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Each season brings unique reasons to travel to New Brunswick. Winter means skiing, snowmobiling, skating on public rinks, and cozy dinners. Spring is the time for canoeing the inland rivers, fishing, picking fiddleheads, and watching the province come alive.
Summer is peak tourist season, and Parlee Beach attracts thousands of sun worshippers. The resort towns of Fundy, including Alma, St. Andrews, and St. George, get busy, too. It's a good time to trek up to the lighthouse at Cape Enrage. Summer festivals abound, and the province's two national parks, Fundy and Kouchibouguac, are filled with nature lovers.
Fall means country fairs, harvest suppers, and incredibly beautiful scenic drives to enjoy autumn foliage. Fall colors are at their peak from late September through mid- to late October. The Autumn Foliage Colours Line (800/268–3255) provides daily updates on which drives are best.
Buskers on the Boardwalk. For four days in mid-July an international array of acrobats, musicians, street theater, and comedy troupes provide high-energy entertainment by the waterfront in Saint John. 1 Market Sq., Saint John, NB, E2L 4Z6. 506/658–3600. www.marketsquaresj.com.
Chocolate Fest. Chocaholics flock to the home town of the Ganong chocolate company for the first week of August, for the full program of events, entertainment, and, of course, tastings. St. Stephen, NB. 506/465–5616. chocolate-fest.ca.
Festival by the Marsh. Running from mid-July to mid-August, this is a highly-regarded theater and arts festival. Sackville, NB, E4L 4C8. 506/536–0561. www.festivalbythemarsh.ca.
Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. Hundreds (literally) of world-class musicians perform at around 30 venues in downtown Fredericton over six days in early September, encompassing many genres of jazz, blues, rock, and more. Fredericton, NB. 506/454–2583 for information; 888/622–5837 for tickets. www.harvestjazzandblues.com.
Irish Festival. In early July Miramichi celebrates everything Irish with four days of music, dancing, workshops, food, and drink in various locations. Miramichi City, NB, E1N 3A8. 506/778–8810. www.canadasirishfest.com.
New Brunswick Highland Games and Scottish Festival. The grounds of the riverside Government House is the venue for this long-established late-July festival, one of the best of its kind in North America. In addition to the competitive games, pipe bands, traditional music, and dancing, it features a 5-km kilted run. 51 Woodstock Rd., Fredericton, NB, E3B 9L8. 506/452–9244 or 888/368–4444. www.highlandgames.ca.
New Brunswick Summer Music Festival. For about ten days in August, various venues around Fredericton host some of Canada's finest classical musicians, including at some free concerts in the cathedral on Officer's Square. Fredericton, NB. 506/458–7836. nbsummermusicfestival.ca.
Shediac Lobster Festival. The "lobster capital of the world" and home to the world's largest lobster further celebrates the crustacean with a five-day festival in mid-July. Events and entertainment include concerts, a parade, a midway, and lobster-eating competitions. Belliveau Ave., Shediac, NB. 506/532–1122. www.shediaclobsterfestival.ca.
A good way to tour New Brunswick is to follow one of the five scenic drives into which the province is divided: The River Valley Scenic Drive follows more than 500 km (310 miles) of road along the St. John River; the Fundy Coastal Drive has potential views of whales and wildlife in the region of the Bay of Fundy; the Acadian Coastal Drive offers sandy beaches, picturesque villages, and vibrant culture; the Miramichi River Route is home to salmon fishing and folk festivals; and the Appalachian Range Route has serene mountain vistas and beautiful bays. The Fundy Coast is perhaps the most popular area, and many prefer to spend more time here than in Saint John. Overnight in Alma, the little town that services Fundy National Park, or in Moncton, which has some good restaurants and shopping and fun amusements for children.
New Brunswick has three major airports: Saint John Airport, about 15 minutes east of downtown Saint John; Greater Moncton International Airport, about 10 minutes east of downtown Moncton; and Fredericton Airport, 10 minutes east of that city's downtown.
Bay Ferries Ltd. runs from Saint John, New Brunswick, to Digby, Nova Scotia, and back once or twice a day, depending on the season. Passenger fares are C$43 per adult, C$86 for a car, and C$161–C$672 for a motorhome or car with trailer (depending on length), plus a C$20 fuel surcharge for the three-hour, one-way trip July through September. Off-season rates are cheaper.
