8 Things to do in New Brunswick with kids
Today we’d like to share some of the fun things we did on our first trip to New Brunswick. Our hope is that one or two of these adventures will spark your curiosity about this under-rated Canadian province. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself in the presence of the world’s highest tides one day too!
This collection of Things to do in New Brunswick is based on the personal experiences we had on our trip. In total, we were in the Maritime province for one week and stayed in three cities: Saint John, St. Andrews and Moncton.
We arrived in New Brunswick via the Saint John airport, where we picked up a rental mini-van and began a road trip through the province. Our first stop was to the seaside village of St. Andrews.
St. Andrews By-the-Sea
St. Andrews, aka St. Andrews By-the-Sea, is an adorable seaside town located on the coast of Passamaquoddy Bay. It’s located about an hour drive west of Saint John and is close to the US state of Maine.
The main attraction in St. Andrews, aside from its prime location on the coast, is the iconic Algonquin Resort, a beautiful hotel rich in history and restored to its original glory (it was originally built in 1889!).
We stayed at the Algonquin Resort for two nights, but we didn’t actually spend much time at the hotel because our days were full of activities. That said, Braydon loved the indoor pool and we did spend an evening on the grass in front of the main building. It’s a very nice property that feels more like a castle and museum than hotel.
The town of St. Andrews has a traditional Atlantic Canada feel, with colorful heritage buildings, old churches and red-topped lighthouses. There are several restaurants along the waterfront that offer fantastic views of the ocean and its constantly changing tides. The town has a touristy vibe during the summer months but, even during peak season, it maintains its peaceful charm.
While in St. Andrews, there are three kid-friendly activities you will want to do – the Huntsman Fundy Discovery Aquarium, whale watching aboard the Jolly Breeze Tall Ship and exploring the beautifully manicured Kingsbrae Garden.
(1) Huntsman Fundy Discovery Aquarium
The Huntsman Fundy Discovery Aquarium has multiple touch pools with a number of different creatures that kids can hold and touch, including sea urchin and Atlantic starfish. It’s the perfect size for our boys, aged 3.5 and 1.5 years old at the time. An hour or two is plenty of time to explore the facility.
If you time your visit right, you can witness the feeding of harbour seals, sea horses and salmon. We watched the seal feeding and it was a big hit with our boys.
Things to know before you go: make sure you check the schedule for seal feeding, seahorse feeding and salmon feeding times. They typically get fed twice per day, at varying times. Here’s the website link.
(2) Whale watching in the Bay of Fundy
We’ve been whale watching a few times before, but never on the east coast and never on a tall ship. The Jolly Breeze Tall Ship experience is more than just watching whales swim in their natural habitat. We enjoyed sailing through the calm waters of the Bay of Fundy just as much as the whale sightings.
The Jolly Breeze crew brings a playful atmosphere that caters to kids of all sizes (even the adult sized kids). When we arrived at the pier, our boys had the opportunity to dress up as little pirates, complete with plastic swords and eye patches.
While aboard, the kids have the chance to steer the ship, paint their faces and learn about local wildlife. Braydon even got to hold a live starfish.
It was a successful day at sea. We witnessed 5 minke whales in their natural habitat, along with several porpoises and sea lions. Here’s a short video from our tour.
Things to know before you go: It can get quite cold on the open water, so bring a sweater or coat, hat and sunscreen. It’s recommended to where long sleeves and pants, even if it’s hot on the mainland. The whale watching tour included light breakfast of bagels, fresh fruit and coffee. The crew was accommodating to Connor’s allergies to dairy and eggs.
The minke whales surface quickly, so a fast camera with a good zoom is a ideal!
(3) Kingsbrae Garden
I wasn’t sure how long we would last at Kingsbrae Garden with our little ones. They have short attention spans and I thought we would quickly hear “I’m bored, can we go now?” Well, I’m happy to report that I was wrong. The boys loved the gardens and had a great time exploring.
The Kingsbrae Garden offers much more than colourful flowers and plants. The resident alpacas and goats were a big hit with our boys. Kids can also do a scavenger hunt throughout the gardens (our boys were too young to be interested) and there’s a miniature village with kid-sized houses and castles. They didn’t want to leave!
