Exploring Deer Island and Campobello Island, New Brunswick with your family and dog
When making our summer vacation plans this year, we tried to find a place we had yet to explore. Knowing how much our family travels and loves road trips, it was hard to come up with an idea, until I remembered reading about Deer Island and Campobello Island, New Brunswick!
Deer Island and Campobello Island are part of a chain of islands off the Fundy coast of New Brunswick, situated next to Grand Manan. We visited Grand Manan several years ago (pre-blog), and loved the area, so wanted to go back and explore these new islands.
When doing research for our trip, it was very difficult to find information that was up-to date, or any information at all! I hope this blog post will be a resource for you!
How to Get To Deer Island
There is a ferry that leaves from Letete, NB, on the mainland every half hour starting from 6:30am to 10:30pm (subject to change).
This ferry takes about 15 cars, so depending on the traffic, you might have to wait for the ferry. It takes 20 minutes to cross to Deer Island.
This ferry is free.
About Deer Island
One day, while out in the Bay of Fundy, Glooscap saw a pack of three wolves chasing a deer and a moose into the water. He wanted to make the places they were in special, so he froze their chase in time. He turned the animals into islands. Today, you can still see the Deer and Moose side by side, and three Wolves in pursuit not far off shore.
You can easily tell why it is called Deer Island. There are deer EVERYWHERE! We counted over 20 sightings in our few days there.
Deer Island has been inhabited since 1770. It is exactly half-way between the Equator and North Pole. Deer Island’s population – 1,000 souls.
What to Do on Deer Island
Deer Island is paradise for those who love outdoor activities like kayaking, beach combing, bird watching and fishing.
Collect Sea Glass
We spent a lot of time collecting sea glass. Because there aren’t laden with people, the beaches are full of sea glass! No matter where you go on the coastline, you are bound to find some!
Go Hiking at Chocolate Cove
There is one official hiking trail on the island. In my research, I read about some others, but only this one is officially marked. Not even the tourist information centre knew of other trails, other than ATV trails that are unmarked through the woods.
Located on Chocolate Cove, the Clark Gregory Nature Preserve has a 2km hike through the woods, with great views (if not foggy!) that took us 40 minutes to walk.
The trail is well maintained and marked. The path is hilly with roots, so unsuitable for strollers, and small children may find it difficult.
Visit the Old Sow Whirpool
The “Old Sow” is the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere, the second largest in the world – second only to the Maelstrom Whirlpool of Norway.
Old Sow is reported to be most active about 3 hours before high tide. This activity continues for about two hours.
To view it, head to Deer Island Point Road, near the Campobello ferry terminal, in the campground. It’s at the tip. You can’t miss it!
Go Whale Watching
There are many places off Campobello Island to go whale watching, but we found just one off Deer Island, and we are glad we did, because it was fantastic!
Captain Riddles Sea Going Adventures picks up whale watchers from both Campobello and Deer Islands.
We were hesitant about going whale watching because we have gone a few times off Brier Island in Digby, and these waterways are all connected, but we are so glad we did!
The boat was small, low to the ocean, and our captain knew just where to take us!
We saw minke whales, porpoises and lots of seals! They came very close to the boat, too!
The cost was $40 per person (STC) and we were on the water for 2-3 hours. If you don’t see whales, you don’t have to pay!
One of the best parts was that we were allowed to bring our dog!
It only took a few minutes before we spotted whales out in the ocean! It was a great day at sea, and we highly recommend Captain Riddles!
On Deer Island, there are two convenience stores with the most basic of groceries. There are no gas stations.
Before you board the ferry to Deer Island, stop at one of the major towns on the mainland and load up on your groceries.
We stopped at St. George as you have to go through this town to get the ferry to Deer Island.
There is one restaurant and one take-out on Deer Island (STC).
On Deer Island, there are a few inns, a campground, and a couple of Air B&Bs.
We stayed in Lambertville at the Hathway Cottage. It is about 3 minutes from the ferry terminal to the main land.
This is a basic cottage, but the best part was that there was a hot tub 50 feet from the Bay of Fundy!
We spent hours sitting in the fog, looking out at the Bay watching seals and deer. It was heavenly!
Campobello Island is more well known, and a tourist destination for Americans especially as Franklin D. Roosevelt had summer home here, and there is a bridge connecting the island to Lubec, Maine.
How to Get to Campobello Island
There is a ferry connecting Deer Island to Campobello Island. This ferry takes approximately 30 minutes and runs every hour on the half (STC)
The cost was approximately $32 for a family of 4 and the car to go one way.
What to do on Campobello Island
Campobello Island is most famous for the Roosevelt Campobello International Park.
Here, you can tour the Roosevelt’s summer home and drive, bike or walk the many carriage lanes on the island.
Tour Roosevelt’s Summer Home and Have Tea with Eleanor
If you arrive right when the Visitor Information Centre opens (10am), you can stand in line to receive FREE tickets for the Tea with Eleanor program.
We’ll share the stories of Eleanor Roosevelt, with complimentary tea and homemade cookies.
Or, you can book a paid experience in the afternoon.
The attendants said to get there early because the tickets do go quickly!
We decided not to do this experience, nor did we tour the house because we had the dog. But, we heard many great things about it!
East Quoddy Lighthouse and Hike
At the top tip of the island, you can hike out to the East Quoddy lighthouse at low tide.
This walk is 1km (round trip) and costs $5 per person to walk it.
You can only hike 2 hours before low tide until 2 hours after low tide, so check the tide schedule carefully.
There are 3 sets of steps you must descend/ascend to get there.
We thought we could take the dog, but the last set is like a ladder, almost, and there was no way he could navigate them.
