Fredericton’s Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival is over for another year. The British winners of Battle of the Blues by all accounts were well received and a new Battle of the Blues, sponsored by Tourism New Brunswick, has begun to find a British act to perform at the festival in 2013. As part of their prize this year’s winners were given a New Brunswick experience. I have spent time in New Brunswick recently. Although I crammed a lot in I only covered a small fraction of the province. That means I have the perfect excuse to return; something I plan to do in the near future. Here are my top 5 experiences in the only Canadian province that is truly bilingual.
Fredericton, the provincial capital
Apart from being the home of one of Canada’s premier music festivals, the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, it has an historic centre dating back to when the British were garrisoned here during the 18th and 19th centuries. Beside the St John River is the Lord Beaverbrook Art Gallery. This was a gift to the town by the New Brunswick born press baron who later owned The Express newspaper in the UK. The museum contains works by Turner, Dali, Constable and Gainsborough as well as works by notable Canadian artists. Boyce’s farmers market is a great place to have breakfast and people-watch (you’ll have to queue though) but it seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. The market reflects its European heritage; selling German sausages, French cheeses and British marmalade alongside Canadian favourites like maple syrup. The breakfast though is full on Canadian.
Miramichi River Valley
When people talk about Miramichi in New Brunswick they could, confusingly, be referring to either the river or the town. Just to be clear I am refering to the river and its valley here. It’s a prime location for excellent fishing and has an enviable reputation. A disused railway line now serves as a cycle track and hiking trail along the valley. The best way though is to hire a canoe at O’Donnell’s Cottages and paddle down the river. Bald eagles, deer and bears can often be seen. Another way to see bears up close and personal is to go on a bear watching tour with Little, Big Bear Safari. Perched in a comfortable hide among the trees you can watch the bears as they come to forage in the late afternoon, early evening.
Around Miramichi (the town) you begin to notice a distinct change in culture. Bakeries become boulangeries; cheese becomes fromage; and the flags (or drapeau) look remarkably like the French tricolour. This is Acadian territory, descendants of the French settlers of what is now New England who were repeatedly dispossessed until they ended up in north-east New Brunswick on land no one wanted. The Acadian Historic Village gives a real insight into the lives of the Acadian people then and now. A scenic drive along New Brunswick’s North Shore and over a string of islands and salt marshes passing through picturesque harbours is a great way to get a feel for the area. At the tip of the peninsula miles and miles of boardwalks over isolated dunes takes you over the wild windswept landscape of the North Shore.
The Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, all 15m of them. At Hopewell Rocks you can walk on the seabed and six hours later kayak 15m above where you were standing. The rocks themselves are shaped by the sea into weird shapes There is so much more to do along the Fundy coast that I shall deal with it in another post. Here is a list of what to expect: visit Fundy National Park, walk or cycle the Fundy Trail Parkway, visit the bayside towns of St John and Alma, top by the appropriately named Cape Enrage or whale watch from boat or kayak around St Andrew and Deer Island.
The wooden lighthouses
Although not a destination there are enough to make searching them out an experience in itself. There are numerous wooden lighthouses along both the New Brunswick’s coasts. There is also one in Fredericton on the bend in the river. They are always worth a stop. Some can be visited others are just great places for a photograph in a wild and windy place. My top favourites are the one at Miscou Island on the tip of the Acadian Peninsula and the one at Cape Enrage on the Fundy Coast.
My favourite New Brunswick experience is the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in September. I haven’t mentioned it among the experiences here because I have already written an article on the HJB Festival on this website.
Have you visited New Brunswick? What was your favourite experience?
I took this trip as a guest of Tourism New Brunswick. However, as always I maintain full editorial control and write as I see things.