Just as Calgary acts as a basecamp for adventures in the Rockies, Moncton is your gateway to the Fundy Coast. As a kid, we often flew into Moncton before making our way to the Miramichi Bay, where the family cabin was. Now that I’m a grown up (kind of), it still delivers the same wow factor. If you love fresh seafood, golden beaches, wineries and affordable family attractions, then this city ought to be on your bucket list. Do yourself a favour and check out these top things to do in Moncton.
Things to do in Moncton
USVA Spa Nordik
For us, it’s a full day of flying to Moncton from Calgary, so if you get in early enough, forgo a hearty platter of fried clams and make a beeline for newly opened USVA Spa Nordik. Situated a mere 15-minute drive from downtown, it’s surrounded by forest and is super chill.
This Nordic spa is smaller than some of Canada’s more famous nature spas, but it meets all your needs with two saunas: one wet, one dry, a cold plunge pool and one large, outdoor heated pool. For the relaxation phase, you can bliss out on mats in their relaxation room or on an outdoor hammock swing. Better yet, book in for a massage.
You’ll want to bring your own water container, flip flops and bathing suit. Towels and lockers are provided, plus robes, but there’s a charge for those. It’s an adults only spot, but children are welcome the first Sunday of each the month from 10 a.m. to 1p.m. I’d go here again for sure.
Magnetic Hill Winery
What luck! Just down the road from USVA lies a local winery and tasting room. Magnetic Hill Winery has been making wine since 2007, and has racked up several awards in the process.
Most of their 16 wines come from local fruits such as cranberry, blueberry, strawberry, apple and pear, but they also farm 39 acres of local grapes, which get blended into some of their wines, but not all. Don’t scoff at fruit wine, as perhaps I may have done in front of their wine maker. Whoops. There’s a full pound of real fruit in each bottle. Forget V8 juice! Why not get your daily dose of fruits and veggies in a bottle of vino?
As for what to buy, Illusion is a 100% rhubarb wine (grown on-site) that tastes remarkably similar to a Pinot Gris. For real! Mystique is a cranberry wine that’s won silver at the National level three years in row. It would be a unique bevvie to serve with your Thanksgiving turkey or with slices of frozen mango for a summer cocktail. I threw a bottle of it in my suitcase, so circle back in October to find out how it paired with our turkey.
You can spend a full day or better yet, two days at Magic Mountain. It houses four attractions in one convenient location on the outskirts of Moncton. There’s the Splash Zone, which houses a lazy river, wave pool and water slides. The Fun Zone is their amusement park, but we were too pooped out to venture in there. The Golf Zone has two 18 hole miniature golf course and the TEK Zone is an arcade. It’s a great stop for teens or kids of all ages, really.
Magnetic Hill Zoo
To write about zoos in this consciously aware (and perhaps slightly overzealous) modern climate is to put yourself at risk. That’s fine. You can go after me. It won’t change the fact that we had a truly awesome time at this zoo. Anyplace, where my teen morphs back into being a kid is a good place to visit in my books.
This is Atlantic Canada’s largest zoo and they’ve got a lot of the popular animals like tigers and lions and a surprising number of monkeys. Eve was all over the ominous sounding Animal Contact Area, which is actually just a fancy way of saying petting zoo. The zoo sits on 40-acres and it felt like we walked all of it. Magnetic Hill Zoo is a member of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums and follows all the national protection movements closely. They also participate in diverse repopulation programs for endangered animal species. Don’t you feel better now?
How many attractions are better than you remembered as a kid? Not many, I’m thinking. I remember being impressed with Magnetic Hill when I was younger. Going back, I was skeptical, but ended up being totally blown away. Here’s what happens: You drive to this spot right next to Magic Mountain and put your car in neutral. Then it reverses up a hill. That’s right, uphill – as if it’s being pulled by a magnet.
Really it’s just an illusion caused by the unusual contours of the landscape and the lack of a horizon. But it’s seriously trippy! I got out of my car. I checked the slope several times. It seemed as if the part we were reversing on was totally uphill, so I still don’t get it. It’s super cool nonetheless.
Go to Shediac!
Shediac has made the news in the last couple of years because of the water quality at lovely Parlee Beach. I will always have a soft spot for Shediac and make a point to stop here whenever I fly through Moncton. (It’s less than a half hour drive away.) There are three things you must do in Shediac (besides flop yourself down on some mighty fine golden sand beaches).
- Eat at the Lobster Deck. Order the fried clams and whatever else strikes your fancy. Then go next door to Ice Cream Delight and order a double scoop for less than $3.
- Stop at the Shediac Lobster Shop and buy some scallops or lobsters to take away. So good. Great quality. Super affordable.
- SUP on the Scoudouc River – more on this below.
Inside the touristy complex on Main Street lies Shediac Paddle Shack. If visiting Friday to Sunday, you’ll want to make a reservation to rent a kayak or stand up paddle board. We did and it was one of the highlights of our trip. It was a blazing hot day when we visited, and quietly paddling across the Scoudouc River (a mix of salt and fresh water) proved to be the perfect way to cool down. There’s oysters in the river that filter it, so it’s quite clean and totally fine to plunge into (as I did).
Staff are fully bilingual, professional and give excellent instruction. As for age limits, it’s more based on weather than age, but they take kids as young as eight-years-old.
Best restaurants in Moncton
There are a few stand out options in Moncton for dinner and lunch. Tony’s Bistro is an unassuming cafe in a strip mall. Anyplace that has a line up out the door at 1:30 p.m. ought to be good and Tony’s met all expectations. The thing to order here is the lobster croissant. At $25 it’s pricier than your average lobster roll, but it’s majorly filling. Tony is a professional baker, and his flaky, buttery croissants are the perfect vessel for lobster. This lobster croissant is accompanied with both a salad (of your choice) and pasta salad, and could easily be shared if you also got an appie or dessert. Seriously consider dessert or at least snagging a few baked goods to take back to your hotel.
Downtown, you’ll find the Tide and Boar, a family friendly gastro-pub with a large outdoor patio. If you’re into craft beer, you’ll feel at home. They brew half a dozen themselves, and sport a large roster of other small batch Maritime brews.
For eats, begin with the Tide Board, a massive platter crammed with local delicacies such as in-house smoked salmon, oysters, shrimp, fiddleheads, smoked haddock pate, scallop terrine and numerous pickley things. We visited on a Thursday night, when they have BBQ and smoker specials. One combo platter of brisket, ribs and pulled pork with mac and cheese, coleslaw, corn on the cob and biscuits was way too much for one person. We ended up eating it for days.
That’s the thing about the Maritimes. Their portions are very generous. Pretty much everything is excellent value, from food to attractions and accommodation.
Where to stay in Moncton
Delta Beausejour has one of the best locations in town. It’s right downtown and next to the Tide and Boar. With reasonable rates (some that include complimentary breakfast) and a large indoor water slide that barrels into a mineral-water pool, it’s ideal for families. On-site there’s also a fun room stocked with the latest gaming consoles.
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Have you ever been to Moncton? What do you recommend visiting?