When you think of Fredericton, New Brunswick, do you think of outdoor adventure? If not, I hope this post convinces you otherwise!
Fredericton is a great city for outdoor lovers! Whether you like paddling meandering rivers, ziplining through the trees, chasing waterfalls, or hiking through autumn forests, there is something here for you! So grab a paddle, strap on your hiking boots, and let’s dive into some top outdoor activities in Fredericton!
York and Carleton Counties
Paddle, Tube, Soak, Fish
One of my favourite springtime activities in Fredericton is paddling down the Nashwaak River. Most people put their canoes and kayaks in at Marysville Heritage Centre and follow the winding river into downtown Fredericton. This stretch of the river is tranquil and well suited for beginner paddlers.
Hit the river up in the spring when water levels are high enough that you won’t have to wade through shallower sections. In the early morning, it’s not unusual to see deer, turtles, frogs and and birds along the way.
If you miss the early spring paddle, you can float your way down the river on an inner tube. Nashwaak Tube Rentals have a variety of tubes for rent and offer free shuttle service to and from your destination. There are two tube runs in the summertime. Gilligan’s Ride is a 3-5 hour scenic float and Sterlings Wharf takes 1-2 hours and is often possible when the river levels are low.
350 Rookwood Avenue
Bike, Hike, Birdwatch, Forest Bathe
How does a stroll through a serene old growth forest sound? Fredericton’s Odell Park is centrally located and has 16kms of trails to explore under the shade of an old growth forest canopy. Throughout this 333-acre park, you’ll see some of the beautiful trees in the Acadian Forest, including hemlock, maple, pine, and birch. The forest colours are spectacular in autumn with yellows, reds, and oranges painting the landscape.
In the summer, Odell Park is a popular area for families. It has picnic tables, a playground, bathrooms, and free parking available. My favourite way to explore Odell is by bike, but there are some pretty steep slopes that will get your heart pumping! Looking for something more relaxing? Forest bathe under the shade of one of the 400+ year old hemlock trees. Or, bring your binoculars and birdwatch some of the 115 recorded species.
The park might not be so relaxing if you’re visiting in May and June with mosquitoes galore, so pack your bug spray! Otherwise, come back in the wintertime when the trails are groomed and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular.
Fredericton Botanic Garden
695 Prospect Street
Hike, Learn, Volunteer
The Fredericton Botanic Garden connects up with Odell Park and boasts a number of beautiful gardens and plant species. It’s small compared to botanic gardens in other cities, but charming nonetheless and expanding thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers.
I’m looking forward to seeing the food forest grow and exploring the Wabanaki Healing Garden which teaches visitors about the use, purpose, and cultural importance of different plants to Indigenous life.
The garden changes throughout the year, so you can come back throughout the growing season to see different plants in bloom. In the springtime, the rhododendrons, azaleas, lilacs, and magnolias are stunning and fill the air with an amazing smell. In the summer, I love the pollinator garden which attracts native butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
The Botanic Garden hosts garden tours, volunteer days, plant sales, and children’s activities so check out their website for news and upcoming events.
Fredericton Trail System
Trail Visitor Centre (180 Station Road)
Bike, Walk, Skate, Scooter
Fredericton is home to over 120kms of trails with over 20kms of accessible paved trailway. The trail system runs through the south and north sides and is connected by the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge. Locals use the trails to bike, walk, skate, and scooter.
The Downtown River Loop (6.4km) is popular for running and walking. It will get you a bird’s eye view of the Saint John River as you cross over the two connecting bridges. It’s not fully paved so you’ll want to enjoy this one on foot or bike.
Personally, I enjoy biking the Nashwaak and Gibson Loop (10.3km) which takes you through forested areas, into the town of Marysville, and along the beautiful Nashwaak River. You can begin at the Trail Visitor Centre where there is free parking and drinking water. Consider ending the trip at Picaroons Roundhouse. They have an outdoor patio with a view of the river, plus they serve local brews, cider, and food.
All that said, you don’t need an itinerary to enjoy the trail system. I encourage you to pick up or print off Fredericton Tourism’s trail map and explore at will. There really are no bad choices and you’ll be able to connect to some of Fredericton’s best recreation areas including: Wilmot Park, Odell Park, Fredericton Botanic Garden, and Hyla Park.
If you want to stick to paved areas, consider renting a motorized scooter from Mint Rentals. These things are so much fun! You’ll be zipping around the city with no problem.
Durham Bridge (trailhead link)
Hike, Swim, Sightsee
New Brunswick is home to many waterfalls. You could spend a day driving around the outskirts of Fredericton finding some of them, including Howland Falls, Split Rock Falls, and Hays Falls. It’s hard to pick just one to send you to, but Dunbar Falls is a short 18 minute drive from Fredericton and a local favourite. It’s small, but beautiful and you only need to hike a short distance (0.8km) to get to it.
I’ve visited Dunbar Falls in the winter and fall. Both are beautiful for different reasons. In the wintertime, the waterfall freezes and turns a stunning green-blue colour. Despite the freeze, there is usually an uncovered section where the water billows.
