Towering, brick-red cliffs, waterfalls, basalt islands and the world’s highest tides are found in Nova Scotia’s Cliffs of Fundy Geopark, which sprawls between Debert and Apple River in the heart of the province.
This aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark boasts 30 geological and archaeological sites, along with its main claim to fame: a place where you can walk on the ocean floor. In one tidal cycle, an astounding 160 billion tonnes of water enter and exit the bay–an amount larger than the outfall of every single river on earth.
Besides being a geologist’s dream come true, this area has plenty of scenic spots and fun adventures begging to be discovered.
From tidal bore rafting to horseback rides to scenic flights, here are the best ways to explore the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark in Nova Scotia.
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Where is the Bay of Fundy?
Before planning your trip to the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark, it’s important to understand exactly where the Bay of Fundy is.
The Bay of Fundy is 400 km long and stretches along southwestern Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick all the way to northern Maine, and is considered one of the seven natural wonders of North America.
The Cliffs of Fundy UNESCO Global Geopark is located along the north shore of the Minas Basin of the Nova Scotia Bay of Fundy, stretching from Lower Truro in the east to Apple River in the west, a distance of 165 km. Most of the geosites are accessed along NS highways 2 and 209, which hug the coastline.
Experiencing the Bay of Fundy from land
The main reason most people come to the Bay of Fundy is to experience the natural phenomenon of the changing tides, which have shaped the ecology and landscape of the bay for thousands of years.
The easiest way to enjoy tidal bore viewing is from a viewpoint like the Fundy Discovery Site in Truro, where the tidal bore moves up the Salmon River twice a day (check their website beforehand, as the timing constantly changes), or in one of the provincial parks.
Five Islands Lighthouse Park near Parrsboro has a panoramic view of the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy, and features 90 metre high sea cliffs.
It’s also the site of a very unique annual event: the Not Since Moses race, where runners slip and slide across the (very muddy!) ocean floor towards the finish line.
Burntcoat Head Park is the site of the world’s highest recorded tides, which reaches an astonishing 16.3 metres–higher than a five storey building! Parks staff and plenty of signage serve as reminders to take care when heading down to the shoreline, as many visitors don’t realize how fast the water rushes back in.
Play it safe by timing your trip to start just after high tide (when it starts to fall) and plan to be back about two hours before the next high tide.
Hit the trails in Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, one of the area’s most photogenic spots with lovely scenic walks leading to viewpoints.
The most popular way to explore is starting from the park entrance near Eatonville, and walk along the coastline to see a tidal estuary that was once a busy shipping harbour, the Three Sisters sea stacks and Squally Point, which is on top of a sheer volcanic cliff making it the highest raised beach in Nova Scotia at nearly 40 metres above sea level.
The Eatonville Hiking Trail is a 2.9 km loop, or 3.2 km to add on Squally Point.
Five Islands Provincial Park is a popular camping spot and day use area, and the walk to Red Head is a relatively easy walk which makes it a good option for families.
A well-marked pathway winds through a forest and thick brush, leading to a lookout point where rock formation and sand dunes. It’s also possible to get down to the beach here, as long as it’s low tide.
The Bay of Fundy area also has some beautiful waterfall hikes, and an easy one is Economy Falls near Five Islands where a 15 minute hike (including a steep set of 186 stairs) leads to the falls.
It’s part of the Kenomee Wilderness Area and trail system, and the rock face that the water rushes down is the edge of Avalonia, a tectonic piece of the ancient Appalachians.
One of the best things to do in the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark is head out with Local Guy Adventures to explore a slot canyon: there are two in the geopark, including one on Bennett Hill between the fishing villages of Parrsboro and Advocate Harbour.
After a short hike through a thick, tranquil forest, you’ll arrive at two-tiered George Fraser Falls–and as if that weren’t impressive enough, you’ll then get to rappel over it and into the breathtaking slot canyon behind which hides another set of falls.
The Cliffs of Fundy from the water
In Nova Scotia it’s all about getting out on the water, and the Bay of Fundy is one of the most memorable places to do it. Head out for a cruise around Cape Split with Local Guy Adventures to see 300 foot high cliffs and 200 million year old lava flows, or hop on a SUP to paddle around the bay.
Sea kayaking is one of the best things to do in the Bay of Fundy, and there are one day or overnight adventures organized by NovaShores Expeditions from Spicer Cove to the Three Sisters in Cape Chignecto.
