There are a whole lot of very good reasons to visit Nova Scotia, in Eastern Canada, and very few reasons not to, but one good might be if you don’t like the water. The province is basically surrounded by big bodies of water on all sides, a fact which really shapes the local way of life.
While Nova Scotia’s southern and eastern sides saddle up to the Atlantic Ocean, the western side of the Maritime province sits on another noteworthy body of water: the Bay of Fundy, home to the highest tides in the world. With over 100 billion tons of seawater flowing in and out of the Bay twice each day, the region has unsurprisingly become a hub of outdoor adventures. But there’s a lot more to enjoy as you explore the small, waterfront towns that dot the entire coast.
Here’s how to enjoy a couple of days on the Bay of Fundy.
Day 1: Get out on the water
Obviously to really experience the Bay of Fundy, you need to get out on the water. If you enjoy a little bit of adventure, tidal bore rafting is an incredible way to experience these record breaking tides.
The tidal bore happens when the rising tide of the Bay of Fundy basically reverses the flow of the Shubenacadie river, creating a series of two- to three-metre waves. This phenomenon turns fairly calm waters into entertaining rapids that you can take on with an experienced guide in a raft or a Zodiac boat. After getting soaked by the waves, most tidal bore tours will end with a pitstop for a fun slide on the muddy shoreline.
If you don’t feel like getting wet or muddy (though we highly recommend it), there’s another memorable experience well worth a trip to the Bay of Fundy: whale watching. Twelve species of whales make their way through the Bay, including humpbacks, finbacks, and rare right whales. Scan the horizon for the spray of a blowhole or the smack of a big tail on the surface of the water from the comfort of a tour boat, or speed along in search of giants in a Zodiac.
- Where: Multiple locations along or near the Shubenacadie River (Approx. 1 hour from Halifax)
- Cost: Varies by company, but expect to pay between $60 and $90
- When: Approx. June to September
- Where: Westport, Freeport, and Tiverton (2.5 to 4.5 hours from Halifax)
- Cost: Varies by company, but expect to pay between $45 and $80
- When: Approx. June to October
Day 2: Food and wine with a side of history
How does one enjoy a bay without actually getting in the water? With your stomach, mostly. The Bay provides local communities with some of the freshest seafood around, which in turn attracts some amazing chefs.
Start your day at the Lighthouse on Cape d’Or. There’s a beautiful lighthouse with sweeping views of the Bay of Fundy and a lighthouse keeper’s residence-turned-inn where you can stay or enjoy a homecooked meal. They serve breakfast from 8-9 am, but if you start your day a bit later, lunch is available as of about 11:30, and you’ll definitely enjoy their chowders and fishcakes.
In between meals, head to Burntcoat Head Park when it’s low tide in the Bay of Fundy to experience some rather unexpected history. There you’ll find the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, Canada’s own Galapagos set in stone. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a 300 million-year-old fossil forest, where you can peer into the den of a preserved ancient amphibian, touch the footprints of some of the first creatures to ditch the ocean for land, and maybe just stumble across an unexplored fossil bed.
After working up your appetite once again, head to Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound for an authentic lobster dining experience. Locals and visitors flock to this tiny fishing village to sample the world-renowned Bay of Fundy lobster. Dive into this delicacy in the waterfront dining room where you can gaze upon the highest tides in the world. The lobster traps, fishing boats, and hungry seagulls add to the authentic flavour of this quintessential maritime meal.
If, somehow, you’ve had your fill of seafood, the region is home to some alternative dining options worth exploring. One great example is The Noodle Guy, where you’ll find fresh sauces and pastas, always made by hand and with as many local ingredients as possible. You might not expect Nova Scotia to be the place for ravioli or rice noodles, but one meal at the restaurant will quickly change your mind.
End your day with a trip out to the Grand-Pré area. The Grand-Pré National Historic Site was once home to the largest Acadian community on the Bay of Fundy, and you can still immerse yourself in this rich culture through Acadian arts, food, and music. And what better way to end your busy day than relaxing with a nice glass of wine. Several wineries call the area home, including Domaine de Grand Pré, Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards, and Luckett Vineyards. Discover more local producers of wine, beer, and spirits using the Good Cheer Trail map.
- Where: Port Williams (approx. 1 hour from Halifax)
- What to order: Soba noodles with bulgogi or the ravioli of the day
- Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm
- Where: Joggins (approx. 2.5 hours from Halifax)
- Cost: Between approx. £6.50 and £45 ($10.50 CAD and $75 CAD) depending on the tour you choose and your group size
- Hours: April 22 to May 31, 10 am to 4 pm; June to August, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm; September to October, 10 am to 4 pm; November 1 to April 21, by appointment only. Minimum five days’ notice required and minimum group size of four people.
- Where: Halls Harbour (approx. 1.5 hours from Halifax)
- What to order: Safe to say, the lobster
- Hours: May 12 to June, 12 pm to 7 pm; July and August, 11:30 am to 9 pm; September and October 15, 12 pm to 7 pm
- Where: Grand-Pré (approx. 1 hour from Halifax)
- Cost: Free entry in 2017
- Hours: 9 am to 5 pm, from May 19 to October 9
Other Bay of Fundy musts
The rocky coastline and cliffs along the Bay of Fundy make for some incredible hiking. On the western edge of the province, the easy Balancing Rock Trail brings you, after one hour, to an impressive — you guessed it — balancing rock. A bit more challenging, the 16-kilometre Cape Split trail brings you along high cliffs and offers breathtaking views of tall rock formations known as the Spires. If you really want to challenge yourself, The Cape Chigneto Coastal Loop is a 53-kilometre hike that exposes you to unique wildlife and those famous tides. It usually takes three to four days to complete and is only for experienced hikers.
History buff? Make your way to Fort Anne, Canada’s very first National Historic Site. Set on the banks of the Annapolis River, this fort has been the subject of 13 clashes involving, Scottish, French, and English settlers, as well as local Mi’kmaq Peoples. Discover military history through artifacts, exhibits, interactive activities, and more. Then there’s Port Royal National Historic Site, home to a reconstructed wooden compound mimicking one of the first European settlements in North America. There you can learn more about Mi’kmaq culture, exploring a wigwam, learning their tales and legends, or trying your hand at traditional drumming.
If dramatic coastal cliffs, boating adventures, and delicious seafood sound like a dream trip, download Tourism Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy brochure for information, ideas, tours, and outfitters.