In my quest to hike as many of New Brunswick's trails as possible, I finally made my way to Rockwood Park. Best part, entrance to the park is free !
I hiked the portion of the NB Trail that runs through the park, 7 kms one-way, from Fisher Lakes to near the Cherry Brook Zoo. It's not a wilderness-style trail, but wide enough for a vehicle with a crushed rock/gravel base. At a steady pace, it should take about an hour and 15 min to walk this distance. Most of it is moderate grades up and down, but in a couple of places, it's a steady prolonged climb uphill.
On my return to Fisher Lakes, I took a shortcut by taking the eastern half of the Fisher Lakes Trail back to the parking lot near the Children's Animal Farm. It's a horse trail, and will cut about 3 kms off your hike back.
There are a number of wilderness trails that can be hiked in the park, and many of them connect with the NB Trail. At their trail heads along NB Trail, there are what remain of directional display stands, which appear to have been vandalized over time. This is disappointing, as there is no information for the hiker, to confirm which trail it is.
I didn't have a paper map with me of the park, so I took a digital pic of the trail map near the parking lots, and referred to it often to see where I was going.
If you're lucky, you may see - as I did - various wildlife, including deer, rabbits, and snakes.
The saw almost no litter on this trail - thankfully. Remember to carry out with you what you carry in.
If you enjoy hiking along nature trails, then this is the place to go. It was opened in 1992, and is set in a 600-acre forest at the west end of the city. It is open year-round, and best of all, there's free admission.
There are about 20 kms of trails. As this was my first visit, I picked up a free map at the Information Kiosk, and then did the Heron, Frog, and Seal Trails, which took me just under 2 hours, including time to stop and enjoy the view, snap a few pics, and check my map a few times. Additional pics can be found on my Travelogues page.
The trails are well-maintained, and range from Very Easy to Moderate in terms of difficulty. They are also well-marked, but there are a number of short paths that diverge from the main trails here and there.
There are a couple of areas where you can have a BBQ or picnic lunch, and these are also wheelchair accessible. There are also nature tours that can be booked.
Despite the great condition of the trails, some inconsiderate hikers choose to litter them. There's really no excuse for this, as there are an ample number of trash bins available. Please do your part in keeping these trails clean.
The St. John River itself flows into the Bay of Fundy through a narrow gorge several hundred feet wide at the centre of the city. It contains a unique phenomenon called the Reversing Falls Rapids where the diurnal tides of the bay reverse the water flow of the river for several kilometres. A series of underwater ledges at the narrowest point of this gorge also create a series of rapids.
The Harbour Passage runs along Saint John's Inner Harbour, from the city centre to the cruiseship terminal located on the Bay of Fundy. People can walk, run and rollerskate along the Harbour Passage, where they can also learn a bit more about Saint John's waterfront thanks to a series of interpretive pannels. The boardwalk section that runs from the Hilton to Market Square is often teaming with activity, especially if there happens to be a cruiseship in town. That's also where we were lucky enough to catch the July 1 (Canada Day) firework show, which actually took place on July 4 (!) on account of the fog.
Saint John's Church was completed in 1825 with stone brought over from England as ballast. It was the city's very first stone building, which earned it the nickname of "Stone Church". It is not as beautiful as Trinity Church but if you happen to be in the area I would still recommend stopping by, especially on a fog-free day as visitors can walk up the bell tower to enjoy a view of the city. I can't honestly say that we were made to feel very welcome, though - the lady quickly flipped on half the lights in the church and left us to wander around on our own...
Stone Church is open to visitors free of charge on weekdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Tourism Saint John has created three self-guided historic walking tours - the maps and descriptions are available on their Website and you can also pick up a free booklet pretty much everywhere in the city. I thought the most interesting of the tours was the Loyalist Trail, which retraces the steps of the 14,000 Loyalists who arrived in Saint John between May and December 1783.
There are many interesting sites along the trail, but I especially enjoyed walking through the Old Burial Grounds and King's Square. The Old Burial Grounds were part of the town plans designed by Paul Bedell when the Loyalists first arrived in 1783, and the oldest stone dates back to 1784. The grounds were closed in 1848 and they have now been turned into a nice little park. Just across the street from the Old Burial Grounds, you can walk through King's Square, which again dates back to the original town plans, and which is laid out in a very patriotic Union Jack design. Just watch out for the pigeons!
Cherry Brook Zoo is located at the northern edge of Rockwood Park and it strives to raise awareness about endangered species and to provide some of them with the most natural habitat possible. It is not very big, but if you're traveling with kids it's a good way to spend a couple of hours. Different displays, such as the Vanished Kingdom Park and Extinction Graveyard, help kids learn about the different animal species that have become extinct over the years. Of course there are also many living animals that can be seen, including a pair of lions, a Siberian tiger and a beautiful snow leopard.
The zoo is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (5:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday). Admission: $8.00 for adults, $21.00 for a family (2 adults, 2 children).
The first Trinity Church was built in 1791 and it stood for nearly a century, until its wooden structure was completely destroyed by the great fire of 1877. Even though most parishioners had lost their own home in the fire, they still put their heart and soul into the reconstruction of the church. No time was lost to replace it, and the current Trinity Church dates back to 1880. It was built according to the plans of Montreal architect W.T. Thomas, in the English Gothic style. There are some beautiful stained glass windows all around the church, as well as an interesting collection of Union Jack flags. But perhaps the church's most prized possession is its Royal Coat of Arms of the House of Hanover, which was rescued from the 1877 fire. This Coat of Arms, which is belived to date back to the reign of King George I (1714-1727), was originally set in the Council Chambers of the Old State House in Boston. When the Loyalists left New England to establish themselves in Canada, they made sure to take it with them and eventually, it found a new home in Trinity Church.
