New Brunswick is one of Canada’s oldest and smallest provinces — and one of my personal favorites. It was here that I spent my formative years playing on beaches, eating fiddleheads, scouting for whales, and exploring the ocean floor at low tide. Now that I’m an adult, the to-do list has expanded a bit, and the views I remember from childhood seem even more incredible.
Should you be lucky enough to find yourself here too, you’ll see firsthand that this place is a real memory-maker. There will be many, but here are nine moments you’ll remember long after you’ve returned home.
1. Wandering the ocean floor at The Hopewell Rocks
Every year, nearly a quarter of a million people flock to the shores of southeast New Brunswick to see The Hopewell Rocks. These quirky formations are affectionately known as the Flowerpots thanks to their unique shape: narrow at the bottom, broader further up, and topped with greenery, wildflowers, and trees. The Flowerpots owe it all — their shape, their mass appeal — to the power of the Bay of Fundy’s dramatic tides, the highest in the world.
Come low tide, visitors can walk the ocean floor and see the Flowerpots up close. During higher tides, when the water’s rolled back in, an ocean kayaking excursion with local outfitter Baymount Outdoor Adventures Inc. is a laid-back way to explore via the water. One incredible natural formation, two totally different experiences.
Note: Access is seasonal, from mid-May to mid-October.
2. Seeing New Brunswick from its treetops
New Brunswick’s raw, unspoiled nature is one of its best features. It’s an exceptional destination for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. And while I love to experience the province’s beauty through gentle nature walks, I’m surrounded by daredevils who prefer to zip, climb, and jump through it at high speed.
TimberTop Adventures in Saint John is the way to do just that. They may be one of the largest treetop aerial adventure parks in Canada, but they’re also particularly great for the family — and for all experience and comfort levels. Their “Low & Go” adventure course was specifically designed for children as young as five years old (sure wish I could use this one!). For those eight and older, they offer 11 different courses, 100 obstacles, more than 20 ziplines, and one wild Flying Squirrel jump — where you’ll plummet from a 36-foot platform.
3. Strolling and sipping at a pioneering winery
Just a few minutes from Magnetic Hill is the Magnetic Hill Winery, a gorgeous estate overlooking the greater Moncton area. Once a “u-pick” berry farm, their fruit-packed — and therefore good-for-you! — wines are some of the best in New Brunswick.
When you’re here, take a tour of the vineyards, relax with a wine-and-cheese picnic on the grounds or on the patio, or just enjoy free samples in the tasting room. One of my favorites is the tasty and aptly named Illusions — you’ll think it’s a pinot grigio until you realize it’s 100% rhubarb.
Lodging tip: The estate’s 1800s homestead has been painstakingly restored, and the result is a spectacular heritage bed and breakfast — with complimentary wine tastings for guests!
4. Going for a dip at Kouchibouguac National Park
New Brunswick’s North Atlantic beaches aren’t just gorgeous. They’re also warm! I can personally back up the claim of Kouchibouguac National Park to having some of the warmest beaches north of Virginia. (Tip: It’s pronounced “koo-she-boo-gwack.”)
If you have to choose just one, Kellys Beach is an especially family-friendly spot, with more than 15 miles of sand dunes, changing facilities, and concessions, plus interpretive programs led by national parks guides. Overnight guests have a range of camping options, including DIY tent spots and comfortable “glamping” tents, aka Canada’s awesome oTENTiks.
5. Saying “Cheers!” to the Fredericton beer scene
New Brunswick’s capital of Fredericton has its eye on an ambitious prize: to be known as the craft-beer leader of Eastern Canada. And they’re well on their way! In this city of about 60,000, there are more than a dozen craft breweries. Here are a few notables:
- Picaroons Brewing has a large outdoor space perfect for groups — try their Plaid to the Bone, a biscuit-y pale ale.
- Grimross Brewing frequently features live music on Friday nights. Opt for the Maritime Cream Ale at least once.
- Trailway Brewing reinvented Canada’s oldest single-ownership bowling alley as “The Drome.” It’s a craft-beer-bowling destination with Trailway on tap (plus fantastic food).
A couple more that I keep returning to are Mama’s Brew Pub (gotta love their superb seasonal chocolate-peanut-butter stout) and Red Rover Craft Cider (their ginger-spiced Fire Cider is amazing!).
6. Connecting with Mi’gmaq First Nations
The Indigenous Mi’gmaq have been here since time immemorial, and their way of life is still tangible at Metepenagiag Heritage Park, a 3,000-year-old village and cemetery excavated some 40 years ago along the banks of the Little Southwest Miramichi River.
The interpretive center is certainly impressive, but your fondest memories will come from the guided tour. You’ll rove the trails, gather plants and herbs for tea, munch on traditional bread, and sit around the fire — built for the fresh catch you’re about to enjoy — listening to Mi’gmaq stories and folklore. When that journey’s over, wander the trails on your own to clear your senses and connect with Mother Nature.
7. Nibbling on lobster and fiddleheads
If you can only choose one spot to chow down on seafood in New Brunswick, make it Shediac, home of the “World’s Largest Lobster,” a fun roadside attraction — and the freshly caught lobster on menus here is pretty impressive as well. It’s also worth mentioning that, a bit father north, the Miramichi River is considered one of the best fly-fishing spots in the world.
For the granddaddy roadside attraction of them all, though, the small village of Plaster Rock is home to the “World’s Largest Fiddlehead.” Fiddleheads are the unfurled shoot of a young wild fern — when blanched and doused with butter, they’re delicious! You can find fiddleheads in Plaster Rock and across New Brunswick every spring.
8. Setting sail with the whales in Saint Andrews
From minkes to finbacks to humpbacks, there are as many as 12 different species of whales in the Bay of Fundy come summer, and perhaps the best place to see them is in Saint Andrews. This small town is Atlantic Canadian charm personified, with pretty streets, cute ice cream counters, seaside restaurants, and a romantic old hotel: the Algonquin Resort.
From the harbor, a number of outfitters offer whale-watching cruises June through to October. Guests are all but guaranteed to see multiple whales, porpoises, and dolphins, and tours also take in lighthouses and seabird nesting sites.
9. Doing just about anything on Grand Manan Island
From the pictures, you’d be forgiven for thinking Grand Manan Island was a part of Ireland or Scotland — it has the heart-pounding steep cliffs, the proverbial lush green fields, and snug little cottages of our across-the-pond neighbors.
But this petite island sits at the southernmost point of New Brunswick’s border with Maine, and it has a very maritime feel, complete with lobster fishing, antique lighthouses, and an affable, down-to-earth community. If you’re a beachcomber like me, you’ll want to add Grand Manan to your travel list. Of course, as this list should show, you’ll want to add all of New Brunswick to your travel list, really.