advertisement

Centered on a good-size commercial harbor, Saint John is New Brunswick's largest city, the center of much of this province's industry. Spread out over a low hill with good rocky views, the downtown boasts elaborate Victorian flourishes on its rows of commercial buildings. (Look high along the cornices to appreciate the intricate brickwork.) A few impressive mansions are tucked into the side streets, their interiors featuring intricate wood carving -- appropriately so, since timber barons built most of those.

There's an industrial grittiness to the city, which can be either unappealing or charming. Just don't expect a tidy garden city with lots of neat homes; this isn't that sort of place. Instead, Saint John offers plenty of brick architecture in various states of repair. Throughout downtown you'll see its past and present front and center: big shipping terminals, oil storage tanks, and paper mills. But don't give up. The central downtown district -- once you find it -- is laid out in gridlike blocks and squares, good for walks waiting for the ferry to Digby, bites to eat, and a pint of beer. You might even stay a night or 2, just to get a break from the cute-village train that Atlantic Canada can sometimes be. This is a place full of life, not a postcard: Streets often bustle with skateboarders, merchants, carousers, out-for-the-weekenders, and local old-timers casing the public market for discount produce.

Note that Saint John is always spelled out, just as I have done in this sentence. It's never abbreviated as "St. John," mostly so that mail -- and airplane travelers -- destined for St. John's, Newfoundland, don't end up here by mistake. Good thinking. But don't worry if you get it mixed up; locals will be right quick to correct you if you err.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.