Grand Manan Island is a kayaker’s paradise and still somewhat of a frontier for multi-day kayaking trips. I took three days to circumnavigate the island and it was a very intense but incredible trip.
Kayaking the beautiful, crystal-clear waters of Grand Manan Island
I really don’t know how I got the idea to circumnavigate Grand Manan Island but it was probably happened during finals week and was the product of too much coffee, late night studying and wasting time on Wikipedia. At any rate, I couldn’t find very much information on a trip of this size on the island. There’s many day trips and even a company that runs some trips, but I couldn’t find anything specific on circumnavigating the island. Thus, I had to make do with navigational charts, previous knowledge and of course, the ever-reliable wisdom of locals who’ve lived on the island for generations. Eventually, I was able to draw up a plan.

Seven Days Work Cliffs on the Northern End of the Island
Day 1: Pettit Cove to Dark Harbour

After taking the ferry over from Blacks Harbour, NB, I unloaded my kayak and all my gear onto Pettit Cove which is in North Head. It is a picturesque location which even has a view of the famous lighthouse! From here I set forth….

I encountered almost no currents around Swallowtail Light and when I rounded the point, I had a beautiful view of the Seven Days Work Cliffs (great name). Eel Brook Beach is nearby and I landed and hiked! The trail took me to Eel Brook Falls and eventually to a lookout over the cliffs. I would later return to this cove for a smaller trip!
Rounding the Northernmost point on the island and heading South along the massive sea cliffs
Back in the kayak, I rounded the Nothernmost point on the island and was hit with waves, current and wind. This was to be expected and I would be facing this for most of the trip. It was slightly treacherous, rounding the North Head; the currents are very rapid and hazardous- they created several whirlpools which made the kayaking interesting. I was glad I had a long, rudder-ed kayak.

Continuing south along the cliffs, I eventually ended up in Dark Harbour which is the one harbor on the west side of the island. Dark Harbor isn’t really even a harbor but more of a lake next to the ocean with a small but rapid stream connecting the two. There are perhaps four dozen local “camps” where they come for the weekends. I was able to find a suitable campside upon an old dock that had washed up. There really wasn’t a suitable campsite outside of that…
Driftwood Campfire in Dark Harbour
Day 2: Dark Harbour to Seal Cove

Yesterday I went to sleep with the fog rolling in and it stayed all night. This island is commonly foggy so this was also to be expected. I set forth from Dark Harbour and headed South.

This is the Bay of Fundy which is known for one thing- huge tides. The whole bay empties and fills twice a day with an incredible amount of water. Kayaking in this can be very difficult. No matter how well I planned, there was always going to be a part of the day when I was paddling against the current. Combined with the wind and waves, the second day of kayaking was very intense. Fortunately the sea cliffs and unique formations kept my mind off the currents.
The rugged western side of the island
Ever so slowly, I made my way south down the west coast. I had to hug the coastline in case things got so dicey that I needed to bail. In a real pinch, I could turn around and head back to Dark Harbour. But I was making progress and eventually made it to Bedford cove which is the narrowest part of the island. This was another take-out point if the waters were simply too rough.

Before me was the South Head of the island and what would be the most difficult kayaking of the trip. Like the North Head, many currents come to a point which makes for a strange interaction. The wind picked up heavily too which made the currents choppy and large. Again, there were a few beaches I could land on in an emergency which was comforting. Rounding the point was a difficult affair nonetheless. It required constant focus, small heading changes with the rudder, and having to be aware of everything around me. A larger wave could easily flip a kayak! 
South Head of the Island, where I hit the worst currents and waves. This picture was taken two days after I rounded the southernmost point.
Finally I rounded the southern lighthouse and made my way North. The currents were still huge but they were in my favor for once! I rode these currents all the way to the small fishing community of Seal Cove. I set up camp on a perfect sandy beach and set to work on a campfire.

As you could imagine, everything was soaked by the time I made it to Seal Cove. I was glad I wore a wetsuit and neoprene gloves… would have been very cold without them! I build a roaring fire and slowly warmed up and dried out. Some kind high-school students were having a giant bonfire down the way and they just gave me a couple of pallets to burn! The more time I spent with the locals of Grand Manan, the more convinced I was that these were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.
The small fishing community of Seal Cove
Day 3: Seal Cove back to Pettit Cove

More fog.

Hoping that the fog would burn off eventually, I headed in to town and grabbed a cup of coffee. I struck up a conversation with a couple of fishers to see their take on the weather. They responded, with something to the effect of “Oh yeah, the wind’s hitting Southwest Head at the right speed and direction… fog will be gone by the afternoon”. It turned out to be a completely accurate statement, not surprisingly.

However the fog would be there all morning so I headed off anyways. Once again, I’m having to watch my compass and map intensely to avoid getting lost. On this side of the island I knew I could probably just land and hitchhike back to my car but I was doing fine.
Foggy Kayaking
The fog would be there all morning so I headed off anyways. Once again, I’m having to watch my compass and map intensely to avoid getting lost. On this side of the island I knew I could probably just land and hitchhike back to my car but I was doing fine.

I landed in Grand Harbour right around lunch time and enjoyed watching the fishing ships. The harbours have such a funny design because they have to compensate for very large and rapidly changing tides.
Heading into one of the tide-dependent channels

The fog was clearing ever so slowly and I headed off from Grand Harbour bound for Pettit Cove. This is where the kayaking got interesting. There are three islands off of this harbor with very narrow and shallow channels that are completely dry at low tide. I had to hit one of these channels at high tide or face a grueling and exposed trip around White Head Island and back to the other side. It was a tricky crossing. I had to kayak very slowly though one of these channels to avoid hitting the rocky, shallow bottom. The tide was still rising, fortunately and I was able to make it through unscathed.

From here, it was a relatively simple trip hugging some of the smaller island on the eastern side and eventually crossing Long Island Harbour. It was a busier part of the island so I had to watch closely for the ferry and fishing ships that were constantly coming in and going out.
Successful Circumnavigation of Grand Manan Island by Kayak!
Weary and sore, I weakly paddled/drifted back into Petitt Cove. The trip was finished and I had circumnavigated a new island! Of course, there was no celebration or jubilee other than me devouring my remaining provisions. But the adventure was not over! I had the rest of the day and two more after to go on more adventures! I quickly packed up and drove off to another adventure on Grand Manan Island.

Next up... mountain biking and hiking the South end of Grand Manan!

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