Canadian Maritimes: Campobello Island to St. Andrews

“O, Canada!” I can’t help but hum the national anthem every time I cross the border into the land of maple leaves, hockey, and never-ending politeness.

This time I decided to enter Canada via the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge to Campobello Island, New Brunswick. And, by “decided,” I mean that I drove past a sign for the bridge, made a U-turn, and figured I would see what it was like crossing the border at Lubec, Maine instead of my original plan of Calais, Maine. You may have heard of Campobello. The Roosevelt family had a house there and spent many summers on the island. In fact, this is the exact spot where FDR first developed paralysis in the summer of 1921. I did a quick tour of the house, but even though I was officially in Canada, I knew I needed to catch two different ferries to get back to the Canadian mainland.

So, with sporadic internet and no Canadian dollars in my wallet, I started driving to the first ferry by following road signs. I must have missed a sign, because I ended up on a narrow road to the tip of the island. At the end stood East Quoddy Lighthouse (also known as Head Harbor Lighthouse), apparently the most photographed lighthouse in the world! Remember how I didn’t have any Canadian dollars in my wallet yet? Well, walking over to the lighthouse required a $5 toll. Sadly, I started walking back to my house, with nothing but a few glimpses of the lighthouse. An elderly gentleman, who must have seen the camera around my neck and the disappointment in my face, happily pointed me to some overlooks hidden in the forest that were totally free! Thank you, random old guy, for helping me take my version of the most photographed lighthouse in the world.

Still with a schedule to keep, I got back on the road, and found the signs back to the ferry. This is where things started to get interesting. Imagine a paved road. Now imagine turning off that paved road to a completely unexpected gravel driveway that leads directly into the Bay of Fundy. There was no terminal. There were no other cars. There was no ferry…yet. I somehow turned around, and made my way to a grocery store I remembered passing earlier. After getting some much-needed cash from the ATM and some much-needed food from the deli, I found a local who was pretty certain the ferry was still running for the evening.

I drove back to the ferry landing, and soon enough a tug boat with a barge appeared on the horizon. I crossed my fingers, gently drove down the gravel path to a bit of a cement ramp, and boarded the ferry to Deer Island, New Brunswick. With bright, sunny skies over the Bay of Fundy, the 45-minute ride on calm seas was spectacular! Little did I know that the ferry landing at Campobello Island was going to seem like a piece of cake compared to the next one at Deer Island.

As we started approaching the southern part of the island, all I could see was a shoreline full of dark shale rock – everywhere. Because it was low tide, this shoreline seemed to ascend straight into the sky. Quick fact: with a peak tidal range of 50 feet in some places, the highest tides in the world are in the Bay of Fundy. It was becoming very clear that I, too, would need to ascend into the sky to disembark the ferry. With a thumbs up from the crew woman, I slowly crept off the ferry – made sure my black water plumbing cleared the deck – and then floored it! The tires grabbed hold of the slippery shale rock and I somehow made it up the 10-15% grade to the main road above.

And that was just the half way point! I still had to hop on another ferry to L’Etete, a town back on the mainland of New Brunswick. Thankfully that ferry was a much bigger ferry with room for 25-30 vehicles. After maneuvering around a semi-truck that would have carved a gash with its mirrors, I was back on the mainland about 20 minutes later. And after a half-hour drive on the Trans-Canada Highway (known in Canada as the TCH), I was all settled in at a campground in St. Andrews. Whew!

St. Andrews (or “St. Andrews-by-the-Sea” as the marketers call it) is a vacation town on a peninsula that juts out into Passamaquoddy Bay, a small bay in the larger Bay of Fundy. The Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping is at the end of the peninsula. It is a great campground in a great little town. I highly recommend it as a first stop after entering the Canadian border from Maine. Just don’t try that ferry crossing from Campobello Island to Deer Island with a large RV! Instead, take the normal route across – you know – actual land.

Entering Canada via the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge to Campobello Island
Entering Canada via the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge to Campobello Island
Roosevelt Summer Home
Roosevelt Summer Home
Fishing boat heading out to sea as I photographed East Quoddy Lighthouse
Fishing boat heading out to sea as I photographed East Quoddy Lighthouse
East Quoddy Lighthouse (also known as Head Harbor Lighthouse)
East Quoddy Lighthouse (also known as Head Harbor Lighthouse)
The ramp to the soon-to-arrive ferry from Campobello Island to Deer Island
The ramp to the soon-to-arrive ferry from Campobello Island to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to L'Etete, New Brunswick
Aboard ferry to L'Etete, New Brunswick
View from Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping
View from Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping
Low tide in St. Andrews
Low tide in St. Andrews
View from Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping
View from Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping
Ferries in the Bay of Fundy are dozens of feet below the docks at low tide
Ferries in the Bay of Fundy are dozens of feet below the docks at low tide
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
Aboard ferry to Deer Island
I came back the next day to take a photo of the insane ferry landing at Deer Island.
I came back the next day to take a photo of the insane ferry landing at Deer Island.
Fish farms at low tide in the Bay of Fundy
Fish farms at low tide in the Bay of Fundy
Low tide in the Bay of Fundy
Low tide in the Bay of Fundy
Low tide in the Bay of Fundy
Low tide in the Bay of Fundy
Sunset aboard ferry back to L'Etete
Sunset aboard ferry back to L'Etete
  • Gene Turner

    Kyle! Wow! Wonderful photos… And as always so well described. Truly remarkable adventures.

    Gene

  • Bob Schneider

    Kyle
    Just happened onto your pictures of your ferry crossing from Campobello Island New Brunswick to Deer island. It’s always fun to see other people’s pictures of my family’s summer home on Indian Island- the island between Campobello and Deer Island. We have been summering there for over 60 years now and am looking forward to returning there once again this summer with my mother who is 94- this will be her 63rd summer there.
    It’s marvelous country and glad you enjoyed our little ferry ride! Come back and visit!
    Bob Schneider
    Syracuse NY

    • Kyle

      Ahh, I remember that ferry crossing like it was yesterday! In fact, I don’t think I will ever forget that trip. What a beautiful part of the world. Thanks for writing!