Two years ago, we achieved our goal of seeing Canada from coast to coast – something I think every Canadian should cross off their bucket list.
Today we found ourselves on a plane back into Saint John, New Brunswick, and I couldn’t be more excited to dive deeper into the East Coast culture that I fell in love with on our first visit.
It’s the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. It allows you to see and do something different – discovering the roots and the birthplace of Canada. And it is the perfect place to just relax.
When we wake up on our first day in Saint John, I am quickly reminded of the sound of the seagulls first thing in the morning. It’s nostalgic and signifies close proximity to water, hence, lots and lots of seafood.
If you should find yourself getting tired of seafood around the clock, don’t worry. These East Coasters love to cook in every genre. In a span of just one short block, you can find Mexican, Italian and Japanese restaurants.
I am still thinking about how incredible the menu was at Italian by Night, which says a lot, as we had just come back from a trip to Florence! Regardless, our first food adventure had to be at Port City Royal. This is, hands down, the must-visit hot spot. The menu changes daily depending on the availability of local ingredients, the staff are incredibly friendly (although this may just be a constant in Saint John), and the food itself is the mix of that famous seafood and modern cooking that elevates the experience from basic and expected to fresh and innovative.
Drinking is a local sport, and are they ever able to deliver the experience here to back it up. When it comes to pubs, bars and places to enjoy a cold one, Picaroons General Store is a great example of marrying that love of drinking with beautiful aesthetic and design. Just around the corner, you can find Five & Dime, Hopscotch Whisky bar and the Saint John Ale House, to name a few favourites.
For things to do while in the city, consider a walking tour of the local architecture. In just a few blocks, you will see some amazing public art, get a history lesson and be infinitely inspired.
Make sure to visit the Imperial Theatre for a glimpse of one of the most beautifully restored stages in Canada. And if they’re in season, you can even catch a play or a movie screening.
This space looks like something out of a Wes Anderson film. It’s so unique it makes you question if it’s even real. What’s more, unlike in bigger cities, the locals are excited to show you around. In fact, everyone takes pride in their city’s appearance and loves sharing it with out-of-towners.
The care to detail is so admirable that it shapes your whole perspective of New Brunswick and Saint John itself.
For nature lovers, I suggest a day at Rockwood Park. It’s bigger than the city itself (!) and offers quick access to endless hiking trails and beautiful lookout points.
You can rent a kayak, paddle board or paddle boat and go on the lake, or you can lay on the beach, or you can have lunch (or dinner) at the Lily Lake Pavilion. If you want to take the adventure one step further, take a drive out to Hampton, where you will find Zelda’s River Adventures and pontoon down the river.
You can book a tour up to three hours long and, if you have enough people, the whole boat can be yours. It’s a peaceful float here, where you can enjoy a swim, some fishing and, in the fall, take in the beautiful colours that make the East Coast so visually rich.
Make sure you pack layers of clothing.
The weather here, even by local standards, is a little nutty.
It can be chilly in the mornings and then incredibly hot in the afternoon, so be ready to shed those layers as the day goes on.
Saint John has seen some major changes in the two years since we’ve seen it last.
Any way you turn, there are now trendy new shops and restaurants with a wide selection of offerings that is hard to match even in bigger urban centres.
The local hospitality is still beyond exceptional and you can strike up a conversation with just about anyone.
The enthusiasm for their city is contagious and it’s easy to see why Saint John has become one of the top destinations on the East Coast for a full immersive Maritimes experience.