The year-round 20-minute ferry crossing from Letete, on mainland New Brunswick, to Deer Island is a free service operated by the government of New Brunswick. From Deer Island, East Coast Ferries Ltd. runs services to Campobello, New Brunswick, and Eastport, Maine, from late June to mid-September. On the Campobello route, the fares are C$16 for a car and driver, C$3 for each adult passenger. The crossing takes about 40 minutes. On the Eastport route, the fares are C$13 for a car and driver and C$3 for each adult passenger. On both routes a fuel surcharge of C$4 is also applied, and cards are not accepted.
Coastal Transport has up to seven crossings per day from Blacks Harbour to Grand Manan late June through early September and four crossings per day the rest of the year. Round-trip fares, payable on the Grand Manan side, are C$32.55 for a car and C$10.90 for an adult. A one-way crossing takes about 1½ hours.
Bay Ferries Ltd. (170 Digby Ferry Rd., off Lancaster St., Saint John, NB, E2M 0B2. 506/694–7777 or 866/7775–8291. www.nfl-bay.com.)
Coastal Transport (506/662–3724 Ext. 1 or 855/882–1978. www.coastaltransport.ca.)
East Coast Ferries Ltd. (506/747–2159 or 877/747–2159. www.eastcoastferriesltd.com.)
Maritime Bus runs buses within the province and to destinations in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. A relatively new company, their coverage is expanding so it’s worth checking.
Maritime Bus (800/575–1807. www.maritimebus.com.)
New Brunswick is the largest of the Atlantic provinces, covering nearly 78,000 square km (30,000 square miles): around 320 km (200 miles) north to south and 240 km (150 miles) east to west. Unless you plan to fly into one of the hubs and stay there for your visit, you'd be wise to have a car. There's a good selection of car-rental agencies, but book early for July and August (and be aware that debit cards are not accepted); call or visit the websites to search for pick-up and drop-off locations throughout the province (bear in mind that rentals from airports carry a surcharge).
From Québec, the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 2, marked by a maple leaf) enters New Brunswick at St-Jacques and follows the St. John River through Fredericton and on to Moncton and the Nova Scotia border. From Maine, Interstate 95 crosses at Houlton to Woodstock, New Brunswick, where it connects with the Trans-Canada Highway. Those traveling up the coast of Maine on Route 1 cross at Calais to St. Stephen, New Brunswick. New Brunswick's Route 1 extends through Saint John and Sussex to join the Trans-Canada Highway near Moncton.
A well-designed, well-marked system of provincial scenic drives takes you to most of the places in New Brunswick that you'd want to go. Begin in the south, on the phenomenal Fundy Coastal Drive (watch for the lighthouse-on-a-cliff logo). At the upper end of the bay it connects with the Acadian Coastal Drive (the logo is a white starfish on a red background), which hugs the gentle eastern shore. In the middle of the Acadian Drive is a bit of a detour for the Miramichi River Route (a jumping salmon logo). The Acadian Drive eventually meets the Appalachian Range Route (mountains logo), which takes you across the rugged northern part of the province, where the hardwood ridges ignite in a blaze of color in fall, and then connects with the River Valley Scenic Drive (a fiddlehead logo), which runs down the entire western side of the province and back to Saint John, on the Fundy Coastal Drive.
Route 7 joins Saint John and Fredericton. Fredericton is connected to Miramichi City by Route 8. Route 15 links Moncton to the eastern coast and to Route 11, which follows the coast north to Miramichi, around the Acadian Peninsula, and up to Campbellton.
Watch out for moose, deer, black bears, porcupines, and raccoons, especially at night. Although major highways have moose and deer fences, many of the secondary roads do not, and twilight is an especially dangerous time for wildlife entering the roads. Reduce speed at night.
Saint John has been welcoming cruise ships for more than 25 years and has two modern cruise terminals where local volunteers operate a meet-and-greet program, handing out information, maps, and small welcome gifts to disembarking passengers. Entertainers help to create a festive atmosphere, local artisans and vendors set up tented markets, and tour operators have kiosks where you can sign up for various excursions. City center sights are within walking distance of the terminals and tour buses give access to those that are farther afield. Saint John Transit offers a two-hour tour for C$20 and the Big Pink buses charge C$50 a day for their hop-on, hop-off service. At the beginning and end of the season, attractions and shops that are normally closed will open up on cruise ship days. Taxi fares range from C$6 to C$10 within the city center, plus C$0.50 to C$1 for each additional passenger. For exploration outside the city by taxi, a trip to St. Martins, for example, would cost about C$50 and St. Andrews by-the-Sea would be about C$102.
