New Brunswick Travel Guide
When to Go
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.
Planning Your Time
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.
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.
Tours and Visitor Information
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.
If You Have 4 Days
If you have a short time, concentrate on one region, such as the Fundy Coast, where North America’s first global geopark, the Stonehammer, covers 2,500 square km (965 square miles) of geological heritage. Start in Saint John, steeped in English and Irish traditions and rich in history and art. The resort town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea is an hour's drive west and has plenty of art, crafts, history, nature, and seafood. Whale-watching tours leave from the wharf, and the outstanding Kingsbrae Horticultural Garden invites lingering. Spend a day and a night, then backtrack through Saint John, taking Route 1 then Route 111 to St. Martins and the Fundy Trail Parkway. Loop north then, via Route 111, to rejoin Route 1 just east of Sussex, and take Route 114 to Fundy National Park, spending the night, perhaps, in Alma. Route 915, east of the park, hugs the coast. At Cape Enrage you can visit a working lighthouse and enjoy a cup of seafood chowder. There are lots of things to do around Hopewell Cape, where the Fundy tides have sculpted gigantic rocks into flowerpot formations that turn into islands at high tide. Finish the trip with Moncton, a microcosm of New Brunswick culture and just an hour's drive from Fundy National Park.
If You Have 7 Days
Add an Acadian Coast experience to the four-day tour above. Head north from Moncton and explore the area around Shediac, famous for its lobsters and Parlee Beach. Just beyond is Bouctouche, where visitors can walk for free for miles on a boardwalk over the dunes, and the make-believe land of Le Pays de la Sagouine, which pays tribute to Acadian author Antonine Maillet and La Sagouine, the charwoman character she created. Another 50 km (31 miles) north is Kouchibouguac National Park, with protected beaches, forests, and peat bogs. The coastal drive from the park to Miramichi City, about 75 km (47 miles), passes through several bustling fishing villages. Most of the communities are Acadian, but as you approach Miramichi City, English dominates again. A stopover here positions you perfectly to begin your exploration of the Acadian Peninsula. It's only about 120 km (74 miles) from Miramichi City to Caraquet, where the Acadian Historical Village is a careful re-creation of traditional Acadian way of life.
If You Have 10 days
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).