The main industries on Grand Manan Island are fishing, aquaculture and tourism. Although we had a hard time finding a cottage to rent last minute-ish, and many of the license plates are from away, the island doesn’t feel crowded at all. We’ve been the only folks at many of the places we’ve visited, despite it being high season.
We were the only ones visiting beautiful Castalia Marsh
In its heyday, the island supplied smoked fish, especially herring, to the world. Today, except for a bit of artisanal smoking, there is no fish processing on the island. There may be evidence of fish and shellfish everywhere you look but procuring some is another story: most of the lobster caught off Grand Manan is earmarked for foreign buyers, mainly in China.
Grand Manan gets shoddy crap for its Dollar Store while China gets luxury seafood. Doesn’t seem like a fair trade…
Scallops seem to be a bit easier to come by. If you know where to look (convenience/liquor store hint hint), are persistent, and very lucky, you’ll find yourself paying $13-$16/lb for fresh large scallops. If you miss that boat ;-) you’ll probably find yourself with the chance to buy “fresh scallops – frozen”. I did scratch my head the first few times I saw signs for this oxymoronic product. But it does describe the shellfish well.
Mysteriously stacked scallop shells, Castalia Marsh
Millions of scallops shells, Castalia Marsh
These scallops bear no resemblance to the ones you buy in big bags from the Costco deep freeze. Local entrepreneurs will snag a whack of scallops directly from the fishing boat, bag them up in 1-pound bundles and sell them fresh. Any that aren’t sold within a day are frozen. These frozen scallops still sell quickly and are a perfectly acceptable stand-in for fresh.
We went über-decadent with our scallops and pan-fried them with the fresh chanterelles we had bought in Kamouraska, Quebec. Delicious! We also bought some clams from Sunrise Fish. They were large and tasty but very gritty.
A half-built structure – one of the only places to buy fresh fish on Grand Manan (Sunrise Fish)
Herring being smoked, Sunrise Fish
The Bay of Fundy provides another product that locals love – dulse. Dulse is picked in two areas of Grand Manan but those in the know claim that the dulse from Dark Harbour is the best. Not the best on the island, but rather the best in the world. When buying dulse, we were instructed to ask if it was from Dark Harbour and whether or not it was crispy. Apparently, crispy Dark Harbour dulse is even better than best.
Dark Harbour – dulse, friendly locals and peaceful magic. Sadly, accessed by a scary cliff road so SWMBO won’t be going back anytime soon.
Another famous local institution is “the bakery”. We had heard about this legendary place long before we reached the island. In fact, we heard about it from every single person we met who had ever visited this place. We knew it was in North Head but failed to find it on three separate drives there. In case you’re wondering, it is right on the main road, directly across from the hospital, so, yes we were blind. The bakery lived up to its reputation – you can tell a great bakery before you take your first bite. The look and smell of the loaves tells you everything you need to know.
Today’s Quote of the Day comes from our Ontario friends who became permanent residents of Grand Manan last November:
For an island we’re surprisingly hurting for sea food.