New Brunswick is one of those mysterious places in Canada’s far east that is rarely on the radar for Aussie travellers.
The easy-breezy provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are collectively known as the Maritimes. Primarily a summer holiday hotspot, and bountiful in unspoilt natural beauty, bilingual (French and English) New Brunswick attracts visitors in search of wind in their hair, old-fashioned confectionary, Acadian culture, kayaking, great fishing, and awesome beer.
Admittedly, getting to New Brunswick is no mean feat for an Australian traveller. First you have to get to Canada, then over to the eastern side of the country to Toronto or Montreal, then on to the Maritimes. But it’s worth the effort. In New Brunswick, capital city Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John all have key airports. Alternatively, you could hit the road by car from Quebec City (travelling alongside the Saint Laurence River and into New Brunswick via Edmundston), or fly into Halifax in Nova Scotia and drive from there.
Once you’ve arrived, road tripping is where it’s at. Saint John is the ideal coastal base from which to explore.
Here are ten of the best things to do in New Brunswick.
The Bay of Fundy separates New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and for a body of water, it’s pretty damned impressive. It’s renowned for having the highest tides in the world, which attracts visitors of the human and marine-dwelling varieties in equal measure. Between June and October, whales can be spotted taking advantage of the food the twice-daily tidal movement kicks up. Fundy Tide Runners offers a whale-watching tour from Saint Andrews, or if you’re lucky, you may see a whale during the ferry crossing from Saint John to Digby. For your own taste of the region’s piscatorial delights, book a Bay of Fundy seafood tasting tour in Saint John.
Stark visual evidence of the bay’s mighty tides is on display at the Hopewell Rocks — located about two hours’ drive northeast of Saint John.
Much of life in the city of Saint John revolves around the water, so it’s fitting that one of its top tourist attractions is located in the Saint John River, right in the heart of the city. A daily crowd comes to see the natural phenomenon known as the Reversing Falls, when the low tide forms rapids and whirlpools in a particular part of the river. When the Bay of Fundy tide rolls in to re-fill the river, it ‘reverses’ the flow of water temporarily. Take a stroll on the Reversing Falls Skywalk, which pokes out over the river and offers a bird’s eye view.
Early 20th century industrialist and entrepreneur K C Irving is credited with making Saint John the city it is today, so it’s no wonder there are a multitude of places that bear his name. One notable namesake is the Irving Nature Park — a 600-acre reserve full of hiking trails, flora, fauna, beaches, marshland, and eleven glorious kilometres of Bay of Fundy coastline. There’s also a boardwalk that stretches into the sprawling salt marsh, which is perfect for bird watching.
All Maritimers associate the name Oland with beer. The family has been brewing beer since 1867 when Susannah Oland sold her ale from the family’s farm in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Following the devastating Halifax Explosion in 1917, the family relocated to Saint John. 150 years on, and now known as Moosehead Breweries, they remain Canada’s oldest independent brewer. Take one of a number of daily guided tours through the working brewery. You’ll even get to sample the freshest beer possible — stuff that hasn’t been exposed to light until it reaches your glass. It’s the best thing ever.
Saint Andrews is located an hour’s drive from Saint John, and is the ideal scene for a classic summer seaside short break. Possibly best known for its historical and definitive hotel — The Algonquin Resort St. Andrews by-the-Sea — this is the kind of place you retreat to for a relaxing and peaceful sojourn. We’re talking salty air, sunny days, a good book and time to stop and smell the lilacs. Saint Andrews is also a popular golfing and boating destination.
Thirty minutes’ drive northwest of Saint Andrews is the town of Saint Stephen, where you’ll discover another Canadian company with a legendary backstory — Ganong chocolate. Back in 1873, the Ganong brothers began the journey that has guaranteed them a place in the hearts and stomachs of Canadians. You’ll find Ganong chocolate and candy in stores across the country, but for the real deal, go to the source in Saint Stephen — The Chocolatier Store. Possibly their most unique creation is their candy called Chicken Bones: a hard, cinnamon lolly with dark chocolate on the inside. Don’t knock it until you try it.
There’s no shortage of options for a longer NB roadie, but if you’re looking to do a truly epic trip, choose the Acadian Coastal Drive. The 750-kilometre scenic route literally takes in the province’s entire east coast, where Acadian culture (that of the descendants of the original French settlers) is particularly strong. The drive begins in Aulac near the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia border, and heads north from there. Stop off in Bouctouche for a vibrant and entertaining evening at Le Pays de la Sagouine. This beautiful waterfront property dishes up dinner theatre of skits (performed in French) about Acadian history and culture.
If you’re travelling with kids, or you just like to be a kid now and then, do not miss a visit to Magic Mountain — the coolest place to be in Moncton on a humid summer day. The theme and water park features four zones: Splash, Fun, Golf, and Tek, so there’s bound to be something for everyone. Chillax on the Lazy River or feel the need for speed on The Torpedo or Kamikaze.
If you’re planning to head over to Prince Edward Island, the gateway is the epic Confederation Bridge. The award-winning piece of construction opened in 1997 to make the small island more accessible, and it made the record books as part of the deal. It spans 12.9 kilometres across the Northumberland Strait — the longest bridge in the world over an icing body of water. Access the bridge near Port Elgin in the south-east corner of New Brunswick. Travel restrictions are placed on vehicles in winds exceeding 70 kilometres-per-hour, so it’s always a good idea to check the website for restrictions before you set off.
Back in Saint John, take your appetite and wallet for a stroll around the Saint John City Market in Uptown. The indoor farmers’ market hosts more than 35 permanent and casual stalls, with wares ranging from fresh fish and local fruits and vegetables, to creative handicrafts and souvenir T-shirts. Stop by Slocum & Ferris for a bite to eat, and don’t leave without a take-home bag of dulse (dried seaweed) — a Maritime delicacy from Grand Manan Island.
If you’re flying into or out of Fredericton, be sure to pop into the Boyce Farmers Market on a Saturday morning for more local fare and cultural crafts.
For more information, please visit www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in New Brunswick? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand and Australia. She also spent six months working on a cruise ship in Europe. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book or zooming in on a beautiful scene. She’s also likely to be boarding a plane — or jumping out of one.