Canada’s Grand Manan Island is a nature lover’s paradise

Art Weber

        At the mouth of Canada’s Bay of Fundy, home of the world’s highest tides, is Grand Manan Island, a beautiful place and a comfortable way of life that paces itself with the rhythm of the sea.
        Other locations along the Atlantic seaboard of North America might follow the tides, but they’re just pikers compared to New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy. It is a quirk of geography that tides that measure less than a meter or so elsewhere are amplified to as much as 50 feet in some of the upper sections of Fundy.
        Grand Manan enjoys its place in the world. Isolated yet modern. One of Canada’s southernmost territories. Gateway to incredibly rich marine life. A scenic fortress protected by great basalt cliffs that give way to protected coves.
        It is a nature lover’s paradise. Birders, for example, come from around the world to add seabirds and other species – there are 360 possibilities – to their life lists, often visiting the large seabird colony on Machias Seal Island, where the star is an abundance of Atlantic puffins, as well as common murres, razorbills, kittiwakes and dovekies.
        In short, Grand Manan is quintessential New Brunswick. Rich in whales, puffins, seafood and sandpipers; picturesque country inns and fishing villages; and rugged precipitous cliffs with awesome overlooks of the Bay of Fundy. You’ll enjoy sharing in a way of life that’s resisted being overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life.
        The Fundy tides take a bit of getting used to. It’s visually jarring to see the fishing boats that were bobbing merrily alongside the pier at high tide, sitting on the dry sea floor at low tide. If you don’t quite like the beach you’re standing on, just wait a few hours – you’ll find the sea higher or lower by as much as 50 feet, depending upon the location in the bay. At Fundy’s mouth, at Grand Manan, the tides are “only” seven times the world’s average.
        Fundy is an adventure waiting at the end of the road – only you’re not done at road’s end. Find your way to Blacks Harbor, New Brunswick – it’s a 35-minute drive from the nearest major airport at Saint John – where you’ll board a ferry to Grand Manan.
        It takes one hour-and-a-half for the ferry to cover the 30 miles of open water to the island. You’re greeted by the Swallowtail Lighthouse with its commanding clifftop view, then swing around the cliff and enter the protection of Flagg Cove on the island’s North Head.
        It’s a place where you can find outdoor adventure all day on the sea or on trails and choose your preference in modern comforts and dining in the evening.
        And don’t forget whales. And while you’re looking for whales, remember to pay attention to the seabirds that will pass by.
        “Whales are easy to see off Manan provided the weather cooperates,” said one of the long-time guides. “If the weather’s good in my favorite areas, there’s a 100 percent chance of seeing whales. I’m so sure of it, I offer passengers their money back if we don’t see whales.”
        For more information on all things Grand Manan visit
        You’ll want to plan your visit well in advance, especially if a visit to Machias Seal Island is on your list. The seabirds are only present during nesting season, and the only way to visit the colony is by using one of two licensed tour operators – one on Grand Manan, the other is in Maine. They’re each restricted to only 15 visitors landing on the island each day, six days a week.


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