The Grand Manan Island – the Lost World No More

I started regularly traveling to Atlantic Canada and Grand Manan Island about 10 years ago as a result of my growing interest in the world of photography. Looking back, I now see the direct relationship between my journey in photography and its driving force in my interest of the region.

Grand Manan Island - Atlantic Canada

This is when I discovered the fascinating Bay of Fundy, which is 200 kilometers long and 50 kilometers wide and is situated between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

What sets the Bay of Fundy apart from the rest of the region is its impressive tides. The Bay is famous for having the highest tides in the world, reaching an astonishing 14 meters in vertical elevation.

Low Tide at The Anchorage Provincial Park (Grand Manan)
Low Tide at The Anchorage Provincial Park (Grand Manan)

What’s even more fascinating is that the seascapes surrounding the Bay completely change twice each day during the tide cycles. I find it incredibly intriguing how landscapes can become so different, even almost unrecognizable, during low tides.

While it’s beautiful to watch, this also means that there are more opportunities for photographers because the landscapes are not static; they are always changing. It is exciting that you can take a completely different shot of the same scene only 30 minutes later.

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The crown jewel of the Bay of Fundy, at least for me, is Grand Manan Island, which is located in the middle of the Bay only 32 kilometers from the shore of New Brunswick. I discovered it for myself during my very first trip to the region and have been visiting it ever since.

The only way to get to Grand Manan Island is by taking a 90-minute ferry ride along the open sea that adds an outstanding sense of adventure and charm to the trip.

Ten years ago, the Grand Manan was an authentic fisherman’s island. What struck me most during my first visit was the drastic difference in development between the mainland of New Brunswick and the island itself. It felt as though the island was stuck in time nearly 30 or 40 years ago with the ferry acting as a time machine that visitors use to travel to the past.

Because of this, I used to call the Grand Manan “The Lost World” after one of my favorite childhood novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Nature and authenticity are what drove me to the island year after year.

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But, it is far from being considered “The Lost World” today. Now a popular travel destination for the region, tourism is booming so much that you can hardly see any difference compared to the rest of the area. When I visited Grand Manan this year, I even saw an ad for a photo tour on the island.

Swallow Tail Lighthouse - View from the Sea

Although it is different now, Grand Manan is still just as beautiful and is totally worth visiting and photographing.

But first, let me offer you some practical advice.

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The island is perfect for day trips. If you take the very first ferry at 7:30 a.m. from Black Harbour, you will arrive at the island at 9:00 a.m. This is usually when the Bay of Fundy’s famous fog is still lingering, which gives you plenty of photo opportunities.

The Grand Manan Island – the Lost World No More 1
Arriving at the Grand Manan at 9am

Explore the island for the rest of the day and pay extra close attention to the changes in the landscapes during low tide. You can then take the very last ferry to the mainland at 7:00 p.m. This will allow you to photograph the sunset on the open sea.

If you want to stay overnight on the island, you can find plenty of hotels and bed-and-breakfasts but, if your goal is photography, you have to stay at the campground known as the Hole In The Wall.

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The Hole In The Wall is the most spectacular campground I have ever visited. It was named after a unique rock formation where tidal waters carved a huge hole in the cliff. It is located on the edge of the cliffs on the northern part of the island and, from almost every spot of the campground, you will have an open view of the sea with the Swallow Tail Lighthouse in the distance.

Hole In the Wall Rock on Grand Manan Island
Hole In the Wall Rock

It is absolutely breathtaking.

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Also, if time allows, take a free 20-minute ferry ride from Grand Manan to the much smaller, neighboring White Head Island. It is totally worth the trip and offers plenty of photo opportunities.

Blacks Harbour

The adventure starts long before you arrive at the island. In order to keep your ferry reservation, arrive 45 minutes before departure. This will give you plenty of time to explore charming places around the ferry terminal.

Grand Manan Ferry
Blacks Harbour Ferry Terminal
Blacks Harbour - New Brunswick
Blacks Harbour

Swallow Tail Lighthouse

The Swallow Tail Lighthouse is the most popular and easily accessible spot on the island.

Swallow Tail Lighthouse, view though the morning fog
Swallow Tail Lighthouse

Southwest Head

It soon became my Grand Manan routine that, when I arrive on the island, I drive directly to the southern end known as Southwest Head. Here, when the morning sun starts to burn through the fog, it creates some stunning photo opportunities.

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The Grand Manan Island – the Lost World No More 2
Southwest Head
The Grand Manan Island – the Lost World No More 3

Hay Point

From Southwest Head follow the scenic trail along the coastal cliffs all the way to Hay Point.

The Grand Manan Island – the Lost World No More 4
Hay Point

Seal Cove

This is the most interesting spot to observe the effect of the tides. Here, it is easy to see and appreciate the vertical elevation.

Low tide at Grand Manan Island
Bay of Fundy is the place with the highest tides in the world.

Hole in the Wall Campground

As I mentioned before, this is the most beautiful campground I have ever seen. I recommend taking a two-hour hike around the campground by starting at the entrance and making your way to the Hole In The Wall rock formation.

Spectacular view from the Hole In The Wall campground
Spectacular view from the Hole In The Wall campground
The View from Hole in the Wall Campground
The View from Hole in the Wall Campground

Dark Harbour

Take a 10 min drive across the island to visit Dark Harbour, the only area on the west side of the island which is accessible by car.

Dark Harbour (Grand Manan) - Fishing Farm
Dark Harbour – Fishing Farm

Flagg Cove

Walk around Flag Cove in the evening to catch the reflections of the fishing boats in the water.

Flagg Cove - Grand Manan
Flagg Cove

White Head Island

Take a free 20 minute ferry ride to White Head Island. The ride is not only beautiful, you will also enjoy exploring the island.

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White Head Island

Sunset at the Sea

If possible, take the last 7:00 p.m. ferry to the mainland. You will have an opportunity to enjoy the sunset on the sea. This opportunity is only available during summertime.

Grand Manan Island - Sunset at Bay of Fundy
Grand Manan Island – Sunset at Bay of Fundy

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by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.