Trinity Church is open to visitors free of charge on weekdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The Fundy Trail offers shoreline scenery about as good as it gets.
There are modest entry fees if you drive in on the parkway but I don't think there are any fees if you just walk in.
If you want to walk there is a very civilized trail above the cliffs with lots of look-offs and facilities. It starts perhaps 150 meters before the entry gate and keeps going until you reach the park interpretation centre perhaps 9 km from the start.
The best access below the cliffs is either from above Melvin Beach or at the mouth of the Big Salmon River.
There is a pedestrian suspension bridge over the Big Salmon River and from there there are some wonderful trails for those hikers who like their hiking a bit rougher.
One trail goes up the gorge of the Salmon River for about 40 minutes to the Hearst Lodge where you can get a cool beverage in season.
But for serious backpackers you can keep more to the Fundy shore following the Fundy footpath carrying your own equipment for overnight. In perhaps 3 days (depending on your pace) you can make it to the Fundy National Park. You won't find much in the way of facilities, but it is lovely. Those who like this part of the coast best tend to feel the section from the entrance up to the Interpretation Centre is overdeveloped and over signed (bicycle speed limits???? - for those bikes with speedometers only)) and over built (some of the pedestrian bridges appear built to carry bulldozers). But it I've never seen any of it crowded even on its busiest days.
It is a gem.
Rockwood Park is the second largest municipal park in Canada. It has a fascinating history going back over 100 years. One elderly gentleman explained that it was named for the rock and the trees! Indeed it is lovely in those respects, as well as having many lakes within its bounds.
The city is not rich, so the park is not filled with fancy facilities - but there is nature in abundance, and two supervised beaches and a well regarded campground located within the park. There is also quite a beautiful golf course where the rough is truly rough! The park and the beaches are free access, but the campground and the golf course have reasonable fees. There is a children's farm animal area with free access, and on the opposite side of the very large park there is a small zoo with paid access.
But for me the real charm of the park is its extensive network of hiking trails. From one side of the park to the other is around 6 kilometers and it is almost as wide.
Check out the web link for further interesting tidbits and a map.
Saint John has a historical legacy of the late-1700s/early 1800s sitting atop a hill in the west side of the city - a Martello tower built by the British (1812-15) to help defend this strategic harbour from possible American attacks as a result of the outbreak of war between the two countries in 1812. These small round defensive forts were basically copied from an Italian design at Mortella on Corsica after it impressed attacking Royal Navy forces with the amount of punishment it took before eventually surrendering.
With thick circular walls of solid stone, a doorway about 5-m above ground level with a retractable ladder, three internal floors to provide the needs of a garrison of about 24 soldiers and one or two rotating cannons on its upper deck, these structures were almost invulnerable to cannon fire of that era. The 16 towers constructed in Canada originally had a roof above the guns to keep snow off, but this 'Carleton' Martello tower in Saint John had its upper floor replaced by a concrete fire-control centre as part of World War II modifications, as seen in the first two photos. The 3rd photo shows the view through the doorway, featuring the special arched brick construction of the garrison area roof, designed to withstand the shocks of cannon ball hits.
The final two photos show a view of the harbour from the tower and a distant view of the tower from another hill in the city. In the end, this Martello tower never did fire a shot in anger as the Americans accepted a British offer of a draw following their defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, releasing large amounts of British regulars for possible action in North America.
If you want a thrilling but wet ride - take a 20 minute run of the Reversing Falls in one of these craft. Powered by twin turbo-charged diesels, these boats will take you on a fun-filled tour as the operator charges through the white water, does 360-degree spins or just sits there holding his own while you enjoy the rough water up-close! We tried this a few years ago and it was something that I remember with fondness to this day. On this particular day, I only took photos because the cruise ship passengers had things booked up! No, problem - I can get there any time.
Even though you are provided a complete plastic wet water suit to slip into (see 2nd photo re a 2006 trip on the boat), you will still get wet as the waves crash over the boat in some of the manouevers - with water coming down through the neck and up through the sleeves (I know from personnal experience). They recommend that you have a spare set of clothes on-hand!
There are restrictions related to height, pregnant women and children - so check out their details closely. The rides are also dependent on the times of High and Low tide. Prices are C$33 per adult (US$24) including taxes, children C$26 and Families C$106. It is recommended to call ahead for reservations (especially if cruise ships are docked!!).
Another survivor of the 1877 fire, this Georgian house is a National Historic Site. Contains old furniture in pristine condition, china, curved doors, original kitchen implements, an iron pressure cooker from the late 18th c., If you like historic houses, this is not to be missed.
Open May 18 to mid September. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. off season by appointment
Explore the history of the local Jewish community at the Historical Museum. Now housed in a community center on 2 floors with extensive archives also available.
No admission charge though donations are welcome.
Open May through October, weekdays only, 10 to 4 p.m.
Sundays as well in July and August 1 - 4 p.m.
Off season by appointment.
One of the few buildings to survive the 1877 fire, the former Engine house is now a National Historic Site and houses the Firefighter's Museum. see old firefighing tools and lots of old photos
Mainly open in the summer (june to September), but by appointment off season.
Hours of operation:
June - September
Mon - Fri; 9:30 am - 4:30pm
Sat 10:00 am - 4:00pm
Sun - by appointment only