Camping and Beach Walking on Grand Manan Island

Our family has been looking forward to trip planned to Grand Manan Island, in the Bay of Fundy.  Grand Manan lies south of the mainland, across from Maine.  The island is part of a archipelago which was debated over sovereignty in the early 1800s-1900s.  (One island south of Grand Manan, Machias Seal Island, is still contested between the US and Canada.)   Also, it may be a presumptive statement, but it seems that Grand Manan is easily overlooked when talking about Southern New Brunswick.  Interestingly, there are friends of ours who have lived in the Saint John area, but never been to Grand Manan — a short 30 minute drive and 1.5 hr ferry to the island.  I had been to Grand Manan as a kid, but remembered little of the visit.  Although, based on what we saw after a three day camping trip there, we found it to be a little jewel of the Bay of Fundy with incredible scenery including 11 beaches, many lighthouses, bird life, and an island filled with a proud and friendly people with an easy going and welcome slower lifestyle. (We spoke to a few locals and  heard there are older folks on Grand Manan that have never left the island!) I'd encourage anyone to read a bit on the history of Grand Manan, which gives a feel for the type of place you're visiting.  Many authors and artists have called Grand Manan home. If you visit, be sure to see the museum, which is well worth the entry fee.  

The first experience is the Ferry trip, leaving from Black's Harbour.  It was Rebecca and Abby's first trip on a car ferry and just that experience was worthwhile for them.  The added fun is watching all the sea life and islands along the hour and a half trip to North Head.  Seeing whales for the first time was not lost on them at all — and it was fun watching their excitement.  

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Waiting for the Ferry in Blacks Harbour

 

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Watching for whales
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Wolf Islands

 Arriving at Grand Manan, we went straight to our campsite — another first for everyone camping together.  The girls were excited to set up their tents — and more importantly their bikes to zip around the campground and explore their surroundings.  We spent most of the three days thinking to ourselves that we will always bring the kid's bikes on these types of trips as any down time was spent biking.  It gave them lots of freedom and little deserved breaks for the parents as well.  

IMG_1980We headed straight for the beach next to the Anchorage Campground.  The girls went straight to their beach play. 

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Seaweed Skipping

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After our supper, we left to see Grand Harbour beach and hunting for sea glass.  Picturesque fishing and bait shacks could be seen on the road to the beach.  

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We also headed out to check out the Southwest Head lighthouse at the southern tip of the island.  There are some distinctive rock formations off the coast here, which is also the starting point for the 3 day backpacking trip that can be done on the western coast of Grand Manan.  From the cliffs, it was easy to see the US and the Atlantic Ocean. Machias Seal Island was also visible. Walking on the trails really felt like you might walk off the end of the earth!

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The highlight of the evenings were the camp fires and evening biking at dusk.  The girls could be heard laughing from the nearby playground with their glow stick bracelets.  

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We tried to spend as much time at the shore, even while waiting as there's shorelines all over on Grand Manan.  (The photo above was behind a fish plant in Grand Harbour). The following day, we visited White Head Island — another inhabited island a 30 minute ferry ride from Grand Manan.  The smaller island of White Head island has three beaches and lighthouses.  This time, we visited Long Point lighthouse and the Sandy Cove area.  To get the feel for it, imagine walking off into a sea of fog and following a gravel beach road switching from stone beaches to brown sandy beaches, with little or noone around.  We found these scenic boats by the ferry to White Head island at Ingalls Head.  

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The grassy section of road leading to the sentinel lighthouse at Long Point.  This was the grassiest area we could find! 

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Looking back at the coastline from Long Point Lighthouse.  Long since abandoned, the lighthouse rocks are full of sea birds, who's song was loud and clear.  
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We spent the better part of a day exploring White Head Island and the shoreline.  A remote but beautiful spot — a beachcombers dream with all the flotsam and jetsam washing ashore. 

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Our last day, we packed up early and spent our time in the North Head area, visiting Stanley's Beach, Whistle Point and the Swallow Tail lighthouse.  Rebecca was wanting to take part in a rock skipping competition on Stanley's Beach, while taking a break from sea glass hunting.  Both girls gave up some of their seaglass to other pickers, striking up conversations with people from the US and other parts of Canada.

 

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The Swallowtail lighthouse is an iconic spot, likely photographed by most visitors to Grand Manan.  A short hike to the lighthouse and the high rocks surrounding it allows a perfect view of the ocean and to do some whale watching if lucky.  One guaranteed sight is the ferries going by to land at North Head.  

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Watching the sea at Swallowtail Lighthouse

The weather was perfect for our trip — we certainly lucked out while we were there.  There was so much to do and too little time, making it necessary for another summer return trip.

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