A Tidal Roller Coaster
Fundy is a place of absolute wonder where the world’s highest tides rise as much as 48 feet in six hours – more than twenty-two times greater than the average in open seas. Fundy National Park, established in 1948, protects 80 square miles of the land along the bay’s west coast, where the tides and cold waters are responsible for coastal spruce and fir forests, salt and freshwater wetlands, and a rocky, cave-pocked shore where the hard, rapid tides have carved huge boulders into fantasy shapes.
So dramatic is the difference between low and high tide that, at Alma Beach, visitors can walk almost three-quarters of a mile across the tidal flats to the water’s edge – then kayak that whole distance a few hours later, when 100 billion tons of water have rushed back in, producing a roar at midtide known as “the voice of the moon.” You can see plant fossils millions of years old in the ancient sandstone rocks at the water’s edge, while offshore, at low tide, bird watchers can view thousands of migratory shorebirds as they feed on crustaceans trapped by the waters’ retreat.
Around Alma, the park has a manicured look, with gardens, stone walls, and numerous sports options, including golf and tennis, while offshore you can choose between whale watching (the bay hosts the largest population of endangered right whales anywhere), kayaking, and canoeing. Hiking opportunities abound, with 78 miles of trails traversing the park’s 8 miles of bayside coast and its hilly inland, whose rolling plateau is cut by deep valleys and fast-flowing streams.
Those wanting scenery with less challenge can take the Fundy Coastal Drive from St. Stephen to Aulac, passing through not only natural beauty but some lovely towns as well, including the 19th-century village of St. Andrews with its distinguished Fairmont Algonquin Hotel. Built in 1889 to lure wealthy vacationers away from the city heat, the Algonquin is a manor-style gem, with a red-tile roof and bay views from the upper floors. If you’d prefer something smaller, the Kingsbrae Arms is consistently rated as one of the area’s best accommodations. Built in 1897, it has just eight units, all decorated with upscale good taste and offering lovely views of the bay. Next door, the Kingsbrae Garden offers 27 acres of flowers and views.
Forty miles northeast of the national park, the Hopewell Rocks (“The World’s Most Famous Flowerpots”) are a group of immense boulders topped by trees and made concave at the bottom by centuries of tidal erosion. They’re the most photographed Bay of Fundy landmarks by far. Local Mi’kmaq legend has it that the boulders were once men, who were enslaved by angry whales and turned to stone when they tried to escape.