Gazing out over the rugged red rock coastline and sea stacks of the Bay of Fundy, it’s hard not to wonder if you’ve encountered a foreign landscape, or at least part of it The Martian set when Matt Damon had decorated the Hab’s backyard with Christmas trees. While it’s unlikely you’ll find an abandoned astronaut roaming the coast, what you’ll discover when you accept this mission is a place teeming with the raw power of nature.
We could tell you about the tides in Fundy National Park, the highest in the world, which can top a four story building at an extreme 53 feet – every day, twice a day. We could get poetic about the terrain, which ranges from shrouded forests to whispering streams, stone-strewn beaches and dizzying cliffs. Or we could poke fun at how the abundance of outdoor recreation brings the “fun” to Fundy. After all, everyone’s cheese is someone else’s Cream cheese, and New Brunswick is a premier outdoor destination.
Canada’s unique geology along the Atlantic Ocean – right next to Maine – has created a stunning bay and outstanding provincial and national parks around the water. Within the parks, you can hike more than 75 miles of hiking trails, kayak and swim through sea caves, camp, cross-country ski, and even sledding. Due to New Brunswick’s far north location and sparse population, you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself and a few dozen friends — when your best friends were always polite, friendly, and said “sorry” every time she ran out of snacks or took a wrong turn on the wide streets. Here’s what to do in Fundy National Park.
Walk the seabed at low tide, then paddle around the flowerpot rocks
Even if you’ve seen photos, pretty much everything about Hopewell Rocks is surprising – from the peregrine falcons putting on a bird show, to the sound of the water, the intricate web of cracks in the mudflats that are exposed at low tide, and the sea stacks that terrestrial and extraterrestrial monsters or even human faces if you blink a little.
For millennia, the Bay of Fundy’s wild tides have eroded the shoreline and created free-standing formations such as the teardrop-shaped Lovers’ Arch, Hopewell’s most popular photo spot. At low tide, you can get an up-close look at this colossal natural sculpture by walking the seabed, past sandpipers snacking in the mud and boulders covered in bulbous green braids of bladderwrack.
To see a dramatic change in scenery, stay nearby for six hours or come back the next day at high tide. A ticket is valid for entry on two consecutive days. If you set it to low tide, you can return to the beach and watch the water get closer and closer. Then get out of there, you crazy children. The bay rises a foot every six minutes, and everything on the beach, including the flowerpot rocks, will be submerged in no time.
Strap on your life jacket and settle into the cockpit of a kayak for a wild ride through the sea stacks. New this year, night time paddling – under a glowing moon, aided by spotlights and glowsticks – offer an unforgettable after-dark adventure.
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 do them all.
Fundy National Park (part of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve) has 9 easy, 13 moderate and 13 challenging trails, as well as multi-day hikes. In this rugged, unspoilt corner of the Caledonian highlands, you’ll traverse a range of landscapes and habitats, from towering coastal cliffs to rushing waterfalls, streams dotted with moss-covered rocks, and second-growth forests whose dense treetops almost negate the need for sunscreen and rare Plant species such as bird’s-eye primrose. Keep an eye out for moose, beaver, deer, gray herons, emerald dragonflies, and the endangered Canada warbler, one of 20 species of warblers that call the park home.
The Fundy Footpath, one of the top 50 hiking trails in the world and only suitable for experienced hikers, begins in Fundy National Park. You’ll need at least four days, plus camping gear and water shoes for river crossings.
Explore the scenic wonders of the Fundy Trail Parkway
The Fundy Trail Parkway, completed in 2020, is a 20-mile road that winds through more than 6,300 acres of forest and water along New Brunswick’s south shore. The Parkway offers several hiking trails and 22 scenic viewpoints of the Fundy UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Stonehammer Geopark.
It will take you approximately six hours to make the most of the Parkway. Highlights include the brand new observation deck, which offers breathtaking views of the rugged, 300-foot-deep Walton Glen Gorge. Admire the coastline’s reddish cliffs and tall trees at Melvin Beach Lookout, or descend the wooden steps to the sand. Walk the 275-foot suspension bridge that spans the Big Salmon River. Or stop at Fownes Head Lookout for miles of views along the east shore of the bay on a clear day.
Abseiling or zip lining over fossil cliffs
Cape Enrage didn’t get its name because of the gentle breezes and calm waters. Its reef, which stretches almost halfway across the Bay of Fundy toward Nova Scotia, is one of the most dangerous spots in New Brunswick, owing to frequent weather changes and choppy seas.
This 6-acre park is only open between June 1st and September 25th, but it’s well worth the trip.
Take a beachfront fossil tour that involves crawling through rocky passes to see prehistoric logjams and calamites (giant ancestors of modern horsetail) preserved in the rocks. The two sides of the beach date from different parts of the Carboniferous period more than 300 million years ago.
Then abseil the 140-foot cliffs of Cape Enrage onto the pebbly beach below.
Have lunch at the hotel’s Cape House Restaurant, where the dining room windows are your front-row seat to people shouting by on the 600-foot zipline. Queue for 30 seconds of airtime or enjoy the expansive view from the walkway of the circa 1870 lighthouse.
Where to stay near Fundy National Park?
Near Hopewell Rocks, the Innisfree Hopewell Rocks Bed and Breakfast or the Maple Grove Inn are good choices. Within the Fundy Trail Parkway, the newly renovated Hearst Lodge, accessible only via the mile-long Hearst Lodge Scenic Footpath, will open for private rentals in 2023.
The village of Alma, about 40 minutes from Hopewell, is a great inexpensive place to spend the night. Book a room at the Alma Shore Lane Suites and Cottages, the Parkland Village Inn or the Alpine Motor Inn. This modern loft has a soothing ambience and a kitchenette to reheat your leftovers – which you will need. Alma is one of the best places in Atlantic Canada for seafood.
Tipsy Tails has excellent clam chowder, lobster rolls, and cocktails. Across the street, local favorite Alma Lobster Shop serves a huge variety of seafood. Don’t miss the decadent lobster poutine, a bed of crispy fries topped with fresh lobster chunks, mozzarella, and a velvety cheese sauce.
Want more thrillers? follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, youtube, Tick tockand Snapchat!