Many visitors to New Brunswick tend to stop in Moncton, St John, or Fredericton during their trip. I suppose the reason why is because these cities are popular and offer great transportation connections.
While this might be the case, there is one place in New Brunswick that I would recommend visiting more than anywhere else – the beautiful small town of Saint-Andrews-by-the-Sea.
Before planning my Maritime’s road trip I had never heard of Saint Andrews. After spending 4 days in the small town it ended up becoming the favorite place that I visited after more than 3 weeks of travel.
The town of Saint Andrews is a small resort town. It boasts a great location right on the Bay of Fundy. This makes it a popular place for people looking to escape the heat during the summer. It’s also a prime destination for whale watching in New Brunswick.
These aren’t the only things that are special about Saint Andrews. There is a well-preserved old town area with picturesque historic houses. Nearby to town you can easily escape into nature. The whole area surrounding the town is just full of things that you can do to occupy your time during your trip.
During my visit to Saint Andrews I stayed at the historic Algonquin Resort. This resort is famous for having been built and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. over the years it has undergone quite a few renovations and these days it’s arguably the best luxury hotel East of Quebec City.
Today, I want to talk about all of the best things to do in Saint Andrews. Hopefully I can share some helpful tips with you if you’re planning a trip here and you’re wondering how to spend your time.
Things to do in Saint Andrews by the Sea
A trip to Saint Andrews isn’t complete without going whale watching out on the Bay of Fundy. This is what the area is well known for and it’s an experience that you’re never going to forget.
During my trip I went out on the water with Fundy Tide Runners. They provided a professional and amazing service. With Fundy Tide Runners you head out onto the water with a Zodiac boat instead of one of the larger whale watching boats. This is a lot more fun and you can get very up close with the whales and other wildlife.
There are also a few other companies running whale watching tours out of Saint Andrews.
Keep in mind that whale watching is only available from late spring to early fall. The rest of the year it’s too cold to head out onto the water and the whales aren’t even nearby. During the summer you’re definitely going to want to go whale watching if you get the chance. It’s an incredible experience and something you don’t want to miss.
Wander Around Downtown
The historic downtown area of Saint Andrews has been very well-preserved. There are dozens of old homes from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. There are even a few left over from the 18th century although they have been heavily renovated over the years.
The downtown is very flat making it easy to walk around and explore on foot. Most of the hotels are located downtown as well so there’s no need to drive. If you are arriving by car there is free parking throughout the Town Center.
Make sure to stop by the Saint Andrews tourist office so you can grab a map. The people working there are very knowledgeable about the city and the map will show you all of the highlights of the downtown core.
Along with a number of beautiful homes you can also find the historic Courthouse and some other older buildings. Many of the homes have signs on the front providing you with details of the building’s history.
Once you’re finished walking through the downtown neighborhoods you can make your way out to the Pier. From here you’ll be able to enjoy an amazing view of the Pasquamoddy Bay. Try to visit later in the day if you get the chance at the sunset over the water is magical.
In the downtown area are plenty of small shops, cafes, and restaurants. Don’t hesitate to stop inside any of the small shops or drop by a cafe for a quick drink. Everybody in the town is friendly and always excited to speak with visitors from out of town.
Try Some Local Seafood
Since you’re in New Brunswick and so close to the Bay of Fundy you’re going to want to try out some seafood.
There are plenty of options for great seafood in town. I’m not one for something fancy so I opted to head to a local place called Ossie’s Fried Clams.
To get to Ossie’s you’ll need to take a short drive out of Saint Andrews. It’s about 15-minutes away and it’s definitely worth it.
Ossie’s Fried Clams has been around since 1958 and it’s somewhat of a hidden-gem that mostly locals know about. You won’t find too many tourists here.
It doesn’t seem like much, just a small white building on the side of the highway. Once you order and get your food you’re bound to be impressed with how delicious everything is.
You can choose from a variety of different seafood options. There are also other food items like milkshakes and a selection of desserts.
I recommend going with one of the fried platters. These come with clams, scallops, squid, and fish. It’s a great way to sample some of the local seafood.
Go for the small platter for two people. The large platter is big enough that it could feed a family!
