Grand Manan is a magical island home to whales, lighthouses, and seaglass in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Canada and Maine, only accessible by ferry.
And I’m often asked – what are my MUST-DO experiences when visiting the island?
The good news is that the island is small enough, that even if you’re only there for 24 hours (I have a guide just for that here) you can still see many of its most breathtaking views, scenic drives, and maybe even a whale or two!
But if you want to know this mermaid’s 5 must-do experiences and sights to be seen on the island – you’ve come to the right beach!
Swallowtail lighthouse is hands-down my favorite spot on the island.
I could go every day – morning, afternoon, evening. It’s an incredibly magical spot on the island and if you only make it to one destination on the island, visiting Swallowtail would be my top pick.
To truly experience the lighthouse, you’ll want take the stairs down to the bridge and walk the short trail over to the lighthouse. Along the way, you’ll likely spot seals, seabirds, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a whale. Walk up to the helipad for the perfect photo op and epic 360 degree panoramic view. A view that is especially fantastic if the ferry is coming or going.
My favorite time of day to visit is early in the morning or after dinner. Foggy day? It’s still pretty epic – just prepare your ears for the fog horn as it can catch you off guard if you’re not expecting it.
The best part? Visiting Swallowtail Lighthouse is absolutely free! Want to go to the top of the lighthouse? It’s only $2 per person and the tour is super fun!
While catching a whale watching cruise might not be for everyone and won’t fit into every travel itinerary, if you’re visiting Grand Manan and you have always dreamed of seeing whales, I highly recommend you book a whale watching cruise during your visit.
Lambert Family Adventures offer 2 hour cruises departing from North Head (minutes from the ferry) and their season is currently in full-swing. While reservations are highly recommended, if you’re not a planner, you can always keep an eye on their Facebook page for last minute tours and spots on the boat! Opportunity to book the sunrise cruise? Do it! It’s my favorite and absolutely amazing.
No two whale watching tours are the same but if you hop a cruise with the Lambert Family in the summer, you’re very likely to see a mixture of minke whales, finbacks, and my favorites, the showboats of the ocean, the humpback whales.
To learn more about whale watching in New Brunswick, make sure to check out the 2022 East Coast Mermaid Guide to Whale Watching.
I’ve always said that Grand Manan feels absolutely otherworldly. In some spots on the island, you feel connected to the Maritimes. In other parts, you will feel like you have travelled far, far away. The Southern Head Cliffs will do just that.
These cliffs still take my breath away even 21 years later. They are absolutely magnificent and worth the drive to the end of the island to marvel in them.
If possible, you’ll want to try and go on a sunny, fog-less day to truly enjoy them. I’m also a big fan of going in the evening as you will often see whales swimming by. On a clear day, you have excellent views of Machias Island, summer island home of the puffins, in the distance.
Not for the faint of heart, you’ll want to keep your children and dog nearby if you’re traveling as a family as there are no fences or railings. And keep an eye on your cell phone – it may pick up US towers and start to roam. If it does, simply slip into airplane mode until you’re back in the parking lot.
I’m sure you already know this about me but I’m absolutely obsessed with seaglass. And if you are too, Grand Manan is a must!
But if you’re into searching for fossils, precious gems and even crystals – Grand Manan is just as perfect for you, thanks to its unique geographical features. And while not every beach offers up seaglass, each will have its unique rocks and minerals for you to discover.
If seaglass is your jam, make sure to spend some time at Stanley Beach at low tide as I can assure you, you won’t leave without a pretty piece of seaglass to bring home as a souvenir. You can also pop by my favorite cove – Pettes Cove – to search for mermaid tears in the rocks!
When people tell me they’re only going to Grand Manan for the day, my first reaction is always – “But you won’t be there for the sunset!”
Being an island and all, Grand Manan has some of the most epic sunsets I have ever seen on the East Coast. I would honestly compare some of them to the caliber of sunsets I’ve been fortunate enough to see in Hawaii. So if you’re on the island when the sun is getting ready to set, let me suggest you make your way to my go-to spot for watching the sunset – the Whistle.
Take the Whistle Road from right in North Head and drive all of the way to the very end! There are two perfect spots to view the sunset from – Long Eddy Point Lighthouse and Arthur’s Bench at the very end of the road.
On some evenings – you might even be lucky enough to catch a whale swimming by or some playful seals!
I am so excited for you to experience the magic of Grand Manan Island this summer. It truly is my happy place and I have a sneaking suspicion, you’re about to develop a coastal crush on it too!
To get started planning your trip, make sure to check out the 2022 East Coast Mermaid Guide to Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick.
Planning to leave your car on the mainland? You can rent an e-bike from Grand Manan Island e-Bikes that will get you everywhere in this post! They’re located just seconds from the ferry landing.
And if you have any questions, send an email my way firstname.lastname@example.org or a message on my shell phone 🐚
Happy Island Hopping!