- Northern California
- Colorado Rockies
- 1 Week in Quebec
- Southeast Coast
- Graduates' XC Trip
- NH Backpacking
- Martha's Vineyard
- Yosemite & Nevada
- Southern Alaska
- Colorado & Utah
- Canadian Maritimes
- Best of Utah
- Southern Loop
- Pacific Northwest
- Midwest & Rockies
- Los Angeles to NYC
- East Coast Trips
- RV Rentals
Fundy Trail Parkway / St. Martin Sea Caves, NB
Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 9:00am by Lolo
98 miles and 2 hours from our last stop
We arrived on the mainland of New Brunswick via the free, government-run ferry from Deer Island to L’Etete. It was another nail-biting episode in which we came painfully close to scraping the bottom of the rig. The ferry operators were really good about it and tried to make the angle of the ramp less steep by pushing the ferry as close as possible to shore.
Once on the mainland, we headed up the coast along Route 1 with the intention of stopping in Saint John to see the Reversing Falls, which if you time it right with the tides, can be quite impressive. However, after seeing how industrial Saint John looked and reading further in the guide book that the Falls were next to a stinky, smoke-spewing paper mill, we decided to drive on and look for some more pristine natural wonders.
We left Route 1 near the town of Rothesay and headed east on Route 111 for about 25 miles to the town of St. Martins, where there were some sea caves to explore as well as the new Fundy Trail Parkway. The huge tides are the real draw here so timing is very important. Since the tide was in and the sea caves were under water, we decided to do the Fundy Trail Parkway first and then hit the sea caves on our way back.
The Fundy Trail Parkway is a relatively new 13-mile, out and back road, which runs along the shores of the Bay of Fundy from the village of St. Martins to the Big Salmon River. There is a $10 fee per carload. This road is the beginning of a project to make the area more accessible to people—much to some outdoor enthusiasts’ dismay as the area from St. Martins to Fundy National Park is the only coastal wilderness remaining on the entire east coast of North America. The parkway, however, crosses only 6 ½ miles of this wilderness. There are another 30 miles between the Big Salmon River and Fundy National Park that can only be accessed via the Fundy Foot Path.
Alongside the road there is a paved bike path for those that want to bike the route rather than drive it. I thought we were of the biking variety, but apparently I was wrong. The kids argued that a bike was for getting places that a car couldn’t get to and that it was silly to be pedaling on a trail right alongside a road. I’m not sure I agree with this argument, but for the sake of family harmony, I gave in, although somewhat reluctantly. The road turned out to be very hilly, reconfirming for the kids that they had made the right decision—what wimps! Feeling like just any old lazy tourists, we drove along the parkway stopping at the scenic overlooks to view the Bay of Fundy.
At the end of the road, we parked and visited the interpretive center overlooking the Big Salmon River. Here, thanks to a very enthusiastic ranger, we learned that this now very remote wilderness area was once the site of a thriving logging community, as recently as the 1950s. Now all that remains are the foundation of the one-room schoolhouse and a collection of black-and-white photographs of an era gone by. What really made this fun and brought it to life for us was that the ranger was local to the area and had personal stories about many of the children in the photos.
After the tour we walked down to the river, which was once a great place for salmon fishing. Now, unfortunately, almost all the salmon are gone. Over the river, there is a suspension footbridge and the beginning of the Fundy Foot Path, which traverses 30 miles of wilderness on its way to Fundy National Park.
We retraced our drive on the Parkway back to the village of St. Martins where the tide was now just right for exploring the sea caves. It really is amazing how much the tides change here. On our drive in, the red sandstone cliffs above the caves were almost completely submerged, but now we could wander into them. Some of them were quite large.
Since the road through the wilderness all the way to Fundy National Park doesn’t exist yet, the only way to reach the park is to drive back out to the main highway along the very hilly and winding Route 111 for 25 miles and then eventually back off the highway again to another 25-mile-long hilly and winding road back down to the national park. As it was getting late in the afternoon and we thought we had gotten the jist of the tide thing, we decided to bypass Fundy National Park and start heading towards Nova Scotia. I do have some regrets though. I kind of did want to see Fundy National park and the Hopewell Rocks north of it. Oh well, perhaps another time.
This stop was a lesson in being flexible with plans. Sometimes things sound good on paper but just don’t work out. This day just had too many of them for me. First, there was the decision to skip Reversing Falls, then we decided to drive rather than bike the Fundy Trail Parkway, and finally we decided to blow off Fundy National Park all together. I’m not sure I like all these changes. Hopefully things will pick up from here.
The Fundy Trail Parkway is a 12.6-mile (out and back) road which runs along the shores of the Bay of Fundy from St. Martins to the Big Salmon River. The road was constructed along previously untouched wilderness in an effort to make the beauty of this area accessible to more people. Admission to the Parkway is $10 per family.
The Sentier NB Trails initiative has constructed a multi-use trail which runs parallel to the parkway, which has become very popular with hikers and bikers. This trail is quite strenuous in that it climbs in and out of several steep river valleys before finally reaching the Big Salmon River.
The trail hugs the coastline providing spectacular views from its many scenic lookouts along the way. There are also several side trails that lead down to pristine coves and beaches. At the end of the parkway, overlooking the Big Salmon River, is a new interpretive center with displays and films about the area’s interesting history as a thriving lumber town.
For the more adventurous hikers that want to get away from the cars along the parkway, the Fundy Foot Path starts at the Big Salmon River and travels 30 miles through wilderness all the way to Fundy National Park. This is the longest stretch of coastal wilderness in North America.
On the way back to St. Martins, past the entrance kiosk, are the red sandstone cliffs of the St. Martins sea caves. These beautiful caves are best explored at low tide when you can walk across a beach and wander into them.
Fundy Trail Parkway / St. Martin Sea Caves location map