Miramichi is a sprawling municipality formed by the merger of the towns of Newcastle and Chatham with three villages. The two town centres are across and down the river from each other, about 13 km (15 minutes by car) apart.
Miramichi bills itself as "Canada's Irish Capital", and is home to an annual Irish festival. It is one of the most Irish cities in Canada.
The Miramichi area’s economy is primarily focused on mining, fishing and forestry. Other sectors include: tourism, customer contact centres, manufacturing, and the provincial and federal government. The service sector is the city's largest employer.
Long prior to European settlement, the Miramichi region was home to members of the Mi'kmaq First Nation. Following the European discovery of the Americas, the Miramichi became part of the French colony of Acadia. By about 1740 French villages were well established on Miramichi Bay at Bay du Vin and Neguac.
The French and Indian War erupted in 1754. During the war many Acadian homes were destroyed by the British, and their residents were deported. Some Acadians, however, remained and escaped British attempts at deportation. They eventually established (or re-established) a host of small Acadian communities along the northern and eastern coasts of present-day New Brunswick.
The remaining Miramichi settlement was burned to the ground by the British in 1760. The French North American colonies were ceded to the British in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. Scottish settlers obtained a large grant encompassing much of the Miramichi region in 1765. Following the American Revolution some Loyalist families moved to Miramichi, and competition for the best lands escalated tensions between the early Scottish and new Loyalist settlers.
The Irish began arriving in Miramichi in numbers after 1815 at the end of the Napoleonic War, and with a few exceptions ceased coming to the area before the great Irish famine of 1847. Most arrived form the ports of Belfast and Cork each of which had strong commercial ties with Miramichi. Like the Scots they came on timber ships. By the 1870s the Irish were well established in Miramichi and by this decade less than 20% of them were recent immigrants. They represented 40% of the population of the region, spread fairly evenly over the entire Miramichi watershed.
The thin, acid soils of the Miramichi were not conducive to agriculture; thus, the lumber industry and Atlantic salmon fishery were the mainstays. A shipbuilding industry was established in 1773, largely to facilitate overseas lumber exports, including masts for the British navy, and to provide winter employment for the men.
As the shipbuilding, masting and lumber industries waned, pulp and paper production eventually replaced lumber exports as the mainstay of the area's economy. In the mid 20th century, an air force base, CFB Chatham, became the cornerstone of Chatham's economy. The discovery of base metal deposits and the development of Heath Steele Mines, 60 km to the northwest, allowed Newcastle's economy to diversify and strengthen through the 1960s. The mine and air force base had both closed by 1999 as the mine's ore body was depleted. The forest industry is the dominant player in the city's economy today.
Miramichi is 140-150 km northwest of Moncton via Highways 11 or 126, 80 km south of Bathurst on Highway 8, and 172 km north of Fredericton on Highway 8.
- Maritimebus, Circle K/Irving Gas Station, 186 King Street, Chatham, toll-free: . One bus daily leaving Moncton at 1:55PM (2 hr 5 min, $34), and one bus daily leaving Bathurst at 8:40AM (55 min, $20).
- Via Rail, 251 Station St, Newcastle, toll-free: . The Ocean train stops at Miramichi Station en route between Montreal and Halifax three times a week.
The nearest major airport is at Moncton.
- Miramichi Transit, ☏ . From Newcastle to Douglastown and Chatham. Buses run hourly M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-4PM. Three routes: Newcastle to Northumberland Square Mall, Chatham to Northumberland Square Mall, and Newcastle to Chatham via Chatham Head. $3 exact change.
- Middle Island. The island is open May-Aug. The museum is open M-F 9AM–4PM. The restaurant (burgers, poutine, fish and chips, sandwiches) is open M-Sa 11AM–7PM, and Su 10AM–7PM. This small island in the Miramichi is where Irish immigrants were quarantined when they got sick crossing the Atlantic to escape the potato famine in the late 1840s. Free.
- MacDonald Farm. A National Historic Site. This is on the north side of the river, about 11 km (7 miles) downstream from the Centennial Bridge. Made of stone from Scotland, this farmhouse was built by Colonel Alexander MacDonald, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. Guides in period costumes explain the various exhibits. Transportation to the home, which lies in the banks of the Miramichi River, close to where the Bartibogue River joins it, is by horse drawn wagon. just off the shore is Bartibogue Island.
- The Enclosure, Route 8, Derby. Where the Northwest Miramichi joins the Southwest Miramichi, makes for an interesting stop. This small Provincial Park contains the graves of the earliest Scottish and English settlers on the Miramichi, including the resting place of William Davidson, the first permanent European settler.
- St. Michael's Basilica, 10 Howard St., Chatham. In the former Chatham neighbourhood, this is the most dramatic building in the Miramichi Valley. This imposing neo-Gothic structure is built on a hill and dominates the former town of Chatham. Until Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, it was the largest church in Canada, east of Quebec City.
- French Forte Cove. A nice playground and walking trail with a boat launch!
- Beaverbrook House (The Old Manse), 518 King George Hwy, Newcastle, ☏ . June-Sept M-Sa 9AM-5PM; Su 1PM-5PM. Off season, please call for an appointment. The childhood home of Lord Beaverbrook is a beautifully restored 1877 Second Empire style house. $5.
- Miramichi River Tubing Co., 41 Kersey Lane, Rte 118 HWy Doyles Brook, ☏ . A river tubing company located on Route 118 Hwy. It offers 1½-2½ hour and 3-4 hour tubing trips on the Main Southwest Miramichi River. The trip is a mix of lazy river and, at times, rapids rush.
- Twin Pine Lodge (Absolute Outfitters), 48 Kersey Lane, Rte 118 Hwy, Doyles Brook, NB, ☏ . Hunting and Miramichi salmon fishing at an outfitters lodge.
- Miramichi River Boat Tours, Ritchie Wharf (just off Rt. 8 in Newcastle Miramichi), ☏ . daily. Discover the river's fascinating history with a colourful Acadian Captain and 90-minute interpretive tours. Licensed bar. Bilingual. $15.
- Canada's Irish Festival. Longest-running Irish festival in Canada. Stage performances and food. Third weekend in July.
Miramichi offers two downtown districts, a number of malls including Northumberland Square, Bridgeview Plaza, Chatham Shopping Centre, Douglastown Plaza, Miramichi Mall, and box stores along Douglastown Boulevard.
- Historic Chatham Business District focused on the Water Street area.
- Newcastle Business District — visit the Farmers Market every Friday.
- Northumberland Square, 2441 King George Hwy. Giant Tiger and Winners discount stores.
- Portage Restaurant, 191 King St, Highway 11, Chatham, ☏ . Su-Tu 6AM-9PM, W-Sa 6AM-10PM. Beef and turkey roasted in house, steaks, grilled or deep fried seafood. Wraps, sandwiches, burgers $10-16; dinners $10-25; breakfasts $5-12.
- Cunard Restaurant, 32 Cunard St, Chatham, ☏ . M 4-9PM, Tu-Th 11AM-9PM, F 11AM-10PM, Sa noon-10PM, Su noon-9PM. Chinese and Canadian cuisine. Buffet F 11:30AM-1:30PM ($13), Su 4-7PM ($15). Lunch specials M–Th 11AM–2PM $9.
- 1809 Restaurant & Bar, 1809 Water St, Chatham, ☏ . Su-Th 7AM-10PM, F Sa 7AM-11PM. Great view of the river. Seafood, steaks, etc. Breakfast $6-18, lunch mains $13-21, dinner mains $15-29.
- O'Donaghue's Irish Pub, 1696 Water St, Chatham, ☏ . Opens at 11AM; closes Su-W at 9PM, Th at midnight, F Sa at 2AM.
- [formerly dead link] The Rail House, 4 Johnson Ave, Chatham, ☏ . Th-Sa 4PM-10PM. Nightclub in an old train station.
- Days Inn, 457 King George Highway and 201 Edward St., Newcastle, ☏ , toll-free: . Pets welcome Doubles from $116, breakfast included.
- Rodd Miramichi River, 515 Water St.. Pool, restaurant, free Wi-Fi, fitness centre, accessible rooms. From $138.
- [dead link] Governor's Mansion Inn, 62 St Patricks Dr,, ☏ . The mansion was built over 150 years ago for a timber baron family, and served as the official residence of New Brunswick's Lieutenant-Governor. Restaurant, lounge, gardens. From $113.
|Routes through Miramichi|
|Rimouski ← Bathurst ←||W E||→ Moncton → Halifax|
|END ← Bathurst ←||N S||→ Jct W → Fredericton|
|Bathurst ← Caraquet ←||N S||→ Shédiac → END|