Idyllic islands are the stuff of dreams; deserted, tropical shores in the Caribbean, or South Pacific, preferably without the Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball moments. Grand Manan, in the Bay of Fundy, Canada isn’t tropical, and too attractive to ever be deserted, so it still fits the bill.
There aren’t any coconut palms and it’s not especially isolated, though it is only reachable by ferry. The largest of the Fundy Islands is loaded with rustic charm, maritime history and culture; the views aren’t bad either.
The ferry leaves from the small town of Blacks Harbour, which is attractive enough, in it’s own right. One of the churches in was especially pretty, built almost entirely of whitewashed wood, it contrasted strikingly against the marbled, blue of the New Brunswick sky. There is also the rocky little bay close to the ferry terminal, which is equally photogenic. Our intrepid little media band spent sometime clambering over barnacle and mussel encrusted, seaweed strewn rocks, negotiating the rock pools like an excited bunch of child explorers from “Swallows and Amazons”.
After a short, but breezy ferry ride, spent searching the waves in the hope of spotting whales, we tumbled out of the vehicles and checked into our hotel. The wooden Shorecrest Lodge Country Inn is quaint, homely and friendly. The two team members that I saw, were responsible for all aspects of looking after the guests, they were helpful and always ready to chat. Breakfast was freshly cooked to order, and coffee available for those up early. It was the ideal introduction to life on the island.
I don’t claim to be a foodie, but dining out on the island is one of it’s undoubted draws. Plenty of fresh seafood is always available on the menus of the restaurants. Regardless where you choose to eat, it’s unlikely even the fussiest palate is ever disappointed. Lobster roll was a popular choice in our group, but the delicious scallops are unmissable too.
The Inn at Whale Cove Cottages fed us particularly well that evening, and the daily changing menu is highly recommended. A short drive enabled us to soak in the sunset at Long Eddy Point Lighthouse, the equal of any sunset I’ve witnessed, and I was already feeling at home on the island.
An early start the following day allowed me to visit the nearby fishing port, it was drizzling so it wasn’t at it’s best, but it was still a pleasant hour watching the small fishing fleet leave the harbour. It’s also the ferry terminal, and there was already a large ship in dock, dwarfing the boats as they made their daily voyage to the nearby fishing grounds. Lobster and various shellfish are still important catches here, for the restaurants of the island and mainland. Salmon farming is now a primary industry along with the tourism, and the farms are easily visible just offshore.
The rain became increasingly more persistent, and despite this, our hardy little band still climbed into some sea kayaks and spent a pleasant morning paddling a short way along the coast. We saw plenty of small coves and inlets, but little of the spectacular animals of the area. Maybe the wildlife isn’t as hardy as us, aside from a couple of bald eagles. It was an enjoyable morning, but I actually preferred an earlier wander around the disused smokehouses at Seal Cove.
One of these smokehouses has been left intact, it is like a living museum, complete with the paraphernalia of the old industry. Tools hang from the wall, and machinery is still in it’s place, just as it was when smoking fish was a thriving industry on the island. It’s a fascinating glimpse of the history of Grand Manan, the buildings ooze character and there are interesting items everywhere, nets draped on outside walls, and machinery parts now lying silent along the wooden pilings of the quayside.
Grand Manan was the first destination visited on our whistle-stop tour of the Bay of Fundy, it set the bar high, and the rest of the trip would have to live up to the high standards. You’ll just have to wait and see if it did!