The East Coast Mermaid Guide to Grand Manan, New Brunswick

Grand Manan ❤️

It’s one of my favourite places in the world and I consider myself incredibly lucky that each summer, I get to spend a little more time there. Those who know me, know it’s my dream to have a home there one day. 

Until then, I talk about it, think about it, and dream about it ALL the time and it has been so amazing to see so many of YOU message me this summer asking questions and planning your trips to this little piece of paradise.

grand-manan-guide-Pinterest5
East Coast Mermaid guide to Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick. Where to stay, where to eat and the best beaches for sea glass and sunbathing.

Naturally, instead of doing another blog post about recent travels to the island, I felt it was time to create something extra special.

Many of you ask about my favourite place to stay, what restaurants we love, what beaches I walk every day.

Now, I’m sharing it all for you to plan the perfect, magical, Grand Manan vacation.

Introducing: The East Coast Mermaid Guide to Grand Manan, New Brunswick.

 

HOW LONG DO I STAY?

While you can see all of Grand Manan in a day if you’re short on time, I highly recommend spending at least a night or two to relax, discover your favourite spots on the island, eat a few amazing meals, and honestly just take it all in.

It’s SUCH an otherworldly place that I truly think you need to spend at least a few days on the island to feel its magic and fall in love. Especially if it’s your first visit.

Leaving Grrand Manan - East Coast Mermaid

 

WHO TO BRING

You may be wondering—who should I bring on this magical ferry trip to Grand Manan? While it’s an amazing destination for anyone, the two most common questions I get asked are:

Is it dog-friendly? Yes, yes it is SO dog-friendly. There are dogs on vacation everywhere. Of course, check with your accommodation of choice but there are definitely dog-friendly spots to stay at.

While you may not be able to bring your dogs to the fancier dining rooms, there are plenty of spots with outdoor tables and dining too.

Is it kid-friendly? Alright, I don’t have kids of my own and I have reservations about some areas of the island and small children. Four words: HIGH CLIFFS. NO RAILINGS. 

But plenty of families visit Grand Manan with children of all ages each year. Just use your super awesome parenting instincts to determine which sights are safe and which ones are not. You’ve got this, mom and dad!

 

HOW TO GET THERE

As it’s an island, Grand Manan is only accessible by an amazing 1.5-hour car ferry ride from Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick.

Blacks Harbour is about 45 minutes from Saint John. It’s free on the way over and you pay to take the ferry back to the mainland when leaving the island from North Head.

AS5A7792
Photo Credit: Kelly Lawson Photography

In our case, for two people and an SUV, it’s $60 for the trip. And totally worth it. 

Ferry reservations are HIGHLY recommended in the summer and can be made online at Coastal Transport. You can also access the ferry schedule.  IMPORTANT: You MUST arrive 45 minutes before your reservation to check-in when going to and leaving the island.

Keep an eye out for whales, seals, shorebirds and more on the ride over. I’ve had some amazing whale sightings over the years from the ferry deck!

 

WHAT TO DO

Once you’re on the island, you can get from one end to the other in about 30 minutes. My overall advice? Explore as much of it as you can! From one end to the other.

But keep in mind—there is only ONE gas station on the island and it closes at 8:00pm most nights and only opens at 12:00pm on Sundays.

Swallowtail Lighthouse

This destination on the island is a MUST! In fact, it’s my favourite spot on the island. Located in North Head, Swallowtail Lighthouse is the lighthouse you will see from the ferry when you arrive in Grand Manan.

AS5A8628
Photo Credit: Kelly Lawson Photography

It’s free to walk out to the lighthouse and only $5 per person to tour the lighthouse and go to the top. Definitely recommended if you’re into lighthouse history. 

My favourite way to enjoy Swallowtail is to grab a coffee, sit on the cliffs and watch the whales and ferry go by. You can also catch playful seas in the herring nets below, that will gladly entertain you for hours.

Mornings at Swallowtail are the best in my opinion, especially when the water is a flat calm.

Whale Watching with Captain Wilcox

You can see whales from the land at many locations on the island, but if you want to hit the open sea and really play with some whales, book a tour with Captain Peter Wilcox of Sea Watch Tours.

Machias Island 1

And fun fact: Sea Watch Tours is the FIRST whale watching tour I ever took when I was in high school!

Sea Watch is also the ONLY tour company from Canada that can take you to Machias Island to see the puffins each summer and I HIGHLY recommend it. You can read more about my experience here.

Machias Island 10

And of course, book your whale tour here.

My whale watching advice? Dress WARM! Just because it’s a beautiful summer day on land, doesn’t mean it’s going to be warm on the Bay of Fundy.

