I haven’t explored nearly enough of New Brunswick yet, including Saint John, so I did what any mother would – I asked a friend for help!
Michelle Lefrancois runs Network of Moms, a website and online community for moms in the Saint John area. (She’s also branching out with a Network of Moms Facebook group for Moncton.) She has two lovely little girls and lots of ideas about where best to spend your time exploring the area. Here are a few of her top day trip ideas in Saint John!
Westside Saint John
Many people don’t venture beyond the Harbour Bridge, but the Irving Nature Park on the Westside is well worth the trip. And it’s only 10 minutes from uptown Saint John! You can either park on the causeway or drive on the dirt road to the central parking lot.
The Irving Nature Park is a 600-acre site created by J.D. Irving, Limited. The park has more than 11 km of coastline. Be sure you have lots of time to visit because there is so much to see and do here. There are eight walking trails to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty but the trails are beautiful and I bet your kids will surprise you on how far they’ll walk.
My girls’ favorite things to do here are walking out onto the boardwalk over the marsh and crossing all the wooden bridges on the trails. To access the boardwalk, it’s best to park at the end of the causeway by the gates; the boardwalk is just a few minutes in on the Squirrel trail.
After our hike we usually head to Saints Rest Beach (just alongside the road leading to the park) for a picnic and to dip our toes in the water. The water is the Bay of Fundy and incredibly cold; it can have a strong undertow depending on which way the tide is going, so it’s not recommended for swimming.
If your children are not tired out yet, check out the Children’s Forest on your way back down Sand Cove Road. The playground is great for all ages and has two cedar hedge mazes which are a lot of fun, along with another picnic area and porta potties.
Uptown Saint John
When you’re heading over the Harbour Bridge, you’ll notice down below is a cranberry-coloured walking and biking path that extends along the harbour. This is called Harbour Passage. If you can, I’d try to co-ordinate your uptown visit when there is a cruise ship in as there is usually an open air market set up next to the boardwalk and beach volleyball court. You can find the full 2017 Cruise Schedule here.
To avoid paying to park uptown, I usually park under the Harbour Bridge at Fort LaTour and head uptown; just follow the path and within a 15 minute walk at most you’ll be on the Boardwalk. Harbour Passage is great for all ages and definitely stroller/wagon friendly. It’s a great place to get a beautiful view of the city and let the kids run around and burn off some energy.
Fort LaTour is a huge green space and is a perfect spot to set up a picnic. Back in 1631 this area was used by the Indigenous community as a fur trading post.
We tend to pack a picnic blanket with us wherever we go and this is one of our favorite spots. If you didn’t pack a picnic, there are so many great places to grab something from uptown that you can bring back with you and enjoy a view of the harbour. If picnicking isn’t your thing, there are many restaurants uptown to choose from, many with outdoor patios.
Once at the end of Harbour Passage you can explore Uptown & the Saint John City Market.
Uptown Saint John is beautiful and maintains a lot of its old world charm. There are many heritage buildings to see and I recommend just strolling down King Street and Germain Street and wander wherever your feet take you. You’ll come across so many little shops, everything from small Art Galleries, candy shops, and health & wellness stores.
Not to be missed is the Saint John City Market, built in 1876. The market is open year round Monday to Saturday and has two entrances. The main entrance is off Charlotte Street across from King Square and the bottom entrance is on Germain Street across from Brunswick Square. The market is stroller friendly, however when connecting to Brunswick Square Shopping Centre across the street, I found it easiest to head outside instead of going through the pedway as there are some stairs.
Within the City Market you can find a variety of local and international goodies. There is everything from local fruit, fresh meat and cheese, to homemade gelato, and local artists. No matter your cravings you’ll find something satisfying, guaranteed. You can find a full list of vendors here.
If you’re visiting uptown on a Sunday, be sure to check out the Queen Square Farmers Market in the South End. The market features local farmers, food vendors and artists every Sunday from 9am to 2pm — but get there early for the best selection as it’s very popular!
North Saint John
Rockwood Park has so much to offer no matter how old your children are! There are more than 55 paths and trails for hiking and biking, and many are stroller friendly. If it’s a hot day, pack a pinic and head to one of the two supervised beaches, Lily Lake and Fisher Lake.
Lily Lake beach is located at the entrance to the Park next to Lily’s Cafe and Fisher Lake is close to the Kiwanis Play Park Playground where you can find a canteen, washrooms, and places to have a picnic.
The playground is a fantastic playground for all ages and alongside the playground are the Rockwood Park Stables where horses are kept. If you keep your eye out, you may even see a deer or two while at the playground!
I believe Brunswick Nurseries is one of our best kept secrets, okay maybe not so secret to the locals but until a friend brought me here I didn’t know about it.
In addition to the vast garden center (that’s open seven days a week) that sells herb, flowers, tree and shrubs, they have an area called The Corral. This is an area with animals that will gladly feed from your hand. Baby pigs, goats, a cow, horse, donkey, peacocks, chickens, and bunnies. Just bring your own treats for the animals such as small carrots, cut up apples, etc. My girls love it and it’s much more interactive then the zoo, and best of all — free! They even sell ice cream here for those hot summer days.
Down the road from Brunswick Nurseries, there is a little playground called Meenan’s Cove Playground and Beach. We like to head here after our visit with the animals and complete our afternoon on the beach and playground. There’s also a picnic area so pack a lunch and you’ve had a fun filled day and have barely spent any money.
I’m noticing a trend happening among my family’s favorite places to visit in Saint John — lots of walking, hiking, and it always includes a picnic! If you’re looking for more info about things to do in Saint John, you can check out the Network of Moms Facebook group with over 5,500 New Brunswick Moms.
Michelle Lefrancois grew up in Grand Bay-Westfield, NB. She’s a University of New Brunswick graduate who spent a decade in the finance world before deciding to stay home with her two young daughters. She’s the founder of Network of Moms and loves helping other moms connect. In her spare time, you’ll find Michelle enjoying the great outdoors with her husband, their two children, and their two Boxers.