We’ve been vacationing in New Brunswick, a Canadian province just north of Maine, since our kids were toddlers and have never run out of things to do. Every trip is always off to a good start: Just after crossing the border from Calais, Maine, ahead of us stands the big brick building housing Ganong Chocolates. A trip through the Chocolate Museum includes a chance to watch chocolates being made, and, of course, samples.
We sometimes instead cross over the international bridge onto Campobello Island for a stop at Roosevelt Campobello International Park. The deeper history here may not impress the kids as much, but they enjoy seeing how people vacationed a century ago. The girls were fascinated to hear lively stories about Mrs. Roosevelt during a Tea with Eleanor program in one of the cottages. The ferry rides from Campobello to Deer Island and on to the mainland are always popular.
Everyone loves whale-watching cruises from St Andrews-by-the-Sea on the tall-ship Jolly Breeze, older ones to marvel at the whales we invariably see — the Bay of Fundy is one of the best places in the world to find them — and the younger ones for the costumes and on-board children’s activities.
We roll out of our beds at The Algonquin in time to arrive at Kingsbrae Garden for the morning ladybug release, which the kids are invited to join, and learn why these little bugs are important to the acres of blooming plants. In the gardens we find a windmill, a corral of friendly animals and two charming play houses built for little girls of a different century.
In Saint John we stand on the new Skywalk, a glass-floored platform above the Reversing Falls, which empty the St. John River into the Bay of Fundy. That evening, after learning about whales and the formation of the earth at the excellent New Brunswick Museum, we return to watch the falls flow in the other direction. The older kids are fascinated by the exhibits on tectonic plates and tides; the younger ones are sure it’s magic.
After this introduction to the world’s highest tides, we head to Fundy National Park by way of St Martins. As we eat fried clams overlooking a headland cut by sea caves, the tide ebbs so quickly we watch the beach grow before our eyes. Pretty soon we can follow it to explore the caves, now high and almost dry (New Brunswick is a good place to bring an extra pair of sneakers). Inside the park, we stay in Alma long enough to appreciate the 32- to 46-foot difference between high and low tides. Boats that bob in the water beside the docks in the morning lie on their sides, surrounded by acres of mudflats in the afternoon.
Everybody’s favorite demonstration of the Fundy tides, though, is at Hopewell Rocks. Taking advantage of Baymount Outdoor Adventures’ family rate, we go at high tide to kayak among the giant sea stacks, rock islands separated from the steep cliffs by eons of tidal erosion. The next morning, after a not-very-healthy breakfast of the famous sticky buns from Kelly’s Bake Shop in Alma, we return to Hopewell at low tide and walk on the ocean floor under the islands, now giant pillars of eroded rock.
All this ocean reminds the kids they hadn’t been swimming yet, so we head north to Kouchibouguac National Park, where the long, white-sand beaches protected by dunes and barrier islands have the warmest saltwater north of Virginia.