While at the garden, our group witnesses a release of over 1,000 ladybugs. Every day, the Kingsbrae staff releases ladybugs into the garden so that they eat the bad bugs that attach the roses and flowers. It’s an interesting alternative to pesticides. The kids enjoyed holding the ladybugs and seeing them up close.
The Garden Café in Kingsbrae is also worth a visit. We enjoyed fresh lobster rolls and iced coffee while overlooking the beautiful gardens. The caretakers of the resident animals brought out a few alpacas to feed on the grass in front of the Garden Café patio. It was the perfect atmosphere and setting for a summer lunch on the patio.
Things to know before you go: There isn’t a lot of shade so bring water and sunscreen. We would suggest avoiding mid-day too if you’re visiting in the summer. Call ahead and ask about the timing of the ladybug release; it’s a fun experience for the little ones (and you never know who might join the ladybug release).
City of Saint John
We really enjoyed the city of Saint John and think it should be on everyone’s list of Canadian cities to visit. We stayed at the Hilton, located in the heart of the downtown Saint John, right on the waterfront. The Market Square, located across the street from the Hilton, has several restaurants, pubs and coffee shops. As you can see from the above photo, it’s patio paradise!
While in Saint John, there are three kid-friendly activities you will want to do – visit the New Brunswick Museum, drive the Fundy Trail Parkway and, if you plan it properly, attend the Buskers on the Bay Festival.
Other notable mentions is a visit to Irving Nature Park and the Reversing Rapids, a unique phenomenon created by the collision of the Bay of Fundy’s monstrous tides and the mighty St. John River.
In mid-July, the city of Saint John hosts its annual Buskers on the Bay Festival. Over a 4-day period, hundreds of performers take to the streets of Saint John to entertain thousands of visitors and residents.
Unfortunately, the first day of the festival was the day we were leaving, so we only caught a few of the early morning performances. It was fun to see so many families show up. We got the feeling that this a family tradition for many and a big part of the Saint John community.
(4) New Brunswick Museum
The New Brunswick Museum is located in the Market Square in downtown Saint John. During our visit, we had a guided tour that was catered towards kids. The museum has a wide variety of exhibits that takes visitors on a journey through New Brunswick, ranging from fossils and birds, to Canadian art and military artifacts.
Our favourite exhibit was the Hall of Great Whales (pictured above). The massive whale skeletons are quite impressive.
Things to know before you go: No food is allowed in the museum so make sure you eat ahead of time. On the top floor there is an awesome playroom for kids. If they need a break, take them up there to run around and play.
(5) Fundy Trail Parkway & Sea Caves
About an hour drive from Saint John is the Fundy Trail Parkway, a 16 km drive along the coast of the Bay of Fundy. The park has dozens of scenic lookouts and hiking trails, footpaths to beaches, a suspension foot bridge and an interpretive centre.
You can organize a guided tour or drive the parkway at your leisure. You’ll likely want to dedicate a least 2 hours to the park, but you can also spend the entire day exploring the its many trails and viewpoints.
Before you enter the Fundy Trail Parkway you will pass the village of St. Martins and its infamous Sea Caves (you can see the caves in the above photo).
There’s a restaurant at the caves, appropriately named The Caves Restaurant, that serves up some delicious seafood chowder and lobster rolls. Whether you eat at the restaurant or not, make sure you check out the beach because it will look very different when you return in a few hours.
When we first arrived, the water was at high tide and you couldn’t walk to the sea caves (see above photo). By the time we returned 2 hours later, the tides had retracted and we could walk on the ocean floor right up to the caves (see photo below).
Things to know before you go: There is a fee to enter the Fundy Trail Parkway. Here’s a link for the park rates. If you’re staying in Saint John, a visit to the Fundy Trail Parkway will require either a full morning or afternoon, because it’s about an hour drive to the park entrance. Bring lots of snacks for the kids to keep them entertained in the car.
If you plan to hike some of the trails or get out of your car frequently, make sure you bring bug spray because the bugs are quite active.
City of Moncton
Moncton’s downtown core has a few restaurants, pubs and shops, but it’s not very big and most of the action is found on appropriately named Main Street. We stayed at the Delta Beausejour, which is centrally located in the heart of downtown Moncton. The rooms are quite small but it has a great waterslide for the kids.
