29 January 2019 by Andy Austen
Wexas Canada expert Andy Austen travels through Atlantic Canada’s New Brunswick, contrasting its unique cultural and culinary heritage with its spectacular natural world.
Not to be confused with St. John’s in nearby Newfoundland, this small but perfectly formed city was largely rebuilt following a huge fire in the late 1800s. As such, it’s home to many well preserved Victorian buildings, and an impressive Victorian market where you can buy local delicacies such as the surprisingly delicious D.L.T., where bacon is replaced with the local mineral-rich dulse seaweed. Or, try some of the local seafood accompanied by a bowl of fiddleheads, an edible fern, which is harvested as a vegetable. A short walk away you can take in an impressive collection of marine exhibits at the New Brunswick Museum, and also see the effects of the Fundy tides. Just out of town another example of the tides can be seen at the Reversing Rapids, where the Bay of Fundy tides collide with the Saint John River creating a series of rapids and whirlpools. It’s best viewed accompanied by a lobster roll in the on-site restaurant, complete with panoramic views and a skywalk over the falls. A visit here can be happily combined with a tasting at the nearby Moosehead Brewery. Run by six generations of the Oland family, it proudly claims to be the only privately owned and operated brewery in Canada.
Reversing Rapids, Saint John, New Brunswick
St Andrews by the Sea
Leaving Saint John behind, I headed south along the coast to St Andrews by the Sea. This pretty town, which was first settled in 1783 by loyalists fleeing from Castine in Maine, is one of the oldest and best preserved in Atlantic Canada. Indeed, its historic streets serve up a taste of the New Brunswick of old, showcased in delightfully restored wooden buildings and a seafront made strolling. Beautifully located on a strip of forested land jutting out to sea, it combines stunning scenery with the chance to see whales and other marine life, and tuck into more of those excellent lobster rolls. And, in the town itself, the grand old Algonquin Resort, where I was lucky enough to stay, is an embodiment of St Andrews’ rich history. Originally built in 1889, it succumbed to fire in 1914 before being rebuilt in the Tudor-revival style. Since then, it’s welcomed such notable guests as Theodore Roosevelt and Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales. Further attractions include nearby Ministers Island. Reached at low tide by causeway, it’s the former home of Sir William Van Horne, the man behind the east/west Canadian railway. St. Andrews is also the site of Kingsbrae Garden – a 27-acres of ponds, streams, themed gardens and old-growth Acadian forest – and serves as the starting point for boat trips to Island Franklin D Roosevelt’s summer residence on Campobello Island, and whale-watching trips in the Bay of Fundy.
Campobello Island, New Brunswick
My next stop was Fredericton, the provincial capital of New Brunswick. Here, you’ll find not only a superb array of museums and historic buildings, and a great selection of cafes and restaurants, but also a network of cycling routes to suit all levels. My personal favourite is one which links together a number of the craft and microbreweries situated around the city. I spent the night at the excellent Quartermain House, a wonderfully characterful B&B set in a late-19th-century Gothic revival house – a Fredericton landmark. With its cosy lounges and elegant guest rooms, it’s a genuine delight, as was the welcome bag of homemade cinnamon donuts – the ideal antidote for the weary traveller.
Craft beer, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Dragging myself from the Quartermain’s homely delights, I continued on to Shediac, the lobster capital of New Brunswick or, depending who you ask, “the lobster capital of the world”. After checking into the Maison Tait House – a charming nine-room inn – I took the chance to test out my sea legs with a trip out on a lobster boat to collect the catch and then watch a masterful demonstration of how to prepare and cook the precious cargo. It was a real trip highlight. Alternatively, keep your feet dry with a lobster dinner at one of the vast array of restaurants in either Shediac itself, or the nearby town Moncton, where I spent my second night in the region at the Auberge Wild Rose Inn. If you happen to be in the area in July, the annual festival of lobster attracts visitors from across New Brunswick and beyond.
Lobster fun in Shediac, New Brunswick
My final stop was New Brunswick’s most photographed geographical feature, Hopewell Rocks, located in the upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy. Due to the bay’s extreme tidal range – the world’s highest tides are seen here – the rocks are completely submerged in water twice a day. As such, at low tide you can walk right in among the sandstone formations, while at high tide, it’s best to hire a kayak for close-up look. Also known as the flowerpot rocks, the formations stand between 40- and 70-feet high, and it’s well worth spending a few hours here to see the tides changing the landscape. It’s then a choice between returning to Saint John or, as I did, hopping across the border into neighbouring Nova Scotia for a flight home from Halifax.
Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick