The Maritimes just doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Maritimers are known to be friendly, humble and humorous. But few people know that one of Canada’s most epic dining experiences is in Nova Scotia.
Dining on the Ocean Floor is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to taste the flavour of Nova Scotia in a way that is completely unforgettable. I was most excited about the six-hour experience because it happens to be where I grew up.
The Bay of Fundy has always just been a part of my life. As a child we had school trips to check out tiny sea creatures and fossils in the tidal pools, later as a teenager we would head out to Halls Harbour for evening bonfires.
The Bay of Fundy is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of North America. But it was always just a backdrop to my life. Nothing special. Not something people would really care about.
But the more I travel the world, the more I realize just how lucky I was to grow up here. I’m really proud to call myself a Maritimer and I’m so thrilled travellers can have a world-class experience in my home.
What’s So Special About Dining (Literally) on the Ocean Floor
The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world and can be over 15 meters (50 feet) – that’s the height of a five storey building. Each day, the basin completely empties and then rises about an inch a minute and is filled with 160 billion tons of water.
So yeah it’s kind of a big deal.
So if you are planning any kind of trip you need to know the tide times – especially if you want to cook and host a dinner.
The Flying Apron Inn & Cookery had the vision to see just how special an experience this could be.
And one that you can only have in Nova Scotia.
It’s not just the flavours of Nova Scotia, but also the wild nature of the ocean. Where else can you dine where there was once 50 feet of water, with a jagged coastline of red sandstone cliffs, flower pot islands, ocean caves and the briny smell of the sea.
I was VERY lucky that Tourism Nova Scotia was able to provide a media pass for this event. This epic experience is only available 6 times in 2019 – and the timing is dictated by nature. In fact, dinner can’t be delayed, because as it wraps up the tide is coming in.
Where is Burntcoat Head Park?
Burntcoat Head Park is located in the inlet of the Bay of Fundy in East Hants County, called the Minas Basin. The Park existed for years as only a place that locals knew and visited.
It was only a while back that people realized that tourists were interested in visiting areas like this and so they built facilities, including a VERY clean bathroom, picnic tables, a look out spot and stairs down to the ocean floor.
Dining on the Ocean Floor was created to bring some attention to the area. That the Annapolis Valley had so much more to offer, it isn’t just wine country. We have the highest tides in the world, the tide comes in and out twice a day but it’s not something you can really go see, as it rises an inch an hour.
This is why Dining on the Ocean Floor is so special, because you can take advantage of low tide to experience it.
It’s very easy to get here although you are driving on many backroads and there are a few patches that aren’t the best. It is on the picturesque Lighthouse Route in Nova Scotia, one of the six seacoast drives in Nova Scotia. Allow yourself extra time to drive slowly and stop for photos as the view is stunning.
Edible Foraged Foods in Nova Scotia
This is a six-hour experience and introduction to the flavours of Nova Scotia. Expert forager Jonathan Newell of Newell’s Jewels Edibles introduces shared all of the wild foods that are available in Nova Scotia.
I LOVED this part of the day with him. While I consider myself a city girl, foraging is so freaking cool. I adored foraging mushrooms in Spain, and I always looked forward to foraging wild foods in spring in Ontario.
But I’ve NEVER foraged anything in Nova Scotia and I was fascinated by how much we could find.
- Dandelions aren’t just weeds, the greens are delicious (check out this dandelion salad recipe)
- Spruce, which people turn into beer, tea or this spruce tip vinegar recipe
- Wild carrots – which I’ve never seen before!
- Cattails – which I didn’t know were edible
- Sea rocket, which he calls Nova Scotia wasabi because it tastes like it
- Kelp aka kombu
Interested in foraging? Here are some great books
And specific Nova Scotia wild plants
- Edible Plants of Atlantic Canada: Field Guide
- Trees and Shrubs of the Maritimes
- Weeds of the Northeast
- Wildflowers of Nova Scotia
Shore Boil Lunch Course
What I like about this day is that you don’t have to wait long to eat. After the foraging lesson we left for Chef Chris Velden’s shore boil lunch with sustainable seafood cooked in Tidal Bay wine – Nova Scotia’a appellation wine, which pairs so well with seafood.
We in the warm weather on Adirondack chairs with three buckets in the middle to throw our clams, mussels and lobster claws. It was a fun way to get to know the group as only a few had good aim.
I didn’t get a single one in.
Tour of Burntcoat Head Park
This felt like such a throwback to my school days. I remember being fascinated with all the sea creatures that the ocean left in the tidal pools. And somehow I was equally as fascinated as an adult – I had forgotten all about this.
