Things to Do in Saint John, New Brunswick

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Saint John, New Brunswick, located in the heart of the Bay of Fundy, offers a dynamic range of attractions for all kinds of travelers. It is an architecture lover’s paradise, a foodie destination and a haven for naturalists.

A row of historic, multi-story brick and stone houses line a residential street with parked cars and power lines overhead. The sky is overcast and trees are bare.
Saint John, New Brunswick. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Yet despite all this and perhaps due in part to its similar name to the capital of Newfoundland and the industrial towers that obscure its view, the city suffers from a PR problem. This article is here to correct all these misconceptions and to show you that, indeed, there are many things to do in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Nature and parks

A large, arched bridge spans over a wide, calm river between rocky banks, with an industrial area and a cloudy sky in the background.
Reversing falls. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Saint John, New Brunswick offers a variety of stunning natural attractions that are perfect for road trip lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Highlights include the expansive Irving Nature Park, the historic Rockwood Park and the dynamic Reversing Falls Rapids.

Irving Nature Park

Located just minutes from downtown, Irving Nature Park spans 600 acres of protected coastal land. It offers visitors the chance to explore diverse ecosystems, including salt marshes, mudflats and forests. The park features several walking trails, providing breathtaking views of the Fundy coastline. It’s a fantastic spot for bird watching or simply relaxing by the shore.

Rockwood Park

Rockwood Park is one of the largest urban parks in Canada and part of the Stonehammer UNESCO Geopark. Visitors can explore over 50 miles of walking trails, observe ancient rock formations and take part in various recreational activities like boating, swimming and fishing. In winter, the park transforms into a haven for skating and cross-country skiing.

Reversing Falls Rapids

One of the most unique sites in Saint John, the Reversing Falls Rapids are a natural phenomenon caused by the Bay of Fundy’s powerful tides. Here, the Saint John River dramatically reverses its flow, creating powerful rapids and whirlpools. Accessible viewing platforms and boat tours provide excellent opportunities to witness this marvel up close.

For those drawn to natural mysteries, a visit to the Reversing Falls Rapids is a must-see. This unique natural phenomenon creates a quietly impressive spectacle as the Saint John River flows backward twice a day due to the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy. Make sure you check the tide highs and lows for your day before setting out to the viewpoints.

For nature enthusiasts, Rockwood Park provides ample opportunities to explore its vast greenery and scenic trails. The park is also home to the Cherry Brook Zoo, where visitors can see various animals in a natural setting right within the city.

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Historic landmarks

A large, two-story Victorian house with a tower, multiple gables, and a wraparound porch. A bright red car is parked in the driveway. Leafless trees and adjacent buildings are visible.
Mahogany Manor. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Those interested in history and architecture will appreciate walking through the historic Uptown area, which has charming buildings and vibrant local culture. The city’s commitment to preserving and celebrating its heritage makes it a fascinating destination for anyone looking to experience the blend of old and new.

Mahogany Manor

In fact, if you are in any way the kind of people who care about history, make sure to book a stay at the Mahogany Manor. This unique bed-and-breakfast is run by a couple who knows more about Saint John’s history than you could read in the entire municipal library. Their home is a treasure trove of antiques and art, with plenty of historical documents to back up even their most surprising claims. The rooms are cozy and hospitable, and the breakfast is truly gourmet. Oh, and there’s a resident ghost, too.

Saint John, New Brunswick, offers a variety of historic landmarks significant to both the region’s and Canada’s heritage. Explore key sites like Fort Howe, Loyalist House and Carleton Martello Tower, each with its own unique history and atmosphere.

Fort Howe

Fort Howe, constructed in 1777, is a prominent national historic site. From its strategic hilltop location, it provides panoramic views of the Saint John Harbour. Visitors can see cannons and fortifications, offering a glimpse into the area’s military history during the American Revolution.

The site is also known for its beautiful sunsets and photo opportunities, including the famous Saint John Sign. For history enthusiasts, Fort Howe serves as a gateway to understanding the defensive measures of early Saint John settlers.

