Saint John's history is intertwined with the American Revolution. Although the area had already been discovered in 1604 by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, Saint John was just a river and barren land until four thousand British loyalists fled from the colonies and landed here in 1783. They formed two small communities, Parrtown and Carleton, before deciding to merge in 1785, thus founding the oldest incorporated city in Canada, Saint John. The city celebrates its Loyalist past with monuments and museums strewn all over downtown. Besides being Canada's oldest city, Saint John is also home to the country's oldest museum. The New Brunswick Museum has been around since 1842.
During the War of 1812, Saint John feared an American attack, so residents built the Carleton Martello Tower, a remote outpost that surveyed the entire area and warned of coming attacks. Today, the tower makes for a great place to view the sunset.
Of course, there is more to Saint John than the past. Today, Saint John's population has grown to over seventy-two thousand, covering about one hundred and fifty square miles. One of nature's most peculiar irregularities, the Reversing Falls, is found here. Every day at high and low tide, the falls reverse flow, making for an interesting sight! There is also an excellent nature park, as well as a huge outdoor complex just outside of town, replete with a golf course, hiking trails, and a small zoo.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Saint John, which is found on the Bay of Fundy. The port is centrally located, and there is easy access to the rest of the city from the port.
Bay Ferries (888/249-7245) travel between New Brunswick, Maine, and Nova Scotia. In town, buses and taxis are the best ways to get around the city.
The Tourism Saint John (506/658-2855) will provide you with maps and brochures, along with suggested itineraries for your stay in Saint John. They will also put you in touch with organized tour companies in the area.
Many of Saint John's attractions revolve around the city's Loyalist history. The four thousand people who fled from the colonies during the American Revolution to start a city certainly left their mark. King's Square, between Sydney Street and Charlotte Street, is the city center, and home to a number of monuments to the city's past. The Loyalist House (120 Union St., 506/652-3590) was built in 1810 by David Daniel Merritt. The antique furniture inside gives insight into the period. A brisk walk west will take you past the Loyalist's Old Burial Ground (Sydney Street, between King and East Union). The cemetery has been transformed into a beautiful park, complete with a fountain and walkways.
Of course, there is more to Saint John than Loyalist monuments. The city is also home to the oldest museum in Canada, the New Brunswick Museum (1 Market Sq., 506/643-2300).The museum is very hands-on, with a small hiking trail and a full sized whale skeleton inside. There are also some fascinating displays on the area's history. The Carleton Martello Tower (454 Whipple St., 506/636-4011) was built to protect the city during the War of 1812. The tower now stands as a perfect spot to survey the entire city, as well as a great place to catch the sunset.
Saint John is home to one of nature's more unusual phenomena. The Reversing Falls (Reversing Falls Bridge, 506/658-2937) occur when the tides from the Bay of Fundy rise faster than the river can empty. As a result, the water moves back upstream. During low tide, the bay water recedes, and the water moves in the other direction. The key to visiting the Reversing Falls is to be there during the right times of the day. If you don't visit during high or low tide, you won't see anything. You can get an up-close view of things by taking the Reversing Falls Jet Boat (506/634-8987) ride. Finish off your day with a stroll through the Irving Nature Park (Sand Cove Rd., 506/634-7367).
The Rockwood Park (506/658-2829) complex covers over two thousand acres. There is a beautiful golf course, as well as a handful of small lakes, an amusement park, and a small zoo. If you visit during the summer, you might want to consider renting a kayak. The Fundy Coast is an excellent place for exploring. You can contact Eastern Outdoors (800/565-2925) for more information.
Saint John has tons of shopping opportunities. In downtown, you won't want to miss the Market Slip area. There is a whole array of shops here, including the shop-turned-museum Barbour's General Store (Market Slip, 506/658-2939). Nearby is Market Square, a waterfront complex full of quirky, offbeat stores. The Old City Market (47 Charlotte St., 506/658-2820) offers more than fresh fish, although that's what you will notice first. There are a lot of small souvenir stands throughout the market. Antique shoppers will love the selection at Tim Isaac Antiques (97 Prince William St., 506/652-3222). You'll also be able to find anything you need at the Brunswick Square Shopping Centre (King St. and Germain St., 506/658-1000).
Dining & Nightlife
Whether you spent the day kayaking, visiting the Reversing Falls, or admiring the Loyalist House, chances are you built up quite an appetite! The Church Street Steakhouse (10 Church St., 506/648-2373) offers generous portions at affordable prices. Billy's Seafood Company (49-51 Charlotte St., 506/672-3474) is in the Old City Market, an area full of fresh seafood and other treats. Right down the street is a fabulous Mediterranean restaurant, appropriately named Mediterranean Restaurant (419 Rothesay Ave., 506/634-3183). Fresh lobster is on the menu at Steamers Lobster Company (110 Water St., 506/648-2325). The best restaurant in all of Saint John may just be Beatty and the Beastro (60 Charlotte St., 506/652-3888).
After hours, Saint John certainly does not lack for entertainment. There are tons of bars and pubs in the area. If you're a sports nut, you'll want to knock back a few at Callahan's Sports Bar (122 Prince William St., 506/634-0366). Beer and billiards come together at Dooly's Billiard Parlour (535 Westmorland Rd., 506/652-7665). The smart drinker will want to visit Einstein's Pub and Well (178 Thorne Ave., 506/635-8530). Finally, the dance floor at Vito's Dining Room and Lounge (69 Russell St., 506/634-1300) is always full!