It’s difficult to imagine a more picturesque Maritime village than Alma, New Brunswick. Nestled into a tiny delta where the Upper Salmon River runs into the Bay of Fundy, Alma is also located at a point along the coast where the giant tides of Fundy reveal a kilometer-wide expanse of seabed at low tide. The village itself is perfect enough to look like a movie set. Small businesses—lodgings of various sorts, restaurants, general stores, shops with a range of local art and gift items—occupy prim seaside Victorian and weathered saltbox structures. Like so much of the Fundy coast, trees and grass tend to grow right down to the tide line. It’s a green place tinged with sea air. It is a place of serenity in the northern climes--what’s not to like?
Himself, Yours Truly, and Mother stayed in Alma for a week in September 2005, using a self-catering cottage located above Owl’s Head as our base of operations. We enjoyed our daily visits down to the village, learning a bit about its past, and sampling its wonderful selection of seafood. Alma started its existence in the middle of the nineteenth century, tapping the wealth of timber in what is now Fundy National Park and using it to build ships. Now it takes its wealth from the sea, and from the tourists who pass through visiting the park and gawking the phenomenal tides of Fundy.
We gawked with the best of them. We made the obligatory stroll across the exposed seabed at low tide, scanning the horizon for familiar landmarks. We took to heart the warnings about straying too far for too long and took our stroll while the tide was still in retreat. The seabed is largely barren, with ripples of sand marking the water’s retreat. Shells are scarce, though tide-tumbled pebbles of all sorts are common enough. The debris of civilization is also easily found—tale-tell bits of styrofoam and metal partially buried in the sand testify that too much trash is dumped in the sea by too many people.
Using Alma’s fishing fleet to measure the giant tide is another obligatory pastime for tourists in Alma. At high tide, the boats float comfortably above several feet of water, bobbing at their docks as one expects to see such vessels. But at low tide, the wharf is virtually empty and the boats rest on cradles to keep them above the mud. We met some very agreeable fellow tourists are the wharf. An older couple from Germany expressed warmth for Canadians, the husband recalling the kindnesses he received from Canadian soldiers at the end of World War II. They were in Canada on a pilgrimage to say thank you to a generous country. A young couple from the Czech Republic simply wanted to experience the richness of travel, and here they were, adding the tides to their life list.
Our favorite place to sample the local seafood was the Tides Restaurant in the Parkland Village Inn. We typically took a table by a window, easy enough to do in the off season and allowing us to look out toward the bay and the changing face of the tidal plain. My favorite meals generally both included lobster rolls or seafood chowder, so fresh that their ingredients were still practically swimming. The more casual setting of Harbour View Market also has great lobster rolls. Here we shared an early evening meal with a couple from Maine. She and Mother instantly hit it off with a vigorous exchange on the trials of being the baby sister. As an elder child, I found the conversation both fascinating and self-indulgent—typical elder-sister response, no doubt.
Our days in Alma were pleasant and restorative, filled with all the ingredients of a relaxing holiday—good food, fresh air, pleasant surroundings, new experiences, and the opportunity to meet people we would not otherwise meet. Even the memory of this place is restorative. Would we return? Yes, we’ll try. The allure of lobster rolls made fresh from the day’s catch still is still compelling.