I’ve long said: for visitors looking for a truly unique experience in Nova Scotia, there’s nothing like tidal bore rafting.
The short version: a tidal bore forms when the incoming tide from the Bay of Fundy meets the Shubenacadie River. It can look like an innocuous wave, but it brings the energy of the tide along with it. All of that energy churns up the water in the river, resulting in choppy waves that are best experienced blasting along in a zodiac boat.
My most recent tidal bore rafting experience, unfortunately for me, was outside of the boat. While I was driving up the Shubenacadie River along Route 215, I detoured to the Fundy Tidal Interpretative Centre. There’s a viewing platform built on an old railway bridge which provides an ideal view of the bore arriving ahead of the tide, and the rafters riding it.
In just a few minutes, the water level goes from this:
To this. The water continues to flow in for another few hours until high tide, then it flows back out, only to return 12 hours (or so) later.
The platform is also an ideal location to spot riders having a great time. They’re pretty charged up by this point in the river and are quite happy to wave and cheer.
While I didn’t get out on the water that day, I’ve had to the pleasure of having gone rafting on a few occasions. It is incredibly messy, super-charged fun. Driving up along Route 215, there are several outfits who are happy to take you out. Book ahead! If the tides are high or extreme, available boat space will be limited.
I’ve done four-hour tours, which start with a leisurely boat ride up the river with a stop for sliding in the mineral rich mud along the river. We’ve always taken waterproof disposable cameras with us to capture the fun.
Tip: wear sport sandals or water shoes (no flip flops, they’ll go flying), and clothes that you can tolerate having stained red with mud. Every time I’ve gone, it’s been hot and sunny, so we’ve worn swimwear and old clothes.
After burning off some excitement on the mud bank, we piled back in the boat and head out to a sandbar to await the bore. Before long, the wave arrives quietly.
But quickly turns into a high-energy, rollicking ride on the river.
There is no typical experience. Riders hang on for their lives while the well-trained drivers charge the waves, drenching the boat, wave after wave. On my trips, we’ve hit waves in the 3-metre range, but I’ve heard it can go much higher.
Work our way back to shore after hours of fun, we jumped into the river to go for a quick, warm swim.
For me, tidal bore rafting is an essential experience, for residents and visitors alike. It’s loads of muddy fun, and the only place in the world for such a uniquely Nova Scotian experience.
See for yourself:
Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre: 9865 Route 236 (off Route 215), South Maitland
Tidal bore rafting listings