New Brunswick: An Under-The-Radar Destination For Unspoiled Natural Beauty

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  • “…The pristine Atlantic Canadian coastal province is home to the world’s highest tides. Considered a top global natural marine phenomena…New Brunswick is as an under-the-radar destination for unspoiled natural beauty, friendly locals and rich history”

Dramatic scenery, rich history and trails galore make New Brunswick, Canada a walker’s paradise

Jennifer Franklinfor United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA)1:093:05

Seaweed covers the sandstone cliffs along the Bay of Fundy in St. Martins, New Brunswick. At high tide, the seaweed is covered with water, creating a dramatic, changeable landscape.

Famed naturalist John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.” That sentiment proved true for the 15 travelers who discovered spectacular scenery, vibrant wildlife, fascinating history and an unspoiled region while walking along the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada. The pristine Atlantic Canadian coastal province is home to the world’s highest tides. Considered a top global natural marine phenomena, the drama of the daily tides became a highlight of the adventure.  

Lead by New Brunswick-based local nature experts Beth Johnston and Nick Brennan, the Country Walkers tour began when guests met on the harbor front boardwalk in the port city of Saint John. The group included individuals from both coasts of the United States, a mix of couples and solo travelers – many of whom had been on previous walking tours by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) member organization. 

“Country Walkers has a better recipe for tours than anybody because it’s an intimate group of people who have a real passion for travel and experiencing the activities,” said Frank Albanese, who traveled on the week-long tour with his wife, Kelly Patrick. 

As the group got to know one another, some guests shared excitement to explore the Canadian coastal province just north of Maine, marveling at its close proximity to the U.S. The foodies in the group were specifically interested to taste the famously world-class seafood harvested from the chilly waters of the Bay of Fundy, and still others were eager to discover the shared Canadian-American history of Campobello Island, a favorite vacation spot for former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and home to Roosevelt Campobello International Park. 

Clad in their walking clothes, the group set out by luxury mini-coach for nearby Irving Nature Park, a sprawling 600-acre preserve. Johnston and Brennan, who helped Country Walkers create and launch the tour in 2017, shared details about the flora and fauna, much of which is unique to the area. After walking several easy miles with expansive views of salt marshes, Acadian forests and rugged shoreline, Brennan laid out a cliff-top picnic, including Atlantic salmon smoked by his uncle. Those personal, local touches became a hallmark of the experience and of the region as a whole. 

Syracuse-based couple Kelly Patrick and Frank Albanese stopped for a photo along an Irving Nature Park trail. Around every bend, the pair found another stunning view of the coastline.

The next stop was St. Martins, a charming coastal village with fewer than 500 full-time residents and an entry point to the Fundy Trail Parkway. Almost everything in New Brunswick’s coastal communities is dependent on the dramatic Bay of Fundy tides. Because of the Bay’s funnel shape and northern location, more than 160 billion tons of water is pulled in and out from the Atlantic Ocean each day, creating a uniquely rich habitat for wildlife. While the tide was out, the group made their way to the St. Martins sea caves, which have been carved by the tides into red sandstone over millennia. Though some of the caves are more than 30 feet tall, they’re almost completely covered at high tide. But at low tide, the group was able to walk inside, marveling at the intense colors and towering caverns. 

“I think the thing that I love the most is being on the shoreline, where the water meets the land,” Albanese said. “There’s an incredible combination of the beauty and the force of the tides here in New Brunswick. There’s nowhere in the world like this.”

The group checked into the St. Martins Country Inn, a former sea captain’s house built in 1857, with captivating Victorian architectural details, antiques and expansive sea views. The location proved a perfect jumping-off point for guests to explore the Fundy Trail, which winds along the coastline, complete with a suspension bridge over the Big Salmon River. 

Campobello Island provided a spectacular sunset overlooking the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada.

Next, the group set out for Campobello Island aboard a boat captained by Mackie Greene, who also leads the Campobello Whale Rescue Team. On the hour-long private ride, the group spotted a minke whale and a group of harbor porpoises frolicking in the waves. Because New Brunswick boasts a pristine environment and yet is still somewhat under the radar for many tourists, it’s a prime destination for wildlife watching. “It’s not too commercial here and it’s still really natural,” Greene said. “We have just about all of the large whale species and a rich feeding ground for them.” 

