Saint John Things to Do

  • Irving Nature Park in Saint John, NB
    Irving Nature Park in Saint John, NB
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    Inside the beautiful Trinity Church
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Best Rated Things to Do in Saint John

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    Reversing Falls

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Jul 27, 2004

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    The 'Reversing Falls' is actually a rapids that is formed by the 450-mile long Saint John River meeting the world's highest tides in the Bay of Fundy. These tides cause the water level in the Bay to vary by more than 50-feet at its upper reaches, but only by about 29-feet at Saint John, closer to the mouth of the Bay.

    The Reversing Falls is the result of a rock formation narrowing the mouth of the Saint John River as it reaches the Bay, compounded by the fact that there is a rocky ledge 36 feet underwater. This compresses the full flow of this mighty river into a very narrow passage where it twice daily does battle with the ocean. This tremendous fight between the river and ocean has gouged out a pool that is almost 200 feet deep where the old steel bridge spans the falls. It also means that huge eddies and whirlpools are formed and the current is so fast that it is only safe to navigate by boat for two brief periods each day. Once when the rising tide equals the river level and again about 12 hours later when the falling tide drops to the river level. When in full opposition to each other, either the river or the Bay of Fundy is 14 feet higher than the other - causing the most spectacular rapids.

    Here, the Jet Boat excursion is easing up to the 'wall of water' in the River as it plunges over the underwater rocky ledge near low tide.

    Address: Fallsview Park, Saint John

    Directions: At the mouth of the Saint John River, just upstream from the two harbour bridges.

    Part of the Rapids at the 'Reversing Falls'
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    Take a Jet Boat Ride!

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Mar 18, 2007

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    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!!).

    Address: Fallsview Park

    Directions: Just up the Saint John River (right side) from the old steel bridge and the new Harbour Bridge.

    Phone: 1-888-634-8987

    Website: http://www.jetboatrides.com

    Cruising in the Reversing Falls Rapids Suited up with my daughter & her husband
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    Interact With the Cruise Ship Passengers

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 8, 2006

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    When launched in 1999, Royal Caribbean cruise line's 'Voyager of the Seas' was the world's largest cruise ship.

    At 137,000 gross tons and 1020 feet (310 meters) in length, she can carry over 3800 passengers and has a crew of 1180. This is a vessel that revolutionized the cruise industry with its many on-board features and its spaciousness. However, it looks like the 'Queen Mary 2' is now Number One in size! Well, the 'Queen Mary 2' did not last long at #1, it has been superceded by 'Freedom of the Seas' as of early 2006 !

    On this particular cruise, the Voyager was on a 5-night trip departing New Jersey for Saint John and Halifax, with rooms priced between US$450-800. We had a good time chatting with some of the passengers as they strolled the waterfront in Saint John!

    Directions: Dockside at the Port of Saint John

    'Voyager of the Seas'
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    Wander Around Downtown

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 6, 2006

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    Although Saint John is Canada's oldest incorporated city (1783), most of the older buildings in the downtown core date from the Victorian period, 100 years later. The City's web site best explains why: "The majority of historic buildings in the city's uptown area date after the Great Saint John Fire of June 20, 1877. The fire, which has been described as one of the most destructive urban fires in 19th century North America, destroyed over two thirds of the city (over 2000 buildings), and left many of the fine homes which had lined the main residential streets of Saint John in ashes. The owners of these homes, wealthy ship owners, commission agents and merchants were determined that their new homes would equal, if not surpass those they replaced. Architects were commissioned from Saint John, Boston, Halifax, New York, Toronto, and Montreal; they imported fine materials - mahogany from Honduras, marble from Italy; and they engaged noted Saint John builders and craftsmen.

    Reconstruction began immediately, and by June 1881 much of the fire-damaged area was rebuilt. Some building lots, though, remained vacant until the 1930's. Hundreds of architects, builders, masons, carpenters and laborers came from all over North America to help rebuild the city. Many of the men were of professional experience; some had genius, but nearly all, yielding to the spirit of rivalry and the desire to establish a reputation, put forth their best efforts to produce original or at least striking designs. The resulting homes were grand indeed. Today most of them remain standing much as they were when built - fine examples of period architecture, combined with outstanding workmanship."

    Take a stroll around if the weather is fine and take in the sights! Note the bilingual 'Stop/Arret' sign. NB is the only officially bilingual province in Canada. Quebec is officially French and the other 8 provinces are officially English.

    Directions: Anywhere in the downtown core of the city.

    Victorian era stone and brick buildings Same corner building, looking up King Street
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    The New Brunswick Museum

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Nov 28, 2006

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    For an entrance fee of C$6 (US$5.40), the New Brunswick Museum is a great way to pass some time if you are visiting Saint John. It has three floors featuring a number of exhibits such as: Floor 1 is New Brunswick inventions, shipbuilding and marine history, Floor 2 is marine mammals, geology and birds of NB while Floor 3 is Canadian and International art.

    This photo shows, at the left, a life-size model of Delilah, a 37 ton, 47 foot (14-m) Atlantic Right Whale. The Bay of Fundy, along which Saint John is located, is home to the majority of this rarest of the world's whales, and the carcass of this one was found washed up on the shores of Grand Manan Island in 1992 (I have a page on this island from a couple of trips). A post-mortem determined that she had likely been struck by a ship. It was decided that this rare creature should be put on display at the Museum, so she was first buried along one of the beaches to allow the flesh to rot off, then the bones were placed in a large net and left in the ocean for eight months until they had been picked clean. The final step was transporting the bones to the Museum where they were reassembled (just visible behind the model of a 'living' whale) to form the only Atlantic Right Whale skeletal display in Canada. At the right side is another interesting skeleton, this time of a 10-foot (3-m) high American Mastodon that died 70,000 years ago in a swamp near Hillsborough, NB.

