When I think of the most magical place in New Brunswick, Grand Manan comes to mind every time. And unless you’re new around these waters, you already know how big my coastal crush on this island is.
Located off the coast of New Brunswick and Maine, Grand Manan is accessible only by the most lovely 1.5-hour ferry ride from Blacks Harbour (get ferry times and make your reservations here) and if you’ve never been, well, I only have one question for you?
What the shell are you waiting for?
We are so incredibly lucky to have this magical island right here in New Brunswick and I have honestly lost count of how many times I’ve been lucky enough to walk its shores, play alongside its whales, and collect seaglass gems on its beaches.
If you’re looking to plan the perfect New Brunswick staycation this summer —or you’re FINALLY visiting our beautiful province once the bubbles pop— take this mermaid’s advice and bump Grand Manan to the top of your list.
My fiancé and I recently spent four incredible days on the island in May and while the weekend priority was to recharge our batteries, we couldn’t resist squeezing in some of our favourite sights and popping into our usual haunts.
Here’s a look at our long weekend filled with the three seas: seaglass, sea views, and seafood. It’s sure to get you thinking about planning your visit!
Seaglass for Days
Let’s start with one of the key attractions on the island: its abundance of seaglass.
Sure, there are many reasons to visit Grand Manan, but one of my go-to activities while on the island is definitely beachcombing and collecting the most beautiful pieces of tumbled, frosted seaglass. Seriously, it’s home to some of the best around. Second only to Campobello Island. (You can read more about that here.)
With a little help from the largest tides in the world, thanks to the Bay of Fundy, you have two fresh batches of seaglass to choose from daily. Meaning that if seaglass is your life, you can absolutely plan your day around the tides for optimal beachcombing.
My favourite seaglassing beach on the island is Stanley Beach, right in North Head, located behind the Surfside Motel and accessible from Stanley Road. In fact, it’s this beach where I found my incredibly rare pirate seasglass stopper in 2020 and during high tide at that! On our most recent trip, I found so many pieces of purple seaglass, I lost count.
If you’re not fussy about seaglass and are more into stunning beaches, make sure to visit Deep Cove to take in its rolling, crashing waves or sandy beaches low tide. It’s also a spectacular beach to catch a stunning sunset.
And of course, if beach bumming is your style, pack a beach towel and a cooler and head to Seal Cove Beach to get your toes in the sand and maybe even hop in the ocean for a swim. It’s also the perfect spot for a beach picnic on a sunny day!
Picture Perfect Lighthouses
If chasing lighthouses is your vibe, Grand Manan just so happens to have one of the most photographed and picturesque lighthouses in Canada: Swallowtail Lighthouse.
I could spend hours at Swallowtail but even if you only have 30 minutes to explore, visiting the lighthouse is a must. There’s no cost to view the lighthouse and explore Swallowtail, and only a small fee to go to the top of the lighthouse. It’s TOTALLY worth it, in my opinion. The view is stunning!
Whether it’s sunny or foggy, don’t just view Swallowtail from the car or the ferry. Take the short 5-10 minute trail to the lighthouse and it will lead you to some of the best views on the island. If you’re lucky, you might catch a whale swimming by or be able to watch some playful seals in a herring nets below. Morning person? I’ve heard catching the sunrise from Swallowtail is a religious experience 😉
Just remember to bring some comfy shoes and don’t forget your camera and the binoculars!
Even if you’re only on the island for the day, you can’t visit Grand Manan without taking a drive to the Southern Head Lighthouse and cliffs.
These otherworldly cliffs will absolutely take your breath away (trust me on this one) and will have you feeling as though you left the province or even the country. It’s a great spot to catch soaring eagles above or splashing whales below. And on a perfectly clear day, you can spot Machias Island (home to puffins from late June to late July) as well as Gannet Rock Lighthouse in the distance.
There is only one way to end your day on Grand Manan and that’s catching one of its epic sunsets. The best place to do that? The Whistle.
Located at the very end of the Whistle Road (accessible in North Head) you have two viewing options for sunsets: the Long Eddy Point Lighthouse which has a new viewing deck this summer OR Arthur’s Bench, where all of the locals hang out, at the very end of the road. Just keep driving until you can’t anymore, you can’t miss it.
In the summer months, you’ll not only get a sunset treat, there’s a good chance some of the whales will put on a show for you too. In addition to Swallowtail and the Southern Head Cliffs, the Whistle is a great destination for whale watching from the land. So bring a blanket, a bevvy, and your camera.
Want to get up close and personal with the whales? Book a whale-watching cruise with Lambert Family Adventures Whale and Wildlife Tours.
Delightful Coastal Dishes
When planning your visit to Grand Manan, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s an island and you won’t have your usual spread of fast-food chains, restaurants that are open late, and no, there isn’t a Tim Hortons, Starbucks, or Subway. And there’s definitely not Skip the Dishes.
But though it lacks when it comes to endless options for dining (and I’m in no way complaining) it makes up for with the culinary gems that do exist. Whether you want the most delicious, authentic Mexican food, the perfect lobster roll or the tastiest coffees and baked treats —you can find all of the above and more on the island.
Here are a few of our favourite haunts when visiting the island that are all open or will be opening soon for Summer 2021!
Island Cocina – Mexican Food Truck | Seal Cove | Hours + Deets
Mermaid’s Favourites: Chuck Wagon Chili Fries, Taquitos, Shrimp Tacos
Newton’s Mercantile & Cafe – Coffee, Sweets, Breakfast, Lunch | Grand Harbour | Hours & Deets
Mermaid’s Favourites: Homemade Drumstick Ice Cream, Grilled Cheese, and all of the cookies
Old Well House Cafe – Coffee, Sweets, Breakfast, Lunch, and Evening Snacks and Drinks | North Head| Hours + Deets
Mermaid’s Favourites: Salted Caramel Iced Latte, Carrot Cake, and Italian Meatball Sub
Sunrise Seafoods – Seafood, Cash Only | Woodward’s Cove | Hours & Deets
Mermaid’s Favourites: The Lobster Roll, Fried Clams & Chips
Trapped – Dips & Drinks | Grand Harbour | Hours + Deets
Mermaid’s Favourites: The Lobster Dip!
Note: Some of the restaurants are closed on Monday and Tuesday, and most don’t stay open late. Always check their Facebook pages for current hours. There is also a lovely grocery store on the island if you plan to do your own cooking or want to pick up some bites.
If you’re now dreaming about seaglass, playing with the whales, lighthouses and salty air – there has never been a better time to plan your visit to this beautiful Fundy Isle.
Have questions? Leave a comment or message me on my shell phone 🐚