Crossing the bridge into New Brunswick, from PEI, we headed straight for the coast… by taking a long loop around Moncton! With only two days on New Brunswick, we’d decided to see the Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park as well as Fundy National Park before heading down to Saint John to catch the ferry back to Nova Scotia.
Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park: Nature’s art gallery
Driving down from Moncton, we headed southeast to follow the coast. As the bay of Fundy has the largest difference in sea level at high and low tides, the coast has been carved into structures always fluctuating and evolving with time. Some of the most famous landscapes can be found in Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park.
The entry ticket gives you the right to enter the park as much as you’d like over two days, allowing you to catch low and high tide in the area at once. We chose to only visit during low tide due to our time constraint – and having seen the rocks at low tide, I think visiting at high tide would be worth coming back for if you’re kayaking or doing SUP-ing in the area. When we reached, the tides were not yet at their lowest points, so we walked around the various viewpoints on the trail on the cliffs. For a tiny fee you can also take the bus down to the stairs area, but the park is really rather small and definitely walk-able.
At low tide, two stairs give beach access. Many people were walking around in slippers but some of the rocks were still wet, closed shoes would allow you to climb around and go where you will. The stairs with the most traffic gives a direct view onto the Lovers Arch – two rocks locked in an embrace that gets bigger and bigger as you walk down to the beach! I loved that there were trees still on top of the rocks – it made them seem to have a personality somehow, with their unique hairstyles.
Some of my favourite rocks were towards the west of the park, where there were lesser people. These ones had a clear mushroom shape and were fun to walk around. We sat down on a dry bit of rock and had our picnic lunch, watching the red waves crash distantly – it’s crazy to think that at high tide they would have covered us entirely!
Each rock was really different, though, as they were shaped by winds and waves and their individual locations – some had really interesting shapes, resembling a diamond or an elephant trunk.. if you use your imagination!
We took our time and walked around the rocks, heading back up the road and on towards Fundy National Park only when we had had our fill. Something I really liked about Hopewell Rocks Park was that there were rangers walking around on the shore and you could ask them questions about the geology or history of the place.
Fundy National Park: mammals, coastal trails, waterfalls
We actually reached Fundy National Park in the late afternoon/early evening of day 1, and settled into the Point Wolfe Campground. Wanting to make the most of the summer sunset, we headed back out to explore some shorter trails in the vicinity.
One of the tiny quirks I appreciated about the Point Wolfe Campground is that access is by a road that passes through the iconic red covered bridges in Canada – this wooden one was a delight, just wide enough for a car and nestled into the valley across a tiny brook.
We then drove down the road heading to the shore, where the Matthews Head trail head is located. This quiet road goes up and down and is surrounded by thicker woods – and out of the blue, a black bear crossed the road! We stopped the car and waited, surprised by our good luck (we had already seen two black bears in Cape Breton) – and it seemed like our good luck was to last, because out came two little cubs following their mother across the road! The second little guy stopped and turned, looking curiously at our metal behemoth, before leaping under the bushes to disappear into the dusky forest. What a delightful encounter – we later learnt from the park wardens that this little family has been around since April.
At Maclaren Pond, beavers were king, having installed themselves comfortably on a bank. We saw a couple playing and chasing each other around in the water, and a fatter beaver chewing nonchalantly on as we observed him from a distance:
This little guy just seemed to be occupied with only his food – leaving a trail of wild grass pressed down by his flat tail!
The sunset was soft and pastel over the bay, and we headed back to our campground – we had many other trails to explore tomorrow!
The first of these trails would be Matthews Head – a coastline trail that took us out to a little rocky promontory. Scattered along the trail were also various red chairs with viewpoints – we saw a couple kayaking past, the morning fog beginning to lift around this time.
Before it got altogether too hot, we were back at the car and headed out to Dickson Falls. A short trail that nevertheless had many ups and downs, Dickson Falls trail brings you to… Dickson Falls. Along the way, we dipped into a tiny valley where the air was suddenly cool and the moss was sparkling in a way that couldn’t be captured on photos. A micro-climate, where the temperature drops to a welcome relief in the hot summer day that was announcing itself.
The falls itself was a trickle in summer as compared to what it must be in early spring, but the green was all the same vivid – there was even a wedding photoshoot going on (must not have been easy to climb all that stairs in formal wear!).
We continued the drive through Fundy National Park, heading northwest towards what would eventually be Saint John, stopping at various viewpoints along the way.
Next trail – Kinnie Brook. As with Dickson Falls, this trail had many ups and downs (more than I expected for a “moderate” trail, but nothing un-doable, as there were many families with pets on the trail with us. There were also the little valleys with micro-climates – and at the end of the trail, a dried up Kinnie Brook. In summer, the water sinks underground and one can follow the riverbed up and down to marshier areas where the water comes back up (which, although it sounds like fun, we did not do). A pause for a sandwich lunch to give us courage for the upcoming stairs we’d have to face, and we were back on the road!
The longest trail we attempted on this stay was the Third Vault Falls trail. By the time we got there, the carpark was already full, but a ranger had told us we could park alongside the road if we made sure not to block the way. The trail itself is really flat, and makes for easy walking – only at the very end does it drop into yet another valley. Here, we clamber over rocks and pick out our stepping stones across the brook, making our way towards the long awaited falls!
The falls itself were beautiful, quiet pool below breaking white waters – unfortunately, many people thought so too – families, friends, couples were all waiting their turn to take their selfies in the water.
I was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t have the area all to ourselves – but the falls were really refreshing to look at after our hike, and the water cold enough to soothe our tired feet! (a little too cold to jump right in :P)
Last little stop, as the clouds were gathering and turning gray really fast – Caribou Plains, where we hoped to finally get a glimpse of the emblematic animal. No luck though – they come out more often later in the evening – a drizzle started, and so we bade our farewells to Fundy National Park.
Saint John: Harbour town with a laid-back atmosphere
We spent the night in Saint John, as we were hoping to catch the 7am ferry back to Nova Scotia the next day (which we did book, as we did not want to miss a whale watching trip the next day). As we had to get up at 5.30am to be at the ferry terminal at 6am, we did not stay out too late, and merely walked around the harbour area.
What we saw of the city we did like, though – a beautiful waterfront with a boardwalk, and a nice marketplace in which we sought shelter and sustenance from the oncoming rain.
Our stay in New Brunswick had been short, but satisfying. Given more time, I’d have liked to try backcountry camping in Fundy, but we did not have the right materials to carry our equipment while hiking – too bad! Next stop on the trip – back to Nova Scotia, and this time to meet some other, bigger, mammals – whales!