Fall to the Rising Sun Trip • Fundy National Park • September 24 & 25, 2016
Fundy National Park was kind of a wild card on this trip. In fact, New Brunswick in general didn’t seem to have much going on, and we weren’t sure if we could even fill the few days we planned to spend there. I had seen beautiful pictures from parks in Nova Scotia and Maine, but honestly when I searched for pictures and ideas for Fundy, I wasn’t finding much. There were pictures of people playing golf, “glamping” in the woods, swimming and boating and other commercialized ads, but nothing spectacular hiking wise that I felt like we would enjoy. However, we were driving right by, we had planned to buy a Canadian National Parks pass anyway, and we found a free campsite outside of the national park, so we decided to stop anyway and check it out. If we didn’t find anything, we had nothing to lose — we weren’t short on time on this trip!
And are we glad we did — Fundy actually turned out to be our favorite national park on the trip, and New Brunswick was all around a very pleasant surprise! Hardly any of it felt too touristy or commercialized, and yet the places we were going were every bit as beautiful, if not more so, than what we’d seen in Acadia and what was to come later on this trip.
One reason why I thought Fundy would be a bust was because I wasn’t seeing any blog posts about it — before we left, I did a lot of research and looked at travel blogs to learn about the areas. First off, none of the blogs I usually follow have done a trip to all these areas we visited, and secondly, all the blogs I did read about visiting the Atlantic provinces of Canada did not mention Fundy. So in this post, I’ll share what we did and what we thought about it so you know whether or not to include it in your travels!
First off, we were wondering if this was a terrible idea because our itinerary happened to have us here over a weekend. After experiencing Acadia in the “off season” on a weekday morning and finding it incredibly crowded, we thought that showing up at another national park on a weekend was a huge mistake. However, it wasn’t crowded — not in the slightest. I kind of get the idea that they don’t get tons of traffic because the parking lots aren’t huge. We enjoyed several hikes along the coast and hardly ran into anyone, both Saturday and Sunday. Part of this could be because it’s not near any bigger towns or cities. The small fishing town of Alma is on the North side of the park, but a lot of the places there were closed for the season. So perhaps in the summer it’s an entirely different story, but we really enjoyed our time here almost alone!
The park is pretty big, and is great for hiking long distances. Most of the trails are inland through the forest and marsh regions, and some along the coast. We mostly focused on the coastal hikes because it was less of a drive and different scenery from where we’re used to hiking. There are several shorter ones as well, and the park rangers pointed out where you’re most likely to see wildlife (moose and caribou). While there, we hiked Copper Mine, Matthew’s Head, and Dickson Falls trails. All were pretty moderate and gave us a good idea of the different environments that you can find in the park, and had some great scenic views.
Aside from hiking, you can go swimming on the beach, golfing, camping, and mountain biking. It’s a great place to just take a scenic drive through and get some nice views, but also has enough if you want to take several days to explore.
The days we were there were bright and sunny, but cold and windy at times. We had highs in the 50s and camped in 30 degree weather — we knew we’d probably camp in this weather at some point on this trip, we just weren’t ready for it to happen so fast!
Ok, back up a bit to where we left off after visiting the Eastermost point and St. Croix in Maine: We crossed the border into New Brunswick with no issues. Bringing Charlotte across wasn’t a problem, we just had to show proof of rabies vaccines and registration. We stopped to get some maps and drove to St. John for the night. We found a cheap motel just outside the city, and Curtis and I went out to explore a little. We saw Reversing Rapids during high tide, walked around downtown and had sweet potato poutine and sea food. The next morning, we went to Irving Nature Preserve for a little hiking and boxing, but the area we were planning to go to was closed, so we continued on our way.
We took the interstate up a ways then got off to drive to Fundy. We drove through the whole park with the intentions of going to set up camp at the free site (and make sure it was real!) then coming back and doing a little hiking.
The free campsite is off of 119 in New Horton and is called “The Shire.” It’s just a decent sized plot of land that a guy owns and offers as a free spot to stay for as long as you’d like. Don, the long-time owner, is very kind and we are so appreciative of his generosity. In fact, we’re now considering doing this ourselves someday if we happen to own some land and can work out any logistics (such as how deep would we need to dig the pit for the toilet??) He even gave permission to Curtis to metal detect the area, and Curtis ended up finding one of his oldest coins yet! The Shire is kind of quirky with unique decorations, but it serves its purpose of being a convenient spot to stop and camp for free. It’s about a half hour from Fundy, but if you’re in the area then Hopewell Rocks is another must see, and this is right between the two attractions.
Once we had that all squared away, we went back to Fundy for some hiking — it was only noon around this point! We started by hiking to Herring Cove Beach, where we walked along the ocean floor at low tide in the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is known for having the highest tides on earth — it was pretty incredible, we would walk past one view point at the beginning of our hike, then on our way back it would look completely different!
Next, we hiked to Matthew’s Head, which turned out to be a beautiful view of the coves along the bay. In Canada’s National Parks, they put red Adirondack chairs out in beautiful places, inviting you to sit back and enjoy the view. We found many of these and took advantage of them all. 🙂 This hike was marked as “strenuous” on the map the ranger gave us, but it wasn’t really that challenging. After that, we started the drive back to our campsite, this time making a quick visit to Cape Enrage, another part of Fundy that is off of 119. A long dirt road will take you out to the cove and then up a steep hill for another great view of the Bay of Fundy. To be honest, we thought Matthew’s Head was a better view and more rewarding because of the hike we took to get there, but if you aren’t into hiking and just want a good view, this is an easy way to achieve that.
Finally, we drove back to our campsite. Like I said before, it got pretty cold and windy through the night. We bundled up and snuggled together with Charlotte, and somehow made it through the night…the first of many cold nights!
The next day, we started off with hot cocoa to warm up, then returned to Fundy for the morning. This time, we hiked the Copper Mine Trail. It begins with a short interpretive trail, but we continued on after learning about the plants and wildlife in the area. This hike was more in the woods, with a few different vistas. We were alone for much of the morning and really enjoyed the peaceful walk. After that, we took the short loop trail to see Dickson Falls. There were a lot more people here, but the hike was worth it. The trail was mostly a boardwalk that took you through the woods along the creek and past several smaller cascading falls and ended with Dickson Falls. We wrapped up our time in Fundy with our first ever lobster rolls at a local restaurant in Alma.
And that was it for our time in Fundy! It was a very pleasant surprise and we highly recommend adding this park to your itinerary when traveling to the Atlantic provinces of Canada! If we ever get the chance to go back, we’ll plan for longer hikes in the back country to get to know the rest of the park better.