The islands of the Maritime provinces are about to be boarded up. No, the Canadian government hasn’t shut down like its neighbor to the south. With the busy summer season over and colder temperatures ready to start creeping in, islands like New Brunswick’s Grand Manan are preparing for winter. As should you. By taking one more trip to the “Queen of the Fundy Isles.”
Grand Manan is the largest of the Fundy Islands. It’s also the farthest from the mainland, making it a 90-minute ferry ride from Blacks Harbour. The ferry is nearly deserted this time of year, so you won’t have to jostle for position to see the Swallowtail Lighthouse or the rocky cliffs–known as Seven Days Work for its layers of lava–where Peregrine Falcons nest. After disembarking, walk down to the Islands Art Café to grab a cup of coffee before you start exploring.
The island was claimed by the French and traded to the British before its first permanent settlement appeared in 1784. Today, it looks much like it did in the 19th century. Clapboard houses, wharfs, fish sheds, and smokehouses on the eastern coast, where most residents live. Steep cliffs, high winds, and volcanic rock left the west coast mostly undeveloped. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out. Head north, stopping at the Hole in the Wall, a natural rock arch, at Whale Cove. Follow Whistle Road to Long Eddy Point, the northernmost tip of the island. Locals call the lighthouse here the “Whistle,” for the piercing sound of the fog whistle. Scan the water. It’s a popular place to spot whales, porpoises, and maybe even a Bald Eagle flying above the surf.
To see more of the west coast, you’ll have to head south first. If it’s low tide, stop at Stanley Beach–on your way down the main road–to search for sand dollars . But only pick up the white ones; the darker ones are still alive. Then follow Dark Harbour Road west. The road is best for bikers. And the view heading downhill toward the ocean is stunning. The area is known for its 300-foot cliffs, windswept beach, and dulse. Though the dried seaweed snack is definitely an acquired taste.
Back on the main road, drive toward the southern tip of the island. You’ll find magnetic sand on Red Point Beach, lobster and scallop fishermen at Seal Cove Harbour, and a gorgeous stretch of sand at Deep Cove Beach. You would stay for hours–even though it’s a bit chilly for a swim–if your stomach weren’t grumbling so loudly. Besides, you have just enough time for chowder and a lobster roll at Sailors Landing before hopping back on the ferry.
This wild, rugged island has gotten under your skin. You’ll definitely be back next year. Once it starts warming up again.