With access to the Appalachians, a series of major river systems, and coasts to the east and the south, New Brunswick is made for road tripping. The province is only around 28,000 square miles (73,000 square kilometers) so it’s easy to get from one place to the other—even with frequent stops.
On my recent trip on the Fundy Coastal Drive, I found myself signaling right to sample chocolates, lobster, smoked salmon, poutine, blueberry wine, and more. The route, which takes you from Moncton near the east to St. Stephen on the southwestern tip (and close enough to the border with Maine to ping their cell towers), is loaded with things to eat. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) guide to grazing.
In the late 1870s, brothers James and Gilbert Ganong opened a grocery store in St. Stephen, but when slow sales threatened their livelihood, they also began to sell candy—at the time, a luxury item. Sales picked up (never underestimate the power of a sweet tooth), so the Ganong brothers opened their own chocolate factory.
Nowadays, folks visit “Canada’s Chocolate Town” for The Chocolate Museum—which offers free samples—and the chocolatier. Best time to swing by? Early August, when St. Stephen celebrates its annual Chocolate Fest.
Make sure you pull into St. Stephen early enough for breakfast, too, because Carman’s is everything you want in a diner: Old Timers sipping coffee on vinyl-covered stools lined up at a long bar, booths with individual jukeboxes, a breakfast special called “Two Eggs, Two Meats,” and staff so friendly you’ll leave knowing each other by name. You can’t miss it. Carman’s is the one with the full parking lot.
St. Andrews has all the elements of a Maritime seaside holiday town. Brightly painted buildings line the streets, the main thoroughfare is full of restaurants and souvenir shops, and there are plenty of activities for hire at the pier (don’t forget to take your picture as a lobster in the cut-out outside top-notch whale watching outfit Fundy Tide Runners). There’s even a historic lighthouse. And while there’s no shortage of food options—especially for seafood lovers seeking lobster rolls, clams, or scallops—the town definitely has some standouts.
If you judged it by its name, you might think the Niger Reef Tea House is a fussy little place (and its history as the one of the first chapter houses of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire isn’t helping matters any!). As it turns out, it’s fussy only in the best ways. The food is made fresh daily with healthy ingredients, and plated pleasingly. While the menu has its share of seafood, there are other options as well, like their signature potato tart.
The Algonquin Resort is a sprawling, family oriented hotel with a rich local history. Their onsite restaurant and bar, Braxton’s, is named after one of the hotel’s first chefs who cooked there in the late 1800s and the current menu follows in the chef’s tradition of using regional ingredients to create simple, wholesome food. There is something old-fashioned about the ambience, too—the place has retained some of its original atmosphere. After your meal, take the time to explore the common areas, many of which feature photographs from the hotel’s storied past.
Bonus: Road Food
As you drive east from St. Andrews, you’re going to pass The Clamdigger. Get your lobster rolls, slaw, fried clams, and poutine to go, or eat at one of the picnic tables.
Once you get onto Highway 1, keep an eye out for the signs into Bethel. Follow them to Oven Head Road. Oven Head Salmon Smokers has been in business for the last 28 years, owned and operated by Joseph and Debbie Thorne. Their primary product is cold-smoked salmon so good that it was served at Obama’s inauguration. Stop by for a taste of their lox, jerky, and cream cheese.
Even though Saint John is a large city, your best bet here might not be a restaurant. If you’re passing through and find yourself peckish, try the Saint John City Market instead, where local farmers and producers sell their wares Monday through Saturday year-round.
Wild blueberries are one of New Brunswick’s natural resources and it’s not difficult to find related products, but for a wide selection (and a photo opportunity in front of their giant berries), stop at the Granite Town Farms’ Wild Gift Shoppe in St. George. They sell wine, jams and jellies, tea, and hot sauces—all made from blueberries.
Alma is a small fishing village at the mouth of Fundy National Park, and it’s the best place in the province to get lobster. I might be biased—I got to go out on a trapping boat with Alma Lobster Shop—but if you’re looking for fresh, this is the place. And by the way, real New Brunswickers don’t bother with lobster picks or crackers—they use their bare hands.
With its international airport, chances are you’ll find yourself in Moncton. Even if you have time for only a single meal, you must visit the The Tide & Boar Gastropub on Main Street. This place is award-winning. Try their boar poutine and the admittedly odd-sounding signature salad. Sorry, no pictures. Too busy eating.