Another stop in a park in New Brunswick, but this time in a national park. Here we are in Kouchibouguac National Park. A flat park (unlike Mount Carleton Park) where you come to enjoy the beaches, swim in the lagoon, cycle or observe the seals and the starry sky. No hikes with vertical drop. Here is the story of our day in Kouchibouguac National Park.
First, Kouchibouguac National Park
Covering an area of 238 km2, Kouchibouguac National Park presents a spectacular coastal area made up of estuaries, rivers, salt marshes, barrier islands, peat bogs, lakes and forests. With its large campsite (more than 300 pitches), its 60 kilometers of cycle paths and its beaches, it attracts many families.
Access to Kouchibouguac National Park costs in summer and winter $ 7.90 per person and $ 3.90 in spring / fall. As it is a national park, it is included in the Parks Canada Discovery Annual Pass ($ 69.19).
Our day in Kouchibouguac National Park
Running along the Kouchibouguac River
It is in running that I take my first steps in Kouchibouguac National Park. I take the Rivière Kouchibouguac trail from the South Kouchibouguac campsite to the pedestrian bridge. An 11.3 km linear path that crosses the forest and runs along the river. Several observation points allow you to watch the wildlife and the river. The trail is very pleasant for running, probably a bit long when walking. For the return, I take the cycle path, which allows me to pass twice in the same places. If you are a pedestrian, I advise you to make the section between the Ryans Rental Center and La Source.
Discovery of Kellys beach
Now is the time to enjoy the beaches of the park. We start with the most popular: Kellys Beach. Located on golden sand dunes on the other side of the Saint-Louis Lagoon, you have to take a 500-meter footbridge to reach Kelly Beach. At the end of this footbridge, 7 km of dunes (in which it is forbidden to go for a walk) run along the beach. Swimming is pleasant there despite the algae. There are also the famous red chairs from Parc Canada right at the entrance to the beach.
Wade in the warm water of the Saint-Louis lagoon
We then reach Callanders Beach. Well, rather the large field of Callanders beach. The beach is really very small and overgrown with algae. However, we do not resist the idea of wading in the warm water of the lagoon. Indeed, as there is very little depth, the water is hot. One of the hottest on the coast. With the wind blowing on Callanders Beach, it is a kite enthusiast’s paradise.
Outing in the Bay of Saint Louis to observe the seals
Finally, to end this day in Kouchibouguac National Park we leave it by road and join it by water. From May to October (approximately) the park is home to a large colony of seals and birds. Seals come in large numbers in the summer because they have no predators here. To observe seals in Kouchibouguac National Park, there are 2 possibilities: morning canoe trip with a park ranger (activity suspended due to Covid-19) or boat trip at the end of the afternoon (5 p.m.) with PhocaTour.
It is this 2nd possibility that we have chosen. Phocatour is a young company from the region which deserves to be better known. For $ 57 per person, we sailed for just over 2 hours on a pontoon boat, in the Bay of Saint-Louis. The highlight of the walk: the observation of several dozen gray seals. Seals not shy that do not hesitate to approach the boat. Arnold, our excellent bilingual guide, is knowledgeable about the region and its wildlife. It must be said that this pure Acadian was born in Kouchibouguac Park and worked there for more than 20 years. The boat trip is very pleasant. There are only 8 of us on the boat (6 tourists, 1 guide and 1 captain) and apart from a few lobster fishermen returning to the port, we do not see people on the water. If not birds and seals.
The boat allows you to be sheltered from the wind, while observing the outside. Our accompanying duo is very caring for us: advice, stories, snacks and we even have the right to return to drive the boat under the advice of our captain! It almost feels like a family boat trip! We really enjoyed learning more about the history of the region as well as all the anecdotes of our 2 guides but above all, the fact that the boat does not “hunt” seals. We can see them from a distance, sometimes some curious people approach and play in front of us, but we always stay at a good distance so as not to disturb them. This respect for the region’s wildlife is a key value of Phocatour and this is what won us over.
What else to do in Kouchibouguac National Park?
Small easy-level hiking trails are accessible, such as the Pines trail (0.9 km), the Castor (1.4 km) or the Marais Salé (0.9 km). The park is also home to 2 cycling trails: Ruisseau Major Kollock (6.3 km) and Network of Cycling Trails (60 km). As well as 3 paddle / canoe trips. Rental possible at the Ryans rental center (closed due to COVID during our visit).
Where to sleep to discover Kouchibouguac National Park?
Once again, the easiest and most convenient solution is to camping inside the park. 5 campsites are available in the park. 3 are accessible on foot or by canoe only. The 2 main campsites in the park are South Kouchibouguac (313 sites) and Côte-à-Fabien (semi-primitive campsite 35 sites)
On our side, as we did not find a freecamp near the park. We spent the night at the South Kouchibouguac campsite. Pitch with electricity $ 33.01 in high season (otherwise $ 30.05). South Kouchibouguac campground has 25 ready-to-camp (oTENTik tents), 128 sites with water, sewer and electricity (from $ 36.08), 59 with electricity and 98 without service (from $ 21.97). It is located about 2 km from Kellys Beach and on the edge of the bicycle trail system. Waste water drainage (Dump Point) and drinking water available on site as well.
The other solution, if you don’t want to camp or the campsites are full, is to stay in Saint-Louis. It is the closest town to the park: 10 km. In Saint Louis de Kent, it is L’Ancrage Bed & Breakfast which will welcome you with its Queen rooms with private bathroom, exceptional breakfast and kitchenette from $ 138 per night with free cancellation.
In conclusion, my opinion on this day in Kouchibouguac National Park
Mixed results for Kouchibouguac National Park. Although we always enjoy swimming in such a nice place as Kellys Beach, the many algae on both beaches and in the water disappointed me. If you don’t have bikes or are traveling with your family, I don’t think Kouchibouguac National Park is a must-see. 15km south of the park, is the beautiful and long beach of Cap-Lumière, which has no algae. A good free alternative a few kilometers away. On the other hand, the exit to observe seals in the Bay of Saint-Louis with PhocaTour is a must not to be missed if you are in the area. It is one of our favorites in New Brunswick.
And you, what did you do in Kouchibouguac National Park?
Next stop on our 2 week road trip in New Brunswick: On the way to Moncton via Bouctouche and Shediac.