Shediac featured at the outset of the transportation industry in all its forms. Because of its prime geographic location, Shediac was used by the Amerindians as a base for stopovers between the portage of the Bay of Fundy and the point of departure for "Minetoo Abegweit", that is to say "the island resting on the waves".
With the arrival of the French during the 17th and 18th centuries, "Gédaïque", as it was then called, played the same role as a relay stop between the French Bay and the Red sea, as well as being the departure point for the island of Saint John.
In the beginning of the 19th century, paths trampled on for thousands of years became the first truly organized means of public transportation for the Maritimes. The first public road in New Brunswick was constructed between Shediac and Moncton in 1816. It was on this road that the first public transit service for the east coast started up. It is therefore not surprising that the first railroad in the Maritime Provinces was established in Shediac. The first passengers were transported from Shediac to Moncton in August of 1857 on the European and North American Railway. Shediac was one of the most important railway centers in the country before the operation was moved to Moncton following the fire of 1872. The only remaining trace of that era, which lasted until the 1980's when the old railway lines were removed in order to accommodate the construction of an office complex which would house the Department of Supply & Services Superannuation building, is the old railway depot. Incidentally, the old station was purchased by the town in 1994 and the structure is still standing today.
Historically, Shediac was the point of departure for Prince Edward Island. The first public wharf from which cargo ships sailed to P.E.I. was erected in Shediac in 1839 by the Colonial Government. The first ferry service between Shediac and Summerside and Charlottetown was inaugurated in 1858. The ferry service continued until 1917 when the ferry "The Empress" made its last crossing. From then on ferry service in the Northumberland Strait was operated from Cape Tourmentine, N.B. and Borden, P.E.I. or from Pictou, Nova Scotia to Wood Island.
Shediac is also connected with air transportation. The first Transatlantic airmail sent to Lancashire, England was stamped at the Shediac Post Office on June 24th,1939. Flights went from Shediac to Foynes, Eire. Prior to that, in July of 1933, the first air squadron left Italy to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Twenty-five (25) hydroplanes under the command of General Italo Balbo safely landed on the calm waters of Shediac Bay. The first commercial flights from North America to Europe departed from the Shediac terminal Pan American Airways seaplanes beginning on July 19th, 1937. The "clipper" stopped in Shediac one a week to refuel. The break out of World War II in September of 1939 saw the decline of the hydroplanes and as a result of this, the Shediac terminal shut down its operations. During the war, the terminal was used by small military planes of the Canadian Government.
Shediac is unique in Canada in that it was intimately associated with the beginnings of all forms of public transportation: public roads, railway, passenger/cargo ships and ferries as well as commercial aviation.
Rich in history and culture, Shediac is recognized for its avant-gardism: as the site of the first shipbuilding yard and the first steam sawmill in New Brunswick, not to mention the first passenger railroad in the Maritimes.
During the 19th century, the Shediac area saw a boost in the local economy with the development of the timber industry. Because of its ideal geographic location (the port and the Queen's wharf) and because of the abundance of this natural resource, Shediac was the perfect spot to set up sawmills. The first sawmill was constructed in 1820 along the Scoudouc River. In 1840, the parish of Shediac had fifteen sawmills in operation. The fever generated by the economic boom in the timber industry was evident as statistics reveal that in 1846 four million feet of beams and boards were exported to European markets by the Scovil Mill. In 1864, the numbers rose to seventeen million feet. During that time the majority of middle-aged men in Shediac worked in the lumberyards and sawmills. A significant workforce was also employed at the Pointe du Chêne wharf and at the railway company dock.
In the 19th century, merchandise was shipped from New Brunswick to outside markets via the sea. Because of the geographic location and the vast reserves in timber, Shediac was an ideal site for the construction of sailboats. In 1817, the first ship built in Shediac was officially launched. This ship, built by Bowen Smith, was made of wood that was entirely carved by hand. With the emergence of new means of transportation, roads for example, as well as the development of the shipbuilding industry in other major centres in the Maritimes, the construction of ships gradually diminished in this area.
As in other Acadian communities, agriculture played a major role in the development of Shediac. In the early 1870's the family-owned business, Chesley Tait Company, developed an industry that was to dominate the economy of Shediac for many years. While on a trip to Bermuda, Alexander J. Tait, one of the business partners saw an opportunity to expand the business and develop the potato industry in his little seaside village. On his return to Shediac he wasted no time in convincing local farmers to cultivate potatoes on a larger scale. During the first twenty years of the 20th century, a hundred thousand barrels of potatoes were shipped from here by rail or by sea to foreign markets in Bermuda and the West Indies, as well as to the rest of Canada.
Shediac, situated near the Northumberland Strait, is famous for its lobster. Shediac is known as the THE LOBSTER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. The first mention of the word "lobster" appears in the Maritimes Archives in 1578. The world is attributable to Captain Parkhurst. The first lobster processing plants in the Maritimes opened between 1840 and 1850 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia and Petit-Rocher and Saint-Louis, New Brunswick.