Alma, New Brunswick: Exploring the Bay of Fundy Tides

Alma New Brunswick Exploring the Bay of Fundy Tides

The fourth leg of our road trip to the Canadian Maritimes may have been my favorite for the outdoor wonder it provided (although it’s difficult to pick a favorite with Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia in the mix!)  We departed Digby, Nova Scotia on an early morning car ferry.  The three hour voyage took us directly across the Bay of Fundy which hosts abundant sea life, offering a great option for whale watching.  As we departed we spotted some porpoises off the boat and whales had been spotted earlier in the day.

Bay of Fundy, vista from Fundy National Park -
The Bay of Fundy from Fundy National Park
Bay of Fundy, semi high tide in Alma estuary -
Bay of Fundy panorama from Alma, New Brunswick

We spent the trip on the top deck sitting by the rail watching for whales.  It was a bluebird day with pleasant temperatures and a slight breeze.  The car ferries run by Northumberland Ferries are huge (180 cars/vehicles and 600 passengers) with several floors of vehicle storage as well as multiple decks with indoor lounges, cafes, Starbuck’s coffee, entertainment and an outdoor deck.  Since all passengers have to leave their cars, if desiring to sit outdoors I suggest making haste to secure a chair or table as they are limited.

Bay of Fundy, view of Nova Scotia from car ferry -

A docent educated us about the history of the bay as well as the marine mammals, passing around things like a whale baleen (what krill eaters strain the krill through).  We also had the chance to taste dulce, a local dried seaweed.  It has a strong flavor of the sea and is an acquired taste!

Bay of Fundy whale baleen and sea turtle mouth
The docent led programs on the car ferry trip across the bay were interesting and informative. We tasted Dulce (a local dried seaweed), touched a whale baleen and saw a photo of the inside of a sea turtles mouth.

We landed in St. John, New Brunswick, and headed directly to Alma, a small town on the bay which we selected for its immediate access to the Fundy National Park.  The Bay of Fundy is best known for the most variable tides in the entire world and has been designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.  The tides can vary up to 50 vertical feet every 6 hours.  It is truly a sight to behold.  The view looks normal at hour 1, with boats floating next to the pier and water lapping at the beach.  Six hours later the boats are sitting on the dry ocean floor (on brackets made specifically to protect and keep them upright) and one can walk extensive distances on the bay floor.

Bay of Fundy Tourism World's Highest Tides Ecozone map

The reason for the dramatic tidal changes in this particular area has to do both with the normal tidal action coupled with an effect of a ‘seiche’.  Think of it like the action of water sloshing back and forth in a bathtub; the water in the bay does the same due to rock formations underwater at the bay mouth, providing a physical effect of a solid form.  The water comes in and out with the tides but the tidal impact is much more pronounced due to the seiche effect.  I was happy we’d made plans to spend two nights in Alma allowing the full visual experience of 24 hours of tides as well as the chance to walk way out into the bay floor, something one would never imagine possible if only seeing the high tide!

This short four minute video is a wonderful view into the eco system and natural wonder of the Bay of Fundy at Alma.  It shows time-elapsed video of the bay, looking the opposite direction from the photos shared in this post.  The Parkland Village Inn (where we stayed) may be seen during one of the first time elapsed scenes; it’s the white hotel to the right of the pier.  The estuary, seen in another time elapsed sequence is where we ended our kayaking trip at high tide!


Alma is a small town with a few inns, restaurants and shops.  Often as small towns will have it, we found some treasures along the way!  We got the last room at the Parkland Village Inn which sits three stories high directly on the bay.  The staff welcomes guests as family and the inn houses the Tides Restaurant, offering local seafood (the area is mainly known for lobster and scallops) that was delicious and well-presented.  I enjoyed the Fresh Atlantic Salmon with Cranberry Maple Sauce, which I loved for the simple but flavorful sauce and my husband had the local Bay of Fundy Lobster.  As with many seasonal tourist towns the dining prices were a bit high but we loved the food quality and convenience for our first dinner.

Bay of Fundy,wooden sailor statue at Tides Restaurant -

Bay of Fundy, local lobster -

The following day my husband had ventured out into the national park at dawn to try some fishing at a lake which was a bust fish wise, but still a wonderful time listening to the family of loons that shared the lake.  A license is required to fish in the park and they are issued usually on the day of intended fishing.  He was able to secure one the night before by visiting the information center in Fundy National Park.  As always the information centers are great stopping places for maps, guidance from the rangers and to buy maps or souvenirs.

