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Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Grand Manan, New Brunswick

Lighthouse on Grand Manan, New Brunswick
Lighthouse on Grand Manan, New Brunswick

Located off the coast of Lubec, Maine, but considered part of New Brunswick, Grand Manan not only feels lost geographically, but lost in time. Take the 90-minute ferry ride over from Blacks Harbour and you arrive on an island with one main road, several inns and restaurants, one liquor store, and relatively few other amenities. Pirate Captain Kidd found it to be the perfect place to escape the law. Winslow Homer found the sheer basalt cliffs ideally suited for his canvas. Writer Willa Cather found the necessary quietude to pen her novels. Little has changed since the author was here almost a century ago. Time is best understood by sunrise and sunset, low tide and high tide. And since Grand Manan is the largest island in the Bay of Fundy, expect those tidal shifts to be the largest in the world, often in excess of 35 feet.

Some of my favorite articles have been written on ferries. I remember writing “Eating My Way through Vancouver” on a ferry to BC’s Salt Spring Island. So I took advantage of the 90-minute ferry from Blacks Harbour to Grand Manan to sit upstairs on the outdoor deck, peer at the large wake, and look back at the mainland with computer in hand. Surrounded by the calm waters of the Bay of Fundy, all my daily stresses just seemed to melt away with the hot midday sun. Every now and then we would pass another anonymous island, a rocky outcropping rimmed with a crown of firs. Far too quickly, we reached Grand Manan and I was driving up to my home for the next two nights, the Inn at Whale Cove Cottages.
I dined on a creamy mushroom soup, almond crusted salmon, and an absurdly good sour cherry pie all created by the talented chef and owner of Whale Cove, Laura Buckley. I was lucky to sit next to a large group, mostly New Yorkers, who return to Grand Manan year after year for the past 30 years. They recommended I climb back in my car after dinner and drive to the end of Whistle Road past the lighthouse to a spot locals simply call “The Whistle.” Wow, what a tip! Perched on a bluff overlooking the rocky shoreline, I spotted kids scouring the boulders for that nutritious New Brunswick seaweed treat, dulse. To my left, cliffs plummeted to the shores below, and directly in front of me was the great expanse of sea leading to FDR’s former summer home, Campobello Island, and the Maine towns of Lubec and Eastport. Within moments of arriving, I spotted seals in the water and shortly thereafter, the graceful arc and fin of the minke whale. The sun was setting, the whales were slicing the water, local old-timers were handing me Moose Light beers. My first night on Grand Manan and I understand the magical allure.
6a00d8341c91bb53ef0120a955cd80970b-320wi  Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for OutsideMen’s JournalHealth, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at  Active Travels.
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1 Comment

  1. June 24, 2014 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    We LOVED Grand Manan, its people, the island’s dulse harvest and its lighthouses. Wrote a post about one of its little fishing villages called Seal Cove. http://roadstories.ca/seal-cove/ Fantasized hanging around it for awhile and painting canvases.

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