Wear layers and leave the flip flops on land. You can thank me later.

Explore the Southern Head Cliffs

The Southern Head Cliffs are easily my second favourite spot on the island. These cliffs will absolutely take your breath away, every single time. Whether you catch them on a sunny day or in the fog – they’re a must!

IMG_6547

To get to them, drive until the very end of the island until you can’t drive anymore. They’re free to access and are absolutely majestic at sunset. You may even see some whales at sea!

IMG_6393

Travelling with small children? These cliffs are massive and there is no fencing along the edge. If your toddlers are at that running stage, these cliffs are not quite as family-friendly as other parts of the island.

Hike to Hole in the Wall

There are so many hiking trails on the island, but Hole in the Wall is my go-to. It also happens to one of the most Instagramable spots on the island.

IMG_6034

While you’re still hiking to a cliff, this hike is a bit more family-friendly than other vistas on the island. They even have a cute treasure hunt for children on the way to the Hole in the Wall.

To hike this trail, head to Hole in the Wall Campground. It’s $4 per person to hike—kids under 12 are FREE. There are also several other notable lookouts and spots to check out when visiting, so make sure to get a map when you pay!

Plan your hike here.

Visit Dark Harbour

Dark Harbour is one of the coolest spots on the island. It gets its name because even on the sunniest day, the high cliffs keep the harbour relatively dark.

4D3E0EBA-6C4A-4376-AFD5-1C470EA9C4D5

It’s also where some of the best dulse on the island is grown and harvested. If you’re into seaweed like this mermaid 😉

It’s also a great spot to watch the sunset and explore at low tide!

Island Hop to White Head

You know I’m all about island hopping, so I love to hop the FREE ferry to White Head Island just off Grand Manan when visiting. It’s a great morning or afternoon trip, with several great beaches on the island to explore.

IMG_0706

Grab the ferry schedule to book your visit here.

Keep in mind that while you can spend as much time as you’d like exploring White Head, the ferry lineup can be longer in the summer as the ferry only fits so many cars at once.

Allow yourself plenty of time to travel back to Grand Manan, especially if you have dinner reservations, a tour or ferry booked.

Sunset at the Whistle

What’s the BEST way to end a day in Grand Manan? Catching the sunset at the Whistle. There are two fantastic spots to watch the sunset: from a platform beside a lighthouse or at Arthur’s Bench—my personal fave—where many locals will join you, share island stories, and give you the latest island gossip.

IMG_7599

It’s also an AMAZING spot to see whales, seals, porpoises, and more! And of course, epic island sunsets.

From North Head, take Whistle Road all the way until the very end. You will see the lighthouse first, keep going to access Arthur’s Bench.

You can park anywhere along the road, just be mindful not to block anyone’s driveway!

 

WHERE TO STAY

Once you decide on the dates for your trip to Grand Manan, I highly recommend booking your accommodations ASAP! The island is small and there are only so many places to stay.

AS5A7959
Photo Credit: Kelly Lawson Photography

The Surfside Motel 

What can I say? I’m a mermaid of habit. I’ve been staying at the Surfside Motel since my first trip to Grand Manan over 17 years ago.

The owner is the sweetest, its location in North Head is near great restaurants and activities, and it’s located on a beachfront stretch.

And that beach is where I’ve found some of my BEST sea glass over the years.

If you can, snag a room on the ocean side for great views of the ferry coming and going all day long.

Book it here.

The Beach House

New in 2019, the Beach House is on the Surfside Motel property and shares the same owner as the motel.

For those that have been to the island over the years, you may recognize it as the old Galloways Restaurant.

I can’t say ENOUGH about this incredible slice of coastal heaven.

IMG_7482

With three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, this cottage is perfect for a getaway with friends or a family vacation. The kitchen which still includes the original bar from Galloways has everything you need and there is a BBQ out back for grilling.

IMG_7654

IMG_7451

And those driftwood features? Just one of the many reasons you will fall in love with the Beach House.

Book it here.

Inn at Whale Cove

Now, as I mentioned, I have ALWAYS stayed at the Surfside but if I didn’t love it so much, my natural next choice would be the beautiful Inn and Cottages at Whale Cove. The restaurant is one of my faves. 

Book it here.

 

WHERE TO EAT 

While I am not a bigger planner when I travel, figuring out where to eat when visiting Grand Manan is kind of important, as there are only so many places to eat.

If you’re looking for healthier home-cooked, locally sourced options, there are really only a handful of dining rooms that offer this and reservations are recommended.

Here are a few of my favourites:

The Old Well House Cafe

Located in North Head, The Old Well House Cafe is my go-to on the island to grab a coffee, breakfast treat or lunch.

