Burntcoat Head Park – Maitland, Nova Scotia - Atlas Obscura

Burntcoat Head Park

Maitland, Nova Scotia

The highest tides in the world come in and out here twice a day, allowing you to essentially walk along the ocean floor. 


When you drive onto Burntcove Road, you’ll see an amazing vista to your right: a vast red clay landscape stretching out into the distance. It’s part of the Bay of Fundy, and if you see red, the tide is out.

Keep driving. When you get to Burntcoat Head Park, you’ll walk over a green, treed hill. It’s unbelievably quiet there, even when there are lots of people. Walk past the lighthouse, past the apple trees, and you’ll see a lookoff that gives you a phenomenal, unobstructed view of Cape Split in the distance, as well as Cobequid Bay.

This part of the Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tide range in the world, averaging about 38.4 feet (about 12 meters), with a record of around 53 feet (16 meters). About 160 billion tonnes of water flow in and out of the basin twice a day. It allows for the rare and amazing experience of essentially walking on the ocean floor. When the tide is out, you are walking on ground that will soon be covered with so much water that all but the top of the large “Flowerpot” rock formation will be swallowed by the sea.

From the minute you climb down the stone stairs (which are underwater when the tide is in), you will feel as if you’re on another planet. At the foot of the stairs is a sign warning you to be back at the steps three hours before high tide. You’ll walk over rocks encrusted with tiny barnacles (they’re almost like a spa treatment if you’re barefoot), and have closeup and personal encounters with hundreds of tiny hermit crabs, busily dragging their houses around rock pools warmed from the sun.

You can climb into sea caves here and look out at the bay. You will see seaweed that is an astonishing shade of iridescent green. And you won’t even mind when your feet squelch into the red clay, because you’ll be too busy saying “Whoa!” every time you realize just where you are.

Know Before You Go

It is an easy drive from Halifax, the closest city. Check the tide charts to time your visit for when the tide is out. Once it starts coming in, it will run very fast, and people have actually been trapped on the rock. So you'll want to be very careful. 

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September 4, 2018

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