Grand Manan Island, N.B. July 2017





All good questions, and we will answer them, and then we will give you a thousand reasons to visit!

And if you are looking for Exotic! this is one of those special places in Canada!

I was in New Brunswick the last week of June and the first two weeks of July to visit PJ and hopefully paddle a N.B. river together.

A lingering severe ankle sprain quickly put that to rest, even having my son being the Sherpa, it was not a good idea to risk, considering I was walking with a cane, and even then short distances were a huge effort.

So plan “B” was to go to one of the National Parks either Fundy or Kouchibouguac, but being the first week of July there was news reports of heavy use there, and the popular areas were more than full.

So that led us to plan “C” which was check out the Provincial parks and see what was available.  One was to be able to paddle and two, some sort of other activities we could do together.

PJ is very good at finding neat stuff to do on line, were as I being an older fuddy duddy am a tad slow. (but getting better)

He came across the Anchorage Provincial Park and it had lots of vacancies, but it was on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy.

The red lines are the ferry routes.

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So how do you get there, well you take a 90 minute ferry ride from Blacks Harbour on the main land.  So right here we figured this idea was D.O.A. as a ferry ride like that must be prohibitive.  Then looking up the price we were more than shocked!  Not only did we double check the online info, we also phoned to confirm the price.

$60.oo round trip for the car and the two of us, plus you could also use the small ferry to go from Grand Manan to White Head Island….. wow! we where sold on that alone, and we had not even began to look at what else was on the island.  So we booked our departure and return trips on line, and that was super easy.

Then we started to look just what there was on the island,  we were surprised, but not nearly as shocked we became once on the island and realizing that we have found a little known treasure island.

Initially we thought we would camp at Anchorage, but the description of “Hole in the Wall” private campground  tweaked our interest, especially the “cliff side” camp sites both walk in and drive in.  So a quick exchange of emails and an explanation of my walking and ankle problems, we had a site and the owner assured me I would not have to walk far.

Lets stop here and introduce you to the down to earth, laid back Easterners,  I could put a whole bunch more adjectives in here but you really need to experience their unique hospitality.  If you want to get off the freight train of life for a bit, this is a breathe of fresh ocean air.  And it is so different coming from the GTA.

Well back to the story!  We were all set, not really knowing what to expect considering this island is fairly remote.

Disclaimer part 🙂

There are some sea kayak outfitters on the Island, and if you are unfamiliar with tidal currents and tidal rapids, it is a good way to go.

Even out at this end of the Bay the tides are over 3m (20′) There are certain parts around the Island were the currents can approach 10 knots (that’s 18.52 kph), So be prepared and get as much local knowledge as possible.

The area is also prone to incredibly thick fog banks, which adds to what else you must be aware of. It is also a very active fishing community so you must be aware of the boats as their windows for going in and out of their docks is small.

The place is eye candy though!

We left PJ’s place in Florenceville/Bristol at 6:30 am for the 3 hr drive to Black’s Harbour so we could arrive the 45 minutes early you need to for the ferry.  The ferries run every two hours, so you have lots of choice for your arrival time on the Island.

We where lucky! great photo conditions on our arrival at the docks

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The ferry arrives.

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The ferry ride was un-eventful, but we did spot some dolphins along the way,  but our first view  of the Hole in the Wall campground was impressive and made us excited to get there.

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The campground is less than 5 mins. from the dock.  The registration process is rather unique, and it works well for them.  The firewood, ice and showers are all on the honour system, and you do not pay for your campsite until the day before you leave.  It seems that people love the cliff side sites and you don’t have to leave your site, till you leave.  Which explains why you can reserve a site, but not a specific site.  Lets just say we were really happy with ours!  (Families with young kids are not allowed to camp on the cliff side sites. There isn’t a lot of safety barriers)

