Once a favorite of America’s elite, from FDR to Hollywood starlets, New Brunswick faded from glamorous getaway of the early 20th century to the territory between Québec and Nova Scotia. This obscurity makes its unspoiled wilderness and sleepy fishing villages all the more enticing. From lively fiddle music to delicious seafood, from art galleries to the natural art of its stunning landscape, New Brunswick, Canada living is all about joie de vivre.
Wonders of Nature
The most famous natural wonder in the expansive wilderness of New Brunswick might be those (not so) little things called the Appalachian Mountains, for their eponymous trails, wildlife, and magnificent vistas. But if it’s possible to top 400 million year old mountains, then Fundy National Park, with its cascading waterfalls, towering cliffs, and pristine wilderness may just take the cake.
The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides—think 50 feet—in the world, a sight so incredible it’s in the running to become one of the new seven natural wonders of the world. At the Hopewell Rocks—called “Flowerpot Rocks” because of the trees that grow atop them—one can literally walk along the ocean floor exploring coves carved out by 100 billion tons of water, and in the same day (and very same place) kayak among the pillars that peak out when the world’s highest tides comes in.
That’s to say nothing of the Fundy Trail, an eco-haven protecting the Fundy Escarpment, one of the last stretches of coastal wilderness still existing between Florida and Labrador. With a paved parkway hugging the cliffs, and a network of trails for biking and hiking, the park is a treasure trove of natural wonders, from Precambrian rocks to incredible beaches and a breeding habitat for Right Whales.
As if high tides and ancient mountains were not enough, New Brunswick’s natural largesse also includes a vast and incredible sand dune, one of the few remaining on the northeastern shoreline of North America. The eight-mile stretch of white sands known as La Dune de Bouctouche may shape-shift after every major storm, but it has extended across Bouctouche Bay since the last ice age. An environmentally crucial (and delicate) area, the dune, and the feathered friends who call it home (including the endangered piping plovers), are preserved and protected by the Irving Eco-Center and are truly a sight to be seen.
As varied and fascinating as New Brunswick’s wealth of natural glories is, its dramatic history and jovial people rival nature for top billing on the wonder list. Originally, the land of the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Aboriginals, it was colonized in the 1600s by the French Acadians, a people largely defined by their expulsion upon refusal to pledge allegiance to the British in the following century, after which they scattered to the wilds of New Brunswick, and some as far as Louisiana. “Cajun” is a derivation of Acadian, and that same vibrant spirit that characterizes New Orleans still permeates throughout New Brunswick.
The lively spirit of the Acadian people, in tandem with its tumultuous history, makes for energetic gatherings and festivals. The National Acadian Day, known as Tintamarre, takes place each August and draws visitors from around the world to the sea-side community of Caraquet. As can be expected, the celebration is raucous and festive, marked by bells, horns, spoons clapping, and any other noise that can be mustered to honor the spirit of L’Acadie. The nearby Village Historique Acadien, an impeccably curated rendition of a historical Acadian village, tells the tumultuous and fascinating history of the joyous, resilient people and is also worth a visit.
For more Acadien spirit mingled with some crisp maritime flavor, head over to Shippagan, the colorful fishing port in the northern Acadien part of the province. Another must do is a visit to the Shippagan Aquarium and Marine Centre, the largest public aquarium in the Atlantic provinces, where you can see the royal blue lobsters (yes, royal blue—thanks to a pigment mutation), touch tank, and friendly Harbor seals.
A less Acadien, but equally alluring spot is the provincial capital, Fredericton, a quaint town on the St. John River, dotted with fountains, willows and redbrick storefronts. Here, austere Georgian and Victorian houses are made even prettier by vibrant flowerbeds. The cultural heart of the city is its Historic Garrison District, a downtown area that’s abuzz in the summer with free entertainment, from outdoor concerts to cinema under the stars. Year-round, visitors can enjoy adorable craft shops, many of which abide in casemates that were once used for storing artillery. Whether you want to stroll through art galleries, row along the river, or just spend a day at the beach, Fredericton has got you covered.
Wonderful Eats and Sleeps
That this territory is bordered on three sides by ocean signals one thing: seafood aplenty. Lobster, mussels, scallops, salmon. . . you name it, you’ll get it. And in the form of chowder, quiche, even au-gratin. For fish the Acadian way, try Acadian Fish Pancakes. Also try any dish with fiddlehead, a tasty fern that livens up soups, dumplings, and more.
Lodging is truly a treat. There are adorable bed and breakfasts to be had all through Acadian country, like Gîte L’Isle-du-Randonneur B&B, a cozy ancestral Acadian home dating back to 1850, with balconies overlooking the water (from $89, breakfast included). For a full list of bed and breakfasts in the region, visit bbcanada.com. In keeping with the cultural richness, a stay in a Victorian inn in Fredericton is recommended The 10-room Carriage House Inn is an 1875 Victorian Queen Anne style mansion in the heart of town (starting at $95). A full list of Fredericton accommodations can be found at tourismfredericton.ca.
How to get there: New Brunswick has three major airports, in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John. Once there, the Maritime Bus is available from the airports to most of the local towns, though, the easiest way to get around the sprawling territory is by renting a car (see our green car guide) and driving between towns.