Grand Manan Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Grand Manan

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    Cliffs at Southwest Head

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Jan 5, 2007

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    The western side of Grand Manan is composed of high basalt cliffs, rising between 200-350 feet above the sea. At Southwest Head, where one of the island's lighthouses is located, the 200-ft cliffs are made up of strange-looking octagonal basaltic rock columns. There are fractures everywhere and the columns look like they could give way at any moment to the batterings of wind, water or ice.

    It was here in February, 1963 that a dramatic rescue took place when Billy and Floyd Jones, two middle-aged brothers from Maine USA, out collecting periwinkles (a snail-like shellfish) were caught in a sudden winter storm that swept them 15 miles across the freezing open waters to Grand Manan after the engine in their small boat had failed. Finally fetching up at the foot of these cliffs, they clung to the rocky shore in biting cold winds. Realizing that they were going to die, the 42-year old eldest brother began to scale the cliffs toward the lighthouse that he could see flashing its signal above. Somehow, 3 hours later, he made it to the top through the 50 mph winds and blowing snow, managing to reach the lighthouse keeper to rouse him for help. The word went out to the fishermen at nearby Seal Cove and they quickly converged on the dark scene. One of them, an average 46-year old former fisherman, Vern Bagley volunteered to go down tied to a rope to see what he could do.

    It was a perilous journey as he zig-zagged across the cliff face before finally reaching the now unconsious survivor. Tieing him to his body, Vern pulled the rope to signal that he was ready for the ascent. Fighting tree stumps, rocks and boulders on the way up with his cargo, the fisherman made his way to within 25 feet of the cliff top before exhaustion and cold stopped him. He stuffed his passenger behind a boulder and went on alone to enable someone else to come down and complete the rescue 90 minutes after he had begun his descent.

    Both brothers survived without major problems and Vern Bagley was awarded the (US) Carnegie Silver Medal for heroism.

    The Beach Far Below
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    Smoked Herring

    by Bwana_Brown Written Aug 1, 2004

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    As we passed through the picturesque village of Seal Cove, we were struck by the quiet beauty of its buildings. Dating from 1870-1930, most of these buildings were part of the smoked herring industry that flourished here, with the finished products being sold to the American states and the West Indies. Indeed, Connors Brothers still has large sardine factories both here and in Black's Harbour, the mainland terminus for the island ferry.

    We had an interesting tour of their Sardine Museum (note the large can hanging off its walls) and associated smoking sheds. The building to the right actually had a smoky fire going and we could see the wooden racks high above where the fish were hung out to be suitably smoked for export. The windows and vent along the roof top were used to control the smoking process. There was nobody in the Museum so we left a voluntary donation in their box.

    Sardine Museum
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    Castalia Marsh

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 10, 2008

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    Moving forward to my 2004 biking trip, once the rain had let up on the first afternoon of this most recent trip to the island, my buddy and I cycled a short distance out to the walkways and picnic sites at the Castalia Marsh. Although it was still a bit foggy, we had a fairly good view of the bird population in the area, mostly wild ducks, Canada Geese, cormorants and sea-gulls on this day. As we sat beside the wild-rose bushes sipping on beers and snacking on cheese and crackers, we were amazed to see the antics of the sea-gulls. They would repeatedly fly up off the rocks along the beach with the tide out, carrying what looked like huge clams in their beaks and then they would drop them onto the rocks below. As smart as Chimpanzees?? PS - Russell had the bright idea of using plastic bags over his dry socks to protect them from his soaking sneakers!

    Gazebo at Castalia Marsh
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    Anchorage Provincial Park

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 10, 2008

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    Our main objective on this first real day of biking were the cliffs at the southwest tip of the island. However, because it was early and still foggy, we decided to detour off the highway to the Anchorage Provincial Park, located along the seashore, in order to give the fog more time to burn off.

    We found this to be a very well-organized and clean looking site. There were quite a few campers there in campervans and some in tents - many from different parts of USA. This looks like a great spot to camp if you ever get the chance (no hook-ups though).

    A narrow spit of land separates Big Pond and Long Pond from the waves of the Bay of Fundy. We took a short ride along the road that leads to these two ponds before heading back to the main part of the Park. There we met a photographer from Ontario who was carrying two huge cameras. We stopped to ask him if he had made any good sightings (one camera had a 500-mm lens with a 2x converter connected to a digital body for further magnifications!). He said that he had seen bald eagles briefly and a few warblers but was off to other parts of the Park for further viewing.

    Rather than head back out to the main highway, we opted to continue along the coast on a footpath that the receptionist at Sea-Land Adventures (now called Castalia Marsh Retreat) had mentioned to us.

