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If you’re ticking America’s national parks off your family travel bucket list, consider heading north to Canada too. In New Brunswick you’ll find the Bay of Fundy, home to the highest tides in the world, and the amazing Hopewell Rocks. Kayak to get up close and personal for Insta-worthy photos. Then return when the tide goes out to walk on the ocean floor. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Hopewell Rocks is one of the Marine Wonders of the World. Where but Canada’s Bay of Fundy, home of the highest tide in the world, can you kayak among huge flowerpot rocks and, a few hours later, walk on the ocean floor right where you were paddling before?
Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick was one of my favorite stops — and the most memorable, too — during my two-week trip to Maritime Canada, which can easily be reached from the USA on a road trip. I felt privileged to witness the timeless power of nature that repeats itself over and over again, regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.
The Bay of Fundy, Home of World’s Highest Tide
Wedged between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Maritime Canada, the Bay of Fundy experiences tidal flows reaching up to 53 feet, the height of a five-story building! That is the highest tidal range in the world! With two highs and two lows a day, more than 175 billion tons of seawater surges in and out twice each day. Hard to comprehend, but it is more than the flow of the world’s freshwater rivers combined!
In most places, the difference between high and low tide is just a meter or so. Why the extreme tidal range in the Bay of Fundy? It has to do with the size of the bay. Waves result from the periodic rise and fall of the sea that is caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun on the Earth. The Bay of Fundy is just the right size to match the natural gravitational push and pull cycle of the moon that causes the tides.
Hopewell Rocks – New Brunswick’s #1 Attraction on Fundy Trail
The Hopewell Rocks natural wonder, also called Rocks Provincial Park, is located on the shores of the Bay of Fundy at Hopewell Cape, 47 km/35 minutes from Moncton in Albert County. Along with Fundy National Park, it is the main attraction of New Brunswick Fundy Trail.
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How to Get to Hopewell Rocks Park
It was a 13-hour drive from my home in Pennsylvania to Hopewell Rocks. You can make it in one shot or make it more of a leisure road trip. I suggest stopping in Maine to visit Acadia National Park or spending a night in Saint John, one of the three largest cities in New Brunswick. On the way back, you can take a northern route through Quebec City (check Fun Things to Do in Quebec City Canada) and Trois-Rivières.
How to Visit Hopewell Rocks Park
Check Tide Tables
To make the most of your visit, check the tide tables for the Hopewell Cape before your arrival. In case you do not have access to the internet, most nearby hotels update the times daily. I strongly recommend spending at least one night in the area. Your entry ticket is for two days, allowing time to fully appreciate all the park has to offer.
Start with the Park’s Interpretive Center
The park’s interpretive center is the place to learn about Bay of Fundy geology, tides and wildlife. The award-winning center offers a multi-media exhibit, a gift shop and a restaurant with a panoramic view of the Bay of Fundy. This is also where you will find tickets for a shuttle service to the rocks, tourist information for the area and restrooms with an infant changing station.
It is a self-directed park; however, park rangers are available at key areas to answer questions and to help keep visitors safe. Most people walk to the observation point, but a shuttle is available.
Visit Twice to See Both Low and High Tides
You’ll want to visit Hopewell Rocks during both high and low tides to truly appreciate the range of the highest tides in the world. In high tide, you can observe the area from the observation platforms or rent a kayak at Baymount Outdoor Adventures for a paddle among the flowerpots. In low tide, you can walk on the ocean floor in the shadows of the majestic rocks.
After stepping on the ocean floor, head to your right to explore many more sections of the shore, beyond what can be seen in the main area. The farther you go, the fewer people you will find. Look for the areas where you can see seaweeds clinging to the rocks and get a close look at them. I found it fascinating.
Do not worry the rising waves will catch you. The rangers monitor the tide and will alert you to leave the area at the right time. Other than walking on the ocean’s floor at low tide, you can also enjoy two sandy beach areas at either end of the park.
What to Wear to Walk on the Ocean Floor at Hopewell Rocks
You can certainly get down and dirty at the park, but if that is not your thing, you can safely walk without sacrificing your shoes or clothing. Just watch for muddy areas and slippery rocks. I was wearing my rain boots, and I felt they did their job very well. Some people wore their water shoes, but in my opinion, they do not provide enough protection.
If you are visiting with kids, let them wear clothes that you would not mind throwing away. Make sure to have a change of clothes and shoes for them (and yourself, too!), just in case. When you are done exploring, rinse off the mud at the large outdoor wash-off area.
How to Take Pictures of Hopewell Rocks
For the best way to illustrate the phenomenon of the park, take photos of high tide, preferably with kayakers in it for the size comparison. Then try to take another picture from a similar angle when the ocean floor is exposed. Also, when you’re walking on the ocean floor, capture people in the photos to show the size of the rock formations.
Bay of Fundy Area Attractions
There is plenty to do in New Brunswick within an hour’s drive from Hopewell Rocks. Do not miss Fundy National Park, which offers scenic drives, camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming and picknicking. Follow Fundy Trail for more attractions.
Hotels Near Hopewell Rocks Park
There are many hotels near Hopewell Rocks, but I decided to stay at the closest one, Hopewell Rocks Motel and Country Inn. The rate was reasonable and breakfast was included. I enjoyed distant views of the Bay of Fundy. The outside of the motel needs some work, but the rooms were clean and comfortable. Wi-Fi was spotty but worked most of the time.