Travel

Watch the Ocean Rise 50 Feet in This National Park Near Maine

Walk on the seafloor below the highest tides in the world.

Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

Gazing out at the jagged, red-rock coastline and sea stacks of the Bay of Fundy, it’s hard not to wonder if you’ve stumbled onto an alien landscape or at least a portion of The Martian set, if Matt Damon had decorated the Hab’s backyard with Christmas trees. While you’re unlikely to find a forlorn astronaut roaming the shores, what you will discover, if you accept this mission, is a place teeming with the raw power of nature.

We could tell you about Fundy National Park’s tides, the highest in the world, which at an extreme of 53 feet can top a four-story building-every day, twice a day. We could wax poetic about the terrain, which varies from cloaked forests to whispering streams, stone-strewn beaches, and dizzying bluffs. Or we could wax corny about how the wealth of outdoor recreation puts the “fun” in Fundy. After all, one person’s cheese is another person’s fromage, and New Brunswick is a world-class outdoor destination.

Canada’s unique geology along the Atlantic-right next to Maine-has created a show-stopper bay plus superb provincial and national parks surrounding the waters. Within the parks, you can hike more than 75 miles of trails, kayak through sea caves, and go swimming, camping, cross-country skiing, and even tobogganing. Because of New Brunswick’s far-north location and low population density, you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself plus a couple dozen friends-if your besties were unfailingly polite, friendly, and said “sorry” every time you ran out of snacks or took the wrong turn on the wide-open roads. Here’s what to do in Fundy National Park.

Khanh Ngo Photography/Moment/Getty Images
Khanh Ngo Photography/Moment/Getty Images
Khanh Ngo Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Walk the seafloor at low tide, then paddle around the flowerpot rocks

Even if you’ve seen photos, pretty much everything about Hopewell Rocks is surprising-from the peregrine falcons that put on an avian airshow to the roar of the water, the intricate web of cracks in the mud flats exposed at low tide, and the sea stacks that resemble terrestrial and extraterrestrial monsters or even human faces, if you squint a little.

For millennia, the Bay of Fundy’s wild tides have chiselled away at the coastline, creating free-standing formations such as the teardrop-shaped Lovers’ Arch, the most popular photo spot at Hopewell. At low tide, get an up-close look at this oversized natural-sculpture installation by walking the seafloor, past semipalmated sandpiper birds snacking in the mud and boulders covered in bulbous green plaits of bladderwrack algae.

Baymount Outdoor Adventures Inc
Baymount Outdoor Adventures Inc
Baymount Outdoor Adventures Inc

To see a dramatic transformation of landscape, hang around for six hours, or come back the next day at high tide; one ticket is good for admission on two consecutive days. If you time it for when the tide is coming in, you can go back to the beach and watch as the water creeps ever closer. Then get the heck out of there, you crazy kids. The bay rises one foot every six minutes, and everything on the beach, including the flowerpot rocks, will be immersed in no time.

Buckle up your life jacket and settle into the cockpit of a kayak for a rowdy ride through the sea stacks. New this year, nighttime paddles-under a luminous moon, with an assist from headlamps and glow sticks-offer a memorable after-dark adventure.

New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick
New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick
New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick

Make like Grandma Gatewood and hit the trails

There are so many hiking trails in New Brunswick that you could spend a few months here and not do all of them.

Fundy National Park (part of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve) has nine easy, 13 moderate, and 13 challenging trails, plus multi-day hikes. Within this rugged, unspoiled corner of the Caledonian Highlands, you’ll traverse a range of landscapes and habitats, from towering coastal cliffs to rushing waterfalls, streams studded with moss-covered rocks, second-growth forest whose dense canopies almost negate the need for sunblock, and rare plant species such as bird’s eye primrose. Keep an eye out for moose, beavers, deer, great blue herons, emerald dragonflies, and the threatened Canada warbler, one of 20 warbler species that call the park home.

The Fundy Footpath, rated among the top 50 hiking trails in the world and for experienced hikers only, begins in Fundy National Park. You’ll need a minimum of four days to do it, plus camping gear and water shoes for stream crossings.

Fundy Trail
Fundy Trail
Fundy Trail

Explore the scenic wonders of the Fundy Trail Parkway

The Fundy Trail Parkway, completed in 2020, is a 20-mile road that winds through 6,300-plus acres of woodland and water views along New Brunswick’s southern coast. The parkway features multiple hiking trails and 22 scenic lookouts to both the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and the Stonehammer Geopark.

You need about six hours to make the most of the parkway. Highlights include the brand-new observation deck that offers astounding views of the craggy, 300-foot-deep Walton Glen Gorge. At the Melvin Beach Lookout, take in the shoreline’s ruddy cliffs and tall trees, or descend the wooden steps down to the sand. Walk the 275-foot suspension bridge spanning Big Salmon River. Or stop at Fownes Head Lookout, where, on a clear day, you’ll have miles of views along the bay’s eastern coast.

Fundy's Cape Enrage
Fundy’s Cape Enrage
Fundy’s Cape Enrage

Go rappelling or ziplining over fossil cliffs

Cape Enrage didn’t get its name for gentle breezes and placid waters. Its reef, which juts almost halfway across the Bay of Fundy toward Nova Scotia, is one of the most dangerous spots in New Brunswick, courtesy of frequent weather changes and the churning sea.

This 6-acre park is open only between June 1 and September 25, but it’s well worth the trip.
Take a beach fossil tour, where you’ll scrabble through rocky passes to view prehistoric logjams and calamites (enormous ancestors of the modern horsetail) preserved in the rocks. The two sides of the beach date to different parts of the Carboniferous period, more than 300 million years ago.

New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick
New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick
New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick

Then go rappelling down Cape Enrage’s 140-foot cliffs onto the pebbly beach below.

Have lunch at the onsite Cape House Restaurant, where the windows of the dining room are your front-row seat to people screaming by on the 600-foot zipline. Queue up for 30 seconds of airtime, or else take in the capacious views from the walkway of the circa-1870 lighthouse.

Parkland Village Inn
Parkland Village Inn
Parkland Village Inn

Where to stay near Fundy National Park

Close to Hopewell Rocks, the Innisfree Hopewell Rocks Bed and Breakfast or the Maple Grove Inn are solid choices. Within the Fundy Trail Parkway, the newly renovated Hearst Lodge, accessible only by hiking the mile-long Hearst Lodge Scenic Footpath, will open for private rentals in 2023.

The village of Alma, about 40 minutes from Hopewell, is a great, budget-friendly place to spend the night. Book a room at Alma Shore Lane Suites and Cottages, the Parkland Village Inn, or Alpine Motor Inn. This modern loft space has a soothing ambience, and a kitchenette for warming up your leftovers-which you’re going to need. Alma is one of the best spots in Atlantic Canada for seafood.

Tipsy Tails has excellent clam chowder, lobster rolls, and cocktails. Down the street, local favourite Alma Lobster Shop serves a huge seafood menu. Don’t pass up the decadent lobster poutine, a bed of crispy French fries topped with chunks of fresh lobster, mozzarella, and a velvety cheese sauce.

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Robin Catalano is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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