Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy

This was an exciting trip to see some of the crowning glories of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. Why so exciting? Because the Bay of Fundy is Canada’s only candidate in the final selection of the global New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign. From hundreds of sites in 222 countries around the world, the competition to vote the New 7 Wonders of Nature is down to the last 28 – and Canada’s Bay of Fundy is battling it out with rivals such as the Grand Canyon and the Amazon. I’m an enthusiastic supporter of the Bay of Fundy’s bid and this trip gave me the opportunity to see some of the sites associated with Fundy and to broadcast the radio shows from the Fundy icon: Hopewell Rocks.

Hopewell Rocks

It’s difficult to visualize what a 40 foot tide looks like. Or 100 billion tons of salt water surging into the bay. That’s why Hopewell Rocks is the iconic focus of the Bay of Fundy: here you can really get a sense of the immensity of it all. You can look down from many viewpoints along 1.5kms of coastline that has been shaped by geologic forces, by glaciers, and most recently by the world’s highest tides, into a series of cliffs, sea stacks and ‘flower pot’ islands. What gives you a sense of scale is that if you are here at high tide, you can kayak around the tops of the cliffs and the sea stacks. If you then return a few hours later at low tide you can walk on the ocean floor at the base of the flower pots 50 feet above you.

There’s a first class Interpretive Centre here and a team of dedicated experts to bring it all to life (plus a restaurant serving the best seafood chowder around!). It was the perfect spot to broadcast my shows highlighting Fundy’s attractions, as I and my guests sat atop one of the Cliffside viewpoints watching enchanted visitors strolling on the ocean floor in the sunshine.

Cape Enrage and Fundy National Park

From Hopewell Rocks we travelled south along Fundy’s attractive shoreline of bays and marshlands teeming with birds to the evocatively named Cape Enrage. This headland -with its imposing lighthouse still in use - has become the soft adventure centre of the Bay of Fundy. Here you can rock climb on the cliffs, rappel down to the shore (at low tide only of course!) and enjoy the latest attraction: zip lining from the forest canopy over the cliffs to a tower built beside the lighthouse. It makes for a unique and exhilarating view over the Bay of Fundy. And then enjoy a cream tea in the delightful onsite restaurant.

A few kilometers further down the coast is a gem of a National Park: the appropriately named Fundy National Park. We followed the coastal road as far as it goes into the park to a picturesque covered bridge. We then hiked the short Shiphaven Trail and on down to Point Wolfe Beach to contemplate the inrushing tide. Between us and the next coastal road to the south there is no development, no road at all, nothing but the Fundy Footpath linking to the Fundy Trail. It’s the biggest wilderness gap on the Eastern Seaboard south of Labrador. On our return we hiked down to Herring Cove which we had totally to ourselves as the Fundy tides reached their peak. What a place! and

Stonehammer Geopark

This is new. A Geopark is an area recognized by the Global Geoparks Network, supported by UNESCO, which has exceptional geological heritage. This certainly applies to the area of southern Fundy in New Brunswick. The rocks tell an almost continuous story from the first glimmers of life a billion years ago through to the last Ice Age a mere blink of a geologic eye ago. Stonehammer Geopark is the first in North America and it’s an association of several sites, so we visited three of them to get a feel for the network: Saint John’s Reversing Falls, the New Brunswick Museum and Lily’s Café.

The Reversing Falls (or Rapids, as they should perhaps be called) are a direct result of the huge Fundy tides. Near its mouth the St. John River seethes through a narrow rock gap - when the Fundy tide is low. But as the tidal tons come rushing in, the ocean backs up the river through the gap and reverses the flow entirely into a broiling cauldron in the opposite direction.

The New Brunswick Museum in downtown Saint John tells this story as well as many more from the Geopark. Travel through geologic time in displays that show the creatures and the rocks that are the fabric of the Fundy landscape. Lily’s Café is a very civilized part of the Geopark set on the shores of Lily Lake in Rockwood Park, itself a geological mishmash. Excellent food and a romantic place to watch the sun go down. and and

Saint John and St. Andrews

These two communities live and breathe the Fundy tides. The Harbour in Saint John had the tang of the ocean on the wind and as we strolled the Harbour Passage along the waterfront. The mist rolled in off the bay giving the boats an eerie presence at the wharf. The Old City Market just up the hill from the waterfront is also connected to Fundy: this is the place to buy (and smell and see and sample) the seafood from the cold waters – salmon, shellfish and of course, fresh lobster. I love the place: it’s colourful, friendly and impossible not to succumb to the edible temptations on every side. and

Another 90 minutes south of Saint John, the resort town of St. Andrews has long been a part of the Fundy scene. This is where families come to stay and explore the Fundy Isles and go whale watching in the Bay of Fundy. There were two places here which had long been on my ‘to-do’ list and which I now have a chance to see: Kingsbrae Garden and Ministers Island.

Kingsbrae Garden is a riot of colour in July. Its 27 acres encompass gardens of all kinds of course - but also mazes, streams, woodland trails, children’s areas, a Dutch windmill, alpacas and an excellent restaurant and art gallery. Don’t miss “Pericles”, Kingsbrae’s Wollemi – this is a living fossil, a very rare pine tree species from Australia that was thought to be extinct for millions of years. There’s something for everyone here, even for someone with poison-green fingers like me.

And last stop on our trip: Ministers Island is truly a child of Fundy. Just a few minutes outside of St. Andrews, this is only an island at high tide. When the massive tidal flow is sucked out of this part of the bay, Ministers Island is connected by a drivable causeway to the mainland. In fact it’s the largest tidal island in North America.

Here is where the great Canadian Pacific Railway magnate Sir William Van Horne built his stately retreat and country estate called Covenhaven. Wandering around the house and the island acres, it’s easy to see why he fell in love with the place. Lovingly guided by Susan Goertzen, we fell into a wistful reverie of times past and views present. We ended up in The Tower on the southern tip of the island; here the views over the Bay of Fundy are boundless and as the sun shimmered on the waters of this magnificent Wonder of Nature, it was a fitting end to our Fundy journey. and