Let me tell you a story.
When I arrived in Fredericton to start my MA, I received an email from the English Department welcoming me to Freddie Beach, and I thought, Huh, I didn’t know there was a beach. I asked my landlord about it, and my suspicions were confirmed. No beach (even though the town is on the St. John River). I didn’t think any more about it until about a week later when I received another email, this one from the UNB President, inviting me to a Welcome Back Students! BBQ at Freddie Beach.
Ok, I thought again, I’ve been invited to a beach bbq, there must be a beach here somewhere.
It seemed logical. So I asked for directions: “Can you tell me how to get to the Freddie Beach BBQ?” Whoever I asked gave me directions and away I went, down to the beach. Or so I thought. My mistake was including the word BBQ in my question. How was I supposed to know that townies call all of downtown Fredericton “the beach”? (Seems like a mean joke on newcomers and tourists to me.) Imagine my disappointment when I ended up in Officer’s Square: no beach, just a regular town square with a riverview. My hamburger, though free, tasted bittersweet.
Fool me once.
A year went by. I made it through SSHRC applications, course work, piles of snow, and a (strange but lovely) March heatwave. Spring came around and it was a warm one. Having been holed up on my couch reading for most of the school year, I decided it was time to get some exercise and that I was going to explore the New Brunswick trail system. I dusted off my trusty red bike and, feeling like the cutest thing on two wheels, ventured off to the riverfront trail toward Woodstock. It was a beautiful bike ride and there was barely anyone else on the path which meant I could bike as fast as I could pedal.
I whizzed past a blue, City of Fredericton sign. Did my eyes deceive me? Or did that sign indicate swimming? At the next sign I slowed down. Sure enough, there was a stick-person swimming in stick-waves with a little stick arrow pointing ahead in the direction I was biking.
This is it! I thought, thinking that no place with such a beautiful riverfront could possibly not have a beach. I knew it!
I pedalled furiously and farther than I’d intended to go, looking for what I was sure would be a glorious, shining, wonderful reason to fall absolutely in love with Fredericton in the summer.
Fool me twice! You sneaky, sneaky town.
I found me some swimming alright, but it was no beach. It was an RV park with a pool and fake, plastic palm trees seemingly next to a septic tank (read: it smelled like poop).
But fear not, newcomers. There are beaches close by and it doesn’t have to take you two years to find them.
So let’s get down to it:
The Actual Beaches in Freddie Beach
1. Killarney Lake
This is the beach that is accessible by bus (or it will be again this September when they’ve finished construction on Brookside Drive). It’s man-made so the actual beach is pretty small and often a little crowded, but it’s my favourite one to swim at by far. The water’s deep and clear (no seaweed!) and most of the swimmers are kids so they stay close to shore. It’s free to swim and only takes 20 minutes to get there on the 13 Brookside bus. It’s also not a bad bike ride. Plus, since it’s a small lake the water warms up really quickly. The last time I was there it was like stepping into a moderately heated pool.
2. Mactaquac Provincial Park
This is the beach you need to drive to — it takes about 25 minutes to get there by car which is not bad but also not bikeable since you even have to cross a dam. It’s a provincial park and golf course. If you get some vacation time and have a tent, it looks like a nice place to camp. Because it’s a provincial park, you have to pay $8 to get in but it’s totally worth it. The beach is short but really wide, so you don’t don’t have to pile on top of other people to lay out your towel and there’s room to play catch. It’s on the river so it’s a little colder than Killarney, but you’re less likely to get a beach ball kicked in your face. The only downside to Mactaquac for me is the seaweed – you can only get so far and then it starts to graze your stomach as you swim – but, according to the lifeguards, it’s not always like that. Apparently it was just one of those years.
Now you know.
by Brittany Latuon