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 historic 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 Loyalist House and the Carleton Martello Tower. 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 24, 2018
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Sitting at Market Square in downtown Saint John, the Saint John City Market has been in operation since the late 1700s, making it the oldest continuing farmer's 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 salads and sandwiches to fish and chips, not to mention handmade arts and crafts. As one Yelp.com user puts it, "Whether you're in the mood for fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh brewed coffee, bakery items, Korean food … lobster, or ice cream, there's something to satisfy everyone's taste."
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According to previous Saint John visitors, this natural phenomenon is sure to wow you. Sitting just west of downtown Saint John, the Reversing Falls is a rocky gorge overlooking gurgling whirlpools, impressive rapids and several small waterfalls. Here's what makes this natural site such an anomaly: The whirlpools, rapids and waterfalls flow one way with the incoming tide and another with the outgoing tide. According to one TripAdvisor user, "It was impressive to see the water churning as the tide changes and the dramatic tidal difference was awesome!"
There are several ways to experience the Reversing Falls. You can watch the churning water from one either Fallsview Park or Reversing Falls Park, or you can observe from above on the rooftop viewing platform (all of these options are free). If you want to get up close and personal, many previous visitors recommend challenging gravity on a zip line tour: Saint John Adventures features a network of five zip lines across the falls. According to one TripAdvisor user, "This is a great zip line to start with if you have never done it before because it is not too high or too long." Tours cost $60 CAD ($60 USD) for adults and $50 CAD ($50 USD) for children and seniors.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Saint John, New BrunswickParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
If you don't feel like trekking all the way to Fundy National Park, you'll find excellent views of the bay just a short drive from downtown at Irving Nature Park. Occupying a narrow peninsula about 10 miles southwest of Saint John, this 600-acre green space features breathtaking Fundy vistas, not to mention a variety of habitats such as a forest, a salt marsh estuary, a beach and a bog. You can explore all the park has to offer by following its numerous hiking trails. This is also a great place for wildlife lovers: Irving Nature Park is welcomes roughly 250 different species of birds, while maritime mammals such as whales are often spotted off-shore.
Even if you're not much of a hiker, recent visitors recommend at least spending some time at the park's observation deck. And remember to bring your camera: as one TripAdvisor user writes, "At the observation deck, you will see seals sticking their heads out of the water or on the rocks."
- #4View all Photos#4 in Saint John, New BrunswickHiking, Recreation, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Recreation, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Saint John's most stunning feature is the Bay of Fundy, and the best way to savor it is to follow the Fundy Trail Parkway. You can walk, bike or drive along this 20-mile, multi-use trail for spectacular views of the bay, while smaller side paths lead to various beaches along the shore. Hikers and bikers will find numerous look-outs and benches along the way, and numerous parking areas allow you to park and explore.
According to one TripAdvisor user, "You can drive it fast, but slow down and take your time." However, if you're planning to cover the Fundy Trail Parkway by bike, another TripAdvisor user advises caution: "Unless you are in great athletic shape and love doing lots of inclines, I would not recommend it as an easy-going bike ride."
- #5View all Photos#5 in Saint John, New BrunswickHiking, Parks and GardensTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Parks and GardensTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Drive about an hour and a half drive east from 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 129 square miles sprawl out along the Bay of Fundy's shore, providing spectacular views of the water. During low tide, the parks 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 cliff-top Bay of Fundy vistas.
According to The New York Times, Fundy National Park is "one of Canada's best-kept secrets:" It's likely that, even during the summer high season, you won't encounter anyone else along the trails. "We hiked 11 trails and saw a grand total of 4 people," one TripAdvisor user says. However, you will likely come across some of the park's full-time residents, including loons, beaver and even moose.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Saint John, New BrunswickMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
The best introduction to Saint John and the surrounding region can be found at the New Brunswick Museum. Sitting about a mile and a half west of downtown 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. "It would definitely be a great place to take the kids," notes one TripAdvisor user. "I saw that the staff provided special activities for children." And speaking of the staff, many previous visitors note that the employees were very knowledgeable and happy to provide more insight on the artifacts.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Saint John, New BrunswickMonuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Carleton Martello Tower is one of nine remaining Martello Towers (small defensive forts built by the British Empire) in Canada and a National Historic Site. This particular fortress was constructed during the War of 1812. Although it was completed after the War of 1812 in 1815, the Carleton Martello Tower served as a British defensive structure until World War II. Like other Martello Towers , this one is round with a flat roof once used to mount artillery.
Today, you can explore both the exterior and the interior of the tower, where you'll find a reconstruction of a 19th-century barrack room as well as information on Saint John's participation in the Second World War. While most visitors enjoyed this taste of military history, one TripAdvisor user claims that the Carleton Martello Tower is worth visiting for the views alone: "Picture-taking on a clear day is wonderful because the tower, obviously, overlooks the bay."
- #8View all Photos#8 in Saint John, New BrunswickHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
If you're interested in history, set aside some time to visit the Loyalist House. This Georgian structure was built in 1817 and originally belonged to British Loyalist Thomas Merritt. Those who visit the Loyalist House will find it filled with authentic 19th-century furnishings and décor. You are welcome to explore the house on your own, but many recent visitors recommend tagging along on a guided tour, which is included with your entrance fee. As one TripAdvisor user writes, "It doesn't take long to go through the house and the tour guide gives some useful information."
The Loyalist House is located in downtown Saint John near the Saint John City Market. Visitors are welcome on weekdays between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from mid-May and the end of June and every day from July to mid-September. During the rest of the year, you will have to call ahead and make an appointment to tour the house. Admission is $5 CAD ($5 USD) for adults and $2 CAD for children. For more information, visit the Loyalist House website.
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