This post is sponsored by Envision Saint John but I chose our family’s activities and places to visit/eat.
The Halifax-Saint John drive is the only one in which I say I’m “going home” regardless of which way the car is driving. Halifax is the home where we’re raising our kids, but Saint John is where I grew up and it will always be home to me. It’s a fabulous city and every time I’m back, I marvel at how it grows more vibrant with each passing year. Even better: it’s surrounded by towns that are equally charming. Our family trip was planned around the International Sculpture Trail, a unique international art exhibition featuring seventy-two large scale granite works of contemporary art by world renowned artists, including 38 pieces (by the end of 2022) that were created during the Sculpture Saint John Sculpture Symposiums. Our route included the sculptures found in Sussex, Hampton, Quispamsis, Rothesay (where I grew up!), Grand Bay – Westfield, and of course, Saint John! My goal is to share our adventures and thus show you why you should plan a long weekend to Saint John with your family – and plan to check out some of these fantastic pieces!
Our first full day of activities was Sunday, and what a full day it was! We started at the Queen Square Farmers Market, which is a seasonal outdoor market on Sundays and a great spot to grab lunch. The Chinese dumplings are a family favourite! We then walked a few blocks down to Rainbow Park to check out the sculpture “Pod” by Phil Savage of the Kingston Peninsula, New Brunswick, Canada – one of the few Canadian artists who have participated in Sculpture Saint John. The kids had a great time at the splash pad and playground while we were there.
The Area 506 Waterfront Container Village is one of Saint John’s cool new spots. Right along the waterfront, there are lots of little shops in wonderfully bright containers. My kids were especially excited about the candy store, while my husband went straight for the coffee!
Later in the afternoon, we headed over to Rockwood Park where you can find the sculpture “Sunshine and Moonlight over Saint John” by Hiroyuki Asano of Japan. The kids had a swim in the lake while we sat on the patio at Lily’s for a drink. The pace is relaxed there so it was great to be able to lounge while the kids had a swim. Afterwards, we hit up the playground. There are lots of hiking trails and even farm animals in Rockwood Park – we could have easily spent a whole day there! While in the area, we also visited the Saint John Public Gardens, where you can find “Seeking Zarathustra” by Vasilis Vasili of Greece, as well as my alma mater, UNBSJ, to check out “First Day” by Jhon Gogaberishvili of Georgia.
We hit the patio for an early dinner at Pomodori Pizza, which is a casual spot with some great pizza (highly recommend the Maple Pecan Bianca pizza!). They were unable to accommodate my daughter’s peanut allergy but the rest of us enjoyed it. Then it was time for an evening stroll along Harbour Passage, with beautiful water views and more sculptures to discover, including peeking through “Wind and Water” by James Boyd, of Hampton, New Brunswick, Canada and “Window on the Waterfront” by Hitoshi Tanaka of Japan. An interesting note about James Boyd – he has participated in all five Sculpture Saint John Sculpture Symposiums and his work can be found throughout the region. Be sure to stop in at Bella’s Ice Cream first and have a unique flavour of handmade ice cream for your stroll!
Saint John gives me a “home advantage” and I was able to head out in the evening with some friends while my parents looked after the kids. We visited Hopscotch Whisky Bar, which is very small and has a relaxed vibe. A few members of our group enjoyed the whisky flights while I enjoyed their great selection of non-alcoholic drinks.
It rained on our second day, but that didn’t spoil our fun! We were staying in the heart of uptown Saint John at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Saint John, which I chose in part for its prime location and in part for the pool. This paid off because we started the day with a morning swim before heading across the street (entirely without getting wet thanks to the system of interconnected pedways in the uptown) to the Saint John City Market for lunch. In the afternoon, we had lots of fun bouldering and climbing at Fit Rocks Climbing Gym. That evening, we met up with another family for dinner at Italian By Night. It’s not a kid’s restaurant per se, but it has a lively atmosphere, and it was fun to enjoy some good food and wine with friends. Please note that you’ll definitely want to make reservations for this spot as it’s one of the busiest restaurants in town!
