Beaubears Island Historic Site, New Brunswick
*Disclosure: Our family received tickets to visit the museum in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are our own*
We are so fortunate to live in a region that is so rich in culture and history. The Miramichi area in New Brunswick has a melange of history that includes the natives, French Acadians and the English.
The Beaubears National Historic Site pays tribute to all three of these important groups of people.
This museum does a fantastic job of finding unique and creative ways to share the history of the Miramichi area.
In the time before European settlement, Beaubears served as a centuries old Mi’kmaq meeting ground for trade and stories of the hunt.
By 1755, in the midst of the Acadian Deportation, Marquis Charles des Champs de Boishébert brought thousands of fleeing Acadians to Beaubears Island and the surrounding lands.
The encampment was known as “Camp D’Esperance”, and nationally recognized as one of the largest Acadian refuges in the province of New Brunswick. Sadly, many of these Acadians perished through starvation and disease while awaiting rescue.
In the decades following the Acadian tragedy, Beaubears Island’s shipyard bustled with activity. Beaubears Island is the only untouched shipbuilding site left intact in Canada. The remains of slips, wharves and foundations are very visible due to the fact that no one has lived on the island for over a hundred years.
We arrived at the Beaubears site and were greeted by the friendly staff.
We were given the option of having a guided tour of the museum or to go through on our own.
Our well-trained children of course picked the guided tour because “we would learn a lot more on a tour.”
Shawn, who turned out to be the executive director of the museum, gave us an enthralling tour of the museum.
He knew the history of the island forwards and backwards and in his sleep.
It was so interesting to hear how the island had changed ownership over the years and had gone from being a native hunting summer camp to a thriving shipbuilding industrial place to once again being restored to its natural habitat.
Our tour took about 30 minutes. Even though the boys were tired after a long journey, they still learned a lot and got a lot out of our visit.
There are several ways you can explore Beaubears in addition to visiting the museum.
Visit the Beaubears Island Interpretive Centre: Discover the Island’s stirring history and hear stories of First Contact, the struggle of the expelled Acadians, a century of shipbuilding and the history of Nelson-Miramichi. (allow 30-45 minutes)
Ferry Service to Beaubears Island & The Restored Trail Network: With the help of Parks Canada, we have restored 6km of historic trails on the Island. This self-guided experience allows you to view the remnants of the 19th century shipyard, and the foundations of several buildings. Marvel at the lofty pines which have stood sentinel for more than two centuries, and keep watch for the Island’s abundant wildlife, including our family of bald eagles.
* maps and Flora/fauna guides provided at no charge
(allow 60-90 minutes)
**Note: if you want to do the hiking trails on Beaubears, this is your only option. Unless you have your own boat to get you to the island! Go to the interpretive centre and they will take you across, and you call to come back. If there is a guided tour in the afternoon, you cannot return between 2-4, but can come back with the tour.
If you want to hike and do the guided tour, you will have to go to the island to hike and then come back to the mainland to set out on the boat tour again. You cannot meet the group on the island (because you will miss the first part of the tour!)
Voyageur Canoe Experience: Recapture the pioneering days on the river with our 26 foot, ten-passenger, Voyageur Canoe, Sipu. Canoe excursions provide a unique hands-on experience that may visit Beaubears Island as well as Wilson’s Point, or simply circumnavigate the Island. Participants have the opportunity to live part of our history through the vehicle of the canoe.
*Experience also available with kayaks in place of Voyageur Canoe. (allow 60-90 minutes)
Guided Island Tour: See history come alive when you hear the stories of Acadian mothers, venerable soldiers, and Commander Boishebert himself. From there, our historic tour carries you and yours into a time when the sound of auger, saw, and file were heard plainly among the pines and the Island shipyard turned out some of the finest vessels in the world.
* includes a visit to the Interpretive Centre and boat transport to/from the island. (allow 60-90 minutes)
“Tour Through Time” These tours will visit Beaubears Island and Wilson’s Point by boat, and will feature the Island’s full complement of historic characters. Our knowledgeable tour guides and colourful, costumed characters will help you discover just what made these two National Historic Sites such a central part of Miramichi’s history.
* includes a visit to the Interpretive Centre and boat transport to/from the island & Wilson’s Point. (allow 90-120 minutes)
Our Guided Tour Through Time
Our tour included a guided boat trip of Beaubears Island and Wilson’s Point.
We cannot recommend this tour enough.
We started by boarding a boat and sailing across the Miramichi River to Wilson’s point.
This was the most relaxing journey with beautiful scenery including an eagle that was watching our voyage.
We docked first at Wilson’s Point, which is actually part of the mainland (and can be driven to separately). Here, a group over 1500 Acadians hid out during the 1755 expulsion. Unfortunately, most of the Acadians died of starvation as supplies never reached them.
Throughout the journey, we met several characters from the past who came to life to tell their stories. This included French fur trappers,
and some of the shipbuilders.
These historical figures came to life to share a monologue of their story and their importance to the history of Beaubears.
I loved this part because it reminded me so much of the Valley Ghost Walks that I am a part of in the Valley.
Having these characters come to life added to much to our experience on Beaubears Island.
This part of the tour lasted approximately 2 hours.
Open daily June 15 – September 10, 2016
Admission to the Interpretive Centre is included in tour prices
Regular Admission to the Interpretive Centre – $5.00 per person
Student / Senior Admission to the Interpretive Centre – $3.50 per person
Children under 5 are admitted for free
Overall, we had a fantastic visit to Beaubears Island.
Just watch Daniel’s YouTube video to get a first-hand look at our visit.
Beaubears Island is a great place to visit for family fun and to learn the important history of the Miramichi area in a totally unique way. It is great for kids of all ages will get something out of the experience.
The next time you are traveling through Eastern New Brunswick, make a stop at Beaubears to appreciate what this museum is doing to keep history alive.