An unforgettable, can’t-miss experience is tidal bore rafting on the Shubenacadie River near Maitland.
The day starts with cruising in a zodiac toward the gorgeous red rock formations lining the bay, and stopping at a sandbar to feel the sand squish between your toes.
Then as the tide starts to rush in, the real fun begins: the best way I can describe it is like being in a blender of chocolate milk. The waves and rapids make it feel like a salty roller coaster, and you clutch onto the boat’s ropes as the swirling water crashes over you, soaking you from head to toe as the guide expertly dodges whirlpools.
It’s exhilarating, hilarious and definitely something you won’t get to experience anywhere else!
Cliffs of Fundy Geopark on horseback
Why walk on the beach, when you could canter instead?
Spirit Reins Ranch just outside of Parrsboro offers trail rides in the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark, where riders saddle up and head off to explore on horseback.
There are a few packages available, like a leisurely trot through the forest to Ward Falls, a more challenging ride up to Cobequid Mountain Range, and the Tidal Floor route from the Minas Basin in Two Islands to Parrsboro Harbour.
The ranch’s most popular ride is the Bay of Fundy Beach Ride, which is timed with low tide. Starting at Parrsboro Harbour, the one or two hour journey heads along the coastline where you can see geological formations, tiny pools and sand carvings left behind by the tide and fossils.
Be sure to book early: spots are booked up well in advance!
See the Nova Scotia tides from a lighthouse
Lighthouses are an iconic symbol of Nova Scotia, which first started being built here in the 19th century to improve navigation for boats. Burntcoat Head park got one in 1859, which was built on what is now the flowerpot island– at the time, it was still attached to the mainland.
When it was cut off by tidal erosion a new lighthouse was built farther inland, before the government deemed it obsolete and burned it down in the 1970s. The community rallied around their beloved landmark and rebuilt it in 1994, and the lighthouse now serves as a visitor centre and museum with great views of the water.
One of the most breathtaking views of the Bay of Fundy is found at Cape d’Or Coastal Park. A short trail leads down to a picturesque lighthouse, guesthouse and restaurant, perched on the shoreline where the bay meets the Minas Channel.
Globe Guide tip: Time your arrival for the golden hour (about an hour before sunset) when the soft light casts an enchanting hue over the rocky cliff sides.
View the UNESCO geopark from above
One of the best ways to see a coastline is from above, and heading up with Vision Air Services guarantees a birds-eye view that’s worth the splurge.
Departing from Halifax, the three-hour helicopter tours soar over the breathtaking landscapes of Blomidon, Cape Split, the Minas Basin and Five Islands Provincial Park.
There’s also an option to land right in a vineyard, and enjoy a wine tasting at the popular (and incredibly scenic) Benjamin Bridge winery.
Where to stay near the Bay of Fundy
Since the Bay of Fundy is so spread out, expect to do a lot of driving to see the highlights. It’s a good idea to base yourself in Truro or Maitland for the first part of the trip, then head to the Parrsboro area for the rest.
Gravity Luxury Domes: These spacious, modern geodomes are perched on a hillside with breathtaking views of the Bay of Fundy, especially when sunset’s soft glow lights up the red cliffs.
Enjoy it from your private hot tub: each glamping dome also gets its own outdoor seating area, fire pit, bathroom, kitchen and king size bed. Click here to book
Fox Point Inn: Spacious suites and incredible hospitality combine at the Fox Point Inn, making it one of the top places to stay in the Cliffs of Fundy Geopark for those wanting a tranquil getaway.
Run by a lovely, charismatic couple, this B&B-style hideaway boasts four separate suites with private bathrooms and seating areas, and two also have a kitchenette.
One of the highlights is the sweeping views from the sun-soaked rooftop deck, but the main event is the food: the fantastic made-to-order breakfasts are the perfect way to start a day of exploring in the geopark. Click here to book
Wooden Tents: Don’t mind roughing it a bit and bringing your own camping gear? Then book one of the wooden tents owned by Local Guy Adventures, which are set up right on the beach under the lighthouse at Spencer’s Island.
Each one has two twin mattresses, a fire pit and a zipper door so you can enjoy the sound of the waves lulling you to sleep. A nice outhouse and shower with hot water is also available.
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