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It was threatening to rain so we got the tent and tarp and we decided to go for something to eat, even though the paddle conditions were favourable it was getting a little dull for good pics.  We got pizza at the Post office Pizza, just a little down the road from the dock. It was great.  We brought some food, but the idea was to eat locally as possible. We then suffered our only disappointment on the trip, we went to the North Head Bakery near closing time and they were just about sold out, but what they had left was amazing,  We did not show up late the rest of the trip.  This place would be a 5 star bakery no matter what kind of town it was in!   We then scouted out the boat launch on Whale cove so we would know where to go the next morning if the weather worked out.  we picked up some firewood to enjoy the evening and while we were waiting for dusk PJ hiked the trail to the  Hole in the Wall.  Did I say we had a really great site, and after the showers past we had an stunning sunset.

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Loved how the different colours looked drawn on the water.

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And if the campsite, and the sunset and the fire on the edge of the cliff were not enough, it was so calm after we went to bed that we had a National Geographic moment.  You could hear the whales surfacing and breathing, oh way cool, so cool I didn’t even think of recording the sound.

The next morning brought just amazingly calm conditions, It was hard to imagine that this was the Bay of Fundy.

Looking north at Whale cove.

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Looking south towards Nova Scotia.

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We had the tide charts and we wanted to get on the water 1 hr before high tide. The plan was to paddle to the Hole in the wall and if it was calm enough paddle out and around the point we where camped on, and our timing was perfect, very little current as we rounded the point. and no wind.

Our Campsite, right of centre in the image.

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View from the canoe.

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We paddled a little more around the point to the light house but the wind got a little funky along the cliffs and with the tide starting to go out the currents where starting to swirl and get stronger.  So we headed back towards the hole in the wall hoping the sun would be overhead enough to get some good images.

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Whale cove was still super calm so we decided to paddle across to the point on the north side of the cove, and we heard these guys long before we could see them, they were about 200 m out further than us. Shot with my 50 – 500 lens.

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The cove itself was still very calm and very hot in the sun.  We saw several types of Jelly fish.

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This one was neat and if you look close you can see a small fish that was eating whatever little things that grown on it.

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Northern end of Whale Cove.

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When we got to the end of the cove we stopped on shore for a snack and to take in our surroundings.  With the tide going out the canoe was quickly high and dry.

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Looking south.

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We saw a couple of seals here, and a local fisherman warned us about the point.  He said be careful as the currents here are never less than 4 knots. ( 7.41 kph)  We paddled up and put ourselves between a couple of boulders along the shore so we could get of pics of the currents, and we watched a young seal struggling to get back into the bay.

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On the way back to the boat launch we passed a couple of small water falls.

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Herring season was just getting set to begin so the fisher people were out repairing their traditional herring traps and this Cormorant was just hanging around looking for an easier meal.

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What started as a 2 hr planned paddle became a 5 + hour over 12k, in just unbelievable conditions.

Now just for second lets talk about small communities and what they see is going on.  It was not only funny but pretty amazing how many locals knew who was out paddling in Whale Cove, funny because we felt watched, protected and amazed because just how many knew.

Nothing is very far on the island but the services are scattered a bit so we needed a grill to BBq so we headed off to the local Home Hardware, we got a very good grill he can use on his trips  and I found some glass fuses that I needed back home and  I could not find anywhere else unless I bought a multi pack of various sizes.  It was a multi pack but only of the size I needed, I bought 2 packs. 🙂   All the prices were very reasonable (similar to GTA)  considering the effort it takes to get supplies here.

Then we invaded the bakery! No disappointment this time! We wanted an early supper so we could go to the Long Eddy Point light house for Sunset.  This is one of the typical Herring boats, this one nice and new.

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And it was a great Sunset!  Looking to the neighbour to the north, the State of Maine.

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Day 3 was very windy and the winds accelerate along the cliffs, no go on the paddle today.  So we decided to head out to check out the rest of the island.  We passed the road that takes you to the small car ferry to White Head and then realized it would be a good thing to go in the morning.  It is a first come first served and we where # 4.

Ferry pulling into White Head.

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On the ride you get to see why it is called White Head.

