9 January 2020 by Emily Newton-Smith
New Brunswick is a treasure trove of natural wonders – think sparkling rivers teeming with salmon and deep, Acadian forests filled with centuries-old trees. Its national parks are diverse, boasting rugged coastline, saltwater lagoons, sandy beaches and manicured gardens, dotted with everything from rustic huts to historic houses. If you're keen for adventure, in summer you can hike, bike, and kayak in the fresh Atlantic air, while winter brings fluffy snowfall and cross-country ski trails aplenty. Connected by scenic drives and close to some of New Brunswick's favourite towns and cities, they're essential stops on your next New Brunswick holiday. With that in mind, here are our top five national & provincial parks in New Brunswick, jewel of Atlantic Canada.
Fundy National Park
On the east coast of New Brunswick lies this coastal gem, the province's first national park established in 1948. The coastline here experiences the world's highest tides – where, twice daily, up to 38 feet of water floods the bay before receding completely to reveal the fertile sea bed. Stretching for around eight miles of this famous shoreline, the national park also reaches up into the maritime Acadian highlands, with a network of quiet hiking trails meandering past waterfalls and streams. The Acadian forest here is populated by the common spruce and fir trees of New Brunswick, as well as balsam, maple, larch, yellow birch, aspen, and beech, draped in “old man’s beard” lichen. And, the world's oldest red spruce tree – 400 years old – can be found here at Fundy National Park. The majority of visitors come during spring through to autumn, although some ski and snowshoeing trails are open during the colder months. If it's the dramatic tides you'd like to see, plan ahead and check the timetable – and while you're here, stop in at the famous Hopewell Rocks and Cape Enrage – the lighthouse here is over 140 years old.
Kouchibouguac National Park
This park's slogan ‘difficult to pronounce… impossible to forget,' is fitting – Kouchibouguac means ‘river of long tides’ in the First Nation’s language, Mi’kmaq. And, it covers everything from barrier islands, sand dunes and lagoons to salt marshes and forests. During winter, snowfall brings to life 15 kilometres of marked cross-country ski trails, while warming huts are the perfect place to build a fire and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. In summer, paddle the saltwater lagoon in search of a lively grey seal colony, or relax on the sandy beaches along the Northumberland Strait. There are 60kms of biking trails to explore, and at night, the sky comes alive – Kouchibouguac is a Dark Sky Preserve. Reaching the park is easy; it's just a one-hour drive north from Moncton – the scenic route follows the Acadian Coastal Drive.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park
Roosevelt Campobello International Park preserves the house and surrounding areas of the Roosevelt family summer retreat. It is testament to the natural beauty of Campobello Island that the late U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt frequently returned to spend his summers here, sailing, hiking, and picnicking. There is a 34-room cottage here, which is open to visitors through most of the year. Its 19th-century surrounding gardens bloom with dahlias, gladiolas, and peonies, and beyond the grounds lie forested trails and woodlands home to 150 species of bird. Also on the island is Herring Cove Provincial Park, boasting steep cliffs, a sprawling beach, rich bog, and ancient spruce trees. If you're keen to see some native wildlife, keep an eye out for bald eagles, osprey and beavers, all of whom can be seen throughout the park.
Though not technically a national park, this Canadian historic site is an unmissable stop on any tour of New Brunswick. The enchanting Ministers Island can only be reached at low tide by driving or walking across the seafloor – Bar Road disappears at high tide and access to the island is cut off. This peaceful, 500-acre hideaway was the summer estate of Sir William Van Horne, the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today, it's a 19th-century preservation, allowing visitors to experience a time gone by in the cottages and outbuildings of Van Horne's family home. There are hiking trails aplenty, a secret hammock with a beautiful view from the top of a cliff, and, of course, panoramic views of Passamaquoddy Bay from the estate itself.
The Anchorage Provincial Park
Situated on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy, Anchorage Provincial Park is a natural bird sanctuary with almost 275 species, and an ideal spot for whale-watching. The beach here is windy, and the water is brisk, with strong tides, but it's a great place to see seals and seabirds alongside breaching whales. There's a network of trails for gentle walks – Red Point Trail boardwalk, "Grand Mananesque" Long Pond, Great Pond or Bagley trails are the highlights. There's also plenty more to do, from kayaking in the ocean to visiting some of the island's lighthouses. And, during winter, you can take on the park’s trails with snowshoes or cross-country skis.
Ultimate New Brunswick Fly-Drive
If you'd like to see all of these natural wonders in person, consider the ultimate road trip through New Brunswick, circling the highlights in one scenic loop. You'll take on two of the region's most dramatic driving routes – the Acadian Coastal Drive and the famous Fundy Coastal Drive, and travel by boat to Campobello Island and Grand Manan. Alongside the national parks and historic sites, you'll have the chance to sample fresh lobster, stroll through charming villages and relax on Atlantic beaches. It's the perfect introduction to New Brunswick's – and Atlantic Canada's – charms.