Saint John is the second-largest city in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, with 68,000 residents (2016). It is in the south of the province on the Bay of Fundy.
Saint John is a city whose population is composed almost entirely of the descendants of Irish immigrants and British loyalists. Canada's oldest incorporated city, Saint John's metro population is approximately 125,000 and it routinely plays host to cruise ships and individual tourists from all over North America. (To avoid confusion with St. John's (Newfoundland), Saint John is never spelled St. John - locals will be very quick to point this out.)
Until 2003, Saint John had a long history of shipbuilding at the city's dry dock, which is one of the largest in the world. Saint John now has fast growing research and information technology sectors, and it has a growing sector of tourism, with over 1.5 million visitors a year and 200,000 cruise ship visitors a year, creating a renaissance in the city's historic downtown (locally known as uptown).
Mi'kmaq and Maliseet Aboriginal peoples lived in the region for thousands of years, calling the river Wolastoq, before European settlement.
French explorer Samuel de Champlain landed at Saint John Harbour on June 24, 1604 (the feast of St. John the Baptist). This is where the Saint John River gets its name. After over a century of ownership disputes over the land surrounding Saint John between the French and English, the English deported the French colonists in 1755 and constructed Fort Howe above the harbour in 1779.
Saint John, as a major settlement, was established by Loyalist refugees of the American Revolution when two fleets of vessels from Massachusetts, one in the spring and a second in the fall, arrived in the harbour. These refugees wished to remain living under Great Britain and were forced to leave their U.S. homes during the American Revolution.
In 1785, the City of Saint John was formed from the union of Parrtown and Carleton. Over the next century, waves of Irish immigration, namely during the Great Famine via Partridge Island, would fundamentally change the city's demographics and culture.
Temperatures in Saint John vary by season. In the summertime temperatures can reach a high of 22°C, and in the wintertime they can dip to -15°C. Rain is common in the spring and autumn, but it usually doesn't rain much in the summer. Fog is not uncommon during the summer months. There is the occasional heavy snowfall in the winter; however, snow is usually more abundant the more north you travel away from the Bay of Fundy.
By carDriving to Saint John is usually not a hassle, unlike many other cities. However, traffic has been steadily increasing. And for travellers driving from Fredericton to Saint John on Highway 7, care is required because of the risk of moose collisions at certain times of year and certain times of the day.
Saint John is 107 km (66 miles) from the Calais/St. Stephen border between Canada and the United States of America. Driving distances from major cities are 496 km (310 miles) from Portland, Maine, 940 km (588 miles) from Montreal, Québec and 424 km (265 miles) from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
If you're travelling from southern Nova Scotia, your best bet is to take Bay Ferries from Digby. There are three crossings daily from mid-June to mid-October, these take 2½ hours on average. During the rest of the year there is at least one crossing daily and they usually take 2 hr 45 min. $37 per adult passenger and $119 for a car (April 2017).
Book online, and check on at the terminal to get your boarding pass when you arrive. Restaurant, cafeteria and wifi on board.
By busMaritime Bus runs from Saint John to Moncton or Fredericton.
phone: +1 506-638-5555address: 4180 Loch Lomond RoadServed several times daily by flights from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax. (Don't mix up the destination with St. John's)
By trainThere is no passenger train to Saint John. Via Rail serves Moncton, from which a two-hour bus ride reaches Saint John.
By boatSaint John also boasts a booming cruise ship industry and has cruise ships enter the city's dock on a regular basis.
Saint John's Market Wharf also provides a convenient if unserviced space within the harbour for pleasure boaters, making it easy for power or sail vessels coming in from the Fundy to berth and enjoy the Uptown shopping or dining. Longer term moorage is not available in the harbour, although it is available several miles up the Saint John River. There are no fuel or marine services at the wharf, and the wharf is used by local fishing boats and by pleasure craft.
Saint John Transit buses are available from approximately 6AM to midnight for public transport within the city. Schedules are available on the buses and in information booths throughout the city. Fare is $2.75 for adult passengers; $2.50 for children 6-14, and seniors (April 2017).
Taxi service in Saint John is run on a zone-to-zone basis (no meters). There are several companies available in Saint John for this service.
Diamond Taxiphone: +1 506 648-8888
University Cabphone: +1 506 631-1111Offers student discounts to UNBSJ
Coastal Taxiphone: +1 506 635-1144
Simonds Taxiphone: +1 506 696-8294
Royal Taxi:phone: +1 506 652-5050
Sunrise Taxiphone: +1 506 638-8888
- East Side to Uptown or North End: $7-10 (and vice versa)
- East Side to West Side: $12-15
- North to South End: $8-10
If you are staying outside of the city in Rothesay or the surrounding area, expect to pay above $15. Cab rides to the airport can run in the $20 range. For people who need to make a short stop to pick up cash or something quick, most drivers will charge you an extra buck. But make sure you ask, because they are supposed to charge you for another stop. Some will do this right off the bat if you don't ask. Also, most cab drivers are more than happy to have your repeat business, so if there is someone you like ask for their car number and next time you call you can ask for the same person.
