How could we resist taking a day trip to the island off an island
White Head Island is 4 off the south east corner of Gran Manan, where we were staying for 6 nights. We had brought our bikes, though we’d not used them much in Grand Manan as it was more hilly than we’d expected. The White Head Island ferry was quite small, as is the island itself with a population of only about 180, so it was an obvious choice to cross with our bikes rather than take our van over. And it was flat.
The ferry docked at the little harbour at Ingalls Head, and it was one of those fun crossings, where you park your bike against the rail, lean over the edge, and enjoy the view and the feel of the water rushing by. And as a bonus, it was free.
We’d checked the maps and the satellite images before setting out and it looked like we could do a complete circuit of the island. The road stopped short of going all the way round, but there were tracks and paths which looked like they might connect. So once we had landed on White Head we set off from the ferry pier and took the road clockwise, following the shoreline to start with, and passing the occasional house.
The road stopped at Gull Cove on the east coast and we then pushed our bikes across a flat isthmus and sat on a nice deserted shingle beach to eat our lunch as we watched the cormorants drying themselves on the rocks just offshore. We continued on, heading down some gravel tracks and narrow paths, but couldn’t get anywhere we felt was taking us further round the island—
just the odd cleared spot where junk had been dumped in the woods. We accepted failure on that little quest, retraced our path back to the ferry landing, and continued on as far as we could, this time in an anti-clockwise direction.
This took us to Battle Beach, a shallow bay on the south of the island and we set our sights on getting to the Long Point lighthouse that marked the far end of the bay. Our road changed to a track, then a path and eventually we were struggling to push our bikes through foot-deep seaweed along the back of the beach.
We were determined to come as close as possible to completing the circuit of the island. The whole beach had a very thick layer of the seaweed, probably the result of the strong winds and waves of the tail end of hurricane Irene which had passed through a couple of nights before—but this allowed numerous shorebirds to enjoy harvesting the small creatures on the seaweed. From Long Point we could see the high cliffs of Southwest Head on Grand Manan to the west, and the lighthouse on Gannet Rock 8 away on the southern horizon.
As we returned to the ferry we took a detour and found the white quartzite headland that the island is named for, and had a fun time scrambling over the smooth, bare rocks.
The ferry did not run very frequently. The island is small, and probably many who live there have their own boats. Cars were queuing early for the ferry, and the places on board were limited. When we crossed in August 2011 the ferry boat was the Lady White Head, built in 1976 with a maximum capacity of 8 cars. By the end of that year she had been replaced by a bigger new boat, the MV William Frankland with a capacity of 12. The current schedule also seems more frequent than we remember from our trip.
As we approached Ingalls Head on our return trip we passed a derelict lighthouse on the rocky tip of Ross Island. This lighthouse was built in 1879 to mark the entrance to Grand Harbour, and operated until 1963. After that the combination of severe weather and high tides over the years slowly tore it apart, and it finally completely collapsed during a gale in November 2013, two years after we passed by and took this photo. The Maritimes are full of small picturesque, white painted wooden lighthouses. It’s sad to see how easily a few years of neglect can wipe them out.
We'd had a fun, pleasant day—
nothing outstanding, just a relaxing way of soaking up the maritime environment. When we got back to the mainland at Ingalls Head (well, by then Grand Manan Island seemed like the mainland) men were unloading seaweed at the wharf from a small boat that had been out harvesting it. Before leaving Grand Manan we sought out a place where they dried and sold a number of varieties of seaweed and bought some to take home and experiment with in our cooking.