Train travel options in New Brunswick are limited: VIA Rail offers a thrice-weekly passenger service from Campbellton, Miramichi, and Moncton to Montréal and Halifax, with request stops at a number of smaller towns along the route (though none of them feature in this book). There is no train service to the cities of Saint John or Fredericton.
You can eat extremely well in New Brunswick, with many restaurants sourcing top-quality ingredients from local farmers, fishermen, and artisan producers. At the top end are some of Canada’s finest restaurants, such as the outstanding Windjammer in Moncton’s Delta Beauséjour Hotel, Little Louis’ Oyster Bar, also in Moncton, and The Blue Door in Fredericton. St. Andrews by-the-Sea has long been a culinary hot spot, while gastro-pubs are gaining ground throughout the province. At the other end of the scale, if you want to try some authentic Acadian food, there’s a little paper-plate diner in Shediac, Le Menu Acadien, that cooks up poutine rappé (boiled potato dumpling with meat filling), fricôt (stew), and other delicacies according to grandma’s recipes.
Just about every kind of lodging experience is available in New Brunswick, including a plethora of high-end bed-and-breakfasts, rental properties, and a smattering of boutique hotels. When it comes to chain hotels, the Delta group is the cream of the crop, offering high standards of accommodations, superb restaurants, well-trained staff, and attractive room rates. In peak season rooms are snapped up quickly, particularly in the best bed-and-breakfasts, so it’s wise to book as far in advance as possible. This also applies to specific destinations during major festivals and events. Outside peak season many of the bed-and-breakfasts and rental properties are closed, although those in the cities tend to stay open year-round. Some of the bed-and-breakfasts that are closed may consider accommodating guests staying for several nights, and rental properties may be available during the winter sports season, so it’s always worth asking.
Whale-watching, sea kayaking, bird-watching, scuba diving, garden touring, river cruising, golfing, fishing, skiing, and snowmobiling are just a few of New Brunswick's alluring experiences. Bicycling in particular is a great way to tour New Brunswick. Two favorite biking areas in the province are the 33 km (20 miles) of country roads on Grand Manan Island (you can rent bikes from Adventure High) and the Quoddy Loop, which goes around Passamaquoddy Bay and the western mouth of the Bay of Fundy.
Baymount Outdoor Adventures operates bicycle tours for large groups along the Fundy shore near Hopewell Cape, and Off-Kilter Bike Tours organize fixed and customized excursions around St. Andrews by-the-Sea. B&Bs frequently have bicycles for rent, and Tourism New Brunswick has listings and free cycling maps.
Adventure High. Experienced guides lead kayaking tours in the Bay of Fundy, and packages that include a lobster dinner on the beach, cabin rentals, kayaking, and yoga, are also offered. You can rent bikes here too. 83 Rte. 776, Grand Manan, NB, E5G 1A2. 800/732–5492 or 506/662–3563. www.adventurehigh.com.
Baymount Outdoor Adventures. This outfitter leads sea kayaking tours at Hopwell Rocks, and caving, hiking, and mountain-biking tours in the Bay of Fundy biosphere reserve. 506/734–2660 or 877/601–2660. www.baymountadventures.com.
Golf New Brunswick. A resource for more than 20 golf courses in the province, all with carts and clubs to rent. 877/833–4662. www.golfnb.com.
New Brunswick Trails Council (506/459–1931 or 800/526–7070. www.sentiernbtrail.com.)
Quoddy Loop Tourism (www.quoddyloop.com.)
Tourism New Brunswick (800/561–0123. www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca.)
Uncorked Tours. Escorted tours to New Brunswick wineries (with tastings), follow scenic routes and include visits to artisan studios. Tours are usually half- or full-days, but can be customized. arranged pick ups, Saint John, NB. 506/324–4644. www.UncorkedNB.com.
Follow the 7-day itinerary above. From Caraquet plan at least half a day to drive across the top of New Brunswick (Route 134 along the coast and Route 17 inland through the forest) to the St. John River valley. Begin your explorations among the flowers and the music of the New Brunswick Botanical Gardens in St-Jacques, outside Edmundston. The drive from here to Fredericton is about 275 km (171 miles) of panoramic pastoral and river scenery, including a dramatic gorge and waterfall at Grand Falls, the longest covered bridge in the world at Hartland, and historic Woodstock, New Brunswick’s first town. Kings Landing Historical Settlement, near Fredericton, is a faithful depiction of life on the river in the 19th century. With its Gothic cathedral, Victorian architecture, museums, and riverfront pathways, Fredericton is a great stopping place and the seat of the province's government. The drive from Fredericton back to Saint John on Route 102 is just over 100 km (62 miles).