While in Moncton, there are three kid-friendly activities you will want to do – visit the Magnetic Hill area, take a lobster cruise in Shediac, and walk on the ocean floor at the Hopewell Rocks.
Another popular destination is Parlee Beach Provincial Park. We didn’t have enough time to visit Parlee Beach but we’re told it’s THE beach to visit in New Brunswick.
(6) Magnetic Hill Zoo
Located about 15 miuntes outside the city of Moncton is the Magnetic Hill area; home to the Magnetic Hill Zoo and Magic Mountain Water Park. We did not visit the water park but it’s quite big and looks like a fun place to spend the day. We did visit the Magnetic Hill Zoo and spent about 2 hours exploring the park.
The zoo has over 400 animals, making it the largest zoo in Atlantic Canada, and in 2008 the zoo was rated fourth on a list of Canada’s top ten zoos. [source]
Now, I don’t want to oversell it because it’s not a very big zoo, but it’s home to black bears, zebra, cougars, a leopard, tigers, lions, black jaguars, reindeer, and lots of different lemers, monkeys and farm animals. We had a great time!
Things to know before you go: The zoo is a good size, so a stroller is highly recommend for younger kids. If you don’t have one you can rent one at the entrance.
There isn’t a lot of shade, so bring lots of sunscreen and a hat. If you have a full day, spend the morning visiting the zoo and then head over to the water park in the afternoon.
There are several kid attractions near the Magnetic Hill area, including a go kart track, mini-golf, butterfly gardens, paddle boats, bumper boats, batting cages, kids playground and driving range. More info here.
(7) Lobster cruise in Shediac
When we decided to travel to Atlantic Canada we knew that plenty of fresh seafood would be on the menu. The region is famous for fresh lobster (the seaside town of Shediac is known as the “Lobster Capital of the World”), so a lobster cruise with Shediac Bay Cruises is the perfect way to sample the local delicacy.
The 3-hour tour departs from the wharf in Pointe-du-Chêne and circles around Shediac Bay. It’s a fun tour with an entertaining captain that educates his guests about the history of the lobster industry in New Brunswick and how to properly cook and eat a lobster the Acadian way.
The tour also gave Braydon the highlight of his trip to New Brunswick – when the captain pulled a fake rubber chicken out of a lobster trap. He laughed so hard. When we ask him what he remembers most about our trip he says “the chicken in the water!”
Things to know before you go: Arrive early so you have some time to check out Shediac and the Pointe-du-Chêne wharf. If you don’t like lobster, you can opt for BBQ chicken instead. Alcohol is sold on board so bring extra cash if you would like a drink.
The lobster is served cold, so don’t go in expecting steamy lobster with hot butter. This was our first time eating cold lobster – it was delicious!
(8) Hopewell Rocks
You cannot visit New Brunswick without stopping at the world famous Hopewell Rocks. Located on the shores of the Bay of Fundy at Hopewell Cape, about 40 km’s south of Moncton, the Hopewell Rocks is one of the most popular places to witness the highest tides in the world.
If you have the time, it’s highly recommended to visit the Hopewell Rocks, also called the Flowerpot Rocks, at both low and high tide. Unfortunately we were only able to visit at low tide, but if you have to choose just one, low tide is the probably the best time (unless you’re there for the epic kayaking!).
Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and knew exactly where to go for the best photos before the tide returned. Walking on the ocean floor is a truly unique experience, especially when you consider that the beach you are walking will be covered with 40 feet of water in just a few hours. Unbelievable!
Things to know before you go: the beach is quite muddy, so plan accordingly. You will want to bring a change of shoes and clothes for the kids. They will get dirty.
The walk from the Interpretive Centre to the beach will take about 15 minutes. It’s not close. There’s a shuttle service for a minimal charge if assistance is needed. To reach the beach and rock formations, you will need to walk down a series of stairs, which means you cannot bring your stroller with you.
Don’t be late! If you’re 30 minutes late you may miss the opportunity to walk on the ocean floor. The water moves fast, so if you snooze, you lose!
Have you visited New Brunswick? Did you visit any of these locations? What did we miss?
Share your thoughts and travel tips in the comments section, we’d love to read about your experiences!