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The roads on this island are very good and they are working on a hiking trail that goes all the way around the light house.  To get to the light house was quite the walk for me and my ankle, but my Sherpa carried my camera gear as I gingerly and very slowly made my way along. You can not see it in this image but about 300m to the right of the light house is one of those tidal rapids with extreme currents,  They are constantly changing, waves, holes and whirlpools. not something to be trifled with.

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There is a little general store/snack bar by the ferry dock on White head, and it is typical of what you would expect from any remote town, but the burger we had was pretty amazing fresh homemade patty with the option of fresh or fried onions! we took the fried!  Another wonderful surprise.

So the next stop of the day was the Southwest Head Light house. Be warned:  If you come here there are NO Safety Barriers. Which is great for un-cluttered views.

As much as my ankle was hurting I was going to slog up the trail the  500m to the first lookout,  and yes if was worth it.  Looking south at the light house.

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Looking north towards the next lookout point.

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The little dot is PJ hiking to the next point.

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And through the big lens zoomed in, showing PJ following the rules of taking pictures in vicarious places by getting strongly anchored before even setting up for the pic.

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Next stop…. “Flock of Sheep” A group of erratic rocks that from the water look like a flock of sheep.  The main trail is not short or easy, we did not find a lot about this until after we got back, it took some more digging, but it seems it would be better from the water.  We did not go the whole way in but we did find one ladies sandal in a mud pit. You need good hiking shoes for this one.  But the sign showing the start of the trail was priceless and worth the stop alone.

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Next stop was the historic fishing village of Seal cove with many of it’s old Herring smoke  houses still intact, with some being converted for tourism.  Found out after we got back that Grand Manan is an Arthur Lismer (Group of Seven) painting location, and one paintings looks like it could still be here.  We would have looked a little harder had we known.  It would be a great place to paddle at high tide, but it was beautiful.  Like stepping back in time.

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The old harbour break walls of Seal cove.

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We headed back to the bakery on our way back to camp for dinner and to get one last stop on our last night here.  The Swallow tail light house. The goal was to catch it with the setting sun and catch the departing ferry in the image with it.  This is immaculately maintained and worth the visit.  Away from this point it was windy, but once on the point it was nuts!  Such an amazing example of what the cliffs, the point and the water do when they come together, this was it’s own weather zone, and you could see why they anchored the light house down with wires.  You get to walk from here to the light house.

Good thing I had my camera Sherpa to drag all  my gear around!

Light house in Golden hour light – Check!

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Light House and Ferry – check!

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Light house in perfect photo conditions – no filters needed – Check!!!!

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We had been truly blessed with the weather we had, even the locals said it was amazingly good,  but that was all coming to and end.  We had planned and booked the late ferry so we could spend the day exploring some more but once we heard the forecast we decided to see if we could re-arrange our spot, Bonus! we could!  The weather they were calling for was so bad they cancelled the trips for those that were going to visit Seal Island, (Puffin and bird sanctuary, and a manned light house on a tiny island that is contested with the U.S. )  and if you had been on the waiting list for up to 2 years you would have been really disappointed.

Last night camp fire, and that look tells you just how well the trip went!

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The last morning was nice enough and reasonalby calm and we saw more whales, which had moved into whale cove where we had paddled, dolphins, seals and a “Common Elder” a goose that is on the “threatened” list.

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Once the weather turned we had a few more errands to run.

1 Raid the Bakery & stock up!

2 Pick up some Dulse, (famous local edible sea weed)

3 Pick up some smoked salmon from the Post Office pizzeria!  (they do more than pizza! )

(I bet you are hungry now 🙂 )

Then we signed in for the ferry and had a nice meal at the restaurant  beside the dock.

This place is an amazing jewel! and you really should visit it if you have chance before it gets discovered by the hordes.

There is a ton of stuff to do, even if you have some mobility issues

I give Grand Manan 5 stars!

It is exotic as any place I have paddled over the last 50 years, and that is just a “few” locations. 😉