Recently, we were deployed on the AJAC EcoRun to sample some of the latest and greatest the auto industry has to offer when it comes to alternative powertrains such as battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and traditional gas-powered cars. We have more on that actual event here, but in addition to the cars themselves, this was a big year for EcoRun: it was held in New Brunswick, meaning it’s the first time the annual event has visited Atlantic Canada. We thought that along with doing our best to earn the coveted “Green Jacket” awarded to the most fuel-efficient driver on the event (there were 19 of us altogether), we’d take a look at what you can get up to in this second-most populous Atlantic province (and the second-largest in land mass, too).
Take a walk down Main Street, Moncton
We started our journey in the Province’s largest town, with a metro population of just under 150,000 residents.
Our hotel – the Delta Hotel by Marriott Beausejour – was located just off of Moncton’s main drag (or is that “Main” drag, with a capital “M”?). If you can look past the unsightly Bell TV tower standing sentry over pretty much the whole downtown core, you’ll see some wonderfully New Brunswickian shops and restaurants spread among more Canada-wide fair such as The Keg.
We dined at the Catch22 Lobster bar – because when you’re here, that’s what you do – where the lobsters are fresh, and the banana flambé is fired up right there in front of you (some were actually sweating). Other neat-o stuff includes Mexi’s cantina, Japan Go and Tokai Ramen. Seems that while New Brunswick may be known for its lobster, there’s room for other flavours of the world, too. When you’ve had enough of all that, have a locally brewed ale on the patio at the Tide & Boar.
Drive backwards up – sort of – the hill at Magnetic Hill
Technically, this amusement park/water park/heritage town/zoo sits within Moncton’s city limits, but you wouldn’t really know it once there as it’s so all-encompassing. While we didn’t have the chance to slide down the big Kamikazee “free fall” water slide, we did get a chance to drive up (or is that down?) the hill for which the park is named, located just inside the park gates.
Basically, what you do is drive down a hill to a marker pole, and stop. Pretty standard stuff, right? But hold on. Once there, take your feet off the pedals and feel as your car gets pulled up the hill backwards, at somewhat startling speed. Only, you’re not being pulled up; due to the way the surroundings interact with the road below, you’re actually experiencing an optical illusion and are travelling down a hill backwards, even though you feel like you’re on your way up. Freaky stuff that shows just how much of a mad scientist Mother Nature can be.
Walk the waterfront in Fredericton
Sitting on the St. John river, Fredericton is the capital of New Brunswick and home to just over 100,000 New Bunswickians (yes, that’s what they’re called – look it up). You can tour the government buildings if you chose, but a stroll along the St. John is a great way to unwind and take in the skyline. If you’re feeling inquisitive, then have a look at The Lighthouse on the Green; the stairs up are free to climb, and the restaurant below serves ice cream and local craft beer.
Feeling a little more hungry? Try Isaac’s Way just up from there, where you can dine on pakora veggie burgers while taking in the art on display; Isaac’s serves a gallery, too.
Take your time in Saint John
While this remains one of the Province’s largest cities, it has a pleasant small-town feel to it thanks to a host of classic architecture, including a handful of churches that appear lifted directly from the Gothic era. Once done with those, take a stroll down King St. to the waterfront, then drop into the East Coast Bistro for a seafood chowder.
End your night with a spot of blueberry tea (they like their blueberries ‘round here) or a craft ale at any number of the speakeasies along Prince William St. in the town’s Trinity Royal Conservation Area.
Oh, and be sure not to call it “St. John’s”.
Go whale watching in St. Andrews By-the-Sea
Not to be confused with the famous (and also coastal) golf course in Scotland, St. Andrews serves as a bit of a hub for whale watching in the area. A handful of companies operate off the pier at the foot of King St., which also features some properly colourful architecture the likes of which the Maritimes is so well known for.
If a light cruise is more your thing, there’s plenty on offer in that vein as well. We were given the opportunity to take a relaxing cruise along the border between New Brunswick and Maine on a tall ship where the sailors will climb the mast, unfurl the mainsail and literally swing from the ropes. It’s quite a sight in itself, not to mention the gorgeous coastline surrounding you.
Don’t forget the Provincial Parks
Need a break from the city? Head south to the Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park for a look at the eroded “Flowerpot” rock towers on the coast about 30 mins south of Moncton. Try to go at low tide for your best look at one of the region’s main attractions.
Also worth a visit is New River Beach park and its surrounding area; we had a chance to stop by the Baybreeze Hotel and Restaurant, a charming little place run by a Greek couple whose style and various menu offerings really have you feeling like you’re in the Old Country, especially when you consider the gorgeous coastline and Bay of Fundy beside you.
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