Going with the Ebb and Flow

Grand Manan Island
  |  Gorp.com

The grand finale of the Fundy Coast Drive is Grand Manan, an island reached by a one-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Blacks Harbour. The first sight of the Swallowtail Lighthouse on the cliff above North Head is one you'll long remember — especially if it was a rough crossing.

After settling into your lodgings (do make a reservation before you arrive), check out the lighthouse. If you pick up a copy of "Heritage Trails & Footpaths on Grand Manan" from your inn, you can follow directions from the lighthouse to Hole-in-the-Wall, a giant rock arch. Farther on the trail is Seven Days Work, named for the seven layers of rock exposed on this sheer vertical cliff.

Other places worth a peek on the island are Seal Cove, where you can see smokehouses, and Southwest Head, where the cliffs are lined with octagonal columns of rock.

In the waters surrounding Grand Manan, there's even more to see. Whale watching and bird watching are prime activities. In summer, more whales congregate in these waters than anywhere else on the Atlantic coast. While you can often spot them from shore, there's nothing like being on a small boat with a humpback breaching right in front of the bow.

Another must for nature lovers is a trip to nearby Machias Seal Island where puffins, razorbills and Arctic terns nest by the thousands in mid-summer. Since only 27 visitors are allowed on the island each day, you need to book this excursion in advance with an authorized tour operator.

Something you won't see on Grand Manan is a lot of tourist-related commercialism. There are no overly cute gift shops and only a few restaurants. Whales and birds flock to this Fundy isle, and most islanders make their living from fishing. These are some of the richest fishing grounds in the world, and we do mean rich. The island is home to several millionaire fishermen. While there are no ostentatious displays of wealth, there is a pleasant air of prosperity and no pressure on tourists to spend more than they want to.

Of course, you will feel compelled to try the bounty of the sea. Sample some dulse, a tangy red seaweed that is harvested almost exclusively on Grand Manan. Maritimers eat it like potato chips, but you may find it an acquired taste. To make your final night on the Fundy coast extra special, take a sea kayaking excursion at sunset. These one-hour paddles along the shore are followed by a lobster boil right on the beach in the summer twilight that lingers until 10 p.m. It's likely to be the best lobster you've ever tasted.

Distance: 58 miles to the ferry; a ferry ride of around 1 1/2 hours from Blacks Harbour.
Time: Two days
Highlights: Seal Cove, Southwest Head, Machias Seal Island
Activities along the way: Hiking, whale- and bird-watching, fishing, sea kayaking

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 17 Apr 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »