As Canada’s only bilingual province, French and English culture and tradition both abound in New Brunswick. The westernmost of Canada’s Maritime provinces, many travelers buzz through New Brunswick as they make their way from Quebec to Nova Scotia and vice versa. However, this is an incredible destination that beckons travelers to linger and explore.
There are amazing oceanside cities and towns, unbelievable nature experiences -- including the most spectacular tides in the world -- and fantastic attractions for history lovers. Plus, if you’re a fan of seeing “world’s largest” type attractions, there’s a roadside oddity that you’re going to love! Here are 10 of the most wonderful places to explore in New Brunswick.
1. Time The Tides At The Bay Of Fundy
The tides along the southern shore of New Brunswick are in a class entirely of their own. There is nowhere else on earth that experiences such a monumental difference between high tide and low tide. In the course of a day, the tide can rise or fall as much as 56 feet! As you can imagine, this makes for some amazing geological formations, one of which is the Hopewell Rocks.
Here, you can walk on the ocean floor at low tide and examine the base of the “flowerpot rocks” (so named because they are more narrow at the bottom thanks to tidal erosion and broader as they go up, with plants on the very top.) Those with a keen eye might also see fossils in the cliffs as well as humpback, finback, and minke whales out at sea, especially in and around Fundy National Park. Just a word of warning: When the tide starts to come in, it’s time to move! Not only is the water high -- it moves quickly as well.
2. Explore Acadian Culture In Moncton
The city of Moncton is at the heart of New Brunswick’s francophone Acadian culture. At the Musee Acadien de l’Universite de Moncton, which was founded in 1886, more than 42,000 Acadian cultural objects and photographs are preserved. Their principal exhibition, L'Aventure Acadienne, or Acadian Adventure, describes the history of the Acadian people, their language, domestic life, religious beliefs, folklore, art, and culture.
Moncton’s passion for arts and culture extends to the Capitol Theatre, an extremely rare example of a restored vaudeville theater in Canada. The theater hosts French and English productions of drama, music, dance, and comedy.
3. Embrace Small Town Luxury In Saint Andrews
Saint Andrews, or St. Andrews by-the-Sea as it is often called, is one of New Brunswick’s prettiest vacation towns. This is the place to go in New Brunswick to capture the bygone glamour of seaside resort life. The spectacular Algonquin Resort, which boasts a who’s who of famous guests throughout the years, offers luxurious rooms and services plus an exceptional dining room.
The area also has great golf options, restaurants, and plenty of history. And at low tide, you can depart Saint Andrews and drive along the ocean floor to nearby Ministers Island to visit the former summer home of railway baron Sir William Van Horne.
4. Discover Two Sides Of History At Fort Beausejour/Fort Cumberland
Not far from the border of Nova Scotia lies a military fort with two names and one remarkable history. Fort Beausejour was a 1700s powerhouse, a five-bastioned star fort that was a critical part of France’s strategic defences of its colony. Alas, its power position was usurped just three years after it was built. It was lost to the British in 1755, and they renamed it Fort Cumberland.
The fort continued to play an important role in New Brunswick’s defence system, especially during the 1776 Battle of Fort Cumberland, when troops stationed at the fort pushed back sympathizers of the American Revolution. Today, after centuries of neglect, the open-air fort is partially restored and a National Historic Site. It’s a must-visit spot for those interested in military history, and there’s even an 18th century-style camping program available!
5. Track Down The World’s Largest Ax
One of the most fun things about any travel adventure is the opportunity to track down quirky roadside attractions. New Brunswick has one of the most unusual ones in Canada. It’s home to the world’s largest ax! Made from 7 tons of steel, placed in a “stump” (which is actually concrete, not wood) that’s 33 feet in diameter, and towering 49 feet high, the ax is truly a formidable sight.
The unique roadside attraction isn’t just a cool thing to visit. It was installed in 1991 to celebrate the village of Nackawic being named the Forestry Capital of Canada. The world’s biggest ax is more than a neat photo opp; the giant stump also doubles as a stage for outdoor community events.
6. Step Back In Time At Kings Landing
Kings Landing is a 300-acre open-air museum that houses over 70,000 artifacts that showcase what New Brunswick life was like in the 19th century. Guests can expect costumed characters (including a millwright, a carpenter, a blacksmith, and a grocer), farm animals, interactive activities (great for kids!), horseback riding, an agricultural hall, a summer theater stage, dining, shopping, and more. Remarkably, the heritage buildings of Kings Landing weren’t always located on this site. They were moved from other locations around the Saint John River Valley prior to a dam construction project in the 1960s.
7. Take A Family Break In Edmundston
Not far from the Quebec border, Edmundston is an ideal stop for travelers on a cross-Canada road trip, but the city is a fantastic destination on its own, too. The area is well known for mountain biking and recreational cycling trails, its Botanical Garden with 80,000 plants, a terrific dog park with an obstacle course, and ice cream. Le Scoop Royal is a favorite stop for a cone. And at Centre d'Interpretation des Voies Ferrees: Du Reel Au Miniature, you can get hands-on fun in a 1900s replica train shed that tells the story of early railway workers. Held in a 900-square-foot exhibit that is laid out in 1/87 scale, it features miniature cars, structures, engines, and tracks. The onsite souvenir and hobby shop is one of the best in New Brunswick for modeling work.
Before you leave town, be sure to sample a ploye, the traditional buckwheat crepe the area is famous for.
8. Have Ferry And Food Adventures In Saint John
Saint John is Canada’s oldest incorporated city. It’s connected to Nova Scotia by ferry -- a fantastic option for travelers looking to minimize driving and cut out unnecessary time on highways. While it once had a reputation as an industrial city, it has found new life as a foodie and cultural destination.
The Saint John harbor has been revitalized as a waterfront tourist destination, with restaurants, galleries, and shops. Meanwhile, the Saint John City Market , which is the oldest continuously operating farmers market in North America and a National Historic Site, is flourishing. This is where locals go to grab coffee, handmade crafts, light lunches, produce, and even fresh meat. Devoted foodies will also enjoy Uncorked Tours, which take guests to sample beer, seafood, and artisan food products.
9. Explore Nature In And Around Tracadie-Sheila
Another epicenter of Acadian hospitality, the Tracadie-Sheila shore offers gorgeous beaches and coastline with an amazing view of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. It’s said that on a clear day, you can see all the way to the western shores of Prince Edward Island, though that’s not exactly a guarantee! The water does beckon all guests who visit, though.
This area is well known for fishing, birdwatching, and watersports, as well as camping, hiking, and wildflowers. However, you won’t want to spend all of your time outside. Tracadie-Sheila is also well known for a local music scene that specializes in Acadian-style kitchen parties (think dinner theater, Acadian-style). You can soak up a lot of culture at the annual festival, Ruee de Tracadie, which features live music, local exhibitions, and an illuminated boat parade.
10. Embrace The Gateway To The Gaspe In Campbellton
Set next to the Quebec border, Campbellton is one of the more isolated cities in New Brunswick, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. It’s perfectly positioned as a gateway to neighboring Quebec’s oceanside Gaspe region, and great bird watching and whale watching can be enjoyed in the area. The creature you should be on the lookout for the most, however, is the salmon. This is a famous fishing region, and Salmon Plaza marks the center of town, close to the waterfront. Look for Restigouche Sam, a 28-foot-high stainless steel salmon who serves as the city’s unofficial mascot.
Going east to Nova Scotia? Here’s how to spend a day in Halifax.