Falling for Fun-loving Fredericton

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Wolastoqiyik, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Salvador Dali, Wolastoq Wharf, Jenna White, Artful Pursuasion

There’s lots to do at the Historic Garrison District, the riverside centre for heritage, culture and the arts in downtown Fredericton. (Photo courtesy of Fredericton Tourism)

I’ve got a crush on Freddy.

Known as Freddy, or Freddy Beach to locals, Fredericton charmed me from the start — and for more than its funster name.

The provincial capital of New Brunswick, located on the Saint John River (called Wolastoq, meaning beautiful river, by Wolastoqiyik First Nations people), has surprises for visitors who may wonder if a city of 63,000 people can keep them entertained.

I admit to being one of the skeptics.

A chat with a well-travelled tourist in British Columbia about summer getaways got me to question my assumption. I mentioned I was visiting New Brunswick in June. He said Fredericton ranks among his favourite Canadian cities.

“You’ve got to go to go,” he added, listing several must-see and -do stops. “They have an art gallery, the Beaverbook. It’s amazing. They even have Salvador Dali paintings.”

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Wolastoqiyik, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Salvador Dali, Wolastoq Wharf, Jenna White, Artful Pursuasion

Visitors at the recently expanded Beaverbrook Art Gallery often lie on the floor to maximize the 3D effect of Salvador Dali’s massive painting “Santiago El Grande.” (Photo courtesy of Fredericton Tourism)

Everything he said about the impressive collection at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, including the emotional smack between the eyes from Dali’s massive, 3.9-metre (12.8-foot) painting, “Santiago El Grande,” was true.

Since I was staying next door at the Crowne Plaza Fredericton-Lord Beaverbrook, the recently expanded art gallery was a logical first stop.

Roughly the size of an SUV, Dali’s painting depicting a muscular Saint James astride a rearing white horse verges on the hallucinatory. The steed seems to leap from the canvas. Art lovers keen to maximize the 3D effect often lie beneath it and look up.

The permanent collection has expanded considerably from its 1959 beginnings with a gift of 300 works of British and Canadian art from Lord Beaverbrook, Ontario-born entrepreneur Max Aitken. Besides Turner, Botticelli, and Lucian Freud works, there are pieces by the Group of Seven and a considerable collection of Christopher and Mary Pratt paintings. The gallery also has the 1820’s “Grandfather Akwiten Wolastoqiyik” canoe on display, the oldest complete birchbark canoe in the world.

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Wolastoqiyik, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Salvador Dali, Wolastoq Wharf, Jenna White, Artful Pursuasion

Seafood pasta at Indigenous-owned Wolastoq Wharf restaurant on the St. Mary’s Wolastoqey First Nation in Fredericton. (Linda Barnard photo for Vacay.ca)

The newly added $10-million, 9,000-square-foot Harrison McCain Pavilion is a striking curved white concrete and glass street-front expansion of the building.

Beyond the Beaverbrook, Freddy kept impressing me with its friendly vibes and great spots to eat and drink — especially craft beer. There are more taprooms per capita than any place in Canada and a trip along the Taproom Trail includes 11 breweries and passport-style stamps that are earned upon visits can be exchanged for swag.

I got a taste of the urban 120-kilometre (75-mile) trail system with a riverside walk along the paved footpath and cycling trail to the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge, a former railway trestle that crosses the Saint John River.

No wonder Fredericton cracked the top 10 on the Vacay.ca 20 Best Places to Travel in Canada for 2023.

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Wolastoqiyik, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Salvador Dali, Wolastoq Wharf, Jenna White, Artful Pursuasion

Métis entrepreneur and self-taught baker and caterer Jenna White launched her nut-free bakery after developing an allergy. (Linda Barnard photo for Vacay.ca)

Indigenous Baker Serves Up Delights

If Métis entrepreneur and self-taught baker Jenna White has her way, all campers will pack her fireside bannock kit in their backpacks. It has everything you need to make tasty bannock except the skillet. And the bag doubles as a mixing bowl. The mixes are available at Sobeys grocery stores across the Maritimes. Or pick one up at Jenna’s Nut-Free Dessertery, the sweet treats and breakfast/lunch restaurant that White opened in 2021.