Boat captain Mackie Greene prepares to transport guests from Back Bay to Campobello Island. On the crossing, it’s not uncommon to spot minke whales, porpoises and occasionally a rare North Atlantic right whale.

On Campobello Island, guests checked into historic Prince and Hubbard Cottages, which sit adjacent to Roosevelt Cottage, once the summer vacation home of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt in the early 1900s. The 34-room home is the centerpiece of Roosevelt Campobello International Park and is open for free tours. Beyond the striking history of the island and its famous former visitors, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with trails spread across the expansive 2,800-acre park. With two expert guides to lead them, guests were given choices of trails and pace. 

“If you found that the soft soil and undulating ground too challenging, the guides are very accommodating,” said Patrick. “If you want to take a simpler road, many of the trails have options. Or if you want to do walking that’s more rugged, they’re happy to take you.” During one walk, the group strolled along a path riddled with oyster and clam shells, prompting Johnston to keep an eye out for the eagle who likely discarded them. Sure enough, she soon spotted the majestic bird of prey circling overhead and a reverent hush fell over the walkers. 

That kind of exploration on foot means travelers can take their time to experience things—such as a wood thrush chirping its happy tune or tasting the minty-flavored bark of the yellow birch, often used to make soda— they might otherwise miss, but that New Brunswick has in spades. “We love creating new tours with off-the-beaten-path experiences,” said Jamen Yeaton-Masi, vice president of product and operations for Country Walkers, who joined the tour. “It allows us to create an experience that one wouldn’t necessarily be able to do on their own.” 

A tour group explores salt marsh flats in Irving Nature Park in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. The ecologically rich area attracts more than 200 species of migratory birds each year, making it a destination for birdwatchers.

The final night on Campobello Island, the group settled into Adams Lodge, once owned by a wealthy FDR cousin. They enjoyed a feast of whole locally caught Atlantic lobster and live music by New Brunswick-based singer Moon Joyce, dancing and singing as a brilliant pink and purple sunset put on its own show over the Bay of Fundy. 

The last stop on the tour was St. Andrews by-the-Sea, one of the oldest seaside resort towns in the Canadian Maritimes. Once the group settled into the stately Rossmount Inn, a grand manor house set on 87 acres, they set out to explore. 

Nearby Kingsbrae Garden, with its more than 50,000 perennials, rambling sculpture garden and adorable farm animals, gave guests a chance to stretch their legs before a refined lunch in the Garden Café. 

Charcuterie boards of pork rillette, red pepper gouda, garlic scape, pickled fiddlehead fern fronds and focaccia showcased some of the area’s best cured products, and local apple cider and decadent lobster rolls fueled Patrick and Albanese for more exploration, including the enchanting downtown shops and a walk up an old carriage path behind the Rossmount Inn. 

The steep path took the pair up to the top of Chamcook Mountain, the highest vantage point in Passamaquoddy Bay. From there, the Syracuse-based couple gazed out over the Bay of Fundy and pointed out places they visited, including Ministers Island, a tidal island only accessible at low tide.

A traveler stops for a panoramic view of the ocean at Ragged Point in Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

New Brunswick is as an under-the-radar destination for unspoiled natural beauty, friendly locals and rich history. Of course, you could plan your own walks, hotel bookings, meals and transportation between communities, but you’d miss out on much of what makes this journey and the destination so special. “Our guides are able to introduce these hidden areas to our guests we might not find on our own,” Yeaton-Masi said. “They’ve shown us off-the-beaten-path walks, amazing restaurants and really introduced us to the people, local characters and communities of New Brunswick.” Additionally, travelers have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that Country Walkers is part of the USTOA, an organization that commands a high standard of ethics in the industry. “We are part of a great group of travel professionals and companies we can tap into for ideas and resources,” she said.

For Albanese and Patrick, this trip was an opportunity to retreat from their hectic lives at home and reconnect with nature and each other. It also opened their eyes to a stunning part of the world that was closer than they imagined. “New Brunswick, Canada is a destination for any family, from age eight to 80,” Albanese said. “There’s something for everybody.” 

Are you ready to create your own unforgettable journey? To search itineraries from  Country Walkers and other members of the United States Tour Operators Association that provide trips to New Brunswick, Canada, visit USTOA online.

Categories: New Brunswick

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