Winding its way between the Maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy is 170 miles of craggy cliffs, thundering waves, and ecological wonders. "It's rugged nature," local artist Karin Bach says. "It's the kind of place people who truly love nature and not just the pristine bits of it will enjoy."
The specific size of the bay helps create the world's most extreme tides. Water levels rise and fall by as much as 48 feet every day when 100 billion tons of seawater crash into the shore. Low tide reveals boulders carved into dramatic shapes by centuries of water at the Hopewell Rocks. Waterside beach opens up into miles of sand (great for picnicking). "Local people will pick up some fresh lobster, a bottle of wine, and a few treats and spend the day there," Bach says.
When to Go: Late July, when 30,000 migrating sandpipers (and the birders who follow them) descend on Mary's Point; mid-August, when the Rising Tide Festival brings Maritime musicians inspired by the land into Fundy National Park; and June to September, when pleasant weather makes picnics and water play possible.
How to Get Around: You'll need a car to traverse rural New Brunswick along the Atlantic coast. Rent at the international airport or in any major city. Prefer to be driven? Book a Roads to Sea guided tour with guitar-toting local expert Anna-Marie Weir, who shares the bay's lore through stories and song as you travel.
Where to Stay: A three-room B&B, An Artist's Garden, features local artists' works and a coastal forest setting. Picnic on the beach at Two Rivers inlet. At Fundy National Park, reserve a yurt with a Bay of Fundy view or bunk in an oTENTik, a tent-cabin hybrid outfitted with beds and furniture.
Where to Eat or Drink: The area's seafood offerings make for inventive meal choices at the Cape House Restaurant. Sample lobster poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese curds) while taking in the bay view. Locals will insist you stop in neighboring Alma at the Harbour View Market (for seafood chowder) and Kelly's Bakery (for the sweet sticky buns the town is famous for).
What to Buy: Local pottery. For a truly artisanal piece consider Wendy Johnston's pottery studio on Hopewell Cape. For something more whimsical, head to the Bird Garden for a birdhouse or Tim Isaac Pottery for a raku fish.
What to Read Before You Go: Bay of Fundy: A Natural Portrait, a collection of more than 80 photographs providing a visual introduction to the Bay of Fundy by land and sea.
Helpful Links: The official sites of New Brunswick and Bay of Fundy, National Geographic's Guide to Fundy National Park
Fun Fact: Some of the things you use all the time got their start in Fundy Bay. The scuba tank, combined hot- and cold-water faucets, and sardine cans were invented here.
Heather Greenwood Davis is an award-winning travel writer for the Toronto Star, Canadian Family, Parents Canada, and O, The Oprah Magazine.