TIMES & TRANSCRIPT
DEER ISLAND — In the first five minutes after arriving, my girlfriend and I had already stopped the car twice to marvel at the scenery and take photos. It was a sign of things to come.Deer Island, which is located in the Bay of Fundy at the entrance to Passamaquoddy Bay, is the smallest of the Fundy Isles at 12 kilometers long and five kilometers wide. It’s entirely rural, the one main road has plenty of hills and turns, and visitors are quickly consumed with the sense of quiet and the rugged natural beauty.
The Fundy Isles are made up of four islands with the others being Campobello, Grand Manan and White Head. Deer Island flies under the tourism radar compared to Campobello Island and Grand Manan Island, but don’t let that deter you from coming here because it’s a nice uncrowded destination for a day trip or longer.
“Deer Island has a population of 600 people in the winter and 1,500 in the summer,” said Anke Schulze-Veltrup, who owns the Deer Island Inn. “There’s no municipality on the island. There’s four main villages. We are less developed than Campobello and Grand Manan, but this is part of the charm on our island. This is a unique and very special place.
“I moved here in 2012 and I realized the potential is high (for tourism). We have a lot of hidden beaches that are really nice. You have to talk to local people to find them. If you are looking for a peaceful place to relax, you will find it here. All the islands in the Fundy Isles are very different even if they belong to one group.”
Deer Island is home to the Old Sow, the largest tidal whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. The Bay of Fundy’s currents swirl in big circles to create a whirlpool effect and this natural phenomenon can be best seen from Deer Island Point Park three hours before high tide. It peaks on new and full moons.
There’s no charge to take the picturesque 20-minute ferry crossing from Letete to Deer Island. Letete is near St. George. The government-run ferry, which holds 24 to 26 vehicles, operates year round each day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with departures every 30 minutes.
Upon arrival in Deer Island, it’s less than two kilometers to the visitor information centre at the Lord’s Cove Community Centre. It’s only open in the summer. The island has been inhabited since 1770 and the first salmon aquaculture sites in Atlantic Canada were located here.
Deer Island is closer to the United States than the Canadian mainland. In fact, there was a dispute over the ownership of Deer Island and Campobello Island that lasted for decades until a treaty gave both places to New Brunswick in the 1840s.
While venturing around Deer Island, you will see several tiny picturesque fishing villages that look like perfect postcard photos. The herring, lobster and salmon fishery and the aquaculture industry are the pillars of the local economy. Since the 1870s, this island has supplied sardine canneries throughout the region.
Since the late 1920s, various coves throughout the island have served as holding structures where lobsters are kept until they’re shipped to local and international markets. That’s why the island boasts that it has the “world’s largest lobster pound.”
Depending on the time of year, there’s a range of options for tourists — whale watching, bird watching, sightseeing, Scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, hiking, fishing, boat tours, geocaching, beach combing, swimming, photography and camping. Tour operators offer a variety of excursions.
There’s more to see and do in the summer, but a fall visit is still interesting with scenery and tranquility being major attractions. It’s a nice diversion from the mainland and a fine place to relax. It takes less than three hours to travel from Moncton to Deer Island and this includes the ferry ride.
If you like shopping, there’s an assortment of art galleries and stores that sell antiques, local crafs and gifts, paintings, books, pottery and jewellry. One neat spot is Welch’s Store, an old-fashioned country convenience store that has a little of everything. The island’s only gas station — there’s one nozzle — is found here.
“We have photography clubs that come here to take pictures,” said Schulze-Veltrup. “These are people who like nature. I should also add that it’s an active fishery life here on the wharves now because the lobster season opens next month. People are painting the buoys and getting their boats ready. A lot of the guests at my motel find this interesting.”
There are two restaurants — one is a takeout spot — and five churches on Deer Island. The only lodging is the 45th Parallel Motel (747-2231), the Deer Island Inn (747-1998) and Richardson’s Lookout Cottage (747-2286).
The 45th Parallel Motel advertises that its restaurant was recommended among the top places to eat in Canada in 2000. It’s known for fish and chips, pan fried haddock, seafood chowder and lobster rolls. There are gluten-free items on the menu, including chowders that are made without flour.
Deer Island Point Park is a must-see place for visitors. It offers terrific views of the ocean and rugged coast, picnic tables, beaches, trails, a kids playground, an open field and a war memorial. Bring a camera and binoculars because there’s a good chance you will see seals.
Deer Island Point is the best place to watch the largest tidal whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. This is also a popular spot with Scuba divers. The park has a visitor information centre, washrooms, canteen and a campground office.
The Deer Island Point Campground is the only campground on the island. These ocean view sites can accomodate visitors whether they’re driving a motorhome, towing a camper or carrying a tent. Those not camping are allowed to enter the campground for picnics and day-use activities.
There are ferry crossings from Deer Island to both Campobello Island and Eastport, Maine. These run every half hour each day from late June to mid September. The ferry to Maine was suspended this summer, but it will resume in 2016. For information, call 747-2159 or visit eastcoastferriesltd.com.
You can visit Deer Island for a few hours, a couple of days or longer. It can be a destination or a stopping place as you use the ferries to check out more of the Fundy Isles. You can do the Quoddy Loop in one day, but give yourself longer. This road trip takes you to Deer Island, Campobello Island, St. Andrews and two communities in Maine — Lubec and Eastport.
“We are not as developed as the other islands, but if you spend a couple of days here you will find interesting little places in Deer Island,” said Schulze-Veltrup. “There’s a lot of artists here. You can go to the painters. They love to talk to you. This is something you wouldn’t have in a busy place.
“If you like nature, you will enjoy our wonderful hiking trails. When you go to the beach, you will see seals. You start your vacation with a pretty ferry ride that’s free when you come to Deer Island. That’s what people feel when they come here.”