CAMPING: Anchorage Provincial Park ([tel] 800/561-0123 or 506/662-7022) has about 100 campsites scattered about forest and field, available late May to late September. There’s a small beach and a hiking trail on the property, and it’s well situated for exploring the southern part of the island. It’s very popular midsummer; call before you board the ferry to ask about campsite availability. Sites run from about C$25 to C$39 (US$19–US$29), some with hookups for RVs and some better suited for a simple tent.
EXPLORING GRAND MANAN ISLAND
Start your explorations before you arrive. As you come abreast of the island aboard the ferry, head to the starboard side. You’ll soon see Seven Day’s Work in the rocky cliffs of Whale’s Cove, where seven layers of hardened lava and sill (intrusive igneous rock) have come together in a sort of geological Dagwood sandwich.
Once you’ve landed, you can begin to open the puzzle box that is local geology at the Grand Manan Museum (www.grandmananmuseum.ca; [tel] 506/662-3524) at 1141 Route 776 in Grand Harbour, one of three villages on the island’s eastern shore. The museum’s geology exhibit, located in the basement, offers pointers about what to look for as you roam the island. Birders will enjoy the Allan Moses collection upstairs, which features more than 300 stuffed and mounted birds in glass cases. The museum also has a fair amount of Willa Cather paraphernalia and a collection of stuff that’s washed ashore from the frequent shipwrecks., The museum is open from June to mid-September, Monday through Friday 9am to 4pm; it’s also open Saturdays in July and August. The requested admission is C$5 (US$3.75) adults, C$3 (US$2.25) seniors and students, and free for children 11 and under.
This relatively flat and compact island is perfect for exploring by bike; the only stretches to avoid are some of the faster, less scenic segments of Route 776. All the side roads offer superb biking. Especially nice is the cross-island road (paved) to Dark Harbour, where you’ll find a few cabins, dories, and salmon pens. The route is wild and hilly at times but offers a memorable descent to the ocean on the island’s west side. Bike rentals are available at Adventure High (www.adventurehigh.com; [tel] 800/732-5492 or 506/662-3563) in North Head, not far from the ferry. (Day-trippers who are fit enough should consider leaving their cars at Blacks Harbour and exploring the island by bike alone, then returning on the last ferry.) Bikes rent for C$25 (US$19) per day, C$18 (US$13) for a half-day. Adventure High also offers sea kayak tours of the island’s shores for those who prefer a cormorant’s-eye view of the impressive cliffs. Kayak tours run from C$45 (US$34) for a 2-hour sunset tour to C$110 (US$82) for a full-day’s excursion. Adventure High also rents out cabins and offers multiday tours.
From the Island to Another Island
Quiet as Grand Manan is, you can find even more solitude (and cross one more island off your life list) with an excursion to White Head Island. To get there, drive to Ingalls Head (follow Ingalls Head Road from Grand Harbour) and catch the half-hour ferry to this rocky island, home to about 200 locals. On the island, you can walk alongshore to the lighthouse guarding the way between Battle Beach and Sandy Cove. The ferry holds 12 cars, is free of charge, and sails up to 10 times daily in summer.
Numerous hiking trails lace Grand Manan Island, and they offer a popular diversion throughout the summer. Trails can be found just about everywhere, but most are a matter of local knowledge. Don’t hesitate to ask at your inn or the tourist information center, or to ask anyone you might meet on the street. Hiking Trails of New Brunswick (Goose Lane Editions; www.gooselane.com; [tel] 506/450-4251) lists 12 hikes with maps. Look for a copy at Of Time and Tides, 1217 Route 776 in Grand Harbor ([tel] 506/662-3327), a cute crafts and gifts store with a small selection of local guidebooks.
The most accessible clusters of trails are at the island’s northern and southern tips. Head north up Whistle Road to Whistle Beach, and you’ll find both the Northwestern Coastal Trail and the Seven Day’s Work Trail, both of which track along the rocky shoreline. Near the low lighthouse and towering radio antennae at Southwest Head (follow Route 776 to the end), trails radiate out along cliffs topped with scrappy forest; the views are remarkable when the fog’s not in.
ON THE WATER
A fine way to experience island ecology is to mosey offshore. Several outfitters offer complete nature tours, providing a nice sampling of the world above and beneath the sea. On an excursion you might see minke, finback, or humpback whales, along with exotic birds including puffins and phalaropes. Sea Watch Tours (www.seawatchtours.com; [tel] 877/662-8552 or 506/662-8552), run by Peter and Kenda Wilcox, operates a series of 5-hour excursions from July to late September, with whale sightings guaranteed or your money back, aboard a 13m (42-ft.) vessel with canopy. The rate is C$66 (US$49) for adults and C$46 (US$34) per child age 12 and younger.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.