Our guides from the park helped us navigate the stairs down the red sandstone cliffs, giving us sage advice that the green seaweed was slippery. But that day everything was slippery, but we shuffled along without anyone taking the tumble.
We walked around as the tide was at it’s lowest point. Guides showed us the sea life in the little tidal pools and the history of the park.
This area had always existed and locals visited but no one else really knew about it. So they built a park area with picnic tables, clean washrooms and signage to find it with local tide times.
Most importantly there are signs to guide you and better stairs down to the ocean floor.
Dinner on the Ocean Floor
It drizzled but the ocean air was warm and everyone was in a great mood. We made our way to the table, but first stopping for Avondale Sky wine and Meander River Farm beer.
Each course was paired with wine and beer. The most interesting was Meander River Surf & Turf Scotch Ale made with with seaweed and peated malt specifically for the Dining on the Ocean Floor event. Otherwise it’s rare to find.
- Celebration Plate: Flying Apron charcuterie, pickles and crackers with Nova Scotia cheese.
- High Tide, Low Tide: Nova Scotia beef, butter poached lobster and organic vegetable succotash.
Typical Maritime weather, the sun came out as soon as we returned to the Adirondack chairs for dessert.
The Sun & Moon Meet course: Fresh local berries, lavender phyllo and Grand Marnier mascarpone cream. Organic, fair-trade tea and coffee were served with enough time to catch the sunset.
Dining on the Ocean Floor Details
- This one-of-a-kind culinary experience is definitely a splurge $950/per couple + HST and gratuity.
- You can cancel up to three weeks before the dinner.
- Dinner is held rain or shine unless it’s unsafe or extreme weather such as thunderstorms. In that case dinner would most likely be held the next day. Our dinner was delayed one day.
Burntcoat Head Park Tips
Let’s face it. I am not an outdoorsy kind of person. I am often underprepared or ill dressed. It had been years since I explored the Bay of Fundy, but I knew better than to show up in heels.
The ocean weather can be unpredictable, it might rain, it could be scorching hot. They say in Nova Scotia if you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes.
- Rubber boots. Many of us had on running shoes (despite the advice to bring rubber boots) and we were trying to navigate the mud
- A hat or visor for the sun. Because of the ocean air, the strength of the sun can be deceiving
- A light sweater as it gets cooler later in the afternoon
- Mosquito repellent
- Light rain jacket if there’s any chance of rain
What to Do if Dining on the Ocean Floor is Sold Out
The 2019 tickets sold out in minutes. While there is a wait list that often fills up as well, but you can sign up for the email notification here when they open availability.
While this is truly an incredible experience, there are only so many seats. However, the region is still worth visiting on its own. And you can DIY your own experience!
Burntcoat Head Park is a public park that you can visit independently (check tide times here). If you book in advance you can arrange your own tour of the ocean floor here, for a very reasonable fee of $18/person. I really do recommend a a tour as the guides will help show you so much that you would have missed.
The park also has picnic tables so you can bring your own food and drink. Either pick up a bottle of Tidal Bay wine at the NSLC or stop off at Avondale Sky winery and Meander River Farm before you head to the park.
If you’d like to try Chef Chris Velden’s food visit Flying Apron Cookery, or call ahead to see if they’ll arrange a picnic to go – they may hate me for suggesting that but you can’t beat eating at the park.
If you have a hankering for lobster, head to the Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound to get lobsters to go. They’ll crack it for you to make it easier for your ocean picnic.
Where to Stay at the Bay of Fundy
Although I was able to go back to my family’s house there are lots of great options if you want to spend the night:
Several people in our group were staying at the Shangri-La Cottages next to the park entrance. They loved it because the cottage patios looks out onto the Bay of Fundy with incredible views of high and low tide.
There is wifi and a kitchen but you must bring food and drink with you. It’s a rural area as there are no shops or supermarkets around.
Flying Apron Inn & Cookery
This lovely family-run inn and restaurant is in Summerville, about 40 minutes from Burntcoat Head Park.
Rates begin at $130 and include a hot breakfast. Flying Apron also offers dinner and cooking classes at the Inn.
Tidal Bore Rafting Resort
This gorgeous resort is only 30 minutes outside the park and home to Tidal Bore Rafting which is a must-do in this area.
The Resort has a number of cottages starting at $130/night along with other options including chalets with 5 bedrooms.
Disclosure: This is part of a paid partnership with Tourism Nova Scotia. But really this is a dream job for me. I’m so proud to be able to work on a program where I share everything delicious about where I grew up.
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Images: Lead photo and social media sharing images (c) Tourism Nova Scotia