Fundy National Park, as you might have gathered, is a national park that’s located on the Bay of Fundy, not far from Alma, New Brunswick. It showcases the rugged and raw beauty of the region and features more than 25 waterfalls, as well as having the highest tides on the planet. Robin and Arlene Karpan walk us through how to get the most of our visit to this true Canadian gem.
Fundy National Park allows us to experience the world’s highest tides along a protected coastal wilderness with pristine beaches and awe-inspiring cliffs. However, the sea is only part of the park’s appeal.
It’s also where lush green forests hold wildlife-rich wetlands, lakes, rivers, impressive gorges, and plunging waterfalls. It’s the only national park in Canada where we can drive through a picture-perfect wooden covered bridge. This awesome park along New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy seems to have it all.
The park is so diverse that the weather can vary in different areas, due in part to the change in altitude between the coastline and hills. Driving along Highway 114, the main road through the park, we pass Butland Lookout, a great spot to take a break and relax in Parks Canada red chairs while looking far out over the coast below. It’s not unusual to have bright sunshine at the lookout, while a layer of fog blankets the lower areas.
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Hiking in Fundy National Park: From Easy Strolls to Challenging Treks
A prime draw in the park is its 100 kilometres of hiking trails. You can explore a wide range of landscapes, from the Fundy shore with its beaches and magnificent cliff-top viewpoints to more demanding treks deep into the forest along rivers, lakes and waterfalls. A dozen “family-friendly” trails take less than an hour and are rated as relatively easy.
Our favourite short trail is the Dickson Falls 1.5-kilometre loop. Boardwalks and stairs follow along Dickson Brook then lead to the main falls (the most photographed waterfall in the park) and a series of smaller tumbling cascades and rapids.
The gorge and lush fern-lined valley provide the perfect habitat for outrageously green mosses reminiscent of a tropical rainforest. Interpretive panels tell us more about this unique landscape, the formation of gorges, and the flora and fauna.
The UNESCO-designated Fundy Biosphere Reserve names Dickson Falls among its 50 Amazing Places in the region.
Also making the Amazing Places list is Laverty Falls, a 12-metre drop over a sheer rock face. On a hot summer day, the deep pool next to this curtain falls practically invites you to take a refreshing dip. It’s one of the more easily accessible of the park’s impressive waterfalls.
The trail through the mixed-wood Acadian forest is only five kilometres return. Another option is to turn this hike into a loop by returning from Laverty Falls via the longer and more challenging Moosehorn Trail which takes in more waterfalls and gorgeous riverside scenery.
Pointe Wolfe Bridge, The Shiphaven Trail, and More
New Brunswick is famous for its many traditional wooden covered bridges, with one of the most picturesque being the Point Wolfe Bridge. The red, 7.3-metre-long bridge crosses the Point Wolfe River just upstream from where it flows into the Bay of Fundy. The narrow gorge near the bridge, with its crystal clear water, widens into the estuary where it’s easy to see the dramatic change between the Bay of Fundy’s high and low tides.
The kilometre-long Shiphaven Trail, starting right beside the bridge, is a great introduction to this part of the park. The trail has boardwalks and stairs for an easy walk, while interpretive panels describe the natural and cultural history of Point Wolfe, once the site of a forestry industry settlement before the park was established.
Point Wolfe is also the trailhead for some extensive coastal walks to both the east and west. The Goose River Trail, a rigorous trek of over 13 kilometres, heads west along the coast. If you really want to get serious about hiking, you can combine this trail with the famous Fundy Foot Path, a 41-kilometre wilderness trek from the park border to the Big Salmon River near St. Martins, crossing the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline along the east coast of North America.
The Village of Alma – The Gateway to Fundy National Park
Known as the gateway to Fundy National Park, the village of Alma lies just outside the park boundary. Services such as shops, groceries, and gas line the main street. Local restaurants serve fresh lobster, scallops and other seafood, and many have locally brewed craft beer.
The array of accommodations in Alma provides an alternative to the park’s five campgrounds. We decided to experience some of both. We stayed at the comfortable Alpine Motor Inn bordering the shore. Their multi-coloured lawn chairs on a large grassy area proved to be the perfect place to take in the coastal view over morning coffee. In the park, the forested Chignecto Campground higher in the hills was also home for a few nights. Each provided a different though equally satisfying way to make the most of the park surroundings.
Besides its proximity to the park, the village has a few attractions of its own. Just walking down the streets at different times of the day gives us a chance to witness the changing tides. We can take a photo of fishing boats floating high in the water at high tide, then come back six hours later to see them sitting on dry ground amidst shallow puddles. Low tide is also the ideal time to venture out on the expansive Upper Salmon River estuary right beside the village. We can walk almost as far as we can see, including to the cliffs and dramatic headlands.
What Else is Near the Park?
The park is in the midst of a wealth of other Bay of Fundy attractions. Less than 20 kilometres to the east lies Cape Enrage, named for turbulent waters that pass over a nearby reef. A lighthouse stands high atop the soaring cliffs lining the cape. The small park has a visitor centre and restaurant with great views but is best known as a destination for adventure-seekers. How about soaring along the 183-metre zipline, or rappelling down a 46-metre sheer cliff? The guided fossil tour explores the fascinating jumble of rocks at the base of the cliff that reveals a rich assortment of ancient plant fossils.
Heading farther east, it is only a half hour or so to the famous Hopewell Rocks, and less than an hour and a half to Moncton.
The biggest recent development on the west side of Fundy National Park is the new connector road that opened in 2022, linking the park to the Fundy Trail Parkway. The Parkway is a 30-kilometre-long scenic drive along the wildest parts of the Bay of Fundy coastline, with a series of observation decks with breathtaking vistas, picnic sites, and trailheads for even more amazing hikes.
Walton Glen Gorge, sometimes referred to as New Brunswick’s Grand Canyon, is near the start of the Parkway from the Fundy National Park side. The easy-to-see Walton Glen Gorge Waterfall plunges 42 metres down the rugged cliffs, while the challenging Eye of the Needle Trail leads deep into the canyon.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways we can see and appreciate the wonders of Fundy National Park. We can only hope that showcasing our journey will help you on your own.
Robin and Arlene Karpan are award-winning writers, photographers, bloggers, and authors of several travel books, including Canadian Bestsellers. Their work has appeared in over 100 publications around the world. While their travels have taken them to all seven continents, they find that some of the most compelling destinations are close to home in Canada. They have a special interest in the natural world and outdoor photography. Robin and Arlene publish the travel blog Photo Journeys which looks at travel through a photographer’s lens, and is rated by Feedspot as among the Top 100 Travel Photography Sites.