AS5A8714
Photo Credit: Kelly Lawson Photography

Everything is baked fresh every morning and their homemade soups are to die for! I highly recommend their breakfast egg muffins and their carrot cake is an absolute MUST!

More details + hours here.

The Inn At Whale Cove

This one is Dan’s favourite restaurants on the island. The menu changes daily and features locally caught seafood and fresh vegetables.

IMG_5456

Try their homemade rhubarb punch if you’re looking for a tasty beverage. Inn at Whale Cove has a very small dining room, so make your reservation early.

More details + make reservations here.

Trapped

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve very likely seen me post photos of an EPIC lobster dip on Grand Manan. That, my ocean friends, is served at Trapped.

AS5A7971
Photo Credit: Kelly Lawson Photography

Trapped is an outdoor patio that serves only two things: hot lobster dip for your seafood lovers and hot spinach dip for your landlubbers.

They also serve delicious smoothies, beer and wine. And the best part, you get to feel like you’re dining inside one big lobster trap.

Make sure to check out their Trapped coastal apparel line in their clothing store too!

More details + hours here.

The Compass Rose

Another amazing dining room experience right on the ocean in North Head with fresh, local ingredients and seafood.

Just like Inn at Whale Cove, the menu changes daily and it’s a small dining room, so again, reservations are highly recommended.

Want a delicious treat? Treat yourself to their homemade pies. The blueberry à la mode is my favourite on the menu!

More details + make reservations here.

The Old Post Office Pizza

The best pizza on the island! The Old Post Office—it’s literally the old North Head post office—is the place to go if you want a delicious pizza and garlic fingers when visiting the island.

Make sure to say hello to the owner Walter, he’s full of great tips for spots to explore on the island and I always learn something new from him!

What I especially love is that the Old Post Office Pizza is open late until 10:00pm so if you’re catching the sunset or out on a sunset cruise, it’s a great place to get a meal after dark!

More details + hours here.

Newton’s Mercantile & Café

Another Dan favourite; Newton’s is located in Grand Harbour and is also home to the cutest gift shop. I have so many little goodies from there. 

IMG_7524

They make delicious sandwiches and crepes, as well as baked goods and pastries. They also have gelato and homemade ice cream treats.

Newtons is closed on Sunday and Monday, so plan your trip around these hours!

More details + hours here.

 

MERMAID APPROVED BEACHES

A large part of my love affair with Grand Manan is its beautiful, unique beaches. I could stroll them for hours and they are each so different in their own way.

Here are a few mermaid-approved beaches that just so happen to be my regular haunts.

Stanley Beach

Stanley Beach is the beach at Surfside Motel and where 90% of my sea glass photos and videos are taken.

It’s my favourite place to spend hours on the island, strolling at low tide and even high tide, looking for treasures.

AS5A7890
Photo Credit: Kelly Lawson Photography

If you’re not staying at the motel, you can easily access it from Stanley Road across from the hospital. It’s a great spot for families on a hot summer day and children can safely play in the chilly Bay of Fundy water.

Pette’s Cove

Pette’s Cove is a small cove with a rocky beach located in North Head, just below Swallowtail Lighthouse.

IMG_7790

If you turn right after the ferry and drive until the very end, you will end up at it. It’s a great spot for watching seals and the ferry come and go.

There are a few man-made parking spots for you to pull into.

Seal Cove Beach

Another great family-friendly beach, Seal Cove is a beautiful sandy beach perfect for beach days! I only recently discovered how magical it is when Dan and I went at low tide and walked it for over an hour. It’s also a great spot for beachcombing and spotting eagles! Pack a picnic and spend a day there!

AS5A8280
Photo Credit: Kelly Lawson Photography

Deep Cove

Last but not least, my favourite sunset beach.

Deep Cove is easy to miss and is at the south end of the island. Parking is just off the road and you can take a short less than one-minute walk down a trail to the beach.

AS5A8198
Photo Credit: Kelly Lawson Photography

At high tide, it’s a rocky beach but at low tide, you can walk out on the sand, chase seagulls, and see some amazing colours if it’s timed with sunset.

WAVE for Blog Posts (1)

And now a question for you!

When are you island hopping to Grand Manan? 

I LOVE to help plan amazing Grand Manan vacations. If you have any questions as you plan your trip, message me on Instagram or Facebook, or send me an email 💌

3 thoughts on “The East Coast Mermaid Guide to Grand Manan, New Brunswick

  1. Wow, this is great! I really appreciate the detail and thought you put into writing this! I’ll be sure to check out the restaurants you’ve mentioned!

Leave a Reply