    Long Pond at Anchorage Prov. Park
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    A Geological 'Contact Point'

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 1, 2004

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    As we continued along the coastal path, we emerged at Red Point about a half-hour after we had crossed the boardwalk. It is here that an interesting geological 'contact point' can be observed. This is where the older reddish sedimentary rock (on the right side of the photo) makes visible contact with the younger western greyish volcanic rock. The sand along the beach here is so metallic in content that a magnet can attract particles of it. It was fun walking out on the sharp point of land here, looking down into the shallow waters on either side!

    Russell's Red Point theatrics
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    Whale Watching in Style

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Jan 5, 2005

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    On our final morning on the Island, we biked back to North Head to do some shorter biking trips at the north end of the Island. While there, we took the time to check out the whale watching schooner that is owned and operated by the Sea-Land Adventure owner (in whose accommodations we had been staying!).

    We spotted the vessel down on the wharf very close to the ferry dock, from whence it sails for its usual 10 AM - 5 PM voyages. On this day, they were fully booked so we just had to watch them head out with a full load. 'D'Sonoqua' (pronounced 'TunaKwah') is a French Canadian derivative of the Pacific Northwest Indian word for 'wild woman of the woods'. Built in 1970 of ferro-cement with British Columbia sitka spruce masts, this vessel is also used for whale research on its cruises. In addition to the usual whale watching activities, passengers are treated to the underwater sounds that the whales make as well as an on-board lunch. The price of a trip is C$78 (US$60) and reservations are recommended.

    The photo was taken from the ferry wharf as the 'D'Sonoqua' sailed out of the harbour on its daily trip.

    Schooner 'D'Sonoqua'
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    Swallowtail Point

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Oct 17, 2004

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    The first thing that you will see as you approach Grand Manan Island on the ferry is Swallowtail Point. Perched on this most scenic of all the Grand Manan points are both the Swallowtail lighthouse and the Swallowtail Inn, formerly the lighthouse keeper's cottage. When I was last over in 1994, the Inn was sitting abandoned because the lighthouse had long been automated.

    It was nice to walk out to the point of land and know that the old building was once again alive with people. We had a great view of North Head from here as well as the 'Grand Manan V' ferry as it pulled out of the harbour, rounded the point and headed back to the mainland. This spot is practically in North Head and is an easy and beautiful walk from the harbour area if you happen to be on foot.

    Swallowtail Point
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    A Coastal Boardwalk

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 1, 2004

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    The coastal path from Anchorage Provincial Park toward Red Point proved to be very well groomed. After a short distance, it changed into a boardwalk along the cliffs at the edge of the Bay, offering various views as the terrain rose gradually. You are not actually supposed to bike on this footpath, so we walked our bikes along here. The boards were a bit slippery from all the fog anyway and I did not fancy skidding off and damaging a wheel. By now, it was about 9:30 AM and we could see signs that the sun was starting to burn through!! I had on my zipper-off leg pants, just waiting for the chance to get down to shorts!

    The Coastal Boardwalk
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    Thrills at Long Eddy Point

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Jan 4, 2007

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    At the end of our 3-day trip, with only 2 hours before the ferry left for the mainland, we left on a short 6 km road to the most northerly part of the island - Long Eddy Point.

    This road proved to be the most hill-challenged of them all, it had one really long but not too steep hill as well as a couple of shorter but steeper ones near the Point. As I coasted down toward sea level, I rounded a sharp turn and saw the Long Eddy Point Lighthouse before me. I had been braking for the turn but began to brake even more as I saw that we had suddenly come upon the lighthouse. There was a rough gravel parking spot beside the road here with a couple of cars and a van parked in it. Before I even realized what was happening, my front wheel slid sideways on gravel that been thrown up onto the pavement by various vehicles using this spot, and the bike slid out from under me while I was still moving at a good clip! It must have been my old sports activities kicking in, somehow I came clear of the bike, landing on my feet running while trying to stay upright on the gravel. Then I saw the cars and vans rapidly approaching so I applied my leg brakes to manage a controlled stop without either losing my footing on the gravel or smashing into the side of one of the vehicles. I was letting out a great whoop as I went on this roller-coaster ride!! Russell, who was following me, said that he wished he had a video camera on-hand for this one!

    The bonus was that a large group of American tourists from Pennsylvania were sitting on a whale watching platform. After they recovered from my antics, they shouted that they had seen whales off the coast. Sure enough, after some careful watching just beyond the lighthouse in the photo, we spotted Minke whales surfacing and diving! Our first sighting for this trip! Their presence must have been due to the huge currents or eddies stirred up as the waters passed this tip of land. From shore you could actually see the ripples on the surface as the huge tides moved tons of sea water past the point.

