Saint John New Brunswick: Best 101 Guide on the Canadian City

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Saint John New Brunswick: Best 101 Guide on the Canadian City 1

Saint John New Brunswick – a beautiful city, claimed by the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, tucked away in New Brunswick, Canada. Known more delicately as Saint-Jean in French, one of the major languages in Canada, this is an underrated place that you have to visit on your Canadian road trip. It’s about a day’s drive from Canada’s heart, Toronto.

The name is rather calming, and it is derived from a feast. Yes, you heard that right! When French colonist Samuel de Champlain lowered his anchor at Saint John Harbour on June 24, 1604, the feast of Saint John the Baptist was being celebrated. The name ‘Saint John River’ came from after learning the importance of that day in June.

However, it is important to remember that before Samuel de Champlain, the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik people inhabited the regions for centuries and called the river Wolastoq. 

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By: Gvictoria on Shutterstock

The river is one of the highlights of this city. Saint John New Brunswick, is located in the Bay of Fundy and is a modern port and New Brunswick’s most prominent industrial center. The port is Canada’s third-largest one, and some of the occupations that make up the backbone of this area are oil refining and shipbuilding. This port in New Brunswick often proves to be a savior for exporting Canadian goods during the treacherous winter months that curtail other places. 

Saint John New Brunswick is proudly one of Canada’s oldest cities. It was established as the oldest incorporated city by the royal charter on May 18, 1785. This took place during King George III’s reign. It holds the position for the second-most populous city in New Brunswick, with Moncton in the first place.

Just under seventy thousand people live harmoniously within the city’s area of 315km². 

Canada in Autumn

By: Graham-H/Pixabay 

History of Saint John New Brunswick

Saint John is a special place in Canada, and it is made even more significant by the fact that this humble city is reinventing itself for the better. Uptown Saint John has undergone a makeover, and now the city is a delightful amalgamation of urban streets and preserved heritage. 

Preserving the heritage of the previous generations was a crucial point to all those involved or urging for the makeover, and with a history like Saint John has, it was very right to do so.

What is today known as Saint John New Brunswick was the home of the Wabanaki Confederacy.

Saint John’s area was delegated to the different nations, with the Passamaquoddy occupying the Bay of Fundy’s northwestern coastal region. At the same time, the Saint John River valley, located north of the Bay of Fundy, became the home of the Wolastoqiyik Nation.

Before Samuel de Champlain landed here during pre-colonial times, the villages were rather self-sufficient, and the occupants sufficed with bass, salmon, berries, wild roots, and corn. The Menahkwesk, as the Wolastoqiyik people call the area enveloping the harbor, still has people from these nations living here today. 

Saint John, New Brunswick

By: lintow/Pixabay

Acadia was a New France colony situated in northeastern North America. During the French colonial era, Saint John in New Brunswick was an area of great significance for Acadia’s trade and defense. Even the city’s harbor, especially Fort La Tour, holds importance in pages of history as a crucial battleground during the Acadian Civil War.

Fort La Tour has been named for Charles La Tour, who established and fortified this former French colonial fur trading post in 1631. Located at the mouth of the Saint John River, it was used for trade with the area’s Aboriginal people.

The topic of ownership of Saint John was a matter of centuries of dispute between the English and the French. Eventually, the British conquered the land by the end of the Seven Years’ War and deported the French colonists by 1755. Fort Howe, a major landmark in this area, was constructed in 1779.

Following the division of the Nova Scotia colony, the name ‘New Ireland’ was put forth for the New Brunswick colony, but King George III vetoed this. In 1785, immigrants from Ireland and Italy and Black and White British loyalists from the Thirteen Colonies came to Saint John’s shores in flood. Moreover, thousands of refugees from the American Revolution who had been evacuated from their US homes after expressing a desire to stay British also came to this area.

The following century witnessed Saint John receiving an influx of refugees from Partridge Island during the Great Famine. Partridge Island went on to become the first quarantine station located in Canada. These factors would play a pivotal role in the radical change of the demographics, population, and vibrant culture of Saint John, New Brunswick. 

Also, in 1785, the towns on either side of the harbor, Parktown and Carleton, were united to officially establish the incorporated city we know today as Saint John, New Brunswick.

The city slowly but surely grew to become an important name in the game of shipping and shipbuilding. In 1851, this fame was immortalized by creating and launching the magnificent Marco Polo, built in a Saint John shipyard. She bore passengers on their vast journey from England to Australia and made the trip in a fantastic time of fewer than six months – the first ship to do so.

During the War of 1812, Martello Tower was built on Lancaster Heights to facilitate the harbor’s defense. This tower has become an important historical landmark. 

The city was gaining strategic importance concerning British power, but some tragedies struck in the history of Saint John. There was a tension growing amidst the working class back in the 1800s. There was rampant discrimination against the Black Saint John citizens at that time, to the point where they were prohibited from taking part in trade, fishing and were not even allowed to vote. This caused the majority of the Black citizens to migrate to Portland, in the city’s north end, which became an official part of Saint John in 1889. 

In 1854, the city went through a cholera outbreak that claimed the lives of over 1500 people. That is not it – there was also a major fire in Saint John in 1877 that caused large-scale destruction to almost half the city. This, along with the staggering lumber trade, caused the economic growth to falter. However, Saint John persevered and absorbed the parish of Lancaster and part of Simonds in 1966. 

Saint John became New Brunswick’s leading commercial and transportation center, a Moncton title now challenging. It has shipping facilities and one of the longest dry docks globally, clocking in at about 320 meters. 

