Stuart Forster speaks with a resident of New Brunswick and outlines key attractions in this roundup of Saint John things to do and see.
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The city of Saint John, in New Brunswick, offers a cracking night out. After an unexpectedly late finish to the previous day, I pulled back the curtains in my waterfront hotel room for a view of the mouth of the Saint John River. Opening into the Bay of Fundy, the scene was even foggier than my head after an incredible Saturday night out.
What had I done the previous evening? After eating dinner in the Saint John Ale House (1 Market Square; tel. +1 506 657 2337) I moved on to the Happinez Wine Bar (42 Princess Street; tel. +1 506 634 7340). That was followed by a couple of locally brewed beers in Five & Dime (34 Grannan Street; tel. +1 506 898 0020) while shuffling my feet and swaying to the Stone Roses and other retro tunes. Hours later, it felt like the beat of the Stone Roses was still thumping in my head.
Saint John attractions
To recover, I stepped outside for a breath of fresh air on the wharf. After turning along Market Street I meandered uphill to the leafy park at King’s Square. From there I crossed Charlotte Street and entered Saint John’s Old City Market, which opened in 1876. Its origins can be traced to a charter of 1785, making it the oldest continually operating farmers’ market in North America.
A sign next to a depiction of a man wearing a tricorn hat and breeches informed me that I was in “Canada’s first incorporated city established by royal charter.”
I headed to the Slocum and Ferris (47 Charlotte Street; tel. +1 506 652 2260) store for a breakfast bagel featuring egg and dulse, a type of seaweed that some of New Brunswick’s residents use as an alternative to bacon. While there I met with Dave Forestell, who agreed to provide local insights into Saint John.
Saint John City Market
“My store has been in the same location since 1895,” he explained before we started the interview, and proudly showed me one of Slocum and Ferris’s old hand-written ledgers. “It’s done business in three different centuries, so for Saint John it’s a little bit of an older spot.”
Dave is a local. Eight years in Calgary, Alberta, helped heighten his appreciation of Saint John’s heritage, which includes a number of Victorian buildings.
The text below represents Dave’s answers to my questions:
Reasons to visit Saint John
Saint John had a massive fire in 1877 so, basically, they decided to build an incredible amount of brick homes of various styles. A lot of sea captains built grander ones.
Probably due to a relative lack of prosperity compared to other urban centres those buildings never got torn down for urban renewal. An incredible number of heritage housing is right here in Saint John, clustered in a brick forest…it’s great to walk around here. You really capture the atmosphere and the history.
Best places to visit in Saint John
My favourite place is the Old City Market, of course. It’s cool. It has so much character. People sometimes walk through quickly but if you hang around it becomes like our own Coronation Street: Lots of characters and not everyone gets along! Lots going on. Lots of intrigue and competition but, for the most part, it’s a very friendly and homogenous group.
It’s a nice opposite to a mall. We get to hang out with our customers. You’re really talking owner-operator when you buy at the City Market.
Restaurants in Saint John
One of my customers, John Thompson, is a waiter at Britt’s (42 Princess Street; tel. +1 506 214 5335). He seems to know what’s going on, so you always have to check in there. It’s a lovely place and has some good beers too.
Bars in Saint John
Picaroons (32 Canterbury Street; +1 506 648 9834) is a great spot. It’s a microbrewery with a lot of character. You can bring the family dog, you can bring food; it’s very relaxed. It has the coolest curved table, which is made to seat tons of people. People get talking to each other very quickly there.
The Benedict Arnold connection
Americans come to visit Saint John and are surprised to learn that Benedict Arnold lived here for a few years. The funny thing is that he’s famous as a traitor in the States. He was a bit of a butthead when he lived here.
He wasn’t a popular guy. Arnold was not liked at all and had a few business dealings that went sour. He was not well-liked on either side of the border, so that’s a cool little story for Americans.
Things to do near Saint John
Saint John is the only city on the Bay of Fundy. It’s such a magical coast. There’s so much to do.
Right outside the city, at St Martin’s, there are some fantastic caves that you can kayak in at high tide and walk in at low tide.
Travel to New Brunswick
Flying to Halifax Stanfield International Airport in neighbouring Nova Scotia puts you a little over three and a half hours drive from Saint John. Approximately 382 kilometres of road lie between the airport and Saint John.
Air Canada operates flights from Montreal and Toronto to Saint John Airport (airport code YSL). The airport lies about 25 minutes’ drive north-east of the city centre.
Map of Saint John
The Google Map below shows the location of the city of Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada:
Hotels in Saint John, New Brunswick
Looking for accommodation in Saint John? Search for rooms on Booking.com:
Books about New Brunswick
Planning a trip to Saint John and New Brunswick? You may find the following books worth buying:
Lonely Planet’s guidebook to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island:
Find out more via the Discover Saint John website and by checking out the city’s #SaintAwesome hashtag on social media.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post about Saint John things to do and see. Planning a trip to New Brunswick? You may also enjoy posts about the Fundy coastal drive and an interview with Saint John brewmaster, Wendy Papadopoulos.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, was the recipient of the 2017 British Annual Canada Travel Award (BACTA) for Best Online Content. He writes frequently about destinations in Canada.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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A version of this blog post was first published on Go Eat Do on 1 August 2017.