Grand Manan / Travel

2023 East Coast Mermaid Guide to Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick

Updated: September 6th, 2023 to reflect seasonal changes.

Unless you’re new around these waters, you know that Grand Manan is not only my favorite destination on the map in New Brunswick but we’re also homeowners on the island.

And oh buoy, it feels so good to say that!

I’m often asked, what made us decide to buy a property on Grand Manan Island and I have a sneaking suspicion that after you finish reading this guide, you’ll understand.

Island life in itself is its own kind of magic. Add in lighthouses, fresh seafood, beaches for days, fog horns, playful whales, seaglass, epic sunsets, and incredibly welcoming locals, and how could you not want to vacation here?

Consider this guide your one-stop for everything you’ll need to plan the most epic trip to the Queen of the Fundy Isles this summer.

By the most epic 1.5-hour ferry ride from Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick.

Blacks Harbour is about 45 minutes from Saint John and about 2 hours and 10 minutes from Moncton. You won’t need to pay anything on the way over but you will have to pay on the way back to the mainland when leaving the island from North Head.

Plan to budget about $65 to $90 for a couple to a family of four (and depending on the age of your children).

Ferry reservations are not only STRONGLY recommended – they’re often needed, especially in the summer.

In the summertime, some ferries WILL be full, so if you have your heart set on sailing at a certain time on a certain day – book a reservation. They are easy to reschedule if needed or if you decide to stay longer. Which is a quite common occurrence!

Plan your trip with the ferry schedule and make your reservations at Coastal Transport.

IMPORTANT: You MUST arrive 45 minutes before your reservation to check-in when going to and leaving the island, or you will lose your guaranteed spot.

When in Blacks Harbour, you can use this time to check out the famous seaglass beach and beautiful coastal views. When on Grand Manan, swing by the local shops and restaurants for a cold drink or last-minute souvenir.

Once on the ferry, know that there is a reason they call it a ferry ride that is cruise beautiful.

I always recommend going out on the deck if the weather permits, as it’s truly the best way to experience the sail. Keep an eye out for whales, seals, shorebirds and more. I’ve had some amazing whale sightings over the years from the ferry deck!

If day trips are more your style, I’m happy to say that you can absolutely visit and drive across the entire island in a day. Just take an early ferry over in the AM and a later one home in the evening. I have a whole post dedicated to the day trip or 24 hour stay right here that you can check out!

But for those of you who will be swept away by the magic, you’re going to want to spend at least two to three nights on the island to unwind, discover your favourite spots on the island, eat a few amazing meals, and honestly just take it all in. There is something special about the sunsets on this island that you will have to see for yourself! It’s such a unique destination, don’t rush it! Especially if it’s your first time.

And if you’re no stranger to visiting Grand Manan and think you’ve checked everything off your list. Well, I’ve got a post just for you – 5 things to do when you think you’ve done it all.

One of the number one questions I get asked is whether or not Grand Manan is an ideal vacation destination for your children (or fur babies).

The island is very dog-friendly with restaurant patios like the Old Well House Cafe and Newton’s Mercantile & Café being very welcoming of your furry friends. But always check with your accommodations beforehand to make sure they accept four-legged guests.

And what about kids? We don’t have any children of our own, but here’s my two cents. There are some areas on the island where I’d be a pinch nervous—think HIGH CLIFFS and NO RAILINGS— to bring small children.

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! And if you’re planning to bring your littles, you will definitely want to check out the playground at Seal Cove Beach!

Don’t let the fact that you can easily drive from one end of the island to the other in 30 minutes fool you into thinking you’ll be short on things to do.

There are SO MANY amazing little destinations along the way to stop, discover, and explore. One of the best parts about visiting Grand Manan is that you really can let the ocean breeze take you wherever you feel like. So my advice? Explore as much of the island as you possibly can!

IMPORTANT NOTE: There is only ONE gas station on the island, located at the grocery store, and it’s open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, it only opens at 12:00 pm, closing at 6:00 pm. So while there are less awesome places to be stranded with no gas, it’s best to make sure you fill up after a day of adventuring before closing time.

