Swinging around the bend in the road, I told myself I would skip the next viewpoint. After all, there are 21 scenic overlooks on the Fundy Trail Parkway and I would run out of time if I stopped at them all. But as I rounded the turn and took in the sweeping view of the dramatic coastline, I flipped on my directional and quickly jumped on the brakes, because of course I was going to stop once again.
The Fundy Trail Parkway in southern New Brunswick was completed in 2020 and after two years of closed borders, this hidden gem is just starting to be discovered by those who “come from away”. After spending a day exploring the Fundy Trail Parkway, it is clear that once the guidebook authors get a chance to visit, this will soon be listed among the world’s most beautiful scenic drives.
Until that time comes, you can experience the beauty of New Brunswick’s dramatic coastline and forested interior without the nuisance of crowds. Visiting on a weekday in mid-July, which is prime vacation season in Atlantic Canada, I was shocked by how few people I encountered. There was no problem parking in the primary lot at major attractions and most overlooks were empty, with less than a handful of people at most.
Compared to the overcrowding you see these days in the U.S. National Parks, with the need for reservations or permits, park shuttles being deployed, parking lots filled by 8 am, jostling for space at scenic spots, lines for photo opportunities, and a sickening amount of garbage and waste strewn about, New Brunswick was a welcome respite from tourist throngs.
As I walked along the banks of the Big Salmon River, I encountered a visitor from Massachusetts. We were both in awe of the beauty and the quietude. “Why don’t more people know about this place?” she asked. “That’s what I’m here to help with,” I replied. My trip was hosted by Tourism New Brunswick so that I could research and share this experience with my readers, all opinions are my own.
About the Fundy Trail Parkway
The Fundy Trail Parkway is the brainchild of businessman and philanthropist, Mitchell Franklin. After discovering the beauty of this region and building a vacation home in the area, Franklin invited then New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna for a visit. After dinner, while showing his guest the view, he suggested they work together to turn New Brunswick’s “Gold Coast” into a tourist destination.
McKenna, who now serves as Deputy-Chairman of the Toronto-Dominion Bank, quickly saw his vision and jumped on board, marshaling Provincial, Federal, and private funding to begin the construction of what is now the Fundy Trail Parkway.
Construction of the Parkway began in 1995 and it was finally completed in mid-2020. It took 25 years and almost $100 million to complete the Fundy Trail Parkway. Sadly, Franklin didn’t live to see the project to completion, but to this day, his daughter still works on the Parkway and keeps his memory alive.
In its completion, the Fundy Trail Parkway is 19 miles long and encompasses 2,559 hectares (6,323 acres) of land from the West Gate in St. Martins to the eastern entrance in Sussex Corner. There are 21 scenic overlooks, four waterfalls, five beaches, and 22 miles of hiking and biking trails along the Fundy Trail Parkway. The Fundy Trail is also part of two UNESCO-designated sites: the Fundy Biosphere Reserve and Stonehammer Global Geopark.
This land was first home to the Wolastoq and Mi’kmaq peoples. First Nation Storytellers offer talks twice weekly to share the park from a unique indigenous point of view.
Getting to the Fundy Trail Parkway
The Fundy Trail Parkway runs northeast from near St. Martins, New Brunswick to Sussex Corner. It is not a loop, so you either need to explore out-and-back from one home base, or spend a day on a New Brunswick road trip driving the Fundy Trail Parkway. You can drive it in either direction, although you may see slightly less traffic traveling from East to West (Sussex to St. Martins.)
If you are traveling from the west, my suggestion would be to spend a couple of days in St. Martins and drive the Parkway from there. This will give you time to see the St. Martins Sea Cave at low tide and enjoy a kayaking trip along the cliffs with Bay of Fundy Adventures. (If you are adventurous, Bay of Fundy Adventures also runs multi-day kayaking trips where you camp on beaches.)
After driving the Parkway to Sussex Corner, you can use the connector road through Fundy National Park toward Alma to stay overnight. With a few more days, you can spend time hiking in the National Park and visit popular spots like Cape Enrage and Hopewell Rocks.
If you are coming from the east (Moncton, Nova Scotia, etc.), you can start at the East Gate in Sussex Corner and travel down to St. Martins. After spending a couple of nights in St. Martins, you could continue over to St. Andrews to do some whale watching and enjoy this charming seaside vacation town.
Best Places to Stop on the Fundy Trail Parkway
You can drive the Fundy Trail Parkway in either direction, but for simplicity I have ordered this stops from East to West, starting in Sussex Corner and ending in St. Martins. If you are traveling in the opposite direction, just reverse this list.
If time is not a concern, you can visit all the attractions along the Fundy Trail Parkway, but if you want to only spend about six to seven hours exploring the Parkway, or if you get tired of jumping in and out of the car, these are your don’t miss places to stop on the Fundy Trail Parkway.
