Places of Maine. After calculating how far I wanted to drive, I settled on Camden or a nearby town. We found a room at the Whitehall Inn in Camden. We arrived with computer printout in hand showing a picture of the inn, directions, address, and description of its features. It was most pleasant, though not cheap ($170, room and breakfast, plus taxes.) Camden proved a charming coastal town with unique gift shops.
Onward to Bar Harbor, just outside Acadia National Park, and The Inn at Canoe Point. Again I was armed with a computer printout, describing it as "a secluded waterside inn among the pines ...."
The location and room were charming, as were hosts Tom and Nancy Cervelli. The computer description also notes: "Not appropriate for children. No pets. No Smoking." Not surprising, considering the quality furnishings and other touches.
The nearby park, on Mt. Desert Island, was busy but not crowded at that time. It has shore trails that are lovely. We drove to the highest outlook on Cadillac Mountain and watched the sun set.
Next stop New Brunswick.
Again, the computer provided a place to stay. The pictures, description, and room prices give some hint of the desirability of a facility. My choice was the Inn on the Cove, outside of St. John. Our spacious room had a Jacuzzi overlooking the Bay of Fundy. In the morning, the rising sun filled the room with its rays. After a good breakfast we went for a hike in Irving Nature Park next door to the inn.
The walk was spectacular, closely following the coast. Waves were beating the rocks, sending up towering and sparkling sprays in the sunlight. Tiny flowers sprinkled the woods in some spots.
New Brunswick's Web site also gave instructions for the Fundy Coastal Drive, and the Hopewell Rocks where you can walk down to the "famous flowerpot rocks, spectacular tidal action, interpretive display, and guides."
I didn't take time to computer-search the entire route. In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, we used the roadside facilities, set up by the provinces, to reserve our B&Bs.
But even on somewhat remote Cape Breton Island, Web sites have arrived. At Cheticamp Outfitters Bed and Breakfast, Veronica Hache told us how she had bargained down the price a programmer had requested for setting up her Web site.
In the morning at breakfast, Mrs. Hache, as usual, spotted the school bus a half mile or so away, and drove quickly down with her son to the main road where he caught it.
We left soon, driving the Cabot Trail, and through Micmac Indian and Scottish villages on the island. We saw a moose and bald eagle along the road. Heard a fine Scottish folk singer at a restaurant. Took several shore walks.
On Prince Edward Island, we stayed in a lovely 1897 Victorian home, EdenHurst Inn in Charlottetown. The Queen Anne Revival home has been just converted to a B&B by a young, hard-working couple, Shayne and Sherri Popwell. Sure enough, it has a Web site too.
Our only disappointment was at a Holiday Inn in Bangor, Maine. The room was creepy, the food awful, but the employees considerate and helpful.