Although there are metal grates over some parts of the rocks below, and the seaweed has been cut away, it is still slippery, and difficult for those not used to walking on a rocky beach with wet stones. Take your time!
Once out there, the views are spectacular, and in the 15 minutes or so that we stood out there, we saw several minke whales, porpoises and seals.
The East Quoddy lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse in New Brunswick!
Marine Life Interpretation Centre and Seal Observatory
On a small off road before you get to the Bridge to Maine, is another lighthouse and the Marine Life Interpretation Centre. We didn’t know what to expect so we decided to check it out.
The Marine Life Centre is inside the red shed and has some interesting whale bones and information panels about the whales that are in the area. And, apparently, at high tide, seals can be seen on the beach below.
There is a lovely 5 minute walk on a gravel path around the point where the lighthouse sits.
We spent about 15 minutes in this area.
Hike the Trails at the Roosevelt Campobello International Park
There are several trails to choose from, and many of the carriage roads can be biked.
We had thought about bringing our bikes, but instead opted to bring the dog (great choice!) and so decided to check out a few walking trails.
Friar’s Head Trail
The trails are well sign posted along the main road, so we turned off into the picnic area for Friar’s Head. There is a great observation platform (wheelchair accessible) where you can learn about the geology of the area.
You can either begin the trail at the Visitor’s Information Centre or from the viewing platform (like we did).
From the platform, it was a 0.3km hike down hill to the beach.
Because the tides were coming in, we couldn’t get around the bend to see the actual rock formation (and you can’t see it from the top because of the trees on the bank). We were here 2 hours past low tide, so try to go at low tide!
However, we did get a look at a salmon fishery in the bay!
On the way back, we cut through the picnic area (instead of going back up the steeper trail) and made a full loop of 1.1km.
Eagle Hill Bog Trail
Although a hot day, we decided to walk the bog trail, and are really glad we did!
At the trail head you will find self-guided interpretation brochures. As you walk the trail, there are numbered sign that correspond with your brochure. Stop and read the interesting facts as you go through!
At the end of the trail, there is a great look-out spot where you can see the shape of the bog from above, and have a great view of the bay.
This hike was 1.3km and took us 30 minutes to complete. Despite being a bog, there were some shady spots! The vast majority of the trail is accessible except for the last bit to the observation deck.
Accommodations and Amenities
There are more amenities on Campobello Island than on Deer Island, including a small grocery store and a golf course!
We did not stay on Campobello Island, but rather Deer Island. Deer Island, because it is less touristy was cheaper, and after a 6hour+ drive and one ferry, we did not want to have to go further!
Crossing the Bridge to Lubec, Maine
The boys really wanted to say they had been in the United States. With the current political climate, we weren’t sure what it would be like crossing the border. We also had the dog and head read a lot about what paperwork and shots were necessary. Needless to say, we were nervous crossing.
The following was our experience and may not reflect everyone’s experience:
It was so easy crossing the border into Lubec, Maine from Campobello Island!
Perhaps because it was a small border crossing, and we said we were planning on only staying a few hours, but it was no trouble going across with our passports.
- They did not ask for any paperwork about the dog; no rabies shot proof or health check (I did make sure we had a letter from our vet just in case, to show he was up to date on his shots and had a clean bill of health!)
In fact, the officer gave our dog a bone!
- Between Canada and the US they do not stamp your passports, or at least at this location. In fact, he didn’t even have a stamp. We asked.
He was so friendly, and gave us directions and pointed out a few things along our way!
Across the bridge (a 30 second drive) is the small community of Lubec.
We spent 30 minutes here, walking the tiny main street that was full of shops. We stopped for an ice cream, and the boys went into the cat shelter to play with some kittens.
From there, we went to the main grocery store and loaded up on pop and chocolate bars that we couldn’t get in Canada. We might have spent too much money on candy. I kept the receipt with me.
Driving the Loop
According to the border patrol officer, we were planning to “drive the loop.” That is, we were planning on driving from Lubec, Maine up to the border crossing at Calais, Maine into St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
This drive was only 1hour, and we figured we would spend less money on gas driving, than we would on the $32 fee to go back to Deer Island by ferry. And, gas is cheaper in the US!
This way, we could also load up on groceries in St. Stephen before heading back down to the ferry terminal to go back to Deer Island.
Advice for Traveling to Deer Island and Campobello Island
- Take your passports and drive across into the States!
- Print out a copy of the tide schedule. So many of the walks and activities are dependent upon the tide. Don’t miss out and plan ahead!
- Bring your dog. We spent 5 days full of activities, and didn’t have to worry about the dog. It’s definitely an outdoors place.
- Prepare for a slower pace. There is kayaking, beach combing, walking and many outdoor activities to do on your own schedule. Not everyone is prepared for “having nothing to do”, especially teenagers. There is far less to do on Deer Island than Campobello. So plan accordingly. It would be a great place to sit, read, write, relax – which is easier for adults and some kids than others. Know your traveling style.
- Decide your length of stay. You can explore Deer Island in 1 day and Campobello in 1-2 days. We weren’t sure how much time we needed, and so planned for 5 days, so ended up going to the mainland a few days.
- Be prepared for anything. Before we went, it was extremely difficult to find information on what to do and where to go. We asked a lot of questions and scouted many things out. We have listed them in this blog post in hopes it will help you plan your vacation.
Although, as the crow flies, or the whale swims, Campobello and Deer Island are not far from Digby and the Annapolis Valley, it was still great to explore the Bay of Fundy from “the other side.”
It was a great retreat, a unique experience, and a place we would recommend to others!