At first blush, the province of Nova Scotia in Canada looks innocent enough. One of the Maritimes, it’s known for kind people, delicious food and incredible landscapes. But during my week driving around Nova Scotia, I learned that it’s also home to many fun, active and engaging travel experiences, including a very unique opportunity to enjoy a fantastic meal on the ocean floor. One of the world’s most interesting natural phenomena is the Bay of Fundy, home to the most extreme tides in the world. It’s due to this natural oddity that once every few weeks, waters are low enough were people can traipse along the floor of the previously watery bay and, in my case, even enjoy a luxury dinner with a few other intrepid souls.
Bay of Fundy
So much of my trip to Nova Scotia was centered in, on and around the Bay of Fundy that I think it fitting my last stop was a visit to Burntcoat Head Park where the highest tides on the Bay occur. The Bay of Fundy is famous thanks to the fact that it has the highest tides in the world and it’s at this park where those ranges are the most extreme, usually around 40 feet but they can be as extreme as 50 – that’s the height of a five-story building. These differences also allow for some fairly unique experiences and it was at the park where I enjoyed a couple of them, including a remarkable dinner on the bottom of the Bay itself as well as an exploration of the tidal pools left behind at low tide.
When reading through the information before the dining experience, I didn’t fully realize how much was included in the afternoon. Experience really is the key word, it’s so much more than a simple dinner. This once in a lifetime (for many) event is an immersive way to experience one of the world’s great natural wonders firsthand. I drove past the entrance to the state park twice before I realized that I had indeed arrived to this nondescript destination. I’m not sure if I expected more fanfare, but the park is located amongst the gently rolling hills of farms and pastureland. Hidden just a few meters from land though is the Bay itself, and an unlikely pilgrimage spot that has exploded with interest in recent years. The small group assembled on time, everyone eager for the evening to begin. Coming from all walks of life and around both Canada and the United States, we all had one thing in common – a fierce interest in and curiosity about the afternoon ahead. The dining experience is hosted by the Flying Apron Inn, a local restaurant and B&B that has earned awards and praise over the years for its dedication to both hospitality and amazing food. Both were on full display that afternoon, and the experience started immediately with an introduction to foraging and edible plants, led by local expert Jonathan Newell. Learning what delicious bites lay literally in plain sight was fascinating, and made all of us hungry for the first dining experience of the day.
One thing you must do when you enjoy this dining experience is to fast the day before. The quantity and quality of the cuisine is such that everyone should arrive hungry, as evidenced by the afternoon meal offered by the legendary Flying Apron Chef/Owner Chris Velden. After the foraging experience, guests are escorted to a small glen where a lavish shore boil awaits; an interpretation of the Nova Scotian classic. When paired with local beers and wines, it was the perfect way for everyone to kick things off. Sadly, I don’t eat seafood but Chef was ready for me, instead offering up a delicious gazpacho that was perfect for the warm afternoon. That could have been the entire experience, but so much more lay in store for us that day.
Two expert guides then joined to escort us around the state park and share what makes the Bay of Fundy so very special. Every 13 hours more than 160 billion tons of water travel in and out of the basin, but it’s when the water levels are at their lowest that the real magic happens. Walking across the bottom of the Bay itself was an incredible experience I know I’ll never forget, looking up at suddenly dry islands and investigating the scores of tidal pools left in the water’s wake. With sunset approaching, it was also an incredibly beautiful experience and is one of the many things that make Nova Scotia completely unlike any other province in Canada. The tour ended at a long table immaculately set and waiting for us to begin the main event.
Dining on the Ocean Floor
With the golden hues of the sunset seemingly absorbed by the nearby rocks, it was the perfect time of day to enjoy a nice dinner outside. It was also easy to forget that in just a few hours, the dining room would be under several feet of water. It was with the clock in mind that our culinary journey began, a trip through the best food and beverages that Nova Scotia has to offer. One of the leaders of Nova Scotia’s local foods movement, Chef Velden’s day-to-day menu is almost entirely sourced nearby and utilizes the best of the province’s craft beer and wine products. That same commitment to providing a true regional experience, along with expertly executed dishes, is the hallmark of the Dining on the Ocean Floor experience. Local cheeses, homemade charcuterie, a beautiful surf and turf and more were just some of the many highlights of the evening meal. Not only the food though, but the kind hospitality of the Flying Apron Inn staff along with my dining companions made the entire event something I know that I’ll never forget. Afterwards, everyone settled into nearby chairs surrounding a roaring bonfire, enjoying some coffee, hot cocoa and chocolates as the day came to a close. With an eye on the clock – after all, the tides wait for no man – the event still never felt rushed. No, instead it was like enjoying a wonderful beachside meal with good friends.
Nova Scotia and all of the Maritime provinces really are home to some of the kindest and most hospitable people I’ve ever met. They want people to visit and to experience their homes, to discover what locals already know – that the region is a fun and exciting place to be. I can’t recommend the dinner highly enough but the secret is out of the proverbial bag, so if you want to enjoy this magical evening for yourself be sure to sign up for the announcements and be prepared to book your place as soon as spots become available. Trust me, this is one dinner you’ll never forget.