Alma Bay of Fundy, tidal change
High tide to medium-low tide
Bay of Fundy, pirate boat at high tide -
Boats at high tide next to the pier
Alma Bay of Fundy boats at tide change
Lowering tide. The boats normally float at pier level at high tide (as seen with the ‘pirate boat’ above,  and when the tide if fully out they rest of the bay floor on brackets.

We took a stroll through Alma after breakfast and as things will sometimes go on vacation we went from having an open morning to racing off for some local sightseeing thanks to a chat with the Jane Chrysostom, proprietor of Cleveland Place, a bed and breakfast, book shop and artisan’s shop on Alma’s main street.  We had a half day kayaking trip planned though Jane pulled out a map and marked up some other ‘must see’ spots a short drive along the coast that in hindsight I wish we’d known about before.  The book shop and artisan’s shop are definitely fun stops.  The artisan shop in particular is a carefully curated collection of local artisans of good quality (leaving us wishing we’d had more time to poke around).

Bay of Fundy, Cleveland Place

With a few hours before our kayaking excursion we sped up the coast toward Cape Enrage Lighthouse.  Once spotting Waterside Beach en route we had to get out to explore.  The tide was almost out and the red rippled floor of the bay beckoned for a barefoot walk to the water.  The sand was exposed as far as the eye could see which didn’t mean much until later in the evening when we drove back to find the high tide had covered everything!  A spectacular example of the tides of Fundy.

Bay of Fundy, Waterside Beach low tide -

Bay of Fundy, Waterside Beach low tide -

Bay of Fundy, Waterside Beach low tide -

Bay of Fundy, Waterside Beach low tide -

Bay of Fundy, Waterside Beach high tide -
One would never know what lies below at high tide!

For me Cape Enrage Lighthouse area was ‘the one that got away’.  It took a bit longer to get there than we thought and with a deadline of the organized kayaking we barreled through a walk up to the still-active 140 year old lighthouse and a peek into the restaurant.  The restaurant was charming with a fantastic menu boasting many gluten-free options, sitting in a red and white weathered building overlooking the water.  Touted as ‘globally inspired and locally grown’ dishes which caught my eye included Pickled PEI mussels and green beans, Fiddleheads served with thyme, sundried tomatoes, feta & white balsamic, Fresh lobster, pickled lemon, tobiko, baby greens & avocado aioli served with fresh yukon potatoes, Tender duck, local cheese curds, peppercorn sauce & Piri Piri, Hand rolled pasta with scallops, shrimp, lobster, mussels, leeks, shaved parmesan & dill cream sauce and if I share anymore I will start to cry!  You can see why we were dying to eat there.  Without time enough for lunch and due to an unforseen early closing for dinner that night, it wasn’t in the cards for us.  The setting atop the cliff, isolated out of town felt like such a find.  There is also an artisan shop, ziplining and more to explore.

Bay of Fundy, Cape Enrage view -

Cape Enrage Lighthouse
Cape Enrage: (left to right) View toward Alma across the Bay of Fundy from above the lighthouse, Cape Enrage lighthouse with the restaurant to the left in the distance, inside the restauarnt.
Bay of Fundy, Cape Enrage restaurant -
Cape Enrage restaurant

Our drive back to Alma left us barely enough to change and grab a bite at the Wharfside Patio and Take-Out offering basic grilled and fried foods and we looped back for local ice cream after our kayak tour!

Bay of Fundy, local ice cream -

Fresh Air Adventure is the local kayaking excursion group offering several different outings.  We booked a half day tour which left in the afternoon following an extensive safety briefing.  We were driven into Fundy National Park and put in (double kayaks) very near a heated salt water pool open to the public during the summer months.  On shore practice and a further briefing on our gear set us up for a great exploration of the coastline including a bald eagle sighting.  During a mid-paddle break on a desolate rocky coastal beach the guides shared more of the local area lore, an explanation of the tides as well as great local snacks including locally famous cinnamon rolls from Kelly’s Bake Shop, which sadly were not gluten-free.  The tours are artfully organized around the tidal flow as the return ends in the estuary across the street from the Fresh Air Adventure offices.  It was a fantastic way to see the bay and no prior experience is necessary.  Multiple guides accompany the tours and keep close watch on the paddlers.

