Canada. That great, mysterious land north of the 49th parallel. America’s neighbor and best friend. We share the longest international border between two countries – peacefully at that! Yet we know so little…
Whenever someone mentions Canada, I immediately think of cold, snow, ice, pristine forests, and eskimos. Pictures of polar bears and seals on icebergs sometimes also pop into my head. And I clearly remember first setting foot on the American continent decades ago in Newfoundland in the winter. I remember being ushered off the airplane in the bitter cold into snow tunnels and walking forever through those tunnels – dimly lit with electric light bulbs and dug under 12 feet of snow – to get to the terminal.
Then there is the Bay of Fundy. Many decades ago, as a young man, I heard about a mysterious place “up north” somewhere in Canada where tides run up to 50 feet, compared to a typical tide of only 3 feet here in the U.S. This is a place where the tide comes roaring in so fast that you can surf it for miles. A place so dangerous you might be drowned if the tidal wave – a true tidal wave occurring twice daily, not just a rare tsunami – finds you on the wrong beach. A place where boats are left resting on the ocean floor at low tide. Or at least thus I imagined and remembered.
So finally, after all these years I decided to visit the Bay of Fundy. I was surprised to find that Canada – at least this part of Canada – is not all that different from New England. My mental image of an inhospitable, freezing place with feet and feet of snow was not always true. The winters my hosts described were not much more severe – if at all – than winters in Boston. But I’m not really interested in verifying that personally, and I can attest that the fall weather was quite delightful – in spite of a few rainy days. So let’s get back to the Bay of Fundy.
The Bay of Fundy is comparable in size to the Chesapeake Bay, but a bit shorter, much wider, and deeper. It is also surprisingly warm year-round, in part because it captures the warm Gulf Stream moving north along the East coast of the continent. It has a unique geological landscape and teams with wildlife.
There is lots to do. One should plan at least 5 days to fully explore the area; the leisurely traveler should allow a week. I chose to circumnavigate most of the Bay in 4 days and was hard pressed for time. Some of the exciting adventures included:
- Whale and wildlife watching in St. Andrews
- Viewing the Reversing Falls and exploring Saint John
- Visiting Magnetic Hill in Moncton
- Riding the tidal bore (tidal wave) in Truro
- Experiencing the ferry between Digby and Saint John
- Exploring the Fundy Trail
- Exploring Deer Island and viewing The Old Sow
Everyone I met was warm, friendly, and courteous. I chose to stay in several Bed and Breakfasts (B&B); prices are comparable to those in the U.S. The Blair House in St. Stephen was outstanding. Breakfast was beautifully served and included fresh fruit cup, eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, and grilled tomato and mushroom. Delightful. The Beach House B&B in Back Bay (near St. George) was a memorable stopover in a private home. It turned out much like a family visit. We chatted all night; the delicious breakfast was made to order.
Due to time constraints I was forced mostly to eat fast food on the run, but I did experience a lobster roll at Carman’s Diner in St. Stephen. A lobster roll is basically a hot dog bun filled with lobster. It’s a real treat. Lobster is plentiful around the Bay, but I just couldn’t fit a full lobster meal into the stomach and the schedule.
My lunch at the Kennedy Inn in St. Andrews was also memorable: Classic fried fresh clams with chips (fries) and local brew served in a 1950s pub atmosphere. Brought back such good memories, and tasted so good!
Seafood chowder is a local specialty and there were two restaurants in St. Martins next to each other claiming to serve the best seafood chowder in the world. I sampled both, The Caves Restaurant and The Seaside Restaurant, and was not disappointed. The Caves offered a more traditional cream-style chowder; while The Seaside offered more of a gumbo-style. Both were excellent.
Life around the Bay is seasonal, much like in New England. Summer is the active season and lasts roughly from June to Labor Day, but winter schedules aren’t implemented until early to mid-October. Since the vacation crowds thin out after Labor Day but the weather is still warm and there is a full schedule of activities available, added to the fall colors at the time, late September and early October are an excellent time to visit and enjoy the marvels around the Bay of Fundy.
Pictures are provided in separate posts, along with brief explanations. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and would urge everyone to explore the Bay of Fundy. It is truly a place of natural wonders, pristine unspoiled beauty, and friendly people.
Selected links to Bay of Fundy information:
Shubenacadie River Runners:
 The Bay is located on the Atlantic coast between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia just north of the Maine border.
 The Bay of Fundy is 175 miles long and 65 miles wide maximum with depths in the hundreds of feet; by comparison the Chesapeake Bay is 200 miles long and 30 miles wide maximum with an average depth of 12 feet.