The province has put together a well-conceived campaign to encourage visitors of all budgets to explore its outdoor attractions and activities. The provincial travel guide outlines dozens of multiday and day adventures ranging from a C$10 guided hike at Fundy National Park to fancy biking packages that include overnight inn accommodations and gourmet dinners. For more information on these programs, call the tourism department at tel. 800/561-0123 or check the official website of the province's parks at www.nbparks.ca.
Those who really want to see the wild should think about visiting the outdoor center at Cape Enrage, where one can canoe, rappel, rock-climb, and/or kayak -- all in the same dramatic coastal setting.
Among the best destinations for a backcountry hike in this province are Mount Carleton Provincial Park and Fundy National Park, both of which maintain backcountry campsites for visitors. The two landscapes are quite different to hike through, however -- see the appropriate sections for more information on each park, then take your pick.
The islands and peninsulas of Passamaquoddy Bay lend themselves nicely to cruising in the slow lane -- especially Campobello Island, which also has good dirt roads for mountain biking. Grand Manan holds lots of appeal for cyclists, too, even if the main road (Rte. 776) has some rather narrow shoulders and some pretty quick local drivers. Some of the best coastal biking is around Fundy National Park -- especially the back roads to Cape Enrage and the Fundy Trail Parkway, an 11km (7-mile) multi-use trail that hugs the coast west of the national park. Along the Acadian Coast, Kouchibouguac National Park has limited but unusually nice biking trails through mixed terrain (and rentals are available right in the park).
A handy guide is Biking to Blissville, by Kent Thompson. It covers 35 rides in the Maritimes and costs C$15, plus tax and shipping. Look in local bookshops, check online, or contact the publisher directly: Goose Lane Editions, 500 Beaverbrook Ct., Suite 500, Fredericton, NB E3B 5X4 (tel. 888/926-8377 or 506/450-4251; www.gooselane.com).
Grand Manan is the province's most notable destination for birders, right on the Atlantic flyway. (The great John James Audubon lodged here while studying and drawing bird life more than 150 years ago.) Over the course of a typical year, as many as 275 species could be observed on the island; September is often the best month for sightings. Boat tours from Grand Manan can also take you farther out to Machias Seal Island, with its colonies of puffins, Arctic terns, and razorbills. It's fun to swap information with other birders, too; during the ferry ride, look for excitable folks with binoculars and floppy hats dashing from one side of the boat to the other and back.
Campobello Island's mixed terrain attracts a good mixture of birds, including the sharp-shinned hawk, common eider, and black guillemot. Ask for a checklist and map at the visitor center. Shorebird enthusiasts also flock to Shepody Bay National Wildlife Area, which maintains preserves in the mudflats between Alma (near the entrance to Fundy National Park) and Hopewell Cape. There's good birding in the marshes around Sackville, near the Nova Scotia border, too.
New Brunswick has some 3,500km (2,175 miles) of inland waterways, plus countless lakes and protected bays. Canoeists can find everything from glass-smooth waters to daunting rapids. In Kouchibouguac National Park, for example, there's a rental and tour concession based at Ryans Recreational Equipment Rental Centre (tel. 506/876-8918), open from mid-May to mid-September (open weekends from mid-May to mid-June and the final week of the season). More experienced canoeists looking for a longer expedition should head for the St. Croix River along the U.S. border, where you can embark on multiday paddle trips and get lost in the woods -- so to speak.
The Miramichi River has long attracted anglers lured by its wily Atlantic salmon. Some experts consider it to be among the best salmon rivers on the planet, even if diminished runs have plagued recent years (as they have all rivers in the Maritimes). There are strict laws regarding river fishing of the salmon: The fish must be caught using flies, not hooks, and nonresidents must hire a licensed guide when fishing for them. (There's an exemption from this rule, the so-called Fish New Brunswick Days in early June, when you don't need to use a guide but still need a license; check ahead with your lodging if you are interested.) For other freshwater species, including bass, as well as open-ocean saltwater angling, the rules are less restrictive. Get up to date on the rules and regulations by requesting two brochures: "Sport Fishing Summary" and "Atlantic Salmon Angling." These are available from the Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Department of Natural Resources, reached by phone at tel. 506/453-2440 or by snail mail at P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1. The Department's information can also be found online -- parked at the memorable (not!) website address www.gnb.ca/0254.
