Watch the Ocean Rise 50 Feet in This National Park Near Maine
Gazing out at the jagged, red-rock coastline and sea stacks of the Bay of Fundy, it’s hard not to wonder if you’ve stumbled onto an alien landscape or at least a portion of The Martian set, if Matt Damon had decorated the Hab’s backyard with Christmas trees. While you’re unlikely to find a forlorn astronaut roaming the shores, what you will discover, if 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 wax poetic about the terrain, which varies from cloaked forests to whispering streams, stone-strewn beaches, and dizzying bluffs. Or we could wax corny about how the wealth of outdoor recreation puts the “fun” in Fundy. After all, one person’s cheese is another person’s fromage, and New Brunswick is a world-class outdoor destination.
Canada’s unique geology along the Atlantic—right next to Maine—has created a show-stopper bay plus superb provincial and national parks surrounding the waters. Within the parks, you can hike more than 75 miles of trails, kayak through sea caves, and go swimming, camping, cross-country skiing, and even tobogganing. Because of New Brunswick’s far-north location and low population density, you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself plus a couple dozen friends—if your besties were unfailingly polite, friendly, and said “sorry” every time you ran out of snacks or took the wrong turn on the wide-open roads. Here’s what to do in Fundy National Park.
Walk the seafloor 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 that put on an avian airshow to the roar of the water, the intricate web of cracks in the mud flats exposed at low tide, and the sea stacks that resemble terrestrial and extraterrestrial monsters or even human faces, if you squint a little.
For millennia, the Bay of Fundy’s wild tides have chiseled away at the coastline, creating free-standing formations such as the teardrop-shaped Lovers’ Arch, the most popular photo spot at Hopewell. At low tide, get an up-close look at this oversized natural-sculpture installation by walking the seafloor, past semipalmated sandpiper birds snacking in the mud and boulders covered in bulbous green plaits of bladderwrack algae.
To see a dramatic transformation of landscape, hang around for six hours, or come back the next day at high tide; one ticket is good for admission on two consecutive days. If you time it for when the tide is coming in, you can go back to the beach and watch as the water creeps ever closer. Then get the heck out of there, you crazy kids. The bay rises one foot every six minutes, and everything on the beach, including the flowerpot rocks, will be immersed 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, nighttime paddles—under a luminous moon, with an assist from headlamps and glow sticks—offer a memorable after-dark adventure.
Make 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 all of them.
Fundy National Park (part of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve) has nine easy, 13 moderate, and 13 challenging trails, plus multi-day hikes. Within this rugged, unspoiled corner of the Caledonian Highlands, you’ll traverse a range of landscapes and habitats, from towering coastal cliffs to rushing waterfalls, streams studded with moss-covered rocks, second-growth forest whose dense canopies almost negate the need for sunblock, 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 threatened Canada warbler, one of 20 warbler species that call the park home.
The Fundy Footpath, rated among the top 50 hiking trails in the world and for experienced hikers only, begins in Fundy National Park. You’ll need a minimum of four days to do it, plus camping gear and water shoes for stream 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 6,300-plus acres of woodland and water views along New Brunswick’s southern coast. The parkway features multiple hiking trails and 22 scenic lookouts to both the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and the Stonehammer Geopark.
You need about six hours to make the most of the parkway. Highlights include the brand-new observation deck that offers astounding views of the craggy, 300-foot-deep Walton Glen Gorge. At the Melvin Beach Lookout, take in the shoreline’s ruddy cliffs and tall trees, or descend the wooden steps down to the sand. Walk the 275-foot suspension bridge spanning Big Salmon River. Or stop at Fownes Head Lookout, where, on a clear day, you’ll have miles of views along the bay’s eastern coast.
Go rappelling or ziplining over fossil cliffs
Cape Enrage didn’t get its name for gentle breezes and placid waters. Its reef, which juts almost halfway across the Bay of Fundy toward Nova Scotia, is one of the most dangerous spots in New Brunswick, courtesy of frequent weather changes and the churning sea.
This 6-acre park is open only between June 1 and September 25, but it’s well worth the trip.
Take a beach fossil tour, where you’ll scrabble through rocky passes to view prehistoric logjams and calamites (enormous ancestors of the modern horsetail) preserved in the rocks. The two sides of the beach date to different parts of the Carboniferous period, more than 300 million years ago.
Then go rappelling down Cape Enrage’s 140-foot cliffs onto the pebbly beach below.
Have lunch at the onsite Cape House Restaurant, where the windows of the dining room are your front-row seat to people screaming by on the 600-foot zipline. Queue up for 30 seconds of airtime, or else take in the capacious views from the walkway 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 Footpath, will open for private rentals in 2023.
The village of Alma, about 40 minutes from Hopewell, is a great, budget-friendly place to spend the night. Book a room at Alma Shore Lane Suites and Cottages, the Parkland Village Inn, or Alpine Motor Inn. This modern loft space has a soothing ambience, and a kitchenette for warming up your leftovers—which you’re going to need. Alma is one of the best spots in Atlantic Canada for seafood.
Tipsy Tails has excellent clam chowder, lobster rolls, and cocktails. Down the street, local favorite Alma Lobster Shop serves a huge seafood menu. Don’t pass up the decadent lobster poutine, a bed of crispy French fries topped with chunks of fresh lobster, mozzarella, and a velvety cheese sauce.
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