During the warmer summer months you can sit at the picnic tables beside the restaurant and enjoy the beautiful scenery. I’m not sure if it’s open during the winter so you might want to check beforehand rather than just showing up.
Head to a Museum
For such a small town, there are a surprising number of museums in Saint Andrews.
Personally, I’m not a fan of museums. Although on a rainy day they can be a great place to escape the weather and learn something new.
The different museums that I would recommend checking out include:
- The Charlotte County Archives
- The Ross Memorial Museum
- The Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Center
At the Charlotte County Archives you can learn more about the history of the area. This museum takes an in-depth look of how Saint Andrews was created. There was a lot of information covering the important events that took place in this small town.
The archives and subsequent Museum are located in the old Charlotte County Gaol. This is the old jail for the entire county. Just out front is where the last execution took place in Saint Andrews.
At the Ross Memorial Museum you can take a closer look at a unique personal decorative arts collection. The exhibit is located inside an early 19th century house. The property is also part of the National Historic District of Saint Andrews and an important building in the towns history.
Art lovers are going to want to make their way to the Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Center. Here you’ll be able to admire a collection of different art exhibits. These exhibits include things like fine art, local crafts, drawings, photographs, and other unique artwork items all from local artists.
The Old Charlotte County Gaol
Right beside the courthouse, a few steps away from the main street in town, is where you’ll find the impressive Charlotte County Gaol.
This is the old jail of Charlotte County. It was used to house criminals from the entire county before sentencing them or sending them elsewhere for their sentences.
The structure was built in 1832 and it’s made completely from gray granite blocks. It’s a very depressing and somber building – perfectly suited for being a jail.
Each of the cells are small, claustrophobic, and not welcoming for criminals or anybody that was forced to spend the night.
The Charlotte County Gaol was in operation until 1979. These days many locals believe that the jail is haunted and don’t hesitate to ask somebody if they have any cool ghost stories about it.
During the warmer summer months the Kingsbrae Garden is a magical place to visit.
There are more than 27 acres of beautiful, well manicured gardens at Kingsbrae. The landscape is painstakingly kept with picturesque gardens and eye-catching scenery around every corner.
All summer long the gardens come alive with color and it’s an amazing experience to walk through while admiring all of the different plant life with the bees and birds humming around you.
At the Kingsbrae Garden you’ll find more than 50,000 different perennials and gardens with different yet unique themes.
The Kingsbrae Garden is worth checking out if you’re looking to spend the day relaxing in nature without having to venture out of the city at all.
Dinner at the Rossmount Inn
There are plenty of options for dining in Saint Andrews though nowhere will make more of a lasting impression than the Rossmount Inn.
The Rossmount Inn is a world class restaurant featuring a fresh, local cuisine and a small-town atmosphere. There isn’t any pretentiousness at all when you’re dining at the Rossmount.
The menu varies weekly depending on what’s available locally. This helps to keep things fresh and it means you’re always getting something unique.
I recommend getting any one of the seafood dishes. It’s about as local as you can find and you can rest assured knowing you’re getting a dish prepared by a skilled and experienced chef.
Prices are a bit on the higher side compared to most other restaurants in town. It’s definitely worth visiting the Rossmount Inn if you’re looking for a memorable fine dining experience.
Just outside of Saint Andrews is Ministers Island.
The island is an affordable and fun activity that’s ideal whether you’re traveling with your partner, family, or even on your own.
Ministers Island is known as a “part-time” island. This is because during the infamous high and low tides in the Bay of Fundy the island is either joined to the mainland by a land bridge or completely cut off.
During low tide it’s possible to drive over the land bridge. It’s a short 1km drive and you’re essentially going to be driving on the sea floor. The rest of the time this land-bridge is completely covered with water and the island becomes accessible only by boat.
Once you reach the island you can explore the entire thing. One of the most popular attractions on the island is the summer estate of Sir William Van Horne. He was the president of and main man behind the Canadian Pacific Railway. The extravagant estate was built as his summer home in the late 19th century.
After going on a tour of the estate you can spend the day wandering around the rest of the island. If you’re visiting during the warmer summer months don’t forget to bring a bathing suit – there are some great swimming spots waiting for you to enjoy.
Keep in mind that the island is only open from the middle of May until the end of October. The rest of the year it’s too difficult to navigate with the snow and cold weather.