Geologically rugged, profoundly peaceful, and indisputably remote, Grand Manan—a handsome island of 2,700 year-round residents—is just a 90-minute ferry ride from the port of Blacks Harbour, which is just southeast of St. George. Despite being located incredibly close to Maine, this is a much-prized destination for adventurous travelers; sometimes, even a highlight of their vacation. Yet the island remains a mystifying puzzle to others who fail to be taken in by its rough-hewn charm. Either this is your kind of place, or it isn't; maybe there's no in-between. One way to find out is to visit.

Grand Manan is a special favorite of both serious birders and devotees of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Willa Cather, who found her way from Nebraska and New York to a cottage here. Hiking the island's trails, don't be surprised if you come across knots of quiet people peering intently through binoculars—these are the birders (not the Cather fans), on a quest to see all 300 or so species of birds that either nest here or stop by during their long migrations. This is the place to pad your "life list" if you're accumulating one, with birds ranging from bald eagles to puffins (you'll need to pay for a boat tour to catch a glimpse of the latter). You're practically guaranteed to see something you've never seen before.

As for Cather, she wrote some of her novels while staying on this island—her former cottage is part of an inn, and her die-hard fans are as easy to spot as the birders, according to locals.