Make sure to follow the Grand Manan Independent Grocer on Facebook to be in the know about any changes to the hours of operation.

You simply cannot go to Grand Manan Island, without booking a whale watching adventure.

There, I said it.

Grand Manan Island is a premier travel destination if you want to see whales up close. And while it’s possible to see whales on occasion from the island, if you want to hit the open sea and really play with some whales, book a tour the Lambert Family or with Sea Watch Tours.

My adventures in the Bay of Fundy with Captain Matt Lambert have easily been some of the best whale watching experiences of my life. He just knows where the whales are and I think they know he’s good people.

In July, August and September, they will offer sunrise tours and trust me – even if you’re not a morning person, trust me! Getting up early for their sunrise tour is absolutely WORTH IT!

Want a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and see the puffins? Try to book one of Sea Watch Tours trips to Machias Seal Island. The tours run from June 25th to July 31st and book up QUICK as Sea Watch Tours is the ONLY tour company in Canada licensed and permitted to bring tours to Machias Island to see the puffins. Book on January 1st of each year to secure your booking and avoid disappointment.

If you have only one day on Grand Manan, Swallowtail Lighthouse 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.

It’s free to walk out to the lighthouse and only a small fee 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 ferry go by. Sometimes you will be lucky enough to spot a whale in the distance. You can also catch playful seals in the herring nets below, who will gladly entertain you for hours.

Mornings at Swallowtail are the best in my opinion, especially when the water is flat and calm. If you want an extra incredible experience, plan to be there to watch the sunrise! It’s worth the early wake up call.

Have you ever ridden on an eBike? If not, OH EM GEE! You’re going to be more giddy than a seagull with a french fry on one of these as you cruise around the island.

Island Bike Rentals are located conveniently in North Head (just off the ferry) and these super fun bikes will get you anywhere you need to go on the island, including up the hill to Swallowtail or out to the Whistle where you can sometimes spot whales in the summer months.

You can rent a bike for up to 2 hours for $45 and up to 4 hours for $75. Spending the day on the island and walking over on the ferry? Rent a bike for 24 hours for $120.

I can’t WAIT for you to try these out this summer!

Grand Manan is an absolute kayakers dream and this summer, you have not one, but two amazing tour operators to help you choose your kayaking adventure.

Adventure High is located right in North Head and offers a number of kayaking trips and adventures to choose from on the island. You can find details on tours and book your adventure here.

And new this summer is Salty Dog Tours that will be operating out of Grand Harbour and who offers options for all levels, from beginners to experienced kayakers. Swim over to their Facebook page to learn more and book your kayaking trip. Dan and I can’t wait to go out with them this summer!

Photo by Salty Dog’s

The Southern Head Cliffs can be found at the southernmost point of the island and 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! I would say they are one of my top destinations on the island.

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!

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.

Grand Manan has so many incredible hiking trails to choose from and there are many that I still have yet to explore myself such as the famous Flock of Sheep hike towards the Southern Head Cliffs and the famous Lighthouse Trail.

Last summer, we hiked the Eel Book to Ashburton Head trail and it’s definitely one of my new favorite hiking trails. It’s a short and relatively easy hike – about 10-15 minutes one way. It’s mostly downhill on the way in, which yes – means it’s mostly uphill on the way back, but it’s still relatively do-able. We came out carrying driftwood and rocks, no problem.

Details on that trail and hike here.

Lastly, one of my go-to hikes every time we’re on the island – Hole in the Wall. It also happens to one of the most Instagramable spots on the island. And while you’re still hiking to a cliff, this hike is a bit more family-friendly than other vistas on the island.

To hike this trail and so many other amazing little (and longer) hikes around it, head to North Head Campground and Park. You will need to purchase a day pass – $5 per person and 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 with your day pass.

Start planning your adventure here.

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. A great spot to enjoy the sunset or explore at low tide, it’s also where some of the best dulse on the island is grown and harvested. For my fellow seaweed enthusiasts, of course.

