Fundy is a National Park worth coming back to, even unto the third generation.
I began camping in Fundy National Park at the age of twelve. Camping was important in my family. My father came to Canada from the Netherlands as a young boy after WWII. He fully invested emotionally, psychologically and physically in this country. When he turned eighteen he joined the Royal Canadian Airforce. He met my mother a few years later after befriending her brother. They married and began a family. As an adult, he insisted my siblings and I take part in those things he felt that Canadians did, which included hiking, fishing and camping. My mother was not so keen. Her childhood included times of deep poverty which made the idea of minimalist sleeping, eating and struggling with flimsy shelter seem ridiculous and vaguely, uncomfortably familiar. In particular, she really hated tenting in those smelly, mouldy canvas tents which never seemed to be erected without much cursing. She loved us, so she endured, managing to avoid camping-reality by immersing herself in murder-mystery novels.
One day, I disembarked from the Junior High bus to find an old, Bell telephone van in the driveway. Dad had put a bid on one and became the proud owner of this strange, clearly once heavily utilized blue van. He had a plan. By himself, with the occasional help of some inquisitive, sometimes incredulous neighbours, he cut off the top, extending it upward by three feet. He added a tiny fridge, some bunks and a collapsible table. He painted this Franken-van the colours of the Dutch flag. Dad grandly opened the side doors one day, declaring it finished. He proudly named it his “Blue-assed Baboon.” He did this, I think, partly because he could not keep himself from inventing weird things, but also because he loved my mother and hoped she would come to like camping as much as he did. I am not sure she ever got there, but camping was never quite the same after that. It improved in some ways and became more complicated in other ways.
One thing that it improved was our ability to range farther during our family vacations. One of the first really long trips we made in it was to Fundy National Park. We liked the Park so much we returned. I fell so in love with this Park that Carl and I decided to spend our first post-marriage vacation together there. He fell in love with it too. Although, there were some very amusing moments for this born-and-bred Newfoundlander as he experienced life off the rock for the first time (more about that later). When we had children, we would often camp at Fundy feeling it was well worth the long trip. Now our children go there as adults, enriching their children with this same intense camping experience.
Why is Fundy so special? Fundy National Park has many radically different ecosystems packed into a relatively small space of a Park. The Park’s compact size means you can experience and explore them all. Fundy is home to the world’s highest tides, finalist for one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. The Park has guided beach walks or you can walk out for kilometres and explore the fascinating tidal flats on your own. When you tired of tides, there is a unique blend of forests on the cliffs and mountains which are part Acadian forest and part Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region forest. If fields and grasses are your thing, you can find trails through those too. Fundy National Park has a lovely salt-water swimming pool, a beautiful golf course, groups of chalets and access to lake kayak/canoeing as well as sea-kayaking tours. There are hiking trails for every skill set and environment preference including journeys through forests, sea-side, mountain, riverside and waterfalls. Fundy Park is open year-round, although we have never been brave enough to winter camp (yet).
Accommodations include a variety of tenting sites, RV sites, chalets, yurts and oTENTiks. Care needs to be taken with the latter, as they are perched on cliff edges. Any family with toddlers or disobedient, unrestrained dogs would do well to avoid them. Chignecto North and Headquarters Campgrounds are well appointed with showers and shelters. We have found that there are often restrictions on campfires during the summer. However, Headquarters Campground is more likely to allow them because of their proximity to fire-fighting facilities. If you need a campfire, camp there.
There are a few stores in the nearby town of Alma, but they only contain the rudimentary things needed for camping and refurbishment of basic food. So, bring lots of food with you. There is a great seafood store with wonderful lobster and good scallops. One tradition we have is going to the Kelly’s Bakery, “Home of the World Famous Sticky Bun.” Truly, those sticky buns are the most delicious things on this planet. Don’t get one until the day you are leaving the Park because if you get them when you arrive, you will just dream of them every single day until you have one every single day and then you will leave a much larger person than when you came. So, trust me, wait.
My parents never really camped after we became older teens. However, they did plant those love-of-camping seeds in me. Now, my children and grandchildren are growing into their own deep love of camping. We keep coming back to Fundy and I suspect we always will. It always feels like a reunion of sorts. To honour my mother, I occasionally bring a murder-mystery to read.
Fundy National Park is located in New Brunswick which is Canada’s only truly bilingual province. Therefore, services are handily offered in good quality French and English.
PO Box 1001, Alma
NB E4H 1B4
Visitor Centre/Headquarters: 1-506-887-6000