Destination Inspiration: Discovering New Brunswick, Canada’s Hidden Gem

When we talk about bucket-list destinations in Canada, you might automatically assume the likes of Banff National Park or perhaps the vibrant city of Vancouver. But we’ve got a secret, a hidden gem that’s often overshadowed by nearby Nova Scotia and a destination that should be sitting firmly in your ‘to-visit’ list for 2020 and beyond, and that’s New Brunswick. Nestled on Canada’s east coast, the province boasts breathtaking scenery, beautiful towns, historic residences and endless outdoor activities including kayaking and if you’re really lucky, the chance to spot a nearby humpback or minke whale!

Looking for your next outdoor adventure of a lifetime? We’ve got all the best bits…

Where to stay

The Algonquin – St Andrews by-the-sea

When exploring the province, the quaint town of St Andrews By-the-Sea makes for an idyllic base. Wander down Water Street and browse the many interesting boutiques (a stop by Scrooge and Marley’s Christmas shop is an essential) and dine in one of the areas fabulous restaurants complete with fresh seafood and many more treats. Alongside a handful of smaller B&B type accommodations, St Andrews By-the-Sea is served mostly by The Algonquin, a world-famous hotel that might look familiar to film buffs. While never officially confirmed, a few of the local residents informed us of a visit by a certain famous king, you guessed it! Stephen King is among the list of famous faces who have checked in at the Algonquin, and now you mention it, it does resemble a hotel from a certain cult film…

Hailed as one of Canada’s finest resorts, The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1889 (back when the price of a room was $3-5!) and within 5 years the resort opened The Algonquin Golf Course which is still a magnet for golf enthusiasts today. It quickly became a hot attraction for visitors near and far. Over the years the hotel has undergone many renovation works and expansions to maintain its lavish appeal. A $30 million dollar renovation in 2012 saw the addition of an indoor pool, water slide, balcony suites and outdoor hot tubs. It’s fair to say The Algonquin truly has it all.

What to do

Take a jeep tour around St Andrews By-the-Sea

What better way to explore a new area than in an open-top jeep with one of the locals? The fabulous Genny of Turtle Shore Adventures will take you back in time to uncover the history of St Andrews, stopping by key locations such as the old prison and Pendlebury lighthouse. Knowledgable and passionate, Genny can answer all of your questions about life in St Andrews as well as many of the residents. We’re not talking people, we’re talking marine life. A keen biologist, Genny also offers ‘marine life’ tours to discover the local wildlife! Hear tales from the town, listen to amazing stories and immerse yourself in the history of St Andrews – ghost stories optional!

Drive across the sea bed to Ministers Island

Yes, really! The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world. At high tide, the bar that connects Ministers Island is some 14 feet underwater, with the island accessible for approximately 5 hours during low tide. Once the coast is clear, you can jump in the car and drive over the seabed, avoiding any particularly softer sandy areas along the way. It’s a unique experience as a trail of cars and vans follow each other across the ocean floor and onto the island, and one that’s certainly not to be missed! Once you’ve safely made it to Ministers Island, it’s time to discover Van Horne’s estate and take a journey back in time. The railroad visionary William Van Horne’s home is open to the public, so don’t miss an opportunity to take a look around. The estate is still home to many original pieces of furniture and artwork, some even painted by Van Horne himself. You can also take a stroll down to the Bathhouse for fantastic views across the water, and don’t forget to head over to The Barn. This ex-livestock barn is a masterpiece, a two-story timber structure and once home to Van Horne’s prize-winning thoroughbred horses and Dutch belted cattle!

Take a stroll around the Kingsbrae Garden

On a sunny morning, there’s no better way to spend a peaceful few hours than a stroll around the magnificent Kingsbrae Garden. This award-winning garden is home to over 50,000 perennials with streams, ponds, themed gardens and even a few furry residents including rabbits, goats, alpacas and ducks. Wander around visual delights including the White Garden, Cottage Garden, Rose Garden and Scents and Sensitivity garden – a specially designed area built for the enjoyment of the visually impaired. Alongside endless beautiful gardens, Kingsbrae Garden is also home to an impressive collection of sculptures featuring works from previous winners of the Canadian Sculpture Competition. Relax in beautiful surroundings and pop by The Garden Café to indulge in culinary treats such as seasonal soup, pastas, tacos and an impressive dessert board.

