Best Things To Do in Saint John, New Brunswick
Saint John's somewhat rough exterior deters some travelers, but those who give this industrialized city a chance will discover that tucked beneath its smoggy skyline is a wealth of historical and cultural sites. For the best introduction to Saint John and New Brunswick, spend some time at the New Brunswick Museum. After this, you can dive deeper into Saint John's history as a British colony by touring sites like the Carleton Martello Tower National Historic Site. Just make sure to devote at least a day or two to the region's natural attractions: If you don't mind the drive, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Bay of Fundy from Fundy National Park.
Updated September 16, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in Saint John, New Brunswick1.6 miles to city centerNatural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND1.6 miles to city centerNatural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Sitting just 2 miles southwest of uptown Saint John, the Reversing Falls Rapids are a must-see destination in New Brunswick. Here's what makes this natural site such an anomaly: Its gurgling whirlpools, impressive rapids and small waterfalls flow one way with the incoming tide and another with the outgoing tide. You can watch the churning water from one of several rooftop viewing areas in Fallsview and Wolastoq parks.
Although some previous travelers lamented the charge attached to viewing the rapids from the Reversing Falls Restaurant's observation deck, others were quick to recommend visiting the other platforms, which are free to access. For an adrenaline rush, consider paying for a zip lining excursion with Saint John Adventures. Zip line rates vary depending on the time of year.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Saint John, New Brunswick4.2 miles to city centerHiking, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.2 miles to city centerHiking, Parks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you don't feel like trekking all the way to Fundy National Park, you'll find excellent views of the bay just 5 miles southwest of uptown Saint John at Irving Nature Park. Occupying a narrow peninsula, this 600-acre green space features breathtaking Bay of Fundy vistas, not to mention a variety of habitats, such as a forest, a salt marsh estuary, beaches and a bog. You can explore all the park has to offer by following its boardwalk and eight hiking trails. This is also a great place for wildlife lovers: Irving Nature Park is home to more than 250 species of birds, while maritime mammals like whales are often spotted offshore.
Even if you're not much of a hiker, visitors recommend spending at least some time at the park's observation deck to watch the area's wild seals. The park is also a great spot for families: In addition to hosting free interactive activities like building bee houses and stargazing tea parties, Irving Nature Park offers the Children's Forest, where you'll find a playground and mazes. On warmer days, travelers suggest heading to the park for a picnic. Complimentary barbecue grills are available to use.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Saint John, New Brunswick55.3 miles to city centerHiking, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND55.3 miles to city centerHiking, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Drive about 70 miles northeast of Saint John and you'll find yourself in Fundy National Park, one of the last remaining wilderness areas in southern New Brunswick. The park's 50,900 acres sprawl out along the Bay of Fundy's shore and are home to wild animals like black bears, moose and beavers, providing spectacular water vistas and wildlife viewing opportunities. During low tide, the park's massive red boulders and muddy crimson beaches are exposed, offering colorful photo ops. Even when the tide is high, Fundy National Park's wooden platform trails lead through verdant, mossy forest and past tumbling waterfalls to spectacular waterfront cliffs.
Travelers praise Fundy National Park's breathtaking setting, friendly staff and top-notch trail system. However, a few warn that the lack of trail signage can make the park's paths tricky to navigate, even with a map. To get your bearings before your journey, speak with a ranger at one of the park's two visitor centers. Also be mindful of what you're capable of handling, since many trails here are considered moderate or difficult to trek.
- #4View all Photos
Located next to King's Square in uptown Saint John, the Saint John City Market has been in operation since the late 1700s, making it the oldest continuing farmers market in Canada. But before you become too engrossed in the many mouthwatering offerings at the vendors' tables, make sure to cast your glance upward. The ceiling of this massive 19th-century building (the original market was held outside) resembles the upturned hull of a ship – a tribute to the city's shipping industry.
Once you've finished feasting your eyes, indulge your appetite with some fresh eats. You'll find everything from homemade doughnuts to fresh seafood to authentic Korean cuisine, not to mention locally made arts and crafts. Past visitors raved about the market's high-quality ingredients and keepsakes, citing the latter as excellent options for souvenirs. However, a few were disappointed with the market's small size.
