Visiting the Bay of Fundy and the Fundy Coast

The natural beauty of Nova Scotia’s Fundy coast is sublime. Sea breezes bathe the shore in crisp salt air, and the sun illuminates the seascape colors with a clarity that defies a painter’s palette. Wildflowers bloom with abandon, nourished by the moist coastal air. And fog, thick as cotton, sometimes envelops the region during the summer. This is the Fundy Coast, which stretches from Yarmouth in the west to the farthest reaches of the Bay of Fundy in the east.

A low rock wall with the sea cliffs of Blomidon Provincial Park in the distance.
Blomidon Provincial Park is notable for its high sea cliffs. Photo © Andrew Hempstead.

Quietly and relentlessly, twice a day, a tidal surge that has its beginnings far away pours into the bay, creating the highest tides on the planet. Fishing boats are lifted from the muddy seafloor, and whales in pursuit of silvery herring hurry along the summertime currents, their mammoth bulks buoyed by the 100 billion tons of seawater that gush into the long bay between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The cycle from low to high tide takes a mere six hours. The tide peaks, in places high enough to swamp a four-story building, and then begins to retreat. As the sea level drops, coastal peninsulas and rocky islets emerge from the froth, veiled in seaweed. The seafloor reappears, shiny as shellac and littered with sea urchins, periwinkles, and shells. Where no one walked just hours ago, local children run and skip on the beaches, pausing to retrieve tidal treasures. Locals take the Fundy tides for granted. For visitors, it’s an astounding show.

To a great extent, the history of the province’s Fundy Coast is the story of all of Nova Scotia, and this is reflected in the region’s wealth of historic and cultural wonders. France’s colonial ambitions began at Port-Royal and clashed head-on with England’s quest for New World dominance, and multiple national historic sites along the coast lie in testament to these troubled times. The trim Acadian villages of La Côte Acadienne, the historic streetscape of Annapolis Royal, and the gracious towns of Wolfville and Windsor add to the appeal.

A wooden path through grasses in the historic gardens of Annapolis Royal.
The Historic Gardens of Annapolis Royal. Photo © Andrew Hempstead.

Planning Your Time when Visiting the Bay of Fundy and the Fundy Coast

You can drive between Yarmouth and Halifax in a single day, but you should allow a minimum of two days, which lets you reserve a room at one of Annapolis Royal’s many historic inns. This small town is definitely the historic heart of the Fundy Coast, with sights such as Fort Anne National Historic Site and Port-Royal National Historic Site easily filling out a full day of sightseeing. For this reason, two days and two nights should be allotted for exploring the Fundy Coast. At the western end, the detour through La Côte Acadienne and stops at Acadian icons such as Église de Sainte-Marie add only slightly to the length of the drive. The most impressive Acadian attraction, Grand Pré National Historic Site, is farther east, and it deserves at least three hours of your time.

A quaint stone building at the Grand Pre National Historic Site.
Grand Pré National Historic Site. Photo © Andrew Hempstead.

At some point during your travels through the region you’ll want to focus on visiting the Bay of Fundy (digging into a plate of plump Digby scallops doesn’t count). Taking the above into consideration, if you have two nights planned for the Fundy Coast, and you are traveling east from Yarmouth, spend the first morning meandering along La Côte Acadienne, order scallops for lunch in Digby, and continue to Annapolis Royal. Spend the rest of the afternoon and the first part of the next morning exploring the town before moving on to Wolfville. Spend the night, rise early for a short hike through Blomidon Provincial Park, and then move on to Grand Pré National Historic Site. You’ll be back in the capital by late afternoon. With an extra day and night, plan on driving along Digby Neck and combining a hike to Balancing Rock with whale-watching.

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