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5 Ways for Families to Play in the Bay of Fundy Tides

by Barbara Rogers

Aug 1, 2018

© Stillman Rogers


The world’s highest tides rise and fall twice each day in the Bay of Fundy, off the coast of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The difference between high and low tide water levels can be as much as 62 feet, and the force of all that water rushing in and out of the funnel-shaped bay created natural wonders that provide a playground for family adventures.

See a Waterfall Flow Backward

Get a sense of the bay’s magnitude and force at Reversing Falls in Saint John, where the water is compressed through a narrow gorge as it rushes in and out of the St John River. Sea level there is 12 feet below the river at low tide, but 12 feet above it at high tide. This difference forces water back up the river over a rock ridge that makes a waterfall that flows upstream. Twelve hours later, the river flows toward the sea and water drops over the ridge to make a falls in the opposite direction. The new Skywalk Saint John is a rooftop observation platform extending 25 feet beyond the edge of the cliff above the falls. Glass floor panels give a clear view of the falls and whirlpools 100 feet below, while videos and interactive exhibits explain the tides and the geology of the cliffs. For another view of the rushing river, go to nearby Fallsview Park, where you can learn more at the UNESCO-acclaimed Stonehammer Geopark.

Walk to an Island

For half the day, Ministers Island sits separate and aloof from the seaside resort town of St. Andrews. Then as the tide drops, a causeway emerges from the sea, and you can walk or drive to the island to see the mansion built by the man who built the nearby Algonquin Hotel. (That’s a good place for families to stay, with a large swimming pool and water slide).Walking across the causeway, kids are sure to notice the beautiful round beach stones, worn smooth by the constant motion of the powerful tides. Learn more about the bay through the kid-friendly interactive exhibits and aquarium at the nearby Huntsman Marine Science Center.

Canada, New Brunswick, Hopewell Cape, Hopewell Rocks

Canada, New Brunswick, Hopewell Cape, Hopewell Rocks © Stillman Rogers

Watch Whales and Learn Why They Love the Fundy Tides

Twelve species of whales and other marine animals gather in the Bay of Fundy in the summer to feed on the fish and krill brought in by the Fundy tides. By August, see Minke, Finback, Humpback and even rare North Atlantic Right Whales, along with dolphins and porpoises. Choose from three styles of whale-watch cruise in St. Andrews. Little kids love the Jolly Breeze Tall Ship’s onboard activities, while older ones love the zodiac ride with Fundy Tide Runners and the onboard naturalists at Island Quest Marine Whale and Wildlife Cruises.

Watch the Tide Fill the “Chocolate River”

At low tide, the rich brown mud of the Petitcodiac estuary in Moncton looks like a wide bed of melted chocolate. Then, the narrow channel fills so suddenly with the force of the rising tide the water arrives in a three-foot-high wall. To see this twice-a-day phenomenon, check the clock at Tidal Bore Park on Main Street, and be there a few minutes early for a seat in the riverside viewing stand. Within an hour the empty riverbed will be filled with more than 20 feet of water. The Residence Inn, just up Main Street, has generously sized suites for families.

Walk on the Ocean Floor, Then Kayak Over It

Hopewell Rocks seem like two different places, depending on the tides. When it’s low, giant eroded cliffs and free-standing rock pillars topped by trees tower over a beach and you can walk on the ocean floor beneath them. Park rangers can answer questions about these sculptured giants and how they continue to form as the tides wear away the softer cliffs around them. Return at high tide to join a kayak tour with Baymount Outdoor Adventures, and paddle among the stones, then tree-crowned islands.


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