Most people know Magnetic Hill as the “Tourist trap” located near the end of Mountain Road. Magnetic Hill is a short hill where drive to the “bottom” put your car into neutral, and it will appear to roll uphill due to an optical illusion. Today it features a man-made pond with gift shops, a zoo, water park, and concert site. (photo credit: Annette Perreault).
Tales about Magnetic Hill go back to the late 1800′s. In the early days of the automobile there were rumors about a Provincial Highway where cars would roll backwards or needed to accelerate to go down hill. It is said that in the 1930s newspaper reporters from Saint John spent hours trying to find this mysterious phenomenon and were finally successful after stopping to stretch their legs and noticed their car rolling uphill. They knew it was only an optical illusion but couldn’t figure out exactly how it worked.
Not long after, they published an article about it and people started visiting the location to see it for themselves.
In the early 1950′s during the post-war boom in tourism the section of highway and surrounding land was sold to the City of Moncton and a bypass highway was built around it.
Soon after a motel and souvenir shop was built at the “top”. Eventually the motel and shop was torn down as Magnetic Hill expanded.
In 1953 the Magnetic Hill game farm was was built as a home to orphaned and injured animals until the city took it over in 1979 and started acquiring more exotic species. This resulted in the name being changed to the Magnetic Hill Zoo. Since then the Zoo has been expanded a number of times and is now the largest Zoo in Atlantic Canada.
Affectionately refereed to as some as “Pope Hill” the concert site was actually constructed in 1984 for Pope John Paul II to hold a large mass during his visit to Moncton. It was converted to a concert site in the late 90s with the first major concert in 1998, featuring bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Peter Frampton, Heart and more. Although most Monctonians remember it becoming famous for The Rolling Stones concert in 2005 with a crowd of over 80,000.
Building on the growing popularity of the Hill and the ,construction of the water park began in 1986 as part of a major renovation to the entire area . The water park took only a year to build and was open to the public in 1987. Magic Mountain is still the largest man-made tourist attraction in Atlantic Canada.
It’s amazing that what started as an optical illusion on an old Provincial Highway has turned into such a popular tourist attraction.