One of my favourite things to do in Saint John is to visit the Irving Nature Park, so we did this on our third day. Since we were heading to the west side of the city anyway, we first made our way to Grand Bay-Westfield to check out the four sculptures located throughout the town – “My Town” by James Boyd, “Love” by Fetiye Boudevin of Turkey, “Untitled” by Alessio Ranaldi of Italy and “Rivergate” by Radoslav Sultov of Bulgaria. I hadn’t been to Brundage Point River Centre, or the ferry terminal located there before, and it was a beautiful area! Stunning views! In a longer version of this trip, I would have taken the family across the ferry (there’s no charge) just for fun, but the Irving Nature Park awaited!
I was hoping for a hike but didn’t know how my six-year-old would do, since he’s been known to say “I hate walking. It’s just standing there and moving your feet.” Ha! Even he was thrilled by the landscape, the breathtaking views, and the fun of the woods, so I got my wish. A couple of notes about the Irving Nature Park: there’s a nice beach just before the entrance. If you’re staying uptown, I recommend grabbing a salad at Marci’s Salads or a sandwich from Jeremiah’s Deli, then having a picnic on the beach before your hike. You’ll see lots of vehicles parked right by the entrance of the park, but my suggestion is to drive into the park until you reach the middle parking lot. There’s a lookout there and you can hike from there as well. Finally, keep in mind that this part of town can be chillier than the rest of the city and it makes sense to pack a sweater just in case. We got lucky and definitely didn’t need ours.
Carleton Martello Tower is about a ten-minute drive from the Irving Nature Park and definitely worth the visit. In addition to being a cool historic property, its view of the city is fabulous. We enjoyed the Tower before admitting that it was finally time to get back on the road. First, we had lunch at Britt’s Pub – a restaurant I highly recommend! We all loved our meals, and I even had a great non-alcoholic mule while Dana enjoyed a local beer. We then headed in the direction of Halifax, making some fun stops along the way.
Rothesay is a beautiful and charming town and I’m not at all biased even though I lived there for twenty years! When driving from Saint John to Halifax, I highly recommend taking the Rothesay Road instead of the highway. It’s a beautiful drive! You can do as we did and stop at the Rothesay Common to visit my old elementary school. Just kidding, it’s also the location of a fabulous green space and playground, and home to another sculpture from the International Sculpture Trail, “The Arc” by Jo Kley of Germany. If you need a snack, or a caffeine fix, the Garden Grove Cafe is just across the street – it’s so cute! You can then head up to Quispamsis to visit another sculpture, “Cascade” by Agnessa Petrova of Bulgaria, located in their Arts and Culture Park. Two points I will make about Quispamsis: while our schedule didn’t allow for it, the Q-Plex is a favourite in the area: a fun water park in the summer and a year-round indoor skating rink. Check it out! Also, the community theatre in Quispamsis is excellent. You’ll want to check if KV Players have a show running while you’re in town.
Our next stop was the beautiful riverside town of Hampton. I’ve heard so many great things about Station 33 Café & Yoga in Hampton and we wanted to stop in for a tea and a bite to eat, but our timing was off, and they were closed for the day by the time we arrived. I hope you try this cool spot. There’s a playground and another sculpture, “Peace Wing” by James Boyd, directly across from it, so overall, the perfect pit stop for a family.
Last stop: Sussex! Best known to Saint Johners as the place we go to ski, the town is worth visiting year-round. We enjoyed a meal at Knocks Cafe, the highlight of which was a delicious, whipped feta dip. We loved the mural on the side of the building, and they also had a great patio. After our bite to eat, we went down the street to check out the sculpture “Sense of Place,” by Hew Chee Fong of Australia. I felt the name was so perfect for what we had just experienced: a deeper appreciation for Saint John & the Towns by the Bay, and a better sense of place.
About Saint John & the Towns By The Bay
We always love our time in Saint John, and there’s’ never a shortage of things to do. See below for more photos from our adventures! For more information on things to see and do in the Saint John region, visit http://www.SJTownsByTheBay.com
About Sculpture Saint John and the International Sculpture Trail
The fifth and final Sculpture Saint John Sculpture Symposium is happening now (August 11 – September 10) at Long Wharf, in uptown Saint John, where the final eight pieces are being carved by both local and international sculptors. During our trip, we were able to visit just 12 of the sculptures found along the International Sculpture Trail. For more information about the trail and the pieces featured throughout, visit http://sculpturesaintjohn.com/sculpture-trail/.