Jump on a boat to Campobello Island

Head over to the nearby Campobello Island for simply stunning scenery and an enjoyable boat ride over to the island itself. The best way to truly get to know the island and discover off-the-beaten-track is to head on an island excursion with Island Discovery Tours. Run by Campobello resident, Peter, you’ll hear all about life on the island, discovering the best bits including the best locations for a few snaps (you may even spot a whale in the distance), Mullholland Lighthouse, views of the Head Harbour Lightstation and a visit to the summer retreat of ex US president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here in 1921, Roosevelt fell ill with polio and spent six weeks cooped up (well, hardly, the house is actually rather spacious) in this very house. Today you can wander around and enjoy a tour of the home.

Go whale watching

One of the major draws of the province is the numerous whale watching excursions available, it’s a real once-in-a-lifetime experience and a must-do when visiting New Brunswick. St Andrews is home to a number of tour operators all of whom work together to pass on the intel to ensure all visitors hold a great chance of spying a humpback or minke whale. Once suitably dressed in your flotation suit, the team will take you out on a boat such as a Zodiac for an unforgettable two hours. Take your cameras (and a beanie hat – it gets windy out there!) and prepare to look on in awe of these majestic creatures. Sightings are usually almost guaranteed with whale sightings at around 95%. Prepare to be amazed.

Take a road trip around the province

With so much to explore, it simply wouldn’t be fair to stay in just one place! Enjoy a road trip around New Brunswick and make sure you add the capital city, Fredericton, to your itinerary. Here you’ll find the New Brunswick College of Art and Design, as well as other cultural hotspots including The Playhouse and Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Looking to stop over for the night? The Lord Beaverbrook Crowne Plaza provides a comfortable and central stay. Other areas of interest include Moncton and Saint John, but the best bit? All of the beautiful fall foliage along the way, autumn is a particularly beautiful time to visit the province.

Get up close with the local marine life

The Huntsman Marine Science Centre is a fantastic educational hub for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Say hello to the two resident seals (Loki and Snorkel) and take a look at the local sturgeon, salmon and seahorses. Time your visit with the daily feeding schedule to watch a member of the marine team feed the residents! The touch tank offers an interactive experience where you can pick up the starfish, clams and other underwater friends. Behind the scenes tours are available if you wish to find out more about the centre, the marine life and go behind locked doors…

Where to eat

(L-R: The Shadow Lawn Inn, 11th Mile, The Rossmount Inn, Braxtons at The Algonquin)

 

The Algonquin

As well as providing a luxurious stay, The Algonquin is also a fabulous dining experience in its own right. With two options available; the formal Braxtons restaurant or more causal bar, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Menu options include plenty of seafood (the lobster is a popular choice among diners), vegan-friendly curried quinoa and a selection of indulgent desserts.

The Rossmount Inn

Crowned the number 1 restaurant in St Andrews by TripAdvisor, the Rossmount Inn provides an ambient setting, delicious food and brilliant service. Housed in a beautiful historic inn and run by hospitality power couple Chris and Graziella Aerni. Feast upon organic cuisine with dishes such as mushroom purée soup,Bay of Fundy haddock fillet and baked blueberry cheesecake.  After dinner, relax in the cosy lounge bar next door.

The Robertson at the Shadow Lawn Inn

Located in Rothesay, an upmarket community just outside Saint John, the Shadowlawn Inn offers an intimate dining experience in their Robertson restaurant with interiors to die for. Select from fresh salads, chowders, crab cakes and sticky date pudding to name a few. It’s well worth a drive over just for the brilliant food, and for veggies, you’re covered too with a number of meat-free options available.

11th Mile

When visiting Fredericton, be sure to stop by 11th Mile for a meal that’s next-level! A small but perfectly formed menu, your tastebuds will be tantalised with the flavours that come from each dish. Top tip: order a few of their ‘plates’ to share with your companion, or if you’re travelling solo…order a few anyway!

What are you waiting for? Discover Canada’s East coast gem – visit Tourism New Brunswick for more information and inspiration.

Tilly-Jayne Kidman

Tilly-Jayne Kidman is a freelance blogger and travel writer usually found browsing Skyscanner for the cheapest flights anywhere. A fan of US road trips, European city breaks, and asking "do you have any vegan options?"

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