Steeped in the traditions of its European forefathers and First Nations community, Dorchester is a haven for history buffs who appreciate fine architecture and natural beauty.
Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre — an internationally-renowned Nature Conservancy of Canada property.
The Bell Inn, built in 1811 by the Hickman family, is the oldest stone structure in New Brunswick. The building was a stagecoach stop in the 1800s.
The St. James Presbyterian Church Museum, an elegant wooden structure, was built by its parishioners in 1884. Today, its ornate stained glass windows shed light on a variety of tools and equipment used by the church’s builders. The Museum also houses the Beachkirk Collection, which provides insight into the making of textiles in the late 1800s.
Keillor House Museum was built in 1813 by Yorkshire stone mason, John Keillor. The early Regency stone house contains nine fireplaces, beautiful period furniture, a working bake oven and much of the original construction. A rough-hewn spiral staircase winds its way around a ship’s mast en route to the farm boy’s attic bedroom. The nearby Coach House contains antique carriages and farm tools as well as the unique Penitentiary Collection — an intriguing array of artifacts used 120 years ago at the Dorchester Penitentiary.
St. James Presbyterian Church built in 1884, this graceful wooden structure is home to turn of the century blacksmith’s tools, a working foot lathe and other carpenters’ tools and unique hand tools that farmers once used to make hay and thrash wheat. Known as the Beachkirk Collection, the museum also features an insightful look into the making of textiles in the late 1800’s. Exhibits cover all the process and eqipment used in making fabrics, from cutting the flax to producing the linen, and from shearing the sheep to carding, spinning and weaving the wool on antique looms. Demonstrations on two working looms are another popular feature at this museum.
The Rocklynn offers a welcome respite for travellers. Former home of one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation, this striking Georgian mansion is said to have hosted sumptuous afternoon teas for the country’s founding fathers.
Johnson’s Mills is home to thousands of shorebirds in late July and early August
A tour of Dorchester would not be complete without exploring the area’s natural wonders. Just eight kilometres from the centre of the Village lies the dramatic coastline of Shepody Bay. Between mid-July and mid-September, over 80 per cent of the world’s Semipalmated Sandpipers flock to the nutrient-rich mud flats to line the shore of Johnson’s Mills. These tiny birds forage for mud shrimp at low tide and, as the tide pushes in, they are forced to the air where they gather in flocks of tens of thousands, weaving along the shoreline in an exquisite ballet of shadow and light. This breathtaking spectacle attracts birdwatchers from around the world. The area is protected and managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Many species of songbirds inhabit the forest that line the numerous clay roads in the area, and there is always a chance of sighting a family of deer or moose. Although most roads are easily accessible by car, they are ideally travelled by foot, bicycle or horseback.
Whether you drop by in June to take part in our annual Shiretown festival, come in August to witness the sandpipers’ dance, or decide to spend a winter weekend on horseback, Dorchester is a must-see for any tour of southeastern New Brunswick.
For more information on things to do and places to see, visit our Tourist Information Centre, located in the Keillor House Museum, 4974 Main Street, Dorchester.