Admiring the jagged coastline of red rocks and sea stacks of the Bay of Fundy, it’s hard not to wonder if you’ve stumbled across an alien landscape or at least part of The Martian together, if Matt Damon had decorated the Hab’s garden with Christmas trees. While it’s unlikely you’ll find a desperate astronaut wandering the shores, what you’ll discover, should you accept this mission, is a place teeming with the raw power of nature.
We could tell you about Fundy National Park’s tides, the highest in the world, which at an extreme of 53 feet can top a four-story building, every day, twice a day. We could get poetic about the terrain, which varies from masked forests to whispering streams, rock-strewn beaches, and soaring cliffs. Or we could get corny about how the wealth of outdoor recreation puts “fun” in Fundy. After all, one’s cheese is the other’s cheese, and New Brunswick is a world-class outdoor destination.
Canada’s unique geology along the Atlantic just off Maine has created a spectacular bay as well as stunning provincial and national parks surrounding the waters. At the parks, you can hike over 75 miles of trails, kayak through sea caves, and go swimming, camping, cross-country skiing, and even sledding. Due to New Brunswick’s far northern location and low population density, you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself and a few dozen friends – if your best friends were always polite, friendly and said “sorry” every time. you ran out of snacks or took the wrong turn on wide open roads. Here’s what to do in Fundy National Park.
Walk on the seabed at low tide, then paddle around the flowerpot rocks
Even if you’ve seen photos, just about everything about Hopewell Rocks is startling – from the peregrine falcons putting on an avian air show to the roar of the water, the intricate network of fissures in the mudflats exposed at low tide, and the des sea stacks that look like earth and alien monsters or even human faces, if you squint a little.
For millennia, the wild tides of the Bay of Fundy have chiselled the shoreline, creating free-standing formations such as the teardrop-shaped Lovers’ Arch, Hopewell’s most popular photo spot. At low tide, get a close look at this oversized natural sculpture installation as you walk on the seabed, past semipalmated sandpipers birds munching on the mud and rocks covered in bulbous green mats of bladderwrack.
To see a dramatic landscape transformation, hang around for six hours or return the next day at high tide; one ticket is good for entry on two consecutive days. If you time it as the tide comes in, you can head back to the beach and watch the water get closer and closer. So get out of there, you crazy kids. The bay rises a foot every six minutes and everything on the beach, including the flowerpot rocks, will be submerged in no time.
Buckle up your life jacket and settle into the cockpit of a kayak for a rowdy ride through the sea stacks. New this year are nighttime paddles – under a bright moon, with the help of headlamps and glow sticks – provide a memorable adventure after dark.
Do like Grandma Gatewood and hit the trails
There are so many hiking trails in New Brunswick that you could spend a few months here and not hike them all.
Fundy National Park (part of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve) has nine easy, 13 moderate, and 13 difficult trails, as well as multi-day hikes. In this rugged and unspoiled corner of the Caledonian Highlands, you’ll pass through a range of landscapes and habitats, from towering coastal cliffs to tumbling waterfalls, streams dotted with moss-covered boulders, second-growth forests including canopies dense almost negates the need for sunscreen and rare plant species such as bird’s eye primrose. Keep an eye out for moose, beavers, deer, great blue herons, emerald dragonflies, and the endangered Canada warbler, one of the 20 species of warblers that inhabit the park.
The Fundy Trail, rated one of the top 50 hiking trails in the world and reserved for experienced hikers, begins in Fundy National Park. You’ll need at least four days to do this, plus camping gear and water shoes for crossing the streams.
Explore the scenic wonders of the Fundy Trail Parkway
The Fundy Trail Parkway, completed in 2020, is a 20-mile route that winds through more than 6,300 acres of woods and water views along New Brunswick’s south coast. The parkway includes several hiking trails and 22 scenic lookouts to the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and Stonehammer Geopark.
It takes about six hours to make the most of the walk. Highlights include the brand new viewing platform which offers stunning views of the steep and 300 foot deep gorges of Walton Glen. At the Melvin Beach lookout, admire the vermilion cliffs and tall shoreline trees, or descend the wooden steps to the sand. Walk the 275 foot suspension bridge spanning the Big Salmon River. Or stop at Fownes Head Lookout, where on a clear day you’ll have miles of views along the eastern shore of the bay.
Go abseiling or ziplining over fossil cliffs
Cape Enrage didn’t get its name for the gentle breezes and calm waters. Its reef, which juts almost halfway from the Bay of Fundy towards Nova Scotia, is one of the most dangerous places in New Brunswick, due to frequent weather changes and rough seas.
This 6-acre park is only open between June 1 and September 25, but it’s well worth the trip.
Take a beach fossil tour, where you’ll climb rocky passes to see prehistoric traffic jams and calamites (huge ancestors of modern day horsetail) preserved in the rocks. Both sides of the beach date from different parts of the Carboniferous period, over 300 million years ago.
Then, rappel down the 140-foot cliffs of Cape Enrage to the pebble beach below.
Have lunch at the on-site Cape House Restaurant, where the dining room windows are your front row seat to the people screaming on the 600-foot zipline. Stand in line for 30 seconds of airtime, or take in the stunning views from the catwalk of the circa 1870 lighthouse.
Where to stay near Fundy National Park
Close to Hopewell Rocks, the Innisfree Hopewell Rocks Bed and Breakfast or the Maple Grove Inn are solid choices. Within the Fundy Trail Parkway, the newly renovated Hearst Lodge, accessible only by hiking the mile-long Hearst Lodge Scenic Trail, will open for private rental in 2023.
The village of Alma, about 40 minutes from Hopewell, is a great budget place to spend the night. Book a room at Alma Shore Lane Suites and Cottages, Parkland Village Inn or Alpine Motor Inn. This modern loft space has a calming ambience and a kitchenette to warm up your leftovers, which you will need. Alma is one of the best places in Atlantic Canada for seafood.
Tipsy Tails offers excellent clam chowder, lobster rolls and cocktails. Down the street, local favorite Alma Lobster Shop serves up a massive seafood menu. Don’t pass up the decadent lobster poutine, a bed of crispy fries topped with fresh lobster chunks, mozzarella and gravy. with velvety cheese.
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