With ocean bordering three sides, this Canadian province of New Brunswick is filled with maritime fun and adventures ranging from whale-watching to leaving footprints on the ocean floor.
First settled by the French in the early 1600s, today New Brunswick is Canada’s only official bilingual province. The largest of Canada’s three Maritime Provinces (the others being Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), New Brunswick has over 1,000 miles of coastline and its Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides on earth. Today, the province’s dynamic mix of cultures and its many natural wonders offer plenty of opportunities for family fun and adventure.
Located to the northeast of Maine on the east coast of Canada, New Brunswick is easily accessible by car. Highways from the US and Canada join the Trans-Canada Highway into New Brunswick. The province has three major airports in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John. Because of its extensive coastline, cruises to New Brunswick are also an option, with special stops in the Bay of Fundy. None of the different regions of New Brunswick are too far from each other, so you can visit more than one of the regions detailed below if you’re planning a longer vacation in the province.
Saint John River Valley
In western New Brunswick, the St. John River is home to a scenic valley filled with tons of activities, including the longest covered bridge in the world in the town of Hartland. In the city of Fredericton, you can watch the changing of the guard in the Historic Garrison District, where 200 British troops were stationed in the early 1800s. In the summer kids can dress up in the red uniforms of the guard and take a tour of the Soldiers’ Barracks and Guard House. EdVentures is also based in Fredericton, a vacation learning program in craft and culture offering over 120 workshops. Participants can choose from classes of painting, photography, film-making, fiction writing, jewelry-making, pottery, textiles, rug hooking and more. The city is home to New Brunswick’s only science center, Science East, featuring an outdoor science playground and over 150 hands-on exhibits. Just north of Fredericton is the Hartt Island Family RV Resort, where you can take a relaxing riverboat tour in a pontoon boat. There are also riverside trails for a bike ride downtown, and bike, canoe and kayak rentals are available.
The Bay of Fundy
Home to the highest tides in the world, the Bay of Fundy is also known as the “playground of whales.” You can begin your exploration of this region in the town of St. Stephen, next to the Maine border and known as “Canada’s Chocolate Town.” Stop into Ganong Chocolatier Candy Shop for a chocolate nut bar and then continue on to St. Andrews, where many whale-watching excursions are based. There are tons of ways to search for whales here: you can decide whether to venture out on a small Zodiac boat with Fundy Tide Runners, a catamaran with Quoddy Link Marine, or a 72-foot “cutter” boat with a mast and sails with Tall Ship Whale Adventures. With any luck, you’ll spot minke, finback or even humpback whales in the waters of the Bay, as well as bald eagles, seals and porpoises.
From Blacks Harbor, you can take a ferry to Campobello Island, famous as a vacation spot of Franklin D. Roosevelt. You can tour the 34-room Roosevelt Cottage Museum, or explore the beaches, hiking trails and lighthouses.
Up the coast of the Bay is the city of Saint John, where you can view the famous reversing rapids as the tides of the Bay of Fundy actually force the waters at the mouth of the St. John River to reverse their flow. A good place to view the rapids is at Falls View Park, where the kids can grab an ice cream at the same time. The Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John is home to over 38 species including many exotic and endangered animals. If you continue up the coast you’ll pass through Fundy National Park, where you can kayak on lakes, hike or explore nature with one of their children’s programs. Less than an hour from the park, the Hopewell Rocks are a must see—where else can you leave your footprints on the ocean floor? Arriving at low tide, you’ll be able to wander around the flowerpot-shaped rock formations, and then watch as the highest tides in the world transform the formations you wandered beneath into tree-topped islands. You can learn more about the tides at the Hopewell Rocks Park Interpretive Center.
The Acadian peninsula, home to the descendants of the 17th century French colonists, is in northwestern New Brunswick and is home to some of the warmest saltwater beaches north of Virginia. At Kouchibouguac National Park, you can enjoy the warm water at Kelly’s Beach, walk among the sand dunes, or cycle along the many bike trails. A puppet theater and Young Naturalists program for kids are offered during the summer months. With the Little Big Bear Safari adventure in Acadieville, trained guides will lead you to elevated platforms where you can watch black bears in their natural habitat from a safe distance. Kids age 7 to 12 can experience the Acadian lifestyle firsthand by spending the day at the Village Historique Acadien, where for one day they can participate in Acadian life in a recreated village with characters dressed in period costume—kids even get to spend the day in their own costume! Tours are available while your kids are at the program. In Shippagan, you can visit the New Brunswick Aquarium, with over 100 species of fish and a touch tank.
Miramichi River Valley
If fishing is your thing, head south of the Acadian peninsula to the Miramichi River Valley, which has its roots in the Native Canadian Mi’kmaq culture. If kids get tired of fishing, the river also is host to the Atlantic Salmon Museum, where you can visit a fish hatchery and “adopt” a salmon. The town of Miramichi also contains the Ritchie Wharf Park, a great ship-themed kids’ playground with fountains next to a boardwalk. You can also drift down the river on an inflatable tube you can rent from Kenzie’s Tubing.
The Appalachian Mountains region of northern New Brunswick is both breathtakingly scenic and home to some of the best maple syrup in Canada. At the Kedgwick Forestry Village and Museum, you can discover how the workings of a recreated 1930s logging village. A guide dressed the part will give you a tour and share some forest folk tales, and then you’ll be able to share a typical lumberjack meal, of course including the ubiquitous maple syrup. For outdoorsy families, Sugarloaf Mountain Provincial Park has downhill skiing in the winter, but in the summer the mountain, an ancient volcano, is host to hiking, road and mountain biking, tennis and volleyball courts, and a playground. If your family can’t decide between the pool and the beach, Inch Arran Park has a saltwater swimming beach and a sports complex with a pool, waterslides, and a Tarzan rope swing.
For more information on the different regions of New Brunswick, as well as extensive accommodation and dining listings, visit www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca or call 800/561-0123.
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