Geography and Climate of Saint John New Brunswick

Saint John is situated in Atlantic Canada, in south-central New Brunswick. The city is a neighbor to the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, into which the south-flowing Saint John River emerges. The east side is also home to the Kennebecasis River, which flows into the Saint John Harbour and joins the other river. The harbor is home to Partridge Island too.

One of the biggest plus points that Saint John is blessed with is a year-round ice-free harbor. This allows for the development of the shipping and fishing industries, along with shipbuilding, and boosts the economy of New Brunswick.

A unique phenomenon takes place at the mouth of the South John River, where it flows into the Bay of Fundy through a narrow gorge a couple of hundred meters wide. The daily tides of the bay reverse the river’s flow. They are known as either reversing rapids or reversing falls. These are powerful tidal fluctuations of up to 9 meters that reverse the river’s flow for a few kilometers upstream twice daily. 

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By: Alen Furmanski on Shuttetstock

Moreover, underwater ledges present in the gorge also contribute to these reversing falls. There is a height difference of about 8 meters between the high tide and low tide, which is caused by the funneling effect of the Bay of Fundy as it tapers. 

The St. Croix Highlands and Caledonia Highlands ensure that the topography of the area surrounding Saint John, New Brunswick is hilly and mountainous. These coastal mountain ranges run alongside the Bay of Fundy. There are also several freshwater lakes present in various parts of the city. 

The climate of Saint John is continental humid. The summers are hot, and the winters are cold, with considerable seasonal temperature differences. While summer temperatures can exceed 25°C, the winter temperatures drop down to a chilly -8°C. 

Due to the Bay of Fundy not freezing fully, the winter temperatures are rather moderate compared to inland locations. During the summer months, an amalgamation of the cold Bay of Fundy breeze and inland warm temperatures lead to fog and a respite in the heat with cooler temperatures. 

Late winter and early autumn are the months with the most rainfall, and precipitation is about 1295mm annually. Heavy snow is also a common visitor to Saint John, transforming the province of New Brunswick.

Places You Need To Visit in Saint John New Brunswick

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By: diearle/Pixabay 

Saint John, or ‘Saint Awesome,’ as the city’s council has dubbed it, is a hidden gem in the province of New Brunswick. There is plenty to do here to keep tourists occupied for days, ranging from events and activities venturing into nature to gallivanting around new-and-improved uptown Saint John. 

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By: JHVEPhoto /

The city has always been a hub for arts on the east coast, and the arts and culture play a great role in the economy of Saint John. The Imperial Theatre is a must-visit site for anyone interested in events like grandiose plays and beautiful shows of the symphony, such as those by the Symphony New Brunswick.

It is home to the wondrous Saint John Theatre Company. More than any other city in Atlantic Canada, uptown Saint John has a smattering of art galleries. A Saint John Arts Cent is the humble host of many art exhibits, workshops, and other shows.

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By: Nicolas Vincent on Shutterstock

For the nature lovers here, Saint John has a lot to offer. The beautiful Irving National Park on the west side of Saint John and Fundy National Park is the perfect place to be at one with the wildlife. The Fundy Trail Parkway offers a magnificent view of the high tide and low tide, immaculate beaches, and waterfalls to make the most of the coastal location. There are the reversing rapids on display from various Wolastoq parks. 

Stonehammer UNESCO Geopark, North America’s first Geopark, has its focal point as Saint John. It has incredible geological significance, and the park has rocks formations that may be a billion years old! These are said to be from the Precambrian era.

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By: Benjamin Clapp on Shutterstock

The New Brunswick Museum (Musée du Nouveau-Brunswick) has an astonishing display of relics from the colonial era. Several forts, such as Fort Howe, are a national historic site in Saint John. One of these is the Carleton Martello Tower, which offers a splendid view of the city at its feet.

The museum also has ship models for visitors to admire, including fossils, massive skeletons, and china artifacts. The New Brunswick Museum truly has a way of making you feel like you are stepping back in time.

For a more relaxed activity or to act as the starting point for a hectic day, there is the Saint John City Market to check out. It is the oldest running farmer’s market in Canada and has been in operation since the 1700s. Uptown Saint John has many award-winning restaurants that you can go to on a nice date, as well as a chic urban feel that is sure to win over your heart. Even the city’s historic downtown has plenty to offer.

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By: JHVEPhoto /

Apart from these, there are tons of other museums, libraries, places on a national historic site, parks, restaurants, stores, and boutiques that will fill up your days with laughter, joy, and fun. Not many places can sustainably provide such a wide range of activities, but Saint John safely does just that.

It ensures that none of its visitors is bored, and the citizens of this city are welcoming and warm. Whether you would prefer to learn more about the rich history of Saint John from its forts or the New Brunswick Museum, take a stroll through the wonderful uptown, or get lost in the idyllic nature parks and hidden beaches, Saint John truly has it all.

Saint John’s popularity and tourism are sure to increase tenfold in the coming years, not only in Canada but all over. Many people believe that it will become a tourist attraction for visitors and join Toronto on people’s Canada bucket list. For the people coming to grace Canada’s East Coast, the city can act as a starting point on their journey. It is a lovely, charming place with a lot to offer that is sure to make your visit worth your while.

If you’re planning on visiting New Brunswick, be sure to check out Camping in New Brunswick: Top 8 Reasons.

I hope this guide on Saint John New Brunswick gave you a clear idea of the city. 

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