Despite all of my visits to the island in the last 22 years, I have yet to stop by the Grand Manan Art Gallery but I can’t wait to do so this summer! It’s opening for the season on June 4th and one of the first shows will be the Love For The Light, a show dedicated to Swallowtail Lighthouse that will raise funds for the restoration of the lighthouse.

The Art Gallery is located at 21 Cedar Street and is open Monday to Saturday from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM and 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Sunday. It’s also wheelchair accessible.

Plan your visit via their website here.

It’s no shocker that I love to island hop and when visiting Grand Manan for a few days, I highly recommend you 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. You can grab the ferry schedule to book your visit here.

Want to stay the night? I don’t blame you! There is a darling Airbnb for rent (details here) and a private campground that you can rent for you trailer or to camp (details here)!

It’s important to 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.

While Grand Manan may not be known as a shopping destination, there are some darling gift shops on the island that you won’t want to miss.

In North Head, make sure to stop by Pettes Cove Arts. When you leave the ferry, just turn right and you can’t miss it on the left, as you head towards Pettes Cove. Sue has the most beautiful gifts and artwork from island artists and it’s where I purchased my whale toque.

Next, make sure to stop by Cheeky Gifts, also in North Head, to browse owner Jane’s collection of the prettiest whozits and whatzits galore. From jewelry to gifts and houseware, there is something for everyone. And if you’re in the mood for an extra cheeky gift, you’ve come to the right spot.

Visiting Swallowtail Lighthouse? Make sure to visit their darling gift shop in the parking lot for all sorts of island treasures and gifts!

Need an island souvenir and some toiletries while you’re at it? Swing by to see our friends at the Grand Isle Drug Store. They have everything you need from the usual pharmacy items, such as sea sickness meds for ferry rides or whale watching to clothing and more.

What’s the BEST way to end a day in Grand Manan? It is absolutely catching the sunset at the Whistle.

At the end of the Whistle Road you’ll find the Long Eddy Lighthouse and a helicopter platform, both excellent spots to watch the sunset, meet new friends, and make memories to last a lifetime.

It’s also an AMAZING spot to see whales, seals, porpoises, and more! From North Head, take Whistle Road all the way until the very end. When you see Long Eddy Lighthouse, you have arrived! There is a parking lot and you can also park anywhere along the road, just be mindful not to block anyone’s driveway or traffic!

Despite first visiting the island back in 2001, I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until 2020 that we first discovered how amazing the Grand Manan Museum is! We learned so much about the island and there are some pretty cool artifacts and collections to browse.

I’m absolutely fascinated by shipwrecks (I’m a mermaid, after all!) so I especially loved their Shipwreck Gallery. They also have a fantastic number of outdoor exhibits for you to peruse, so while it’s an excellent rainy day activity, do make sure to take a stroll to explore what they have to offer outdoors, including a wonderful observation deck!

The museum is open seasonally from June 12- September 22, 2023 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. To plan your visit, check out their website here.

And last but certainly not least, you should definitely plan to stop by the Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station and gift shop during your visit. It’s centrally located in North Head and just steps from the ferry. If you’re curious about ocean creatures and conservation, you should definitely stop by!

The gift shop is an excellent option to pop over and visit once you’ve checked in for the ferry. You’ll find all sorts of unique gifts and souvenirs to bring back from the island.

From the moment you decided to plan your visit to Grand Manan, I highly recommend booking your accommodations ASAP! The island is small and there are only so many places to stay.

What can I say? I’m a mermaid of habit and the Surfside has been my island home away from home for 22 years. And yes, it’s the only place I’ve ever stayed on the island and where we called home while renovating island house this past year.

The owner is the sweetest, its location in North Head is near great restaurants and activities, and it’s located right on Stanley Beach. 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. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for my best bud, Karl the Seagull.

📍 123 Rte 776, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-8156
🌐 Book your stay here.

Here are a handful of other cozy locations you may want to consider when booking your Grand Manan visit!

Turning Tide Cottages

📍 8 Kite View Lane, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-4468
🌐 Book your stay here.

