11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Saint John, New Brunswick
Saint John is New Brunswick's major industrial center and a thriving port. The city stands on a rocky estuarine spur at the point where the Saint John River disgorges into the Bay of Fundy, and is known affectionately to the people of the province as "fog city." The city name is always written in full to distinguish it from St. John's, which (as the locals are quick to point out) is in Newfoundland.
Loyalists fleeing the American War of Independence founded the New Brunswick city in 1783. More than half the town was burned down in a catastrophic fire in 1877, and many of the city's brick and stone heritage buildings date to the Victorian era.
See also: Where to Stay in Saint John
1 Reversing Falls Rapids
The Reversing Falls occur on the Saint John River, when the rising tide pushes against the river flow and forces a surge of water upstream. At low tide the sea level is more than four meters below that of the river, and a torrent of water pours into the Bay. As the tide rises, the flow of the river slackens, then becomes still, before eventually reversing. It is at high water when the level in the Bay rises more than four meters above the river, and the most spectacular reversal of flow occurs.
The falls can best be appreciated at Reversing Falls Bridge, where the river narrows and plunges through a deep gorge. Good views of the rapids can also be found at the end of Falls View Ave. Visit at different times to see the states of the tide. Exact times can be obtained from the tourist information center.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Saint John
2 Irving Nature Park
Irving Nature Park covers 600 acres on a narrow peninsula. The coastal terrain features forests and volcanic rock along the shoreline, mud flats and salt marsh, as well as a kilometer-long sandy beach. The high Bay of Fundy tides change the landscape by the hour. More than 250 species of migratory and marine birds have been spotted at Irving Nature Park, and a number of park walking trails vary in length and difficulty.
Address: Sand Cove Road, Saint John
3 Downtown Saint John
In recent years, new life has been breathed into the city center making it a particularly pleasant place to explore on foot. Various walking routes have been marked out. Shopping centers, heritage brick buildings, and historic cemeteries are all near the downtown area. Generally regarded as the center of Saint John, King's Square has a two-story bandstand and is planted with trees and flowerbeds in the form of a Union flag. There is an old Loyalist Burial Ground nearby.
Dating to 1817, the Loyalist House was among the few to survive the great fire of 1877. David Merrit, a Loyalist who fled New York, built the white wooden house and the plain façade conceals a spacious and elegant Georgian interior.
Near the waterfront, Barbour's General Store occupies a red- and cream-colored building erected in 1867. Inside, the displays show a wide range of merchandise and more than 2,000 artifacts typical of the times. A combination barbershop and dental office is located at the back of the store, just as it would have been in the early days.
4 Carleton Martello Tower
The Carleton Martello Tower, now a national historic site, was built in 1813 to protect the port against possible United States attack. The hilltop landmark had various uses from time to time in the 19th century and again during the two World Wars. In the Second World War it served as area headquarters for the anti-aircraft defense and fire fighting services. (A two-story steel and concrete structure was added for the purpose.)
Today, the tower houses an exhibition of military life in the 18th century with guides in historical costume. Rising high above its surroundings, the tower is a great vantage point for fine views over the town, the harbor, and out across the Bay of Fundy.
Address: 454 Whipple Street, Saint John
5 Editor's Pick St. Martins - Fundy Trail Parkway
This scenic coastal drive lies northeast of Saint John, starting near the historic shipbuilding community of St. Martins. The paved route cuts along the coast, with viewpoints, hiking trails, and beaches along the way. The area once supported logging operations, including a thriving (but now gone) village at Big Salmon River. An interpretive center, a few building ruins, and a suspension bridge are all that now sit at the site.
Address: 229 Main St, St Martins
6 Rockwood Park
Rockwood Park in Saint John is the city's central gathering point for outdoor recreation. Covering 2,200 acres, the expansive park offers plenty of hiking and biking on dozens of trails. Visitors can tee up on the golf course, or rent canoes and kayaks in summer. The park zoo and a campground are popular with families.
In winter, the snowy park is a destination for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Cold weather also brings the chance for skating excursions on Lily Lake.
Address: 901 Foster Thurston Drive, Saint John
7 Saint John City Market
The Saint John City Market is considered the oldest continuing farmer's market in Canada, and the historic, block-long building is filled with local vendors selling food items, handicrafts, and tourist souvenirs. Popular open-air markets prompted the creation of this market building in 1876, and it escaped the city's largest fire the following year. The curved wooden beams indicate Saint John's once-important role in the wooden shipbuilding industry. A daily bell rings to mark the start and end of the business day, though the market is closed on Sundays.
Address: 47 Charlotte Street, Saint John
8 Fort Howe National Historic Site
On a fine clear day, Fort Howe National Historic Site provides a magnificent panorama that unfolds over the shipyards, harbor, river, and town. A wooden blockhouse is a replica of one built in 1777 in Halifax, then disassembled and rebuilt to protect the Saint John Harbour. The fort, perched high on a rocky cliff, is reached from Main Street via Metcalfe Street and Magazine Street.
Address: Magazine Street, Saint John
9 Imperial Theatre
This century-old theater is one of the grandest buildings in Saint John, having been built in 1913 as a vaudeville house. The Imperial Theatre comes with a storied history, and has been a venue for theatrical shows, movies, and church services over the years. An extensive reconstruction was completed 1994. Visitors can take a guided tour of this lovely attraction in downtown Saint John.
Address: 24 Kings Square South, Saint John
10 Cherry Brook Zoo and Vanished Kingdom
Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John is located within Rockwood Park, and is home to exotic species such as the Siberian Tiger and Goeldi monkey. The terrain of the park means that a natural setting surrounds the animals. The attraction Vanished Kingdom allows visitors to step back in time with life size replicas of extinct animals and those struggling for survival. The Cherry Brook Zoo hosts a variety of seasonal events, including special features at Halloween and Christmas.
Address: 901 Foster Thurston Drive, Saint John
11 New Brunswick Museum
Founded more than a century ago, the New Brunswick Museum is devoted to the province's natural history, life and art. The "golden age" of New Brunswick's 19th-century shipbuilding industry is especially well represented, with collections of model ships, paintings, and other items. There is an interesting section on the indigenous First Nations culture of New Brunswick including artifacts made from birch bark, quill and bead work, traditional furnishings, and clothes.
The provincial museum possesses an outstanding collection of watercolors, drawings, and photographs of Saint John, New Brunswick, and other parts of Canada. A natural history section concentrates on native flora and fauna and the usual geology of the Bay of Fundy and beyond.
Address: 1 Market Square, Saint John
Where to Stay in Saint John for Sightseeing
We recommend these convenient hotels in Saint John with easy access to the top attractions:
- Hilton Saint John: mid-range hotel, central location, harbor views, spacious rooms, underground parking.
- Delta Hotels by Marriott Saint John: 3.5-star hotel, connected to Market Square shopping mall, modern decor, indoor pool and whirlpool.
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites - Saint John: affordable rates, newly-renovated rooms, inviting pool and hot tub, free breakfast and parking.
- Econo Lodge & Suites: budget hotel, near Reversing Falls, clean rooms, free breakfast.