- #5View all PhotosfreeRockwood Park#5 in Saint John, New Brunswick2.2 miles to city centerHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.2 miles to city centerHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For a dose of nature close to uptown, head less than 2 miles northeast of the city center to Rockwood Park. This outdoor oasis is home to a zoo, a spa, horse stables, a golf course and natural wonders like freshwater lakes, caves and waterfalls, making it a year-round haven for all kinds of activities. During the warmer months, visitors can fish, swim, kayak and trek 30-plus miles of hiking trails. Meanwhile, the cooler months are ideal for ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sleigh rides and more.
Recent travelers raved about the park's beautiful scenery, well-maintained trails and peaceful atmosphere. Many also added that the on-site campground is an excellent place to camp in a recreational vehicle. However, a few past visitors offered mixed feedback about the park's staff. While some said the people they encountered seemed friendly, others thought service in the park's restaurant was slow at times and felt ignored when checking in to the campground.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Saint John, New Brunswick1.6 miles to city centerSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND1.6 miles to city centerSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Carleton Martello Tower is one of nine remaining Martello Towers (small defensive forts built by the British) in Canada. This particular fortress – which features a round shape and a flat roof that can accommodate mounted artillery (like other Martello Towers) – was constructed during the War of 1812. Although it was completed after the battle in 1815, the tower served as a British defensive structure until World War II.
Although the tower's interior is currently closed for renovations, recent visitors enjoyed perusing the interactive exhibits inside the National Historic Site's museum. What's more, many heaped praise on the property's stunning panoramas. For the best vistas, walk to the top of the hill.
- #7View all PhotosfreeMarket Square#7 in Saint John, New Brunswick0.2 miles to city centerCafes, Shopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.2 miles to city centerCafes, Shopping, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Whether you're looking to shop, eat, drink or relax, Market Square has you covered. This historic section of uptown Saint John features former warehouses that now house everything from boutiques to restaurants to pubs. At the heart of the square lies the three-story Atrium, which hosts various events, including the popular Buskers on the Bay Festival. You'll also find the New Brunswick Museum, a spa and a library here. And outside the Atrium lies a boardwalk where additional activities are available during the warmer months.
Although some visitors bemoan this mall's small size, many praise its waterfront location and plentiful entertainment options, adding that it's a great place to check out on a rainy day. Others say it's especially convenient to visit if you're staying at the adjacent Hilton Saint John or are traveling around the area by cruise ship. For fun photo ops, travelers recommend posing in front of the statues by the square's entrance.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Saint John, New Brunswick0.2 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.2 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The best introduction to Saint John and the surrounding region can be found at the New Brunswick Museum. Situated in Market Square in the heart of uptown Saint John, this museum houses a variety of artifacts that recount the province's fascinating history. You'll learn all about Saint John's industrial development, as well as New Brunswick's maritime history. The museum also features local artwork and exhibits on the province's natural landscape, including the ever-popular Hall of Great Whales.
According to recent travelers, the New Brunswick Museum's interactive displays make it a great place to visit as a family. Many also praised the knowledgeable employees, who were more than willing to provide additional insight about the property's artifacts. However, a couple of past visitors said the stuffed birds in the Birds of New Brunswick exhibit looked worn and dusty.
- #9View all PhotosfreeKing's Square#9 in Saint John, New Brunswick0.2 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.2 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you want to enjoy a bit of greenery, sunshine and music on a warm summer day, spend an hour or two sitting in King's Square. At the center of this park lies the King Edward VII Memorial Bandstand, a raised structure with a copper roof and fountain that was built in 1908. The historic bandstand hosts multiple free outdoor concerts on select Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings (weather permitting). It also sits adjacent to the Saint John City Market, making it an excellent place to enjoy a coffee, snack or lunch.
Visitors say this park is beautiful and relaxing, adding that it's a can't-miss spot for people-watching and picnicking. Others praise its historical monuments and unique design, which resembles the British flag. However, some lament the park's lack of amenities.
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