One of the world’s wonders, Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park in New Brunswick is home to 23 standing sea stacks called “flowerpots” peppered over a mile-long shoreline. The enormous tides that roll up the Bay of Fundy twice a day are the main attraction; they have sculpted their masterpiece at Hopewell Rocks for thousands of years. The New Brunswick shore of the upper Bay of Fundy was designated by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve in 2007, part of a network of 19 biosphere regions across Canada. Here are nine unique experiences in the park.
More than 30,000 people visit the park each year. Here are ## experiences not to miss.
1. Bay Of Fundy High Tide
The Bay of Fundy formed billions of years ago when the continents were connected and broke apart. Volcanic eruptions shaped the landmass and the ice age catalyzed massive glaciers. When they melted, the receding ice carved the bathtub-shaped bay creating the highest tides in the world.
At its start, the bay was more than 62 miles wide and 600 feet deep. As it progresses 190 miles up to Hopewell, it gets narrower and shallower, and the constricted funneled water has nowhere else to go but up. The flood waters take about 6 hours to come up the bay from the tide circulating in the Atlantic Ocean.
2. Demoiselle Lookout
The main deck viewing platform at the top of the cliff provides dramatic views of the seafloor and the flowerpot rocks below. Check the tide table before you arrive; you will know the correct times to experience this unique place, especially to see the tide coming in and going out. The spacious viewing platform at the top has a clock that shows the time until the following tide changes.
The Demoiselle Lookout is spectacular. Located at the top of the cliff, the expanse below spreads out at low tide as a vast pink desert of mud silt, which will soon be covered by more than 40 feet of water at high tide.
3. Walk On The Ocean Floor
How often do you get a chance to walk on an ocean floor? Only accessible three hours before and after low tide, there are three access points. The North Beach trail grants you access to a ramp with benches strategically placed along the incline. The Demoiselle trail slopes gently toward the sea level. It’s incredible to peer up at the enormous rock formations, caves, cliffs, and the giant “flowerpots” towering above; the rocks resemble islands at high tide.
Pro Tip: Wear sturdy footwear to explore the park. The ocean floor is muddy and can be slippery. Water cleaning stations for dirty shoes are at the top of the stairs. The North Beach ramp is suitable for wheelchairs, but many find the ocean floor too challenging to navigate on wheels.
4. Flowerpot Rocks
Flowerpot rocks, or sea stacks, are geological formations detached from the land mass and contain vegetation at their peaks. Over time, ocean tides have carved and created sandstone and rock pillars dotted on top with balsam firs and dwarf spruce.
The tides have eroded the rocks into extraordinary shapes you can see from underneath at low and above at high tide. The formations come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Everyone gives the flowerpot shapes a whimsical identity — usually a person or animal. We saw George Washington, a dinosaur, a bear, and even E.T. With a bit of imagination, guests are greeted by new rock characters around every corner.
5. Baymount Outdoor Adventures Guided Kayak Tour
Baymount Outdoor Adventures offers the highest tidal guided kayaking tour in the world. This was my favorite experience at Hopewell Rocks. When the tides changed, the ocean floor transformed, as I wouldn’t have thought possible just a few hours before. After safety instructions from the guides, we soon paddled through and around the sea stacks and rock formations (now islets), where we walked just hours before adding a new perspective to the visit. It is even possible to experience the majestic Hopewell Rocks after dark. This unique 2-hour tour begins at dusk and paddles into the night, with the night sky as your backdrop.
6. Nature Trails
The park has five miles of walking trails that can be easily accessed from the center. The network of well-groomed, wheelchair-friendly trails has stunning lookouts, secluded vistas, ocean-floor access, and natural forests. The Demoiselle trail leading south from behind the interpretive center leads to ocean-floor access; it requires no stairs or ramps as the trail gently descends to sea level. The Ocean Floor Trail is an accessible gravel trail that takes you to the ocean floor for a leisurely walk. There is a half-mile-long path through the woods to a scenic overlook of the Bay of Fundy.
Pro Tip: There are two or three guided hikes daily, usually one high tide tour and two low tide tours on the ocean floor.
Mudflats are significant bird-watching spots. The mudflats visible from the Demoiselle Cliff lookout are prevalent in the bay’s upper reaches because of all the sediment resulting from the erosion of the sandstone. The fine sediment has turned to mud in most spots. Within this mud lurks many things, not the least of which are millions and millions of tiny mud shrimp about the size of a piece of long-grained rice.
Mudflats are critical to a healthy ecosystem. Often called the kidneys of our planet, mudflats filter the water as it runs off the land and helps to absorb sediment, nutrients, and pollutants. The mudflats are a rare habitat critical to a great diversity of shorebirds and other intertidal creatures.
8. Sandpiper Migration
The semipalmated sandpiper bird migration is one of the fantastic things to see at the park. Paul Gaudet, the Interpretive Services manager, told me, “Sandpipers visit the park to feast on the tiny mud shrimp. They stop here in our Shepody Bay for about two to three weeks to fulfill their migratory ambitions of getting to South America. While here, the birds do nothing but eat and rest (roost) as they double their weight to sustain their non-stop flight to South America.”
During these roosting periods, visitors observe them and their incredible flying antics. The entire flock acts like a single entity of one mind as they perform their impressive aerobatic maneuvers.
In late July and early August, fortunate tourists witness the awe-inspiring aerial dance thousands of migrating shorebirds perform. When they dart and dash, seemingly as one, the flashes of white and black as they fly are a sight to behold. Sometimes they all turn a certain way and disappear entirely from view for a few seconds, only to reappear and form into a giant ball. They do these “flights of fancy” when they readjust as the tide is coming in and more of the beach is lost.
9. Interpretive Center
The interpretive center includes multimedia exhibits about the Bay of Fundy where you can learn about the tides and rock formations and watch fascinating time-lapse videos. Listen to the sounds of the whales and feel the life-like rubbery skin display of a Fundy Right Whale. I learned native Mi’kmaq legends that help explain the mysteries of Fundy. A knowledgeable team of interpretive guides share information and answer questions.
If You Go
The park is open from May to early October and is located 40 miles from Moncton. The ticket is good for two consecutive days, so you may be better able to see both high and low tide, which is sometimes achievable in one day. Ticket prices and times are found on the website.
You can bring your lunch and picnic in the park; a playground offers swings, slides, and climbing structures. The full-service casual restaurant with an outdoor deck is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restrooms are plentiful throughout the park. Passenger shuttle services are available for a nominal fee and run regularly throughout the day. Persons with a physical disability and their companions may ride free of charge.
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