In St. Andrews, the Algonquin hotel's redesigned golf course is a beauty -- more than 100 years old, it was retouched by Donald Ross' plans in the 1920s, then rethought and expanded in the late 1990s -- easily ranking among eastern Canada's top 10. That's right: It's behind the big-name stars on Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island. The course now features 9 newer inland holes (the front 9), in addition to the 9 original seaside holes that become increasingly spectacular as you approach the point of land separating New Brunswick from Maine. All 18 of them are challenging, so bring your "A" game. Service and upkeep are impeccable, and there's both a snack bar on premises and a roving club car with sandwiches and drinks. Greens fees are C$49 to C$99 for 18 holes (carts extra; discount at twilight time). Lessons are offered, and there's a short-game practice area with a huge putting green in addition to the usual driving range. Call tel. 888/460-8999 or 506/529-8165 for tee times and other details. In Fredericton, lovely Kingswood (tel. 800/423-5969 or 506/443-3333; www. kingswoodpark.com/golf.php) -- located inside a family entertainment park -- was recognized by Golf Digest as the best new Canadian golf course in 2003. It features 27 holes, a par-3 course, and a double-ended driving range. A round of 18 holes costs C$54 to C$69.
The province's highest point is on top of Mount Carleton Provincial Park (tel. 506/235-0793), in the center of a vast area of woodlands far from all major population centers. Several demanding hikes in the park yield glorious views. The park's open daily from mid-May through mid-October and costs C$7 to enter; you get there either by following Route 17 from Campbellton or taking various local roads (routes 105, 108, and then 385, to be specific) from the border crossing at Limestone, Maine. This should take less than 3 hours from either Campbellton or Caribou, Maine. There's also superb hiking at Fundy National Park, with a mix of coastal and woodland hikes on well-marked trails. The multi-use, 11km (7-mile) Fundy Trail Parkway has terrific views of the coast and is wheelchair-accessible. Grand Manan is also a good destination for independent-minded hikers who enjoy the challenge of finding the trail as much as they enjoy hiking itself.
An excellent resource is A Hiking Guide to New Brunswick by Marianne Eiselt, published by Goose Lane Editions. It's C$17 and is available in bookstores around the province, online, and directly from publisher Goose Lane Editions (tel. 888/926-8377; www.gooselane.com).
The huge tides that make kayaking so fascinating along the Bay of Fundy also make it exceptionally dangerous -- even the strongest kayakers are no match for these fierce ebb tides if they're in the wrong place. Fortunately, a number of skilled sea-kayaking guides work the province.
Among the most extraordinary places to explore in New Brunswick is Hopewell Rocks. At high tide, there are plenty of sea caves and narrow channels to explore. Baymount Outdoor Adventure (tel. 877/601-2660 or 506/734-2660), run by the Faulkners in Hillsborough, offers 90-minute sea kayak tours of Hopewell Rocks from June through early September for C$55 adults, C$45 children, or C$180 per family.
Other good kayak outfitters along the coast include FreshAir Adventure (tel. 800/545-0020 or 506/887-2249) in Alma (near Fundy National Park) and Bruce Smith's Seascape Kayak Tours (tel. 866/747-1884 or 506/747-1884) down in Deer Island (with an amazingly international staff).
Parts of New Brunswick offer surprisingly good ocean swimming. The best beaches are mostly along the "Acadian Coast," especially near the town of Shediac and within Kouchibouguac National Park. If you're coming to this province with plans to swim, bear in mind that the water is much warmer (and the terrain more forgiving) along the Gulf of St. Lawrence than it is in the frigid, rocky Bay of Fundy -- though you've got to be realistic. It's not going to be as balmy as, say, the water in Florida.
The Bay of Fundy is rich with plankton, and therefore rich with whales. Some 15 types of whales can be spotted in the bay, including finback, minke, humpback, the infrequent orca, and the endangered right whale. Whale-watching expeditions sail throughout the summer from various docks, wharves, and ports including Campobello Island, Deer Island, Grand Manan, St. Andrews, and St. George. Any visitor information center can point you in the right direction; the province's travel guide also lists lots of tours, which typically cost around C$40 to C$50 for 2 to 4 hours of whale-watching.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.