1. Walton Glen Gorge
Your first stop will be at Walton Glen Gorge. There are nice washrooms and a small interpretive center here if you need to use the facilities before starting out. Prior to completion of the Fundy Trail Parkway and the new trails at Walton Glen Gorge, it would have taken an eight-hour round-trip challenging hike to see the Gorge. Luckily now it is easily accessible along a 1.1 km gravel “shortcut” path to get to an observation platform overlooking Walton Glen Gorge, which has been dubbed the “Grand Canyon of New Brunswick.”
While admittedly not as dramatic, Walton Glen Gorge is 1,000 feet across and 525 feet deep. Formed by volcanic eruptions, Walton Glen Gorge is 550 million years old. On a clear day, you can look all the way down the Gorge to the Bay of Fundy. There are also waterfalls flowing over the rock face opposite the viewing platform, although the flow is likely stronger in the spring or after it rains.
If you are active and have the proper footwear, you can also take the Eye of the Needle Trail to the bottom of the Gorge. Just don’t be tricked into thinking it is an easy hike because it is only 2.2 km roundtrip. This is rated as a double-black diamond trail due to the steepness and difficulty.
2. Martin Head Lookout
Next, you will come to a series of lookouts one after the other, each offering a slightly different view of the coast. If you are visiting in the morning and the fog is covering the Bay, not to worry, chances are it will burn off by late morning. I took the time to sit on a bench and enjoy the view at the Martin Head Overlook and over the course of 15 minutes, more and more of my view was revealed.
Seely Beach and Champlain’s Lookouts also offer similar views and they are literally right next to each other so you can stop at either. However, I preferred the view at the Martin Head Lookout because of the well-positioned bench, perfect for enjoying the view.
One of the nice features of the Fundy Trail Parkway is that pretty much each stop has at least one picnic table or bench, usually multiple with some in the shade and some in the sun. There are many beautiful spots to enjoy a picnic lunch.
3. Long Beach
After the Quaco Lookout, you will begin to descend and Long Beach provides your first opportunity to get close to the Bay of Fundy. Since the Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, you may want to check a tide chart before you go to time your visit to enjoy a walk on one of the beaches at low tide. While its name is Long Beach, this spot should have been more accurately called “Wide Beach” because you can walk out so far at low tide.
There are also proper restrooms at this stop and a large parking lot, as some may come and spend the day here. Although I would advise using caution when swimming as the pull of the current is very strong due to the tides. But even if you don’t want to swim, or if it is high-to-mid-tide, it is still a nice spot to enjoy a walk along the beach.
After spending time at the beach, look for the wooden stairs off of the parking lot to climb up to Tufts Plateau, which offers a different perspective of the beach.
4. Big Salmon River Suspension Bridge
The next major attraction along the Fundy Trail Parkway is the Big Salmon River. If you park in Lot #8, you can easily explore the banks of the Big Salmon River. A five-minute walk along the river brings you to the Big Salmon River Suspension Bridge.
Cross to the other side and you can enjoy a picnic along the shores of the river, or splash and swim in the water. This would be a good spot to bring along your water shoes for the rocky bottom and a towel for drying off after. Just keep in mind that while the very edges are clear and shallow, the middle of the river actually gets quite deep so keep a close eye on children.
From the Big Salmon River, you can also access the Fundy Footpath. The Footpath covers 41 kilometers and is typically traversed as a four-day journey.
You will also see signs for the Hearst Lodge. Formerly owned by the family of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, this lodge will be reopening in 2023 to host small groups as a vacation rental. Visitors will need to hike in to the lodge, but employees will cart in all your provisions. This remote location sounds amazing for enjoying the peaceful outdoors and wildlife viewing.
Just up the street, you can also visit the Big Salmon River Interpretive Center. This will give an overview of the logging and shipbuilding history of this once thriving community.
5. The Cookhouse
One hundred years ago, the Cookhouse was a lumberjack camp, back when workers needed to eat 8,000 calories a day to maintain the energy to do their jobs. Today, if you call ahead the day before, you can pre-order a Lumberjack Lunch in a big steel pail that you can enjoy within the park and return at either gate.
However, if you are starting at the East Gate, you might be a little too hungry by the time you reach the Cookhouse and prefer to pack in a picnic lunch instead. Just remember to practice Leave No Trace principles and dispose or carry out all your trash. Luckily, there are multiple covered trash cans and recycling containers throughout the trail, along with outhouses and washrooms for your convenience.
If you do stop at the Cookhouse without ordering ahead, they may have a few sandwiches and drinks for sale. And, if you are lucky, they will have just whipped up a batch of their delicious molasses sugar cookies!
6. Black Point Lookout
You will once again rise above the seafloor to view the Bay of Fundy from above. Your next scenic spot should be Black Point Lookout. There is a 10km trail you can hike if you don’t want to drive from stop to stop. But even if you aren’t that ambitious, follow the trail to the right of the parking lot and you will soon get an even better view of the beach below than you do from the official viewing platform.
From here, you can see Melvin Beach and a beautiful section of the coastline.
7. Fuller Falls
When I visited, the stairs to the viewing platform at Fuller Falls were currently under repair, but hopefully will be reopened soon. Fuller Falls is a 15-meter high, two-tiered, veiled falls that pour into a ravine below.