    The second photo depicts some of the ship-building skills which made Saint John one of the world's major ports in the 1800s. The partial hull in the background illustrates some of the bends required in ships timbers, while the small plaque of a tree with two men standing beside it shows how the different natural 'bent' parts of a tree (where roots and branchs attach to the trunk) were used for these difficult bits of the ship's construction.

    Address: 1 Market Square, Saint John, NB

    Directions: On the waterfront in the Market Square shopping complex, one block from the Delta hotel and attached to the Hilton hotel.

    Phone: (506) 643-2300

    Website: http://www.nbm-mnb.ca/

    A Right Whale & a Mastodon Shipbuilding Techniques
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    Trinity Church

    by Jefie Updated Jul 22, 2008

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    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.

    Address: 115 Charlotte Street

    Directions: Uptown St. John

    Phone: 506-693-8558

    Website: http://www.trinitysj.com

    Trinity Church in Saint John, New Brunswick Inside the beautiful Trinity Church Some of the church's stained glass windows
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    The Old Stone Church

    by Jefie Updated Aug 25, 2008

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    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.

    Address: 87 Carleton Street

    Directions: Uptown St. John

    Phone: 506-634-1474

    Saint John's (Stone) Church Stained glass windows in semi-darkness!
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    Follow the Loyalist Trail!

    by Jefie Updated Aug 25, 2008

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    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!

    Directions: Uptown St. John

    Phone: 1-866-463-8639

    Website: http://www.tourismsaintjohn.com

    Walking around the Old Burial Grounds with Alex The 95-year-old Imperial Theatre The King Edward VII Bandstand at King's Square The War Memorial at King's Square
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    Saint John's Waterfront and Inner Harbour

    by Jefie Updated Aug 25, 2008

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    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.

    Directions: Uptown St. John

    Phone: 506-674-4278

    Website: http://www.sjwaterfront.com

    Ann-Amelie & Alexandra on the boardwalk at sunset Canada Day fireworks on July 4 (!!!)
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    Irving Nature Park

    by Jefie Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The 243 hectare Irving Nature Park opened back in 1992 "for the enjoyment of the people of New Brunswick". Since then, thousands of locals and visitors alike have walked down the park's eight hiking trails, spent a day at the beach or gone on birdwatching expeditions in this previously endangered area that has been cleaned up and returned to its natural state by the Irving family. A road goes all around the park, and it is possible to park your car at the beginning of each hiking trail or special feature, such as the seal observatory deck, the look-out tower, or the picnic and barbecue area. The Irving Nature Park is open to visitors free of charge daily, from sunrise to sunset.

    Directions: At the end of Sand Cove Road (Check out the Website for directions)

    Phone: 506-632-7777

    Irving Nature Park in Saint John, NB Doesn't it look like an old man watching the sea?
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    Cherry Brook Zoo

    by Jefie Written Jul 23, 2008

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    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).

    Address: 901 Foster Thurston Drive

    Directions: Rockwood Park

    Phone: 506-634-1440

    Website: http://www.cherrybrookzoo.com

    What a beautiful big cat! We found Donkey! Waterfowl Habitat
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    Old Martello tower fortification

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 16, 2007

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    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.

    Directions: A designated Canadian National Historic Site and museum, located in Lancaster on the west side of the Saint John River and not far from the Princess of Acadia ferry dock

    Martello tower from the parking lot Rocky hillside facing Saint John harbour Brick interior designed to withstand cannon hits Saint John harbour seen from the tower Distant tower perched above the city harbour
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    Reversing Falls

    by Canuck5 Written Aug 20, 2006

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    Tourism New Brunswick describes this phenonmenon this way:

    Twice a day the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy, the highest in the world, do something that doesn’t happen anywhere else – they push the St. John River backwards, a phenomenon called the Reversing Falls.

    Here’s how it works: at low tide the water rushes through the mouth of the Saint John Harbour and into the downward-flowing St. John River. This creates turbulent rapids as it encounters two ridges and a bottleneck gorge at Reversing Falls. At high tide, as the water in the Harbour rises, the downward flow in the St. John River is slowed, then stopped. This is called Slack Tide. The push of the Bay’s high tides continues until the river runs in reverse – upstream.

    Address: Bridge St., Saint John, N.B.

    Phone: toll free 1-866-463-8639

    Website: http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/en-CA/Products/Attraction/3A1550D4-B3A4-4514-B379-D0F950BF7534.htm

    Reversing Falls Bridge, Saint John, N.B. Reversing Falls Bridge, Saint John, N.B.
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    Irving Nature Park

    by Canuck5 Updated Aug 8, 2009

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    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.

    Address: Sand Cove Road, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

    Directions: From Hwy 1, take the exit for Catherwood St., and go south on Bleury St. about 6 blocks to Sand Cove Rd. Turn right (west) and just follow it to the Irving Nature Park. There are also signs directing you to the park.

    Phone: 506-632-7777

    Website: http://www.new-brunswick.net/Saint_John/inp/

    View from the Heron Trail Heron Trail Heron Trail View from the Heron Trail Seal Trail
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    Carelton Montello Tower

    by Kushelkitten Written Feb 28, 2005

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    Built as defense against the Americans during the war of 1812 it wasnt compelted until 1815 and the war was over by then. The powder magazine and barracks have been restored.

    During WWI and WW2 it was a defensive station for the Brunswick Coast Regiment.

    Martello towers were found as effective defense in the Medterranean regions due to their design and were the latest in defense methods at the time. Sixteen of these towers can be found throughout Canada

    Address: 454 Whipple Str. Saint John, NB

    Tower Saint John
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