Castalia Marsh Retreat

📍 11 Bancroft Point Road, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-8997
🌐 Book your stay here.

Lupins & Lavender Accommodations

📍 Various properties across Grand Manan Island
🌐 Book your stay here.

Anchors & Pearls Cottage

📍 North Head, Grand Manan Island
🌐 Book your stay here.

Compass Rose Inn

📍 65 Rte 776, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-3563
🌐 Book your stay here.

Park Place Retreats

📍 Wellington Dr, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-4367
🌐 Book your stay here.

The Marathon Hotel

📍 19 Marathon Lane, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-8488
🌐 Book your stay here.

North Head Campground

📍 42 Old Airport Road, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-3152
🌐 Book your stay here.

Anchorage Provincial Park Campground

📍 136 Anchorage Road, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-7022
🌐 Book your stay here.

Whale Cove Cottages

📍 120 Whistle Road, Grand Manan Island
📞 (506) 662-3181
🌐 Book your stay here.

Grand Manan Island is home to same amazing restaurants, but it’s important to keep in mind that it is an island and that you won’t find any franchise coffee shops or restaurants you’re used to seeing on the mainland.

If you’re planning to visit the island for an extended stay, you should always plan accordingly. Bring some groceries from the mainland or hit up the island’s grocery store when you arrive to stock-up your rental or campsite.

The Independent Grocer is the only grocery store on the island and it has a fantastic selection and a great organics department, which we love. It’s also the only place on the island to purchase alcohol, such as wine, beer, and spirits.

Castalia Convenience is another great spot for grabbing a few grocery items and is planning to have a farm stand of fresh produce this summer. They’re also a great spot to grab some island scallops (when in season) and snacks.

Further down the island and close to Anchorage Provincial Park, you can find fresh meats, grocery items and snacks a plenty at Vicki’s Convenience, who were absolute rockstars as the only store open on the island during a recent overnight power outage.

For fresh seafood, swing by the fish market at Sunrise Seafoods for fish and lobster. NOTE: This fish market is now closed for the season.

Don’t feel like cooking? I don’t blame you – you’re on vacation. Here are my favorite spots to eat on the island.

The Seaquel has become my husband and I’s go-to diner and is very much like Cheers in that every time you go, everyone knows your name and you see all kinds of folks you know. It’s got the perfect home-like feeling and that’s why I love it.

It is located just foot steps from the ferry landing in North Head, making it an easy first stop on the island if you’re hungry. I absolutely adore their nachos and we LOVE their hot turkey and hot hamburger sandwiches.

Lastly make sure to leave for – THEIR PIE! I am a totally sucker for coconut cream pie and OH EM GEE! It was delicious.

📍9 Ferry Wharf Rd, Grand Manan Island
🕰 The Seaquel is open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm every day except for Tuesday.
🌐 Catch them on Facebook.

Sunrise Seafoods is the perfect spot to head to after a day of exploring on the island or a day at one of the many beaches and bring your appetite because everything on the menu is amazing.

Known for several items, including their fried clams, halibut bites, and gulls nest (a twist on onion rings) – their lobster roll is a crowd favorite and now comes in two sizes. Trust me when I say, if you love lobster, go for the large! I promise you won’t find a lobster roll this size at a better price around these waters.

They ONLY TAKE CASH, so bring your sand dollars.

📍914 Woodwards Cove Breakwater Rd, Grand Manan Island
🌐 Catch them on Facebook.

Want to know where you can find me at least once a day on any Grand Manan visit? 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, lunch or dinner on the patio. They are also licensed and serve BBQ and drinks in the evenings. Ah-mazing!

Love nachos? You’re going to want to order one of those.

This summer, I also had what was arguably the best lobster roll of my life and I’ve had a lot of lobster rolls over the years. Needless to say, I will be there ALL OF THE TIME for that this summer.

📍 56 Route 776, Grand Manan Island
🌐 Catch them on Facebook.

