New Brunswick Beckons

From the rugged coastline of Grand Manan Island to storybook lighthouses and pastoral villages, these are the sights to see in New Brunswick

From storybook lighthouses and pastoral villages, these are the sights to see in New Brunswick

New Brunswick is the largest of Canada’s three Maritime provinces and the country’s only officially bilingual province. It boasts more than 60 picturesque covered bridges, fascinating high tides and even a “Best Destination in Canada” honour (thanks to St. Andrews-by-Sea’s crowning achievement in USA Today readers’ choice rankings for 2017.)

From the rugged coastline of Grand Manan Island to storybook lighthouses and pastoral villages, these are the sights to see in New Brunswick this year…

1. St. Martins Sea Caves

Located in St. Martins, once a small but bustling shipbuilding community, St. Martins Sea Caves have been created by the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy. After cavorting in and out of these impressive mammoth caves, our guide John Kelley, owner of River Bay Adventures, took us above the caves to scenic lookouts with unobstructed views of coastal cliffs, isolated beaches and marine wildlife. Before you adventure, pack your flip-flops or water shoes becauseto get to the cavesexplorers must cross a small brook.

2. Hopewell Rocks

How would you like to walk on the ocean floor as you marvel at the behemoth Hopewell Rocks? Carved by tidal erosion over thousands of years, these unique sandstone formations attract worldwide attention… and for good reason. Constant agitation from a mind-boggling 100 billion tons of water from each tidal wave has crafted rocks that look uncannily like colossal arches, stone mushrooms and, yes, some even say ice-cream cones. (OK, that’s what many kids see.)

3. Ministers Island

Originally, Sir William Van Horne’s “cottage”, Ministers Island is noted for his 50-room summer home, bath house and exquisitely designed barn (seriously). This is an incredible window into old money, rife with stories of sadness and early demise.

Perhaps the coolest part of the visit is the journey there… driving over the ocean floor at low tide to reach the 500-acre island. Don’t meander though! The island is only accessible for five hours daily. And, if you time your departure right, you will be witness to a wet sandbar shrinking before your very eyes.

4. Get up close with black tie puffins

A true bucket list moment! Hop aboard Sea Watch Tours for a 90-minute boat voyage from Grand Manan Island to witness what a lucky few do: the Atlantic puffin up close and personal. During a five-week window each year, 30 visitors a day (from Grand Manan as well as Maine, USA), get the opportunity to set foot on Machias Sea Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. This protected island boasts the largest puffin colony in the Gulf of Maine during summer months. These adorable wing-flapping, chest-thrusting seabirds can only be seen and photographed from inside one of six blinds–so close are you that you can see the tiny yellow dot on either side of a puffin’s bill. Reservations a year ahead are highly recommended.

5. Swallowtail Lighthouse

On the northern tip of Grand Manan Island, Swallowtail is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the province. Why? Founded in 1860 (pre-Confederation), this active lighthouse still has its original tower, one of only a handful of remaining wooden light towers in Canada. From there (hiking enthusiasts, listen up!), Grand Manan archipelago boasts a breathtaking network of heritage trails and footpaths. Then, cruise the winding roads and buy some dulse, a locally-harvested seaweed treat.

6. Discover St. Andrews-by-the-Sea’s coastal past

A tour with biologist/founder Genny Simard, of Turtle Shore Adventures, is like being transported back in time. Besides discovering the history of early inhabitants (and there are some colourful anecdotes!), you can look back behind the walls of the 1832 Charlotte County Jail, where its Old Gaol cells held prisoners awaiting hangings. You’ll hear tales of a resident apparition or two, like the famous ghost bride who—folklore says—awaited a betrothed who sadly was a no-show. She died, the story says, of a broken heart. To this day, some still hear her sadly whimper.

7. Kingsbrae Gardens

Adorned with amazing sculptures, ponds and beautiful landscapes… plus home to some loveable birds and animals (including a few resident alpacas), Kingsbrae Gardens is a work of art and a postcard-worthy destination. The award-winning 27-acre space is a floral enthusiast’s Mecca. Beyond the stunning artistry, which blooms everywhere here, visitors can enjoy the cuisine at the Savour in the Garden eatery. At the helm is award-winning executive chef Alex Haun, whose inspiration sprouts from what he pulls out of his vegetable garden on-site. (Some of the showstoppers on our tasting menu: Beausoleil oysters, foie gras parfait and a lobster risotto that was simply divine.)

9. Savour local fare

New Brunswick is a province of many farm-to-table devotees. With fresh seafood like lobster, mussels and halibut caught off its shores, it doesn’t get much fresher than this. In St. Andrews and Grand Manan for example, farmers, chefs and ranchers are friends, partners and cohorts living the same dedication to local, sustainable and always-fresh.

In historic Saint John, dinner at Italian by Night will whet your appetite with authentic Italian cuisine. It’s impressive timber beams and brick architecture are only rivalled by its delicious fare. Executive chef Michelle Hooton’s menu is focused on the best imported Italian ingredients combined with local seasonal ingredients. The result? Dishes that make your palate sing. The same people own Urban Delia fabulous little spot for lunch in Uptown Saint John. This eclectic joint’s famous for its Buffalo chicken grilled cheese and meat loaf sandwiches.

At the Algonquin Resort, Braxton’s Restaurant & Bar offers a fine dining experience using seasonal ingredients. Let executive sous-chef Jeff MacLean take your taste buds to new levels. Enjoy old world style while noshing on Bay of Fundy scallops and Atlantic lobster, followed by a signature cheesecake.

At the Rossmount Inn, prepare to be wowed! Owner/executive chef Chris Aerni and his wife Graziella delight with European elegance and excellent customer service. Trained in Interlaken, Switzerland, this celebrated chef likens his culinary approach to “a painter with a changing colour palette.” His carte du jour is dictated by what is in season. Truly a memorable gastronomic escapade at a beautifully restored 1889 country inn.

At the oceanfront The Inn at Whale Cove Cottages, dining is all about rustic comfort, hearty home cooking—oatmeal bread, seafood risotto, crab cakes, halibut with Nicoise-tapenade and rhubarb-raspberry crisp—and big, private ocean views. Dating back to 1816, owner/chef/innkeeper Laura Buckley offers up a daily menu using local ingredients. From June through mid-October, dinner is served nightly.

10. Historic stays

There are hotels… and then there are great dames. The iconic Algonquin Resort (built in 1889) is one of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea’s architectural jewels. Nestled on the coast of the Passmaquoddy Bay, this elegant locale offers panoramic ocean views to go with its five-star amenities and luxurious suites.

In Canada’s oldest incorporated city and the province’s largest city of Saint John, the Chipman Hill Suites is a collection of 10 stately brick buildings. The rooms feature gorgeous antiques and modern amenities.

The Island Home Bed & Breakfast is directly across from the Grand Manan Ferry Terminal. This yellow five-bedroom suite retreat offers a relaxing getaway, featuring personalized service, delicious homemade breakfasts and lunches made with local ingredients and a good dose of charm.