All things considered, New Brunswick could be considered the Rodney Dangerfield of Canada, in that it gets no respect from the travel media and most travelers in general. The phrase that is often used to describe New Brunswick is that is is a “drive-through province”. The people that take this attitude have no idea on what they’re missing out on.
While this province may not have the towering mountains of Western Canada, it does boast prime frontage on the Bay of Fundy coast, which only have the highest tides in the world … no big deal.
Half the region speaks French, creating a culture that is distinct and unique from their Quebecois cousins to the north … but you’d probably find that boring.
The warmest sea beaches in all of Canada can be found along New Brunswick’s sandy Gulf of St. Lawrence coastline, with the ocean here being the mildest north of Virginia, which sits almost 1,800 kilometres (more than 3,000 miles) to the south of this Canadian Maritime province.
But who loves long expanses of virtually deserted fine sandy beaches with delightfully warm water? Two words: over … rated.
Yeah, you should just speed through this waste of land that sits between Central Canada and the other provinces of Atlantic Canada. Nothing to see here.
What To Do – Culture & History
If you are doing the coast to coast road trip of Canada, you will be entering New Brunswick from the northwest, so the content of this guide will start in the tiny forestry dependent town of Plaster Rock. In the past decade, this unassuming settlement has put itself on the global map by founding the insanely successful World Pond Hockey Championships.
Founded in 2002 with 40 teams from the Maritimes and the U.S. State of Maine, it has since grown to 120 teams hailing from 15 countries from places as far flung as Singapore and Puerto Rico. The tournament for 2015 will be held between February 12th to February 15th, so if you’re wondering if there’s a reason to come to Canada in winter for reasons other than skiing, this is another great motivator.
One of the sights that New Brunswick is famous for is the charming covered bridge, dating from the days of horse and carriage transport. The longest of this type of span in the world can be found in the village of Hartland, which stretches over 1,282 feet across the lazy Saint John River.
After the events of the American Revolutionary War, subjects that still swore loyalty to the British crown suddenly found themselves quite unwelcome in their own communities. Many fled to places like New Brunswick, starting a new life along the fertile banks of the Saint John River. Kings Landing Historical Settlement, situated just northwest of the provincial capital of Fredericton, chronicles what the daily lives of newly transplanted loyalists were like some 200 years ago. Actors bring the village to life, as you’ll get to see them at work on the farm, and at play at a barn dance, in addition to a museum that shows off tools and artifacts that 18th and 19th century settlers depended upon to make their daily lives work.
Running one of the most significant countries in the Western Hemisphere during the dire days of the Great Depression and World War II was a certainly a trying task. So when Franklin Roosevelt needed to partake in some badly needed rest and relaxation, he absconded to Campobello Island, a place which was actually in Canadian territory. Accessible by bridge from Maine and by ferry from Deer Island in New Brunswick, this former summer home of FDR is jointly funded by Parks Canada and the U.S. Parks Service, and shows how the former American presdient and his dear wife lived back in the early days of the 20th century, away from the pressures of Washington D.C.
Finally, the north and eastern parts of New Brunswick are dominated by the French Acadian culture, the differences which will be blatantly apparent within an hour of arriving in this portion of the province. The communities strung out along the road for kilometres, the distinctive red, white and blue flag with the gold star, the Dixie Lee chicken restaurants will be the first things you’ll notice.
In order to dig down deep into the culture of Acadia though, be sure to attend Le Pays de la Sagouine, a dinner theatre show that is based in Bouctouche, a town on the eastern Acadian coast north of Moncton. The food mirrors the delicacies that has long defined this culture, while the actors will bring a Prohibition era Acadian fishing village to life in a colourful and entertaining fashion.
There are numerous cultural events held in Fredericton and other parts of the Province throughout the year.
What To Do – Natural Attractions
Much of the outstanding natural attractions that define New Brunswick can be found along the coast of the Bay of Fundy, which experience the highest tides in the world on a daily basis. Everyday, the ocean surges forward and recedes to the tune of 50 feet at peak tides, a natural process that has shaped the coastal landscape of the Fundy coast of New Brunswick.
One of the highlights of these many formations are the Hopewell Rocks, which are dramatic sea stacks that have stood up against the poundings that the sea has dealt out over millions of years. Two occurrences of the low and high tide happen per day, with the low tide being popular among most who love the novelty of walking on the sea floor, and high tide, which brings out the kayakers to paddle well above where masses of tourists were walking just hours before.
If you are walking below the flowerpots (the common nickname for these formations) at low tide, note the time at the bottom of the stairs to avoid getting stranded by the rapidly rising ocean waters.
Rock climbers will want to make for Cape Enrage, which is a sea cliff that is found halfway between Saint John and Moncton. Standing 60 feet high, it will provide a challenge to beginners and experts alike, while those who are less motivated by adrenaline soaked activities will love the sweeping views of the Bay of Fundy below, as well as the charming lighthouse at the edge of the cape.
Back in the city of Saint John, take in Reversing Falls, which is another way to observe the sheer power of the tides in the Bay of Fundy. When the high tide rolls in, it actually reverses the course of the river, which is a natural occurrence that is almost biblical in its scale. The rough water that occurs during this short time window makes for fun jet boat rides, and for those more hands on, a challenging whitewater kayak ride in the portion of the river mouth that gets extremely wavy.
If you love to go swimming during a day at the beach, you might be disappointed in many places in Canada, where water temperatures are markedly colder than many other temperate places around the globe during the summer time. The coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a much different story, as the shallow waters of this body of water heat up rapidly during the summer months, making for excellent swimming.
Kouchibouguac National Park is the ideal place to indulge in this rare bit of beach bumming, as the off white sand dune beaches here are delightful, and the tidal lagoons can heat up to a subtropical 26 degrees Celsius, making for a relaxing dip that doesn’t shock you into having a near heart attack upon entry.