You can also check at the Gate when you enter to see if there are any special events happening throughout the day. During my visit, a First Nations storyteller was giving a presentation at Fuller Falls. These typically take place on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.
If you have more time, you may also want to stop at the Melvin Beach Lookout and/or the Fox Rock Lookout before you exit the Parkway. Also, check the St. Martins tide schedules so that you can take some time to explore the sea caves at low tide either that day or the next day if you are staying overnight in St. Martins.
Where to Stay Near the Fundy Trail Parkway
Note: I was hosted by Tourism New Brunswick at the Beach Street Inn and Amsterdam Inn & Suites as part of my media visit. This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. All opinions are my own.
Beach Street Inn, St. Martins
The best spot to launch your drive of the Fundy Trail Parkway is in St. Martins. This cute, little seaside town has multiple bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and shops, making it ideal for a one or two-night stay. The Beach Street Inn is the nicest place that I stayed at in New Brunswick.
This 14-room inn offers warm hospitality, fine dining, and stylish design. My stay in the spacious Moran room couldn’t have been more welcoming or relaxing. The cozy-queen bedroom comes with a large seating area with a comfy couch and chairs, all overlooking the front of the Inn.
There are also suites on the property. I’d highly suggest making a dinner reservation prior to arrival at Periwinkles. The lobster dinner is a popular option, but this is refined dining using fresh, local ingredients, not your typical fried seafood or traditional lobster supper. While I was maxed out on lobster during my stay (who knew that was possible?), I did enjoy a lovely spinach and fresh fruit salad, along with fresh mussels.
Check rates and reviews for the Beach Street Inn
Amsterdam Inn & Suites, Sussex
If you are starting or ending the Fundy Trail Parkway in Sussex, you are still about an hour-and-a-half to either Moncton or Alma. For convenience, you may want to consider staying in Sussex. While there isn’t much to see or do here, the Amsterdam Inn & Suites is a clean and convenient spot for an overnight stay, which also includes a free hot breakfast.
Check rates and reviews for the Amsterdam Inn & Suites
If you are willing to go a little further, I would recommend a two-night stay at Glampcamp in Waterborough, which is about an hour from the East Gate.
Glampcamp offers 10 glamping domes in the forest for a fun and unique stay. Each dome has a slightly different theme, but offers all the conveniences and comforts you need from a propane grill, to a small kitchen complete with microwave, induction cooktop, and small fridge, to a fully-equipped bathroom, and even a fire-heated hot tub and outdoor fire ring and picnic table.
There are walking trails on the property, or you can rent kayaks to be used on Grand Lake, across the street from Glampcamp. The campground also rents tandem bikes or snow shoes in the winter.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Fundy Trail Parkway
How much does the Fundy Trail Parkway cost?
Entrance is currently $11 per adult, $9 for seniors, $6 for youth (ages 5-18), under five are free. There is also a family rate of $34 for two adults and two youth. Season passes are also available, but these are geared toward local residents of New Brunswick that can visit frequently, and there are 5-day passes available for visitors that want to spend multiple days enjoying the trail.
How long does it take to drive the Fundy Trail Parkway?
You could theoretically drive the Fundy Trail Parkway in about 45 minutes without stopping. However, if you would like to make the stops listed above, plan on taking at least a half day to a full day if you would like to spend time at each stop.
Can you hike the Fundy Trail Parkway?
The Fundy Trail Parkway is intended for cars, but there are hiking trails that connect many of the overlooks. You can also hike the Fundy Footpath, which is considered one of the top 50 hiking trails in the world.
What is the best time to visit?
The Parkway is open from Mid-May (Friday of the Victoria Day weekend) to mid-October. The ideal time would be mid-week from May-October, although even on the weekends it isn’t too crowded.
Keep in mind that the Fundy Trail Parkway is a gated park and the gates are locked at closing, so plan to enter no later than 45 minutes before closing. Hours vary according to season so be sure to check current hours.
Which direction should you drive the Fundy Trail Parkway?
As I mentioned above, it doesn’t really matter which direction you drive the Fundy Trail Parkway. You will see less traffic coming from Sussex than St. Martins, but neither is exceptionally busy and you should drive it in the way that makes the most sense with the rest of your trip to New Brunswick.
Are there restrooms on the Fundy Trail Parkway?
Yes, there are regular restrooms at different stops along the trail including at Walton Glen Gorge, Long Beach, and the Cookhouse. However, you will also find compost toilets/outhouses at other spots along the way.
Is there food on the Fundy Trail Parkway?
The Cookhouse is the only restaurant along the trail and the selection is very limited unless you pre-ordered in advance. I would highly recommend packing a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the many picnic areas along the Trail.
Is there gas on the Fundy Trail Parkway?
No, there are not any outside stores or facilities along the Parkway. Make sure to gas up before you enter the Fundy Trail Parkway.
The Fundy Trail Parkway is just one of many lesser-known treasures in New Brunswick. Be sure to stay tuned for more ideas to plan your trip!