Explore Art and Get Creative in Sackville, New Brunswick

New Brunswick is one of the country’s most breathtaking places, home to a truly staggering abundance of greenery in the Acadian forest region, which blankets most of the province, and countless sweet old Maritime towns. One of the sweetest is Sackville, sidled up next to the Nova Scotia border and just a short drive from the Bay of Fundy—home to the highest tides in the world—Fundy National Park, and Shediac, the lobster capital of Canada.

As the home of Mount Allison University—the alma mater of famous Canadian painter Alex Colville and many other talented artists—Sackville has an unparalleled creative energy that runs through the town all year round, making it a hotspot for poets, photographers, artisans, sculptors, you name it. And of course, it would be remiss not to mention its deep love of waterfowl.

What to See

Waterfowl enjoy a sunny day just off the boardwalk in Sackville’s Waterfowl Park. Credit: Matt Williams

This brings us to our first and most calming Sackville sight-seeing destination. The Sackville Waterfowl Park is a 55-acre parcel of land where you can explore the Tantramar marsh, brimming with all sorts of life. There are scenic boardwalks and covered bridges to spot ducks, muskrat, fish, and marsh flora. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a fall picnic with treats from the numerous bakeries (more on those later) down the road.

You could also walk to the end of Bridge Street (one of two main drags, the other being Main Street) aptly named, after the (now) broken bridge. It is exactly what it sounds like, but worth the view overlooking orange-coloured mudflats, the train bridge, massive swaths of green fields, and the beautiful big sky.

If you rent some wheels, you could also head to Slack’s Cove by just heading down Queens Road and turning down highway 935 (it turns into a dirt road, eventually) to Rockport. It’s a tourist-free and serene way to check out the Bay of Fundy.

Where to Eat in Sackville

Cozy Black Duck Café is the perfect place to bring a book on a chilly fall day. Credit: Black Duck Café

Back to the baking. Sackville’s bakeries are dense with delights. Cranewood sits on the main level of a historic house overlooking the Waterfowl Park and makes a staggering amount of food that covers any meal and every snack you could imagine. Their cheesecakes are especially delicious, and the hand pies are excellent for a walking snack. If you’re looking for gluten-free and vegetarian options, try the cinnamon buns at Cackling Goose Market.

For coffee, there’s nowhere better than the Black Duck Café on Bridge Street, where you can enjoy some java (and butter tarts) in a friendly environment where everybody knows everybody else. They’ve also got excellent breakfast bunwiches. For dinner, Song’s Chopsticks across the street serves up mouth-watering bibimbap, japchae, and sushi. If you’re looking for a late-night slice (or a whole ‘za), Goya’s is the place to hit before bed.

Sackville Shopping

The thing to focus on if you’re looking to get some great loot in Sackville is to shop local. Tidewater Books carries loads of titles, but they also have sections dedicated to local writers and artists. If you’re looking for a book of local legend Thaddeus Holownia’s photography, this is the place. They’ve also got a load of Maritime kitsch-type art and decor.

Dave Carey Leatherworks is just around the corner. Dave makes stunning tote bags, travel bags, notebooks, camera straps, and more—he put together a very nice watch band for yours truly—with timeless style. And he’s not the only source for leather products. The Sackville Harness Shop is the oldest building in town and the leather veterans there make much-raved-about belts.

Where to Hang Out

A bird’s-eye view of the festivities on Bridge Street during SappyFest. Credit: Matt Williams

As mentioned, Sackville’s got an outsize reputation for artistic output. It’s the home of one of the world’s most wonderful music and arts festivals—the aptly named SappyFest—and continues to be a destination and home for both artists and art lovers.

It follows, then, that the town has its share of galleries, especially given Mount Allison’s renown for its arts programs. The Owens Art Gallery opened to the public in 1895 as Canada’s first university art gallery. It’s Sackville’s most prominent place for art, and houses over 4000 works, with some dating back to the 19th century. There’s also Struts Gallery on Lorne, an artist-run organization that exhibits and hosts contemporary art and performances.

Enjoy a drink and a live show at Thunder & Lightning. Credit: Matt Williams

The same building is the home of the Faucet Media Arts Centre, which rents out the gear necessary for all forms of art and also teaches people how to use it. Want to make a Super 8 video or a field recording of the Waterfowl Park? This is the spot to get what you need to quench creative desires.

Finally, the best place to take a load off with some expertly mixed cocktails or New Brunswick beers is Thunder & Lightning—a warm, homey pub riddled with taxidermy that also functions as a showcasing room for local artists and a venue to check out whatever rad musical act is rolling through or emerging from their basement down the street. The publicans, Glenn and Anne, are some of the sweetest people in the world—be ready for good conversation, and tell them I sent you.

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Header image credit: Matt Williams

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