But, if you want to see the falls in all its glory visit in the spring or fall. In spring, the water flow is strongest. In fall, the surrounding landscape is alight with colour. Or, visit in the summer and escape the heat with a cool dip at the base of the falls.
Wolastoq River / Saint John River
Runs through Fredericton’s downtown
Fish, Paddle, Sightsee
The Wolastoq River is the original name for the Saint John River given by the Wolastoqiyik First Nation. The name means “beautiful river”1 and it certainly lives up to that reputation. The Wolastoq is Eastern Canada’s largest river and flows from Northern Maine along the border with Quebec and empties into the Bay of Fundy.2
In Fredericton, the river is used recreationally. Paddling (canoeing, kayaking, and SUP) have become popular on the Wolastoq. Second Nature Outdoors offers guided sunset and sunrise paddles. They also have women’s only tours on Wednesdays evenings.
Fishing is another popular activity on the river and is open to residents and non-residents who obtain a permit. The river system is home to striped bass, musky, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, sturgeon, and chain pickerel. Guided fishing trips are available and will often provide licenses, supplies, and food for the day.
Some locals swim in the Wolastoq, but water quality is not closely monitored except at popular beaches, like Mactaquac Beach. In addition, the NB Health Department has issued warnings about the risk of blue-green algae which has, on occasion, been detected in the river.3 This doesn’t mean people have to avoid water activities, but precautions should be taken.
Beach Parking: 1653 St Mary’s Street
Rotary Club Parking: 1600 St Mary’s Street
Ski, Swim, Bike, Hike, Fish, Snowshoe
Killarney Lake is the perfect swimming hole nestled on the north side of Fredericton. You’ll find lots of families out with young children in July and August when the lifeguards are on duty. There’s a sandy beach area, picnic tables, a swing set, changing rooms, and bathrooms. I’m happy to report, there are future plans to make the beach accessible for people with disabilities thanks to donations from the Fredericton North Rotary Club.
When you visit, be sure to walk the lake loop trail. You’ll get a better appreciation for the lake and the surrounding ecosystem. It’s not uncommon to spot ducks, frogs, and dragonflies along the water. If you are looking for more solitude, there are over 20 kilometres of trails winding through the surrounding forest and they are never very busy. In the spring, sections of these trails are lined with trilliums, forget-me-nots, and lady’s slippers – just be sure to pack the bug spray for spring trips.
Springtime in Killarney is also a favourite of anglers. The lake is stocked with brook trout and you can find people fishing off the shore or from non-motorized boats.
In the winter, trails are groomed for skiing and Killarney is fast becoming a cross-country skier’s paradise! If you’ve never tried skiing before, the Wostawea Cross Country Ski Club has lessons for children and adults. You won’t regret giving it a try and the forest is breathtaking after a snowfall!
University New Brunswick Wood Lot
Parking off Knowledge Park Drive across from Scotiabank Park
Hike, Bike, Birdwatch, Ski, Snowshoe
The UNB Woodlot is used for educational and research purposes by students and professors, but has fast become a popular destination for community members who hike, bike, ski, and birdwatch.
A stroll through the woodlot will take you through a typical Acadian Forest and wetland ecosystem. Birdwatchers will not be disappointed as the area hosts several species, including the Canada Warbler, classified as endangered by COSEWIC.4
While there are many trails to explore, a popular choice is the Woodlot Loop. The loop is 8.7kms long and will take you around 2 hours to complete. The forest is beautiful and home to a miniature waterfall, but expect some noise from traffic and development which has been encroaching on the area for some years.5
Like some of the other destinations mentioned, you’ll want to pack the bug spray if you are visiting in the spring.
1439 Route 105, Mactaquac
Adventure Park: Climb, Zipline, and Rope Swing
Feeling particularly adventurous? Zipline through the treetops at TreeGo Mactaquac! At TreeGo, you’ll navigate different courses that test your balance, strength, and endurance. Whether you navigate the courses with skill and grace or fumble your way through, you are sure to have fun. You’ll feel like a kid again as you climb trees, swing on ropes, and scramble through obstacles. There’s even the option to try the course under the starry night sky!
I hope this list encourages you to give this beautiful city a visit and check out some of its outdoor activities! When I first moved to Fredericton, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the city has really grown on me. I love that nature is always a stones throw away and the trails, rivers, and parks are never too busy.
What are your top outdoor activities in Fredericton? Let me know in the comments!
Other Posts You May Enjoy
1 Parks Canada. “Wolastoq National Historic Site of Canada: Saint John River, New Brunswick.”
2 Esrock. “St. John River Valley.” National Geographic.
3 Brown. 2019. “N.B. Health Department Warns People to Take Precautions in St. John River.” CTV News.
4 Fredericton Nature Club. “UNB Woodlot.”
5 Sheppard. 2013. “Update on the Woodlot: Development Compromise.” The Harbinger.