Canada Offers some stunning views for an unorthodox beach holiday
In front of me two lovers were locked in a timeless embrace and a wounded elephant stood tall and proud in the distance.
While this might sound like I had wandered on to the Hollywood set of a Steven Spielberg movie, I was actually exploring a little-known wonder of the modern world: Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick.
So much water is channelled into the long, narrow bay that it creates some of the highest tides in the world, leaving the seabed exposed at low tide before the water level rises by 46ft in just three-anda-half hours.
The huge force of water surging into this stretch of Canada’s Atlantic coast has left pillars of rock, some reaching heights of up to 70ft, dotted across a succession of coves, which appear to have faces.
St Andrews is the location of the Algonquin resort, which inspired Stephen King’s The Shining
I was actually exploring a little-known wonder of the modern world
The most famous of these is Lovers’ Arch but there is also one that looks like ET, one that looks like a T Rex and several others.
I studied these surreal formations until a peregrine falcon, demanding my attention, soared overhead in long swoops.
Our guide, Paul, who emigrated to New Brunswick from the UK, said excitedly it’s one of a pair nesting in trees at the top of the cliffs above the beach.
This is fitting for an area of such natural beauty, which recently rivalled the Grand Canyon in a global poll to find the seven new Wonders Of The World.
A short drive through forests full of maple trees that turn a resplendent red in the autumn and past clusters of wooden homes painted in pastel shades of blue, green and yellow brought me to Fundy National Park.
Covering an area of 80 square miles, the park contains a series of cascading waterfalls which can be reached in short hikes by following streams lined with rare moss and fauna.
Continuing along the coastal road I passed quiet coves and small fishing communities until I arrived at the region’s capital city, Saint John.
Despite being an industrial port its centre is reminiscent of a mini San Francisco with steep streets lined with restaurants, coffee shops, bars and art galleries.
Fundy National Park is famous for its waterfalls and ‘chocolate river’
Slocum & Ferris at the city’s market is worth seeking out to sample the myriad forms of maple products eaten in New Brunswick, such as syrup, butter and cream.
Sixty-four miles to the south is St Andrews-by-theSea, Canada’s first seaside resort, which contains the Algonquin Resort.
A stay at this sprawling 234-room mock-Tudor hotel inspired author Stephen King to write The Shining.
After a recent £50million refit it no longer has a ramshackle feel – and is certainly not haunted – but it’s still easy to imagine a young boy on a tricycle trundling along the long, winding corridors, chanting “red rum, red rum”, in an eerie nod to the novel turned into a classic film.
New Brunswick is a great town for some exhilarating whale watching
So it was a relief to reach the comfort of my modern King Room – with a king-sized double bed and armchair – to catch my breath before embarking on a whale-watching tour with Fundy Tide Runners, who use fast, rigid inflatable boats for exhilarating rides out to deep waters, where humpback whales, grey and harbour seals and porpoises can be seen.
On the journey out to sea our skipper Pat said: “I’ve had two humpback whales breach at the same time, 40- to 50-foot long whales completely leaving the water together, which was incredible. I have also seen a North Atlantic right whale breach 16 times alongside our boat.”
So with fevered anticipation we waited for a repeat of such dramatic scenes.
But with the light fading after only seeing a few playful porpoises and two seals we were about to call it a day and head back to shore when two humpback whales, nicknamed Chevron and Goblin for their tail markings, surfaced near our tiny boat, blowing a plume of water into the air.
As the majestic beasts came up for air several more times before making a deeper final dive to show off their huge tail fins, everyone in the boat was entranced.
Even the briefest glimpse of these kings of the oceans stays with you for a long time.
St Andrews was founded in 1783 by British loyalists who crossed the nearby border from Maine after American independence.
Its 13 main streets are named after the children of King George III.
A century later, when the Algonquin was built by a group of businessmen, with saltwater baths in each of its 80 rooms, it became popular as a health retreat due to the quality of its air.
Canadian Pacific Railway creator Sir William Van Horne was encapsulated by St Andrews
Sir William Van Horne, who built the Canadian Pacific Railway across the country, was so impressed by St Andrews during a stay at the Algonquin that he bought Ministers Island in its bay for a summer home.
This 500-acre island can only be reached at low tide by driving across a rock causeway on the ocean floor to a dirt track that leads to his mansion, which is open to visitors from mid-May to mid-October.
On display in rooms recreated as they were when Van Horne lived there are his original paintings of the sweeping views of the bay from a hexagonal bath house at the end of the garden.
It is perched above a natural swimming pool in the rocks on the shore below where the railway king took bracing dips every morning.
After a day exploring the island it’s worth treating yourself to dinner at Rossmount Inn on the outskirts of the town, where Swiss chef Chris uses the daily catch of the bay’s fishermen to create seasonal dishes to savour.
I had the scallop ceviche, “naked” lobster poached in butter with handmade ravioli and a lobster bisque, and crème brûlée, which was a fitting finale to a trip through a region which should be better known in this country.
With natural wonders like Hopewell Rocks, plentiful seafood from the Bay of Fundy, and whale-watching, it’s easy to see why so many expats go there on holiday and never leave.
Discover the World (01737 887153/ discover-the-world.co.uk) offers a 12-night Bay of Fundy Whales and Wonders self-drive tour from £1,764 (two sharing), B&B.
Price includes return flights from Heathrow to Halifax with Air Canada, car hire and excursions.
Atlantic Canada tourism: atlanticcanadaholiday.co.uk.