Within the Uptown it is possible to travel on foot between the City Market, Brunswick Square Mall, Market Square, the Canada Games Aquatic Centre, Mercantile Centre and Harbour Station via underground and pedway connections without venturing outside (the "Inside Connection"). This is very useful during the winter. During the rest of the year, Uptown Saint John also offers a very pleasant and fairly accessible walking experience, with clear, well-maintained sidewalks and crosswalks, and fairly straightforward navigation. (Unlike many older cities, Saint John's Uptown is laid out in a simple grid design.)
There are eleven car rental dealerships in the city including an Avis Rent-A-Car at the Saint John Airport.
Fort HoweA panoramic view of the city and harbour, and a historic attraction.
address: 47 Charlotte St,The oldest continuing farmer's market in Canada, with a charter dating from 1785. Local businesses, craft workers, artists, farmers, bakers and grocers sell a wide array of unique foods and crafts, native to New Brunswick or around the world. The building is a historic site with amazing period architecture.
address: Market SquareA wide array of local historic information and artefacts, artwork, scientific exhibits and displays, and a Discovery Centre with many interactive and educational activities. Museum has a to-scale plaster of a mastodon skeleton and skeletons of whales.
Rockwood ParkA wide variety of walking, biking and horseback riding trails. Rockwood Park is landlocked but its paths weave around natural and man-made lakes (public swimming is free, but no lifeguard service is available.)
Irving Nature ParkA variety of walking trails lead travellers through woods, guide them into marshes, and bring them to beaches and lookout points on the sea.
King SquareGardens, monuments, and the trademark bandstand and fountain at its centre. Adjacent to King Square is the Loyalist City Burial Ground, whose cobblestone paths lead past graves over two centuries old.
Reversing FallsAs the Saint John River flows into the Bay of Fundy, whose tides are the highest in the world, strong rapids form as the tide rises and clashes with the flow of the river below the Reversing Falls bridge. During the summer months a Jet Boat offers tourists the thrill of tackling the rapids up close. A pulp and paper mill is located in the area near the bridge. Check the website for low-income and hight-tides, the best times to see the change.
address: 454 Whipple StreetThe Carleton Martello Tower was built for the War of 1812. However by the time of its completion in 1815, the war was completed. It became used for military in 1866 and was used on and off by Canadian troops for nearly 80 years. It is now a Canadian National Historic Site. There will be no access to the 1812 tower or command post in 2017. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy and explore the Visitor Center, Exhibit Gallery, gift counter, and grounds.
Cherry Brook ZooHome to numerous endangered species and other exotic animals. Lovely natural setting. Great area for interesting walking. Open 364 days per year until dusk. Included is Vanished Kingdom Park featuring life-sized statues of extinct species. Tiger Claws Miniature Gold also located on site along with gift shop and canteen.
The Imperial TheatreA historic theatre features everything from plays to rock concerts.
Harbour PassageHarbour Passage is a red paved walking path that runs from the Boardwalk Uptown to the Old Museum on Douglas Avenue. It's a great walking, biking or skating path in the summertime. While it is well-lit at night, the occasional mugging has been known to happen. Stay in groups at night and you will be fine. Also a great way to make it from Uptown to the North End of the city. Very close to the Holiday Inn Express.
There are eight local shopping centres of varying quality; a few are mere strip malls or have fallen into the "dead maĺl" pattern of discount stores, vacancies or non-retail uses such as telephone call centres. The largest local malls are McAllister Place and East Point Shopping Centre in the east end, or Brunswick Square and Market Square uptown. The city's east side is also home to numerous big-box stores, mostly chains ranging from clothing to hardware to electronics.
Billy's SeafoodSeafood of all kinds is what you can find at Billy's. Locally owned and operated by Billy. Offers up great seafood dishes with a reasonable price. Look to spend $15-20 per person for supper. This restaurant is a favourite of both locals and cruise tourists, some of whom make the trek from the United States each year to come and sample the tastes!
Alley Griaaddress: 126 Prince William StreetSpanish tapas bar. Serves up all kinds of delicious plates for you to share with your friends. Best if more than two people go, that way everyone can order something different. Open in the afternoons and evenings.
phone: +1 506-648-2377address: 33 Canterbury StreetThandi's is great for Thai and Indian cuisine. It's a little on the pricier side so expect to spend $25-30 per person for a well-rounded meal (including drinks).
Big Tide Brewing Co.address: 53 Princess StreetNice little brew pub with some great microbrewed beer. Everything from IPAs to Hemp Ale. Big Tide offers up some pub favourites. Not too expensive. Expect to spend around $30-40 per couple. Great mixed drinks too!
