Saint John is a city whose population is composed almost entirely of the descendants of Irish immigrants and British loyalists. Canada's oldest incorporated city, Saint John boasts a metro population of approximately 125,000 and routinely plays host to cruise ships and individual tourists from all over North America. (Note: Saint John is never spelled St. John - locals will be very quick to point this out)
Temperatures in Saint John vary by season. In the summertime temperatures are usually around 22 degrees celsius and in the wintertime they usually dip to around 3.9 degrees celsius. Rain is common in the spring and autumn, but it usually doesn't rain much in the summer. There is the occasional heavy snowfall in the winter; however, snow is usually moderate.
Driving to Saint John is usually not a hassle, unlike many other cities. However, during recent years, traffic has been steadily increasing. And for travellers driving from Fredericton to Saint John on Highway 7, care is required because of the risk of moose collisions at certain times of year and certain times of the day.
Saint John is only 107 km (66 miles) from the Calais/St. Stephen border between Canada and the United States of America. Driving distances from major cities are 496 km (310 miles) from Portland, Maine, 940 km (588 miles) from Montreal, Québec and 424 km (265 miles) from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
For residents of western Nova Scotia planning to visit Saint John, your best bet is the ferry from Digby. There are three crossings daily from mid June to mid October, these take two and a half hours on average. During the rest of the year there is at least one crossing daily and they usually take two hour and forty-five minutes.
There are eleven car rental dealerships in the city including an Avis Rent A Car at the Saint John Airport.
Saint John is home to a domestic airport; flights arrive and leave several times daily from Montreal, Toronto, Fredericton, and Halifax. Bus service with Acadian Bus Lines deposits travellers at 199 Chesley Drive just a short walk uptown along the Harbour Passage paved walking trail. Train service is not available to Saint John directly, but is available to the nearby city of Moncton, where travellers can then make the two hour SMT bus ride into Saint John.
Saint John also boasts a booming cruise ship industry and has cruise ships enter the city's dock on a regular basis.
Saint John's Market Wharf also provides a convenient if unserviced space within the harbour for pleasure boaters, making it easy for power or sail vessels coming in from the Fundy to berth and enjoy the Uptown shopping or dining. Longer term moorage is not available in the harbour, although it is available several miles up the Saint John River. Unfortunately, there are no fuel or marine services at the wharf, and the wharf is used by local fishing boats as well as pleasure craft.
Buses are available from approximately 6AM to Midnight for public transport within the city. Schedules are available on the buses themselves and in information booths throughout the city. Fare is 2.50$ Cdn (as of November 2009) for adult passengers; discounts are available for children, seniors and students with proper identification. Taxis are available to be called (see the yellow pages in phone books at local payphones for listings) and charge a flat fare depending on travel between city zones (adding a 1$ charge per extra passenger.)
Within the Uptown it is possible to travel on foot between the City Market, Brunswick Square Mall, Market Square, the Canada Games Aquatic Centre, Mercantile Centre and Harbour Station via underground and pedway connections without venturing outside. (The "Inside Connection".) This is very useful during the winter. During the rest of the year, Uptown Saint John also offers a very pleasant and fairly accessible walking experience, with clear, well-maintained sidewalks and crosswalks, and fairly straightforward navigation. (Unlike many older cities, Saint John's Uptown is laid out in a simple, grid design.)
The Uptown is home to hundreds of privately owned and operated shops that sell a wide variety of food and merchandise. A stroll down King Street will offer stores selling local arts and crafts, while across the street the Brunswick Square Mall offers more commercial stores for your shopping pleasure (clothes, shoes, cards, books, music, Laura Secord Chocolates, etc.) Try Germain and Canterbury Street (both off King Street) for used books, international cuisine and independent record stores.
The city is home to eight shopping centers. Brunswick Square and Market square which are both located in uptown offer modern class shopping and are connected by a pedway system which links much of uptown Saint John. Prince Edward Square (also in uptown) is nearby but has limited shopping. The north end of the city is home to one shopping center called Lansdowne Place, there is also Lancaster Mall on the west side. The east side of the city is home to McAllister Place (the city's largest), East Point Shopping Centre (city's newest retail complex), Parkway Mall, Loch Lomond Mall and numerous box stores including Home Depot, Kent, Canadian Tire, Toys R Us, Sears, Old Navy, Pier 1 Imports, Winners, Michael's and Future Shop, just to name a few.
The City Market in the uptown is the oldest operating farmers market in Canada. It is home to fresh fruits and vegetable, fresh from the sea seafood, a coffee shop and many other products.
A variety of locations for dining in are available in Market Square. For the more thrifty traveller an eatery is located in Brunswick Square, or try the side aisles of the City Market for fresh salads, sandwiches, and other local fare.
Finding a place to stay in Saint John shouldn't be a hassle. For those of you who prefer a comfortable stay near everything you could possibly wish to see, try one of the hotels or B&Bs in the uptown. Hotels in Saint John cost on average $120 per night for a single. However, if you are traveling on a budget there are still some comfortable motels around the city.
If camping underneath the stars is more your style, Rockwood Park or the village of St. Martins make great choices. If you are looking more along the line of cottages or country inns, there are a few options in the city and many more in the suburbs and nearby country.
Internet access is available in several areas within the "Inside Connection", including a convenience store in Market Square and an Internet Cafe located en route between Market Square and Brunswick Square.
Saint John is safe compared to most cities; however, it is a good idea to walk on well-lit busy streets after dark and not on darker side streets. Street crime is rare but not unheard of. You are relatively safe in the commercial/retail area of Uptown, where the hotels are located. The South End, an area just next to Downtown, can be dangerous.