When she suddenly developed a nut allergy in 2017, which also left her legally blind, White experimented with making nut-free baked goods. She started with a folding table at Boyce Farmers Market in 2019 and opened her restaurant and bakery in a former metal-working shop two years later. She’s also back at the Boyce Farmers Market with a stall.

The cheerful café has a colourful mural by Wolastoqey artist Samaqani Coahq-Natalie Sappoer.

Everything White serves from a deliciously dense brownie to cakes, eclairs, and cakes is nut-free. She mills her own flour. There’s no risk of nut cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Bannock, a traditional Indigenous flatbread with colonial roots, is the foundation of White’s menu. It’s used for all the breakfast sandwiches and eggs Benedict recipes, and is served alongside Indigenous soups like duck and wild rice and hangover (hamburger) soup. White also used bannock for elegant smoked salmon canapes served at the 2022 East Coast Music Awards.

“I use foods from all over Turtle Island,” says White, referring to the name Indigenous groups have for North America. “That way people get that deeper understanding of the culture.”

White will be part of Taste of Atlantic Canada Festival (August 18-20), joining Indigenous chefs from the eastern provinces who will showcase foods from their communities alongside artists, music, and Indigenous tour operators.

Downtown Fredericton’s Top Spots for Visitors

The British garrison was housed beside the Saint John River from 1784 until 1869 and the Historic Garrison District is a good place to start a downtown walk. I was sorry to miss out on the Garrison Night Market, which takes place Thursdays through early September.

There are an impressive number of restored heritage buildings in the city centre, many with restaurants, cafes, galleries, and retailers at street level.

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Wolastoqiyik, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Salvador Dali, Wolastoq Wharf, Jenna White, Artful Pursuasion

Pick up locally made souvenirs at Artful Pursuasion on York Street, run by more than 50 local crafters and artists. (Linda Barnard photo for Vacay.ca)

We hit the Tipsy Muse Café on Regent Street for cups of excellent flat white and Montreal bagels. I picked up locally made souvenirs a short walk away on York Street at Artful Persuasion. More than 50 local crafters sell their goods in the shop and take turns working the till as volunteer labour.

Small boutiques line downtown streets, selling clothing, accessories, and housewares that break with the sameness of mall store outlets.

We stopped for lunch at Cinnamon Café & Bistro on King Street, a Persian restaurant that serves vegetarian and vegan food. It’s owned by Shokooh Mostafaie, whose name means “glory” in Farsi, and her husband, Masood. She was a dentist in her native Tehran. Her husband worked as a lawyer. She said she was drawn to Fredericton because it’s a small city and gave them a quiet lifestyle after the busyness of the Iran capital. Shokooh opened the restaurant in 2013, hoping to earn enough to bring her son to Canada. It took five years.

She serves delicious adas polo, green lentils with rice scented with saffron and turmeric and covered with caramelized onions, and vegetarian fesenjoon, a thick, aromatic stew of lentils, roasted walnuts, pomegranate molasses, onions, and spices. I finished with a glass of tea and excellent baklava.


Where Else to Eat: Across the Saint John River from the city centre on the St. Mary’s Wolastoqey First Nation, Indigenous-owned Wolastoq Wharf impresses with perfectly prepared seafood. The former Dairy Queen has been transformed with hardwood floors, Indigenous art, and linen-covered tables.

540 Kitchen & Bar has a casual vibe and sources ingredients from local farms. The front patio faces Queen Street, a great place to people watch on a summer evening.

What’s to Do: Paddle the Saint John River in a transparent kayak or add LED lights and your own soundtrack played through waterproof Bluetooth speakers after dark with Wolastoq Adventures. The Indigenous-owned business started on June 16. Cultural paddling tours led by Wolastoqiyik people are in the works.

Where to Stay: The Crowne Plaza Fredericton-Lord Beaverbrook is centrally located and surrounded by heritage buildings including the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick.

Getting There: Porter Airlines and Air Canada have direct service to the Greater Fredericton International Airport. Saint John is about a one-hour drive away.

More Info: Visit Tourism New Brunswick and Fredericton Capital Region for more trip-planning ideas.

Linda Barnard was a guest of Fredericton Tourism and Tourism New Brunswick, which did not preview this story.

Linda Barnard is a British Columbia-based travel writer who covers stories geared to energetic and experience-driven 45-plus travellers for Vacay.ca.