Lemongrass/Pepper's Pubaddress: Brunswick SquareThe Lemongrass Restaurant is a great Thai place offering upscale food at a reasonable price. Very good pad thai and "money bags" (appetizer). Pepper's Pub, which is located in the same venue offers up unique pub fare for just about anybody. Thursdays is wing night, offering 1lb of wings for $4. Great sauce selections. Service can be a little slow on this night, but only because the place is jam packed with regulars who flock to Pepper's. They often host "IPN- Indie Pop Night". Great selection of live bands and a heated patio make Lemongrass/Pepper's Pub a great place to eat and drink.
Cora's Breakfast & LunchGreat breakfast, à la Cora! Cora, a Quebec native, began a chain of breakfast restaurants which are now popular all over Atlantic Canada. Impressive fruit plates, delicious crepes and huge portions. Inexpensive. Expect to spend around $30-40 for two, including drinks. Try the crepes of any kind. They're all delicious!
Vito'sWith three locations in the greater Saint John area, this locally owned family restaurant was founded in 1972 by four Greek immigrant brothers and is very popular for pizza and spaghetti. Locations: Rothesay Ave (East) 324 Rothesay Avenue, Saint John, +1 506 634-1300; Hazen Avenue (Uptown) 1 Hazen Avenue Saint John, +1 506 634-3900; Hampton Road (KV) 111 Hampton Road Rothesay, +1 506 847-4400
Urban Deli/Italian By Nightaddress: King's St.Urban Deli has fantastic lunches, $10-15. Pulled Piggy and Slaw is highly recommended, as is the Cordon Blu (not on the menu). At night, for expensive, but good Italian eats, Italian By Night is great.
phone: +1 506 674-5287address: 10 Portland StreetIn the Canada's Best Value Inn Fort Howe Plaza. Try the B-Eat the House burger, which is 35 oz of ground beef and trimmings. Eat the whole thing in 45 minutes and it's free. Your photo also goes on their wall.
phone: +1 506 657-2337address: 1 Market SquareOn the Boardwalk, inside Market Square. Great selection of beer both local and international. Good eats! You can get the ale-sized fish and chips which is practically a whole side of haddock! Good value for the money. Expect to spend around $10-20 at lunch and a little bit more in the evenings. Has a bar downstairs and a fine dining establishment upstairs.
address: Located on Saint John's East sideHome of Tonic, a spacious dance club, for patrons 21+. The largest dance club east of Montreal. Music by "DJ506" You can call ahead and ask to be put on the list, if you are under 21. The 3 Mile Steak & Rib House offers steaks, ribs and wings (with over 36 different sauces). At Legends Bar & Grille casino style meets delicious food and a good place to drink.
phone: +1 506 634-7135address: 46 Princess StreetA popular Irish pub in Uptown, it has live music on Friday and Saturday nights, usually rock and country cover bands. O'Leary's has broken away from the live bands on the weekends and often plays the hottest dance hits.
phone: +1 506 634-0366address: 2 Princess StreetFriendly pub at the foot of Princess Street, near cruise terminal. Establishment has unusual vaulted ceiling having once served as the mail room in Canada's oldest post office. Free Wi-Fi, ATM.
Finding a place to stay in Saint John shouldn't be a hassle. For those of you who prefer a comfortable stay near everything you could possibly wish to see, try one of the hotels or B&Bs in the uptown. Hotels in Saint John cost on average $120 per night for a single. However, if you are travelling on a budget there are still some comfortable motels around the city.
address: 1 Market SquareOn boardwalk, connected to Market Square via underground tunnels.
address: 39 King StreetUptown, accessible through Brunswick Square.
phone: +1 506 657-3610address: 10 Portland StreetBetween the North End of Saint John and Uptown, near the highway. Basic hotel, good amenities, dining room on-site. Free Wifi. Pool and hot tub.
Hotel Courtenay Bayaddress: 350 Haymarket SquareOlder hotel with basic amenities, adequate for single-night stays but could use renovation. On-site restaurant, PJ Billingtons, is good for breakfast but otherwise limited.
Chipman Hill Suitesaddress: 76 Union StreetVarious local B&Bs, all in beautiful heritage buildings in the uptown area.
address: 51 Fashion DriveRelatively new property with modern amenities, pool, water slide, near east side shopping malls and the highway.
For camping underneath the stars, Rockwood Park or the village of St. Martins are suitable choices.
A few cottages or country inns may be found in the city, with many more in the suburbs and nearby country.
Internet access is available in several areas within the "Inside Connection", including a convenience store in Market Square and an Internet Cafe located en route between Market Square and Brunswick Square. In addition, many coffee places also offer free wi-fi. Any Java Moose or Starbucks locations will offer this. Also, on King Street in the uptown area, there is UZone which is an internet cafe. They also offer by-the-hour video gaming and LAN gaming.
Saint John is safe compared to most cities; however, it is a good idea to walk on well-lit busy streets after dark and not on darker side streets. Street crime is rare but not unheard of. You are relatively safe in the commercial/retail area of Uptown, where the hotels are located. The South End, also known as, "uptown", can be dangerous in certain areas as well as the north end.