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Saint John Travel Guide

Saint John is the largest city in New Brunswick even though it is not its capital. Among its inhabitants, it is known as the “Loyalist City”, but to the rest of New Brunswick, they call it the “Fog City”. Surprisingly, Saint John is the oldest incorporated city in Canada, earning that designation in 1785 thanks to its Loyalist settlers. Today, the metropolitan population is about 125,000. Located in the estuary of the Saint John River, the city has been an important shipbuilding and port center for years. Most of its income nowadays, however, come from its oil refineries, and pulp and paper mill.[1]

The city is more often than not shrouded in fog, hence its nickname the “Fog City”. The sea mists produce a welcomed cooling effect in the summer when the rest of New Brunswick is sweltering in heat. Saint John is not known for its beauty, but ambitious development and restoration projects in recent years have transformed the city. The waterfront is gorgeous and a harmonious blend of the past and present is evident throughout town. Nowadays, the city is a pleasant sight when the fog lifts.[2]

There are many attractions in Saint John, but the main Godzilla of them all is the Reversing Falls, which take place twice daily when the tides in the Bay of Fundy clash with the Saint John River, driving it back upstream. This phenomenon is New Brunswick’s most famous draw. Where the river empties into the bay, the river stands over 4 meters (14 feet) above the bay at low tide. At high tide, however, the river is 4 meters below the oncoming sea water, which itself is about 8.5 meters (28 feet) high, causing the river to reverse its course. The river also narrows dramatically before it reaches the bay, curling around a sharp bend, thus creating plunging rapids and whirlpools – hence the name, Reversing Falls. At the Reversing Falls Bridge, there is an observation point where the famous phenomenon of nature can be observed.[3]

Most of the city’s attractions are within walking distance of King Square, and relate to Loyalists in some way or another. King Square itself embodies the city’s past and present – its flowerbeds are laid out to form the shape of a Union Jack. At the intersection of Germain and Union Street nearby stands the Loyalist House. This Georgian mansion was constructed in 1816 and is one of the few buildings left that survived the great fire of 1877. East of King Square, the Burial Grounds is the old Loyalist graveyard of tombstones, which date back to 1784 when the Loyalists arrived. The red clapboard building known as Barbour’s General Store across the street on the harborfront was built in 1867. It is stocked with goods and merchandise sold back in the 19th century and the staff are dressed in period costume. The store also includes a vintage barbershop. The Carleton Martello Tower is another historical attraction. This ston fortifaction was built during the War of 1812 and today provides a commanding panorama of the city and the river estuary. Near Reversing Falls Bridge at 277 Douglas Avenue, you’ll find Canada’s oldest museum, the New Brunswick Museum. It was founded in 1842 and features international and national artifacts, art treasures, and a natural history and science gallery.[4]

Besides historical sights, Saint John is also home to the Rockwood Park. These five lakes are located at the heart of the city and offer waterslides, swimming pools, camping facilities, bumper boats, recreational areas, miniature golf courses, an 18-hole course called the Rockwood Park Golf Club, and an aquatic golf driving range.[5]

Saint John is also home to the Old City Market, which is the country’s oldest market. It has been held since 1876 in the same building. Many of the families have operated the same stalls for generations. Fresh produce such as vegetables, fruit, and fish are sold along with a variety of antiques and crafts. If you are interested only in crafts or antiques, however, the best place to shop is along Prince William Street, where shops and galleries line the corridor. The Market Square complex, which opened in 1983, is the best place to do contemporary shopping. The complex hosts several levels of shops as well as a hotel and convention center.[6]

Samuel de Champlain landed at the mouth of the Saint John River on St. John the Baptist’s Day in 1604. Decades later, Charles de la Tour established a fort and trading post on the same site. For the next 150 years, Saint John’s history mirrored that of the region. Acadians were dispossessed in the 1755, forced to deport by the British. The city was formally captured by England in 1763. On May 18, 1783, it transformed instantly into a formidable settlement when ships brought more than 3,000 Loyalists ashore. A formerly obscure trading post became a thriving Loyalist city overnight. Trade and shipbuilding became the primary industries of Saint John during the 19th century, a period when the city was called the “Liverpool of America”.[7]

The prolonged prosperity Saint John enjoyed uninterrupted from the moment Loyalists arrived came to an abrupt end during the latter part of the 19th century. Wooden sailing ships became obsolete and the city’s shipyards fell into bankruptcy. A devastating fire in 1877 that destroyed most of the city’s wooden buildings certainly didn’t help either. Saint John didn’t recover from these two blows for a long time. Today, however, the city is once more the proud and bustling Saint John of old.[8]

How to Get There
Saint John has an airport called the Saint John Airport that is located about 15 kilometers east of the city. It is served by West Jet, Air Canada, and Sunwing.[9]

By car, Saint John can be reached by taking Route 1, the principal north-south highway entering the city. Route 1 connects with the Trans-Canada Highway about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Saint John at Sussex. In the south, the best way to reach the city from Maine is by taking U.S. 1. This highway crosses the border at St. Stephen and becomes Route 1. From Fredericton, you can take either Route 7 or the meandering Route 102. Route 7 is faster but Route 102 is much more picturesque.[10]

There is a year-round ferry service that crosses the Bay of Fundy, reaching Saint John from Digby, Nova Scotia. Another ferry service links the Summerville neighborhood with Milledgeville; this service is free.[11]

Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Canada. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1996. ISBN: 1556507100.

“Saint John, New Brunswick.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_John,_New_Brunswick>

[1] Carroll, 291
[2] Id. at 291-92
[3] Id. at 293
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 294
[6] Id. at 293
[7] Id. at 292
[8] Id.
[9] Saint John
[10] Id. at 296
[11] Id.

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