    Long Eddy Point Lighthouse
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    Old House & Overdue Lawn

    by Bwana_Brown Written Aug 1, 2004

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    The morning of our second day, we were up and away biking at 7:30 AM. Although it was still foggy, from the weather reports before we lost communications, I figured that it would burn off by noon as is quite common along this fog-bound coast. We had only biked a few km before we came across this typical older house in Woodward's Cove. It shows the ornate pattern of woodwork along its eaves but I was also intrigued by what looked like a full-blown hay field for a front lawn. The locals said that they had not seen the sun for two weeks (it has been a bad summer for rain/fog everywhere along this eastern North American coast), so it looks like the hay just decided to 'lay down' from all the moisture.

    A Tough Lawn to Mow
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    Enjoying the Magnifcent Cliffs

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 1, 2004

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    It was 11:15 AM when we finally reached the cliffs of Southwest Head - almost 4 hours after we had started out on our leisurely trip that morning. This was the high point of our trip, and although the fog was still fairly thick when we arrived, it cleared quite well during the hour that we spent here enjoying the views and having a snack.

    We had a great time exploring the many views from the trail along the top of these crumbly cliffs and even threw a few of the loose rocks down onto the beach to listen to the sharp sounds as they ricocheted and broke into pieces. There were even some tasty wild strawberries growing along the edge of the cliff - had to sample those! They are much smaller but pack a lot more taste than their larger commercial relatives.

    On the Brink
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    Lingering Fog Banks

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Aug 1, 2004

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    As we biked back from Southwest Head on the hilly roads, we immediately left the coastal fog and emerged into comfortable sunshine. We had not gone very far before we had this great view of Deep Cove, with a fog bank still lingering on the point.

    One of the great things about biking is that you can smell and feel things that you would completely miss in a car. It was amazing to be biking along the coastal roads in the cool ocean airs and suddenly pass through a brief burst of warm air as it descended from the sunlit highlands. On a couple of occasions my glasses immediately steamed up from the sudden temperature change.

    Approaching Deep Cove
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    A Swim Maybe?

    by Bwana_Brown Written Aug 1, 2004

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    This photo of Deep Cove Beach actually looks more foggy than it really was. When we saw these people headed for the water, we were tempted to call a temporary halt to the biking and join them! However, we decided that we still had things to see and do so we continued onward on our return journey to our starting point.

    Deep Cove Beach
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    Finback Whales 'Blowing'

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 1, 2004

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    We naturally had to get out on the water for an afternoon of whale watching! In our case, we were gone for about 4 hours and experienced some amazing sights - this was the first time that I had tried this! The Bay is home to the world's most endangered whale, the Right whale with only about 1000 remaining. There are also huge Finbacks (2nd largest whale species in the world at 60-80 feet long) as well as Humpback and Minke whales. During our excursion, we came across several pods of both Humpbacks and Finbacks. Although I managed some good video close-ups, the lack of a telephoto lens on my camera at that time made for limited photographic opportunities! This photo shows a distant pod of 3 Finbacks with their backs briefly exposed as they begin a dive - with one of them expelling air in a giant spout. The seas were choppy that day with a cool breeze so we remained bundled up to stay warm and dry. It was great fun bobbing along with all the passengers on the alert for any possible signs of our next sighting! Recently, the shipping channel through the mouth of the Bay of Fundy leading toward the major port of Saint John has been altered and increased in length to keep ships further away from the known whale feeding grounds. This was done to help avoid collisions with the huge 300,000 ton oil tankers and other vessels passing through this shipping lane.

    Pod of Finback Whales Blowing
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    A Whale Watching Boat

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Nov 12, 2004

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    Grand Manan is known for its excellent whale watching excursions! Within 2 hours of arriving on the island, we had booked ourselves a 4-hour afternoon trip on 'Against the Wind', a 40 x 16 foot fibreglass boat owned and operated by Island Coast Boat Tours. The craft is powered by a 350 HP Volvo engine, cruises at 10 knots, has a washroom on-board and can seat 25 passengers in the awning-covered rear on central bench seats. This is a small family-run business with the husband also working as a fisherman in the off-season while his wife looks after the reservations and paperwork! Whale sightings are guaranteed or you will get your money back! The company has been awarded the New Brunswick Tourism 'Savvy Traveller' award for six straight years since 1997. (Update from my 2004 trip - the owners were not able to find a buyer for their business as they reached retirement age, so this particular boat is no longer available for tours. However, there are still other options if you read on!).

    MV 'Against the Wind'
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