Saint John, New Brunswick is all about the Bay of Fundy – in fact, that’s why we are here: to ferry across the infamous body of water and arrive at Digby, Nova Scotia.
Yes, dogs are allowed on the ferry, but they must spend the three-hour ride below deck, a first for my pup who didn’t take to crate training as I had hoped. How did she do?
Well, we’ll get to the boat trip in a minute – first, we’ll answer the question: Is Saint John, New Brunswick dog-friendly?
Saint John’s Leash-free Dog Parks
When we’ve been in the car for hours, our first stop is the leash free in town because my pup’s got to run. And they’ll be no possible leash walks until we do.
For a city it’s size, Saint John has a surprising number of dog parks – two in the city – within a ten-minute drive of our hotel and minutes from Market Square: Rainbow Park Bark Park was our first choice because it was on the way, and that’s too cool a name to pass by
Located at 205 Sydney Street in a small park with a playground and splash pad, the downtown leash-free dog park is literally an enclosed fenced rectangle and little else. It’s double gated, has one bench, a bag dispenser, and the garbage is inside the small enclosure. Strangely, people tend to leave the gate open when not in use.
The second dog park we stopped at after a pub visit, so my pup could get her run-on before settling in the hotel. The Rockwood Park Bark Park, open daily dusk to dawn, at 378 Hawthorne Ave extension, is inside the Rockwood Park. The Rockwood Park is punctuated by a large scenic duck pond and on-leash walking trails through the forest. This is definitely the more popular of the two parks in Saint John, New Brunswick and for good reason: it’s bigger and has a small dog area for those who need their own space.
Market Square Boardwalk – Under Construction
Many travelers pull into Saint John intending to ferry over to Nova Scotia cutting a few hours of driving time off their route and taking a break from behind the wheel. But getting into to town early – in our case a day early – is worth it so you don’t miss the 8 am boarding time.
Saint John, especially in the spring and summer when it’s most popular, especially with the dog. Approximately, three parallel streets make up Saint John’s ‘up town,’ not downtown, and that’s mostly pubs and restaurants, many with dog-friendly patios.
The Saint John Boardwalk is on the way – and will likely be a popular patio and dog walking spot. However, during the summer of 2022, the boardwalk is a pile of gravel, sectioned off with construction boarding. Pictures of the proposed site indicate this will likely be a central visiting spot in the city.
Dog-friendly Saint John’s Pub
Finally, you can’t visit New Brunswick (or the East coast) without lifting a pin, – at least, I can’t – shine the bar with your elbows at Picaroons. Picaroons is one of the oldest craft breweries in New Brunswick, and I thought I was visiting the original but a visit to Fredericton (coming soon) proved otherwise – the original and larger Picaroons is there. Apparently, it’s a rare day to not see a dog at either Picaroons.
Visiting Picaroons (30 Canterbury St., Saint John) with my dog was the highlight of our visit – the inviting small batch brewer boasts an arch of communal tables and a row of bar tables facing the street. Best of all, you can sit inside with your pup, have a beer, and order a specialty wood oven pizza from Pomodori Pizzeria (34 Canterbury St.) next door – try smoked salmon on a puffy pastry-like crust or whatever the special is that day. Place your order and they’ll bring it to your table in the pub.
The microbrewery is all about the beer – most brewed on site. ‘Dog Days of Summer’ was my choice of dry smooth amber IPA, and my dog’s choice was to be fascinated by a pigeon that had the audacity to stroll within her sightline just outside the window. The bar seats facing outside work for us; however, other people with their pups prefer the more communal arch table in the middle of the room. Picaroons periodically has dog-friendly events as fundraisers for local shelters.
Take Your Dog on the Ferry
From June to October, the Bay Ferries Limited (BFL) ferry runs twice daily from Saint John to Digby, Nova Scotia across the Bay of Fundy, known for the world’s highest tides. It’s a great way to see the bay and shave some time off the drive if you’re heading to south Nova Scotia, specifically Yarmouth. (The sister company runs a ferry less frequently from Bar Harbour, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia).
Yes, the dog can travel on the ferry too, but must stay in a kennel facility located near the parked cars or stay in your car. Originally, I planned to put my pup in the kennels – but they are literally metal cages. “Dogs are usually terrified in there,” says one of the employees. So, change of plans. I leave my pup (like everyone else on the boat with dogs) in the car with the windows down.
How did it go? First, I ran my pup before the trek. Passengers must be at the dock by 8 am for a 9 am departure, so we were up early. Second, I gave her some calming supplements I bought at the vet’s office. Finally, after reading on the website that I can’t visit my dog in the car once the ferry starts, I tried anyway. I asked a staff member and he walked me down to the car halfway through the 2.5-hour ride. “If they’re not barking, they are usually sleeping,” the Stewart tells me. My pup was sleeping.
If you go …. Saint John, New Brunswick
RAINBOW PARK BARK PARK, open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 205 Sydney St., Saint John, New Brunswick
ROCKWOOD PARK BARK PARK, open 7 days a week, dusk until dawn, 376 Hawthorne Ave. Ext., Rockwood Park, Saint John, New Brunswick
PICAROONS General Store and Pub – 30 Canterbury, Street, Saint John, New Brunswick.
PetValu – 30 Plaza Ave., Saint John, New Brunswick. This location of PetValu is near the Travelodge and Saint John’s Inn motel and contains a handy DYI dog washing station for $10, which was handy to clean up my pup before spending the night and heading to the ferry in the morning.
Also, special thanks to the person who left me their ‘free dog wash’ coupon at the cash register because they don’t have a dog. It was a nice surprise from a stranger I didn’t get to thank.
DOG-FRIENDLY SAINT JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK ACCOMMODATIONS:
Saint John Inn – 1155 Fairville Blvd, Saint John, New Brunswick. This is a simple, clean hotel reasonably priced at the edge of town. It’s an easy 5- to 10-minute drive to both downtown and the ferry to Digby, Nova Scotia. We stayed here in 2022, while it was rebranding as a Choice Hotel property. Green space in the back for morning walks. (We saw a deer). No additional fee for pets.
Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton – 51 Fashion Drive, Saint John, New Brunswick. Pet-friendly – no size restriction but $25 fee per night.
Canada’s Best Value – 10 Portland Street, Saint John, New Brunswick. While this property is technically pet-friendly, the pet fee is $50 per night, which is high. But there appears to be no size restriction. However, only certain rooms are pet-friendly and might be booked.
Travelodge Suites by Wyndham – 1011 Fairville Blvd., Saint John, New Brunswick. Pet fee is $10 and, according to the main reservations line, there is no size limit.
Delta Brunswick Hotel – 39 King Street, Saint John, New Brunswick. Two pets per room only and the weight restriction is 50 kgs. $35 pet fee per night.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for 30 years and travel writer for the last 20. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion.