For the past 15 years, my East Coast summers just don’t feel like a true East Coast summer unless there’s a visit to Grand Manan Island involved. This summer, we went earlier than usual in order to go to Machias Island to see the puffins (only there in July) but by a lovely twist of fate (and the freedom being a digital nomad business owner provides) I’m headed back there again in late August.
So yes, you could say a piece of my heart definitely has a home on beach somewhere on the island.
Here are a few of my favorite snapshots from our July visit – all spots on the island that are an absolute must if you’re planning to visit!
For starters, the ferry ride over from Blacks Harbour is such a great time. I highly recommend hanging out on the decks versus inside the cabin (especially if you’re prone to sea sickness.) On every crossing I’ve ever done, we always spot seals, porpoises, seabirds, and often times whales!
Swallowtail Lighthouse is easily one of my favorite spots on the island – though I have quite a few. It provides amazing ocean views, especially of the ferry passing by, a super photographic lighthouse and again – whales, whales, whales. I don’t remember a time that I’ve ever walked over to the lighthouse that I haven’t seen a whale.
My best Swallowtail advice? Go more than once. Swallowtail is beautiful in the afternoon or evening, but even more amazing (in my opinion) in the early morning. I promise, on most days, you’ll hear the whales before you even see them.
When it comes to dining, Grand Manan has limited options but those it does have will make sure you get your seafood fill. For dinner on our first evening, we made reservations at one of my favorites, the Compass Rose where I had the most delicious lobster alfredo.
Looking for a light lunch? Head to the Chowder Hut inside Island Home Bed and Breakfast, right in North Head and minutes from the ferry terminal. Their chowder bowls are massive and full of seafood and their lobster roll? Well, they were made for Instagram.
Once you leave North Head, there’s so much more to see and do along the drive to the Southern Tip of the island. My absolute MUST stop on every trip is the Southern Head Cliffs. They’re absolutely otherworldly and take my breath away every time.
On your way back from the Southern Head cliffs, make sure to stop by Deep Cove to catch the rolling waves and walk along the beach. It’s a bit trickier to find, but if you look for cars parked along the side of the road on the coast, you should spot it with enough time to pull in.
Keep heading back towards North Head and you’ll see signs for Dark Harbour. You guessed it, this is another favorite of mine. Complete with quaint little coloured boats and plenty of photo opportunities, you’ll be happy you made the windy drive down to the cove.
Once you get back to North Head (that is if you’re staying there, of course) there are plenty of ways for you to spend your evening. We always stay at the Surfside Motel because we love the location, the owner, and getting to watch the ferries come and go from the beach just steps from our room.
The beach is also a great spot for finding sea glass!
For dinner on our last night, we made reservations at the Inn at Whale Cove Dining Room where I fell in love with Rhubarb Punch and had the most amazing steak dinner.
After dinner, you have several options for viewing the sunset – an absolute must when you’re on the island! Our go to location is Whistle Road, accessible from the main road. Drive along it until you hit the other side of the island and choose from either the lighthouse as a viewing point or drive a bit further for the famous sunset bench.
Another sunset option is Dark Harbour (which I’ve never done but hear is amazing.) I also enjoy watching the sunsets from North Head Wharf and taking a stroll amongst the boats or on the beach by the Surfside Motel.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong no matter what you decide to do when you visit Grand Manan. And I can’t wait to share more of my favorite spots after our August visit. It’s one island that’s incredibly hard to leave!