Paul Gaudet is back with another article to help you escape the heat, humidity and hopefully the bugs by hiking near the coastline of the Bay of Fundy. This time on the New Brunswick side. While Nova Scotia has many opportunities for excellent hiking near the bay (read Paul’s previous N.S. hiking article), N.B. has at least as many or more scenic and interesting places to “take a hike”.
We’ll begin on the island of Grand Manan in the southwest corner of the province and continue through to the Sackville area. I must say that just the process of getting to Grand Manan by ferry from Blacks Harbour makes the trip worthwhile. The ferry ride captivates the imagination with the prospect of seeing whales, and the approach to the island in the summer is impressive as you wonder what the splashes of colour are on the cliff side as you get closer. You may see multicoloured objects dotting the edge of the cliff, nestled in the green of the forest. These colours could be whatever colours tents come in as many of them are precariously perched there in a campground called the “hole-in-the-wall park”. Not a place to set up camp if you are a drunkard or a somnambulist. Your eye will then catch the newly restored Swallow Tail lighthouse and then the harbour entrance itself at North Head. The crossing will take about an hour and a half.
I do not have the space in this column to tell you about all the amazing geology, wild flowers, birding, whale watching opportunities, fishing heritage and history of this island. All of these are fascinating and among the best examples of any of these disciplines you will find anywhere in the Maritimes.
One of my favourites is a rather long jaunt from Southwest Head along the coast to Dark Harbour. This hike contains what to me is one of the most enduring images that I have had while hiking. After hiking for a few hours along this coast I emerged from the woods high on a cliff edge and beheld Dark Harbour down below me. It was a first time and unexpected sight and it startled me with its unique, if not disturbing beauty. The forlorn, lonely, almost sinister look of the scene below basked in surely what must be a perpetual shadow, its rickety fish shacks and no signs of human activity making it look like a ghost harbour, it was these things I found strangely beautiful and compelling. I was drawn to it in some zombie like fashion, and felt that I must descend to it from my lofty perch. No wonder they call it “dark harbour”.
On a lighter note, if you continue on past Dark Harbour around the northern tip of the island you will pass some colourfully named spots such as The Whistle, The Bishop, Seven Days Work, the Hole-in-the-Wall Park and finally to The Swallowtail lighthouse at North Head.
Other trails to try are near Castalia along the coast, Ross Island, the Flock of Sheep and the unforgettable beach at Whitehead Island, only a short ferry ride from Grand Manan. This last hike on Whitehead has a beach that I promise you will never forget. My recall of it is of crashing whitecaps on a classic semi-circular white sand beach split in the middle by a hugely contrasting outcropping of black volcanic looking rock, it is the most visually stunning beach that I have ever been on.
When you are done with Grand Manan you could give the lovely resort town of Saint Andrews a visit. Just strolling around the town itself is a good walk with its hills, trails, shops, golf, marine centre, fabulous Inns, botanical gardens, whale watching tours and the amazing Algonquin Resort. If you can arrange a visit to the ARC or Atlantic Resource Centre with its monstrous (pardon the pun) inventory of creatures (deceased) from the North Atlantic Ocean catalogued and displayed in everything from jars to sarcophagi, you will be thrilled and amazed. We are talking over 100,000 items here.
You must take the trail to the (in my estimation) underrated Minister’s Island property to explore the summer home, farm, the minister’s cottage (a classic), the stone change house with its spiralling staircase down to the pool (truly unique), and grounds of Sir William Van Horne, the driving force behind the building of Canada’s railway from sea to sea. There are other trails in the area not to be missed which will take you up to fabulous viewing spots in the hills around the town.
You must not forget to visit Campobello and Deer Islands as there are hiking trails there. The Herring Cove Provincial Campground on Campobello has nice trails and the hike out to the lighthouse at East Quoddy is an absolute must. Do not miss strolling the grounds of and visiting the summer home of Franklin Roosevelt.
