Introducing St. John (New Brunswick)
A quaint harbour town with an Irish heritage, St.John is located a 90-minute drive from the Maine border and is full of history and nature excursions. The Canadian hospitality is present from the moment your cruise ship docks with a group of local volunteers, dressed in costume, hand out stickers and Canadian flags as a welcome.
Located at the mouth of the St.John River on the Bay of Fundy, it is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick.
The city of St.John is well known for its massive tidal changes where high tides create the Reversing Rapids, a unique phenomenon based on the moon phases and the shape of the bay. At low tide, the St.John River empties into the Bay of Fundy through a narrow gorge. When the tide rises, it slows the river current to a stop allowing about 20 minutes of rest time, a time when boats can safely navigate the Falls. Once the tide reaches a level higher than the river, the current reverses until full high tide and then repeats this performance backwards. If possible, it is best to view this occurrence twice at both high and low tide times. Being an ice-free harbour year round, it soon had economic growth due to fishing and being a shipbuilding centre. The Great Fire in 1877 destroyed much of the city but was built up again, in stone and brick this time, greatly by the Irish labourers.
Known for its amazing tide changes this maritime port has a colourful history.
Full of Victorian architecture, town squares with blooming flowers, street musicians and galleries, this town has a quiet and relaxed feel to it.
This is a region full of scenic vistas including impressive waterfalls and cliffs due to the extreme tidal changes. Bird watching can be done throughout the year with more songbirds migrating here in the summer months. Salt water marshes and both inland and coastal trails are abundant to explore and sighting many species of birds is common from shore and wading birds to predatory species like eagles and hawks.
Fort Howe, built in the late 1700’s offers exceptional panoramic views of the port and city. Prince William Street, a national historic site, is a beautiful tree-lined example of 19th century architecture. The county courthouse that survived the Great Fire has an impressive freestanding stone spiral staircase, each step cut from a solid block of stone.
Stop by the New Brunswick Museum in town to take a geological trip through time. Learn about the town’s lumber and shipbuilding history and observe some exquisite artworks and furnishings. A unique attraction at this museum is the full sized right whale on exhibit.
Kings square in the centre of St.John is a public square with a two-storey bandstand.
Quispamsis park, located about 12 miles from the centre is a green space full of flowers and trees with walking paths and bridges woven throughout. An open-air stage allows for summer performances and concerts while local artists can found along the pathways.
- Getting around
A walking tour, guided or self-led, is a great way to explore the town. Although some streets are steep, there is plenty to see on foot with just a map and good pair of walking shoes. The Reversing Falls is a bit father away and will take about 40 minutes to walk there.
Trolley rides are available through the historical Trinity Royal Heritage Preservation Area, containing some of the oldest houses in Canada.
Local city buses are a great way to get around the city and the Acadian Bus Lines, located a five-minute walk from town, offer regional service to other areas such as Fredericton or across the United States border to Maine.
Taxi’s are waiting at the cruise terminal and offer city tours for a flat rate or a metered rate to just get to a nearby destination.
Avis car rental is about two blocks from the ship’s terminal if you would like to rent a car if you are interested in leaving the city.
There is a daily ferry that travels between St.John and Digby, Nova Scotia.
The St.John Airport is located about 10 miles east of the city. No passenger train services are available any longer and trains are used for freight only.
- Beyond St. John (New Brunswick)
Hopewell Rocks, located about 2 hours drive from the city, is a popular place for any visitor to experience and has a huge beach to be explored at low tide. The tide changes in this area can be past 35 feet so to walk on this beach is considered walking at the bottom of the ocean. Allow yourself at least two hours to discover and walk the length of this beach and visit the interpretive centre, gift shop or eat at the cafeteria. At either end of the muddy flats are sandy beaches sitting next to marshes and are great places to bird watch. Guided kayaking tours go from Hopewell Rocks when the tides are high and offer another scenic view of the ocean and the coastline.
The city of Fredericton is located about 70 miles from St.John and is cultural and educational city to explore. Watch the changing of the guards, visit the agricultural research farm or walk through the historic district with some residences dating back to the late 18th century. Also home to the September Jazz and Blues festival the city has many walking and biking trails.
The coastline of New Brunswick is dotted with lighthouses and a drive along the coast shows the picturesque nature of this province as well as discovering the dramatic, often wooden, lighthouses along the way.
- Local activities
A day of whale watching is a unique experience off the coast of St.John; the best place to begin your tour is from Campobello or St.Andrews. A whale-watching cruise can get you up close to these magnificent animals. Many species migrate here including the second largest mammal in the world, the Finback whale. Also commonly seen are Humpbacks, Minke and the endangered are North Atlantic Right Whale.
Tour the Old City Market
Visit Old City Market, first opened in 1876, in the centre of the city. Both locals and visitors frequent it and it has deli counters serving lunch sandwiches and also offers more exotic, ethnic foods. Interesting shops selling local crafts and art are found here as well as unique items for home decoration. One shop here sells imported English goods, a favourite among the local British residents.
Irving Nature Park
Irving Nature Park is a 600 acre park located a few minutes from the city centre. Popular for its walking and biking trails along the bay and it offers beautiful views of the coastline with wildlife sighting such as harbour seals, porpoises and migratory birds that travel between the Arctic and South America. A perfect place to picnic with free gas barbeques, it also has free events like geological history talks and mud flat ecology.
- Local cuisine and drinks
Like many other maritime towns known for their fresh seafood, St.John is no exception. Freshly caught every day- fish, shellfish and crustaceans grace most menus; a visit here includes trying the freshest, succulent lobster. Mouth-watering oyster bars to quaint country inns serving local recipes, the cuisine choices vary and many include French inspired dishes as well. Inland New Brunswick is potato country producing top quality potatoes and found in dishes from clam stew to pork pie.
- Where you are docked
Cruise ships dock at the newly built Marco Polo Cruise Terminal at Pugsley piers A/B, a terminal with modern amenities and conveniences. Docked in the heart of town, you are within walking distance from many shops, restaurants and local attractions. There is the harbour passage nearby, a waterfront walkway of biking and walking paths with lookouts with views of the harbour.
- Regional weather
New Brunswick receives distinguishable changing seasons, the spring is pleasant and cool, the summer hazy and warm, the autumn a mixture of chilled nights and sunny days, and the winter, snowy and cold. July is the hottest month of the year, and in comparison January is the coldest month.