The giant flowerpots rising from the bare ocean floor at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick, are one of Canada’s most iconic natural landmarks, and a must-see for visitors with an eye for breathtaking landscapes.
Just a 4o-minute drive south of Moncton or a two-hour drive east of Saint John, Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park is easily accessible and close to a number of hotels and campsites; for camping, we particularly recommend Century Farm Campground, which lies next to the water, is only a five-minute drive from Hopewell Rocks and has some beautiful lots and fully-equipped facilities.
Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park itself is easy to get to with a car or even a trailer, with lots of parking. To get a spot near to the gate, be sure to arrive early! Of course, one of the joys of Hopewell Rocks is that there are two main experiences of the place, high tide and low tide, and you’ll want to come back for both.
Fortunately, the park has taken this into account; the passes you need to buy to enter the park are good for two consecutive days, so it’s no trouble to come back for that second visit. Adult tickets are $10, Seniors and Students are $8, and children $7.25. Family passes are $25.50.
You can find the timing of the tides on this handy chart produced by the park.
Before (or after) you visit the Rocks themselves, there is a wonderful interpretive centre right through the gate, offering both the geological and cultural history of the area. You can learn about the composition of the rock and the movement of tectonic plates, about the Mi’kmaw people and their culture, or more recent history of fishing and whaling. There’s also a gift shop with every type of Hopewell Rocks-branded merchandise you could hope for, ranging from t-shirts and hats to wall-hangings and lamps. Plenty of other odds and sods in here to keep you busy for a while, if you like knick-knacks.
After this, you’re off to see the famous Rocks themselves.
For those who find the ten-minute walk from the interpretive centre down to the sea bed a challenge, there is a shuttle bus that takes you right down to the ground, for a fee. The walk itself is a nice short hike through the forest on a packed-earth trail. There are roots at the sides, but it’s smooth enough to take a stroller down; I don’t know if I’d want to take a wheelchair down, though.
There’s no right way to visit the tides; it’s a completely personal choice whether you want to see high or low first. I would note, though, that it’s at low tide that you really get to explore, so be sure to schedule yourself an hour or two for the low tide visit.
My family visited at high tide first, giving our boys just a taste of the adventure to come when we returned the next day. They got to see some kayaks paddling between the flooded rocks, which delighted them as that’s an image on pretty much every bit of promotional material about the park.
The real fun, however, came when we visited at low tide. It’s then that the waters pull back, revealing a magical landscape of arches, pillars and platforms unlike anything you find away from the sea. There’s something truly special about walking on the ocean floor.
If you stay on the rock – and most of the ground is rock – you can easily get by with shoes, sandals or even flip-flops. The closer you get to the water, though, the more the ground becomes wet and muddy, so sandals or even bare-foot might be best. For walking up on the rocks, there is a lot of seaweed and wet surfaces, so you want to be cautious, and probably go either bare-foot or with footwear that is secure and has a tread.
When we went, one of the boys slipped on the rock and sliced open his knee; there was no first aid station nearby, so we were lucky to have a band-aid on hand. It might be a good idea to bring a couple along, especially if you like to live life adventurously.
You can easily spend a few hours walking around on the ocean floor, looking into the nooks and crannies of the various formations, skipping stones into the ocean, getting some amazing photos and selfies. Keep in mind that the tides are always in motion, though, and be sure to plan your visit accordingly.
I would suggest that you plan to stay somewhere nearby for a few days, and schedule in high-tide and low-tide visits as part of a broader schedule. For other things to see and do in the area, I would recommend Bay of Fundy National Park, with its incredible trails and ocean views.
Visiting Hopewell Rocks is the adventure of a lifetime – I hope you get the chance to do so!