If you have ever caught me sharing photos of a lobster dip, chances are, it was from Trapped. Patio only, it is THE spot to head to on a gorgeous sunny day on the island. And while they only serve a handful of things, EVERYTHING is delicious from the lobster rolls and hot lobster dip for your seafood lovers, to hot spinach dip for your landlubbers, and the most delicious homemade salsa! They also serve delicious smoothies, beer and wine. Make sure to check out their Trapped coastal apparel line in their clothing store too!

📍 7 Norman Road, Grand Manan Island
🌐 Catch them on Facebook.

The best pizza on the island! The Old Post Office—it’s literally the old North Head post office, you can’t miss it —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!

📍 52 Route 776, Grand Manan Island
🕰 Open daily at 4:00 pm. Open until 9:00 pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and until 10:00 pm on Friday and Saturday.
🌐 Catch them on Facebook.

Another island gem! Newton’s is located in Grand Harbour and is also home to the cutest gift shop. They make the most delicious baked goods, cookies, and pastries. Want to grab lunch or pack a picnic lunch? They have multiple grab and go options for lunch to choose from that are perfect to pack on adventures and a hot and fresh daily soup option. They also have milkshakes, smoothies, gelato and homemade ice cream treats.

If you visit Newton’s and don’t leave with at treat? Turn your tail right around and go back inside to order a cookie, dessert or milkshake to go. Trust me on this one.

This summer, they’re also going to be opening The Studio by Newton’s – a spot for exciting DIY and art workshops, paint nights and more! Make sure to follow their Facebook page for updates on their official opening!

📍 1123 Route 776, Grand Manan Island
🕰 Newton’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.
🌐 Catch them on Facebook.

The Compass Rose is the place to go for a lovely ocean front dining room experience that offers fresh, local ingredients and seafood. I LOVE their Pan Fried Haddock and it’s my go to, every time. Their menu changes regularly and it’s a small dining room, so reservations are highly recommended. Want a delicious treat? Their homemade pies are delightful. The blueberry à la mode is my favourite!

📍 65 Route 776, Grand Manan Island
🌐 Catch them on Facebook.

If you’re looking for a late night snack or one of the best fish burgers on the island, look no further than High Seas Convenience, down the island in Seal Cove. As the name implies, this takeout and restaurant is tucked into a convenience store but don’t let that fool you – the food is DELICIOUS. In the summer months, you can also catch their lobster poutine or calamari made with fresh island squid.

📍 1930 Route 776, Grand Manan Island
🕰 High Seas Convenience is open from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm daily.
🌐 Catch them on Facebook.

The Harbour Grille located in Grand Harbour is a fun stop if you’re looking for diner food that is very affordably priced and delicious every time. I am a BIG fan of their BLT and Club Sandwiches — they’re some of the best around. They have a cute little deck for outdoor dining in the summer, as well as an indoor dining area.

📍 1140 Route 776, Grand Manan Island
🕰 The Harbour Grille is open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 12:00pm to 7:00 pm on Sunday.

Unless you’re new around these waters, you know that I’m pretty seaglass obsessed. I’m also a total beach bum. 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. Especially if there is seaglass!

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

Pettes Cove is a small cove with a rocky beach located in North Head, just below Swallowtail Lighthouse. 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. Parking isn’t plentiful but there are a few man-made parking spots for you to pull into. Just be mindful not to block any resident’s driveways.

The perfect family-friendly beach, Seal Cove is a beautiful sandy beach perfect for beach days! This beach is a great spot for beachcombing and spotting eagles! Pack a picnic and spend a day there! Just remember to bring your trash with you when you go!

Traveling with kids? They have an adorable playground right by the parking lot that your kids will love!

If you’re planning to visit a beach at sunset, you should know that Deep Cove is my FAVORITE spot when there is a possibility of cotton candy skies at dusk. It’s also a must to experience both at high and low tide if you can. 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.

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.

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. 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.

Well there you have it! All of my mermaid secrets to visiting the dreamiest island in the Fundy Isles this summer!

If you have been thinking or maybe even dreaming about a Grand Manan vacation, there is no time like the present to make it happen. Start planning your adventure on Grand Manan and DM me on my shell phone if you have any questions at all!

See you on the island this summer!

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