When heading back towards Saint John you would do well to stop at New River Beach Provincial Park where you can do some coastal hiking before heading in to Saint John to visit the Irving Nature Park where you can hike along a beach and estuary and along some rugged coastline only minutes from the city centre. Then Rockwood Park is a little inland, but close enough to the bay to be included in this piece. You can also make your way around uptown Saint John which is a delightful stroll, especially when cruise ships are in port.
With Saint John under your belt you can move along the coast past the airport and on to St. Martins and the Fundy Trail Parkway, truly one of the great drives and hiking locations in the Maritimes. Trails to hike abound in and around the Fundy Trail, including the hike to the Hearst Lodge for lunch and the 10 Km. or 6.2 mile trail from the entrance to the interpretive centre. The latter trail is characterized by incomparable views and a fine surface on which you can hike or bike, and of course the Fundy Trail heralds the beginning of the fantastic wilderness hiking experience (not for beginners) that is the Fundy Footpath all the way to Fundy National Park.
I need perhaps not even mention the many hiking trails in the small but mighty Fundy Park. It is always a pleasure to hike there and a few of the key trails are the Coastal, the White Tail, Tippenlot, Third Vault Falls and many others.
Not far from Fundy you will arrive at the “Wild and Calm” Cape Enrage where you can do some short hikes or maybe some rappelling or rock climbing. Incidentally you must try the new menu at the restaurant overlooking the bay which includes some funky (in the best sense of the word) food choices that you are not apt to find anywhere else. Things like lobster poutine made with mornay sauce, sweet potato fries, local cheddar cheese curds, piri piri (Portuguese spice) and of course lobster, plus scallop wonton, lobster tacos, a great steak, local pheasant cannelloni, and some delicious and novel desserts. I only mentioned the “wild” stuff, there is some other stuff on the menu that is “calm” for the less adventurous of spirit. What a setting for a special dinner outing for two or more in the newly remodelled dining area with the option of dining alfresco on the spacious deck overlooking the bay, cliffs and lighthouse, with Nova Scotia in the distance.
When you leave Cape Enrage there are more chances to hike at Dennis Beach, the Crooked Creek Lookout in Riverside Albert, Mary’s Point, the Trans Canada Trail near the Riverside Consolidated School and many other spots on the way to Moncton. The Hopewell Rocks for example is perhaps not often thought of as a place to hike, but there are beautiful trails there as well, both on and above the ocean floor. You can also educate yourself on how the tides work and what causes our tides to be so enormous, not to mention some geology, some fossils, some native legends, some history and often some amazing wildlife (read peregrine falcons, eagles, shorebirds, deer, moose, groundhog, rabbits, seals, porpoise and some others.
In Hillsborough you will find some hiking near the golf course where you will find nifty caves and the site where the famous Hillsborough Mastodon was found. As well there are white gypsum cliffs and sink holes visible while hiking in the area.
While Moncton is near the end of the Bay of Fundy system and definitely part of the Fundy Biosphere, it might not fit the criterion of cooler temperatures, but there is hiking there as well. Irishtown Park is a huge park with a nice lake and lots of hiking then there is Mapleton Park, the venerable Centennial Park and many Kms to hike alongside the recently liberated Petitcodiac River in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.
I must end our hiking journey along the N.B. side of the Bay of Fundy system in the beautiful town of Sackville and its environs. The Sackville Waterfowl Park comes immediately to mind as well as the hikes along the dykes near Westcock and along the Cumberland Basin to Rockport and around to Dorchester. There is the Fort Beausejour National Historic Site in Aulac where you can get out on the marsh and imagine what it must have been like for the soldiers and settlers there in the 1700’s.
Thus concludes our trip around the perimeter of the Bay of Fundy. In two columns I certainly have not even begun to cover all the spots to hike in these areas, but I hope I have given you some ideas on where to enjoy hiking around the cool and relatively bug free Bay of Fundy, one of the world’s great wonders of nature. Remember to vote by going on “votemyfundy.com”. See you soon.