Loyalist House

Loyalist House, built in 1817, is one of the oldest residences in Saint John. This Georgian-style home offers a unique window into the daily lives of Loyalist settlers who arrived in the late 18th century. Visitors can walk through furnished rooms and see artifacts from the period.

Docents provide insightful tours that tell the stories of the families who lived there. The house remains a well-preserved symbol of Loyalist culture and architecture, offering visitors a chance to step back in time and experience early 19th-century life.

Carleton Martello Tower

Constructed during the War of 1812, Carleton Martello Tower is another national historic site. This stone tower was part of the coastal defense strategy against American attacks. It also served various military purposes through World War II.

Today, it houses a museum with exhibits illustrating its historical significance. Visitors can climb to the top for stunning 360-degree views of Saint John and the Bay of Fundy. The tower’s robust structure and historical exhibits make it a must-visit for anyone interested in military history and heritage.

Museums and Galleries

Saint John, New Brunswick, offers a rich cultural experience through its museums and galleries, showcasing the area’s history, art and cultural diversity. Visitors can explore everything from historical artifacts to contemporary artwork, making these destinations essential stops.

New Brunswick Museum

The New Brunswick Museum is one of the oldest continuing museums in Canada. Located in the heart of Saint John, it features exhibits on the region’s natural and human history.

The museum’s collections include fossils, marine life and artifacts from indigenous cultures. Visitors can explore exhibits on shipbuilding, the lumber industry and local geology.

The museum also houses a large collection of fine art featuring works from Canadian artists. A visit here offers a comprehensive overview of New Brunswick’s heritage.

Saint John Arts Centre

The Saint John Arts Centre is a hub for contemporary art and cultural events. It displays a wide range of art forms, including painting, sculpture and photography.

Local artists frequently exhibit their works, providing a platform for emerging talent. The center also hosts workshops, performances and community events, making it a lively cultural hotspot.

Visitors can experience both traditional and modern artistic expressions, reflecting the diverse artistic community of Saint John. The center’s dynamic programming ensures there is always something new to see and do.

Dining and cuisine

Grilled scallops with a lemon, mint, and Pinot Grigio sauce.
Grilled scallops with lemon, mint, and pinot grigio sauce. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Saint John, New Brunswick, offers a vibrant dining scene rich in local seafood and fresh produce from farmers’ markets. There’s something to chew on in every street corner.

Local seafood

Saint John is famed for its seafood, with numerous restaurants showcasing local catches with great local Atlantic wine pairings. Billy’s Seafood Company, located in one of Atlantic Canada’s oldest indoor markets, is a popular spot known for its fresh lobster and scallops. Another favorite, Saint John Ale House, combines craft beer with dishes like seafood chowder and fish tacos.

Visitors should also try Cask & Kettle Irish Gastropub for seafood with an Irish twist. For a fine dining experience, East Coast Bistro provides a refined menu featuring sustainable seafood. The city’s proximity to the Bay of Fundy ensures a steady supply of the freshest ingredients.

Farmers’ markets

Saint John boasts several farmers’ markets that provide an assortment of local produce, baked goods and artisanal products. Saint John City Market, one of the oldest continuing markets in Canada and the one housing Billy’s Seafood Company, offers a variety of stalls selling everything from fresh vegetables to homemade jams.

On Saturdays, Queen Square Farmers’ Market is a bustling hub of local vendors. This market is an excellent place to sample local cheeses, organic meats and freshly baked bread. Visitors can also find unique crafts and handmade items, adding to the charm of exploring Saint John’s culinary landscape.

Ksenia Prints is a food writer, blogger, photographer and recipe developer from Montreal, Canada. She blogs over At the Immigrant’s Table, a food blog showcasing healthy, beautiful international recipes for adventurous home cooks. She loves to highlight ethnic cuisines and immigrant cultures by working with chefs from relevant countries and adapting those recipes to gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, sugar-free and other dietary restrictions.

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