Bay of Fundy, cinnamon roll -
Cinnamon Roll from Kelly’s Bake Shop in Alma

Valuing our smart phones we kayaked device free so can’t share any pics but the following video advertising Fresh Air Adventure offers some scenes and a fantastic view of the tidal impact on the area.  It’s a short watch but worth it to experience the vast tidal change in time elapsed form.


Drenched after the kayaking we zipped back to our room, did a quick change and drove out toward Cape Enrage to Mary’s Point Shorebird Reserve.  The reserve is a temporary migratory home to almost 300,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers traveling from subarctic Canada to South America in the fall (mid-July to mid-August).  The sandpipers rest and bulk up on mud shrimp and other crustaceans often almost doubling their weight during their short time at Mary’s Point.  I read one article saying some become so fattened up they have trouble flying afterwards!  We hustled out during the waning light of day only to find a roped off area so as to not disturb the birds and another family who said the sandpipers apparently could not be viewed because ducks had scared them off.  There is a small information center at the reserve.

Bay of Fundy, Mary's Point Bird Reserve -

Questing for some authentic off-the-beaten path food for dinner I located the Octopus’s Garden, a restaurant on the far edge of Alma (to put that into context Alma is really only about 8 blocks long) serving up homemade pastas including homemade gluten-free pasta.  They closed later than most restaurants in Alma (being a working fishing town hours are often geared for the working locals) and kindly held a table for us as we drove like maniacs along the gravel roads from the Mary’s Point outing.  This Saturday night there was a band playing and we nestled up in their loft dining area with local wine and beer, beautiful handmade pastas as well as nabbed some homemade treats for our drive to Quebec City the following morning.  Like Cape Enrage, I wish I would have located the Octopus’s Garden before arriving in Alma.  Their breakfasts looked incredible and they easily accommodated gluten-free diners.

Bay of Fundy,scallop boat -
Scallop boat
Bay of Fundy, equipment for scallop dragging-
Scallop rigging to drag the scallops

A location that is very famous near Alma are the Hopewell Rocks.  Huge prehistoric looking rock formations are revealed at low tide, complete with trees growing on top of them.  It’s a breathtaking sight to behold as one walks along the ocean floor.  Due to the low tide timing and being high tourism season we did not visit but it’s something to consider if in the area.

Bay of Fundy, fishing boat -
Being a working fishing village, Alma’s lobster and scallop boats were busy coming and going during high tide and sat in the mud during low tide

Bay of Fundy, lobster boat at high tide -

Unlike many of the other spots along our trip Alma is a year round destination with winter activities available as well as those of summer.  More details may be found on the website for the Village of Alma.

Bay of Fundy, Alma pier -


  1. says

    What a wonderful trip! I love the time lapsed video – especially of the tide going out – so cool. How different it would be to live in such a wonderful place. The food looks fantastic and your photos are incredible. Love, love, love everything about it! Eco systems fascinate me – and your photos of the tide changes are perfect. Sharing!

  2. says

    Wow Toni, I think you captured a lifetime of memories in this one trip and you’ve documented it so beautifully. If I ever get to this beautiful country I will certainly use your posts as my guide! Well done!

  3. says

    What a beautiful pictorial Toni! I feel as though I was there with you on the trip. I can’t believe how amazing the area is, and thank you for including the videos on the Bay of Fundy! I have to plan a trip to that area.

    • says

      I agree! After two summer road trips there, I can say the summer is gorgeous on its own. We only skimmed the surface, if even that, but had so many wonderful experiences.

    • says

      It’s really small as you probably gathered from this post! Alma’s location in relation to the national park is really its calling card though sometimes it’s easier to get to know a smaller town and there are so many beautiful things around it. Two nights to get a full 24 hour cycle of the tides was about right!

    • says

      Oh Jane, I’m so happy you stopped by! I’ve meant to email you my thanks for your help when we stopped in your darling bookshop and artisan shop! We sped away with your notated map in hand and covered much of what you suggested as you’ll see from the post, wedging a windy kayaking trip into the middle of the list. You were kind to give my children each a little Canada pin from your artisan shop (I believe that is what it was) and left a lasting impression for all of us. As a memory prompt while we were in the shop two men drove up looking for their lost shopping wives! I hope this little sharing will inspire others to come visit you and enjoy your Bed and Breakfast too!

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