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High times and high tides

New Brunswick puts the fun in the Bay of Fundy

Posted: 10/19/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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The summer crowds are a receding memory as the days pass into autumn in the towns and islands along the New Brunswick shore of the Bay of Fundy, but there's still time to come here to enjoy the deliciously slow pace of life by the sea.

In a country like Canada, there is no shortage of fantastic scenery, wonderful food and inspiring experiences, but some of them are overshadowed by better-known attractions. The Bay of Fundy is one of those places that is sometimes overlooked. Everyone knows it has the highest tides in the world and you may even be able to point it out on the map, but what else do you know about the area?

I recently spent some time discovering the region and was thrilled by its beauty and charmed by the unfailing friendliness of the people there. Here are some of the highlights of places along the bay I visited and would still welcome visitors well into October, if not later:

SAINT JOHN

Not strictly located on the bay, but connected to it by the St. John River, this city is the gateway to the region. You can get a sense of the power of Fundy's famous tides at Saint John's most famous attraction, the Reversing Falls, although these days they are often referred to as the Reversing Rapids.

The incoming tide reverses the flow of the river current and where the two meet, a roiling, churning set of rapids appear. If you like getting wet, you can ride through the whitewater on a jet boat (jetboatrides.com).

The city is filled with history. In its compact centre, known as Uptown (uptownsj.com), you can admire centuries-old architecture, explore a faded Loyalist graveyard, look out at the harbour or browse the local delicacies at the city market.

Dulse, a dried seaweed that is a favourite among New Brunswickers either as a snack or meal add-on, is easily available in the market, but it is an acquired taste I failed to acquire as I found it tasted a bit too much like lawn mulch. Your mileage may vary.

Eat at: Saint John Alehouse (saintjohnalehouse.com), where they serve lobster rolls on buns the size of footballs or Britt's Pub (brittspub.ca) with its delicious pub grub with a Maritime flair.

Stay at: The Saint John Hilton (http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-brunswick/hilton-saint-john-STJHIHH/index.html) for its fine service and harbour views and easy access to uptown's attractions.

GRAND MANAN ISLAND

The Bay of Fundy is dotted with a multitude of islands people flock to when they want to escape the big-city grind. One of the most popular getaways is Grand Manan, a 137-square-kilometre island, which is accessible in 90 minutes by ferry from Black's Harbour. There's not really much to "do" here, except unplug and relax.

You can walk along the shore to listen to the surf and the seabirds, admire historic lighthouses, watch stunning sunsets or write a book, like Pulitzer-winning author Willa Cather did when she summered there.

I enjoyed my time exploring the historic smoke sheds at Seal Cove, remnants of the herring fishery industry that once thrived there, and paddling the waters nearby in a sea kayak with guides from Adventure High (adventurehigh.com).

Eat at: Inn at Whale Cove (whalecovecottages.ca) is a delightful little dining room with a menu that emphasizes the bounty of the sea around the island. Everything is fresh and perfect.

Stay at: The Shorecrest Lodge (shorecrestlodge.com) is a fine example of the many century-old homes that have been converted into B & Bs and inns. It was like staying at grandma's house.

The Inn at Whale Cove is another good option. The aforementioned writer Willa Cather had a cottage here.

ST. ANDREWS BY THE SEA

Founded by United Empire Loyalists in the 18th century, this charming and tidy town is rich with history and a place that has had centuries to practise the art of making visitors feel welcome.

For history, check out Covenhoven, William Van Horne's sprawling summer estate on Minister's Island (ministersisland.net). It is accessible at low tide when you can drive across a rocky causeway. Van Horne was one of the builders of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and this mansion and its outbuildings amply illustrate how rich he was.

Other attractions include an interesting blockhouse that dates to the time of the War of 1812 (pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/nb/standrews/index.aspx), the lovely Kingsbrae Garden, a 27-hectare horticultural garden that changes with the seasons (kingsbraegarden.com) and a row of whale-watching outfits on the harbourfront that can take you out on the bay to see minke and finback whales, which are plentiful in this region. We saw plenty of them when we went out with Fundy Tide Runners (fundytiderunners.com).

For golf lovers, the Algonquin resort's course is hard to beat with its fantastic views of the sea.

Eat at: The restaurant at the Rossmount Inn (rossmountinn.com/dining) is renowned as one of the best restaurants in New Brunswick, if not the country. The meals prepared here by chef Chris Aerni are not to be missed. The restaurant is not only a favourite with visitors, but locals looking to celebrate a special occasion.

Stay at: The historic Algonquin Resort (algonquinresort.com) is undergoing a massive, $35-million renovation, expected to be spectacular when it is finished. Management is hoping much of the hotel will be operational in October. Not as big, but certainly oozing history of its own is the Rossmount Inn (rossmountinn.com), a three-storey manor house from 1889 that has stunning views of the bay.

FUNDY TRAIL PARKWAY

For the longest time, the best views of the Bay of Fundy were enjoyed by hikers hardy enough to walk the Fundy Footpath, a challenging wilderness trail that hugs the coastline.

Now those vistas are becoming accessible to anyone with a car thanks to the construction of the Fundy Trail Parkway (fundytrailparkway.com), a 16-kilometre scenic roadway that makes the coast more accessible and offers jaw-dropping views of the sea from cliff-top vantage points.

The Parkway starts just outside of the town of St. Martins. You can drive it, bike it or walk it. On the weekend, there is even a hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus that lets you linger at different viewpoints and explore the coastline at your own pace.

The Parkway is expected to be completed in 2017 when it will link up with the roads leading to Fundy National Park (pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nb/fundy/index.aspx) to the east.

HOPEWELL ROCKS

Few places illustrate the incredible height of Fundy's tides than the iconic flowerpot islets known as the Hopewell Rocks. These tree-topped sandstone towers look like something from a Dr. Seuss book when the tide recedes. When the waters are high, they look like tiny islands off the shore, but when the tide is low, they rise from the sea floor like top-heavy rocks that defy gravity. The water can rise as much as 16 metres, so be sure to consult tide tables before you visit.

This time-lapsed video at Youtube.com/watch?vEnDJ6_XpGfo gives you a good sense of how high the tides can get.

The interpretive centre and guided walks end in mid-October, but the rocks are especially beautiful in winter when they are covered in snow and ice.

Those are just the highlights. There's also Fundy National Park to explore and lots more. Even if you can't make it to New Brunswick this autumn, there is always next year.

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 E5

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