Boasting a significant commercial harbor, Saint John is New Brunswick's largest city—and a place that celebrates its working class roots. Shipping terminals and storage tanks take up part of the skyline, while historic brick warehouses dot the area. Victorian-era homes perch on the city's hillsides, taking advantage of the sweeping view of the Bay of Fundy. Bustling with commerce and community, Saint John is a delightful blend of past and present.
Start a Saint John tour with a walk along the waterfront, on Water Street. The stretch of 19th-century buildings imparts a historic feel to any shopping trip, as gargoyles and sculpted figures watch from on high. At the street's northern end is Market Square, a top Saint John attraction. Once part of the working waterfront area, the square was re-developed in 1983 as a top shopping and dining destination. Stores lean toward clothing and accessories, with gift shops in the mix. Restaurants specialise in seafood, burgers and pub-style dining.
A few blocks east, take in the Saint John City Market, a distinctive year-round farm and seafood market housed in a historic building. Merchants entice shoppers with an array of fresh fish and shellfish, arranged artfully on beds of ice, as sausage makers describe the attributes of the many smoked and cured meats on display. Cheese vendors and bakers show off artisan creations, and local craftspeople come to offer handmade dolls, hand-knit socks and seasonal wreaths. Next to the market, public park King's Square is a lovely spot for ambling or visiting past residents at the nearby Old Burial Ground, which dates back to 1784.
Those who prefer more adrenaline-pumping adventures can sign on for a spin at Reversing Falls Jet Boat Rides, a popular Saint John attraction. The “reversing falls” are caused by the rise and fall of the Bay of Fundy tides, which create a funnel-like wave after a short period of calm. The result for those on the Saint John tour is a huge spray of water and a frantic ride as the tide rushes back in. Visitors on these speedy rides are required to wear raincoats, but they can still expect to get drenched—and have fun.
Just a short drive north is Rockwood Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America, and one of the top sights in Saint John. Abundant with hills and lakes, the park features an extensive trail network as well as several caves that draw amateur spelunkers. Designed by Calvert Vaux, one of the designers of New York City's Central Park, Rockwood also features a golf course and the Cherry Brook Zoo.
With its busy waterfront area and views of the water, Saint John has the feel of a bustling commercial center, an atmosphere it has fostered since its start as a French colony in the 17th century. Whether getting soaked in the reversing falls or selecting a lobster from a City Market fishmonger, travellers will get a sense of Saint John's distinctive community.