Eleanor Roosevelt and Canada’s Birthday on a Tiny Island

Campobello Island was never on our original itinerary.  We were going to drive the campervan up the Maine coast and cross into New Brunswick at St. Stephen just after Canada Day, but the more we thought about it, we really wanted to be in Canada for its 150th Birthday.  Looking for RV-friendly campground options, we came across Herring Cove Provincial Park on Campobello Island and had always thought you’d have to get there by ferry, but when we learned you could drive over from Lubec, Maine and that the provincial park still had one more electric site available for the long weekend, we were sold.  Located in Passamaquoddy Bay, it’s a tiny island, only 8.7 miles (14 km) long, but it still has some really fantastic things to see and do and we were bound and determined to fit in as many as we could.

The Route:

Campobello Island, New Brunswick

The Sites:

Herring Cove Provincial Park

Mulholland Light House

East Quoddy Light House (Head Harbor)

Jocie’s Porch and the Campobello Gift House

Roosevelt Campobello International Park & Tea with Eleanor

Carriage Roads, Liberty Point and the Sunsweep Monument

Canada Day on Campobello

Ferry Rides to Deer Island and Letete

We arrived at Campobello Island on June 28th and practically as soon as you cross the border, you arrive at the Visitor’s Center.  Be sure to stop here – the lady who was working when we arrived was incredibly helpful.  She set us up with maps of the town and highlighted the spots we may want to see and went over the best times to visit some of the different attractions.  The summer tourism season here is so brief, but everyone seems to really go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome and part of the community.

 Herring Cove Provincial Park:

Herring Cove is a small provincial park with 88 sites, with only 40 having electricity, but it still had a lot to offer.  There were a variety of different RV sites with varying degrees of trees and privacy, but everything you needed was just a short walk and bathrooms were clean and the showers were hot.  The park also has a beach, hiking trails that cover a good stretch of the island, a golf course and a restaurant.   We had ourselves booked in for four nights, which included Canada Day festivities and would give us enough time to see pretty much everything Campobello Island is known for.

East Quoddy Light House:

After seeing the West Quoddy Light House in Lubec, Maine, it only seemed fitting to see the East Quoddy Light House as well.  Also known as the Head Harbor Light House, it was located at the furthest north eastern point of the island and can actually only be accessed during low tide.  Thanks to our Visitor’s Center stop the day before, we were told the best time would be mid-morning to make the crossing so we wouldn’t be rushed to get back.  We were also warned to wear good shoes since the ocean floor would be uneven and quite slippery.  We made our way down some rickety ladders and across the rocks that are covered with a really interesting variety of seaweeds. The light house itself is pretty, but what made the trek worthwhile was the view – a panorama filled with miles of ocean, outlines of the neighboring islands and the surrounding capes and beaches of Campobello.   The best view is from the helicopter pad behind the lighthouse, but only on a clear day.  On a foggy day you won’t see much at all and the fog horn could sound while you’re visiting and since it comes with warnings of close proximity hearing loss, you may want wait until it clears.

Mulholland Light House:

The Mulholland Light House on the opposite end of the island (near the FDR bridge from Maine and the Visitor’s Center), and because Campobello is so small, it only took us about 10 minutes to reach it from the East Quoddy Light House.  This lighthouse was no longer in commission; it was shut down after the FDR Bridge was built and provided lights for the harbor.  We stopped here as it was a recommended site to see harbor seals.  We made our way here a bunch of different times (and tides) during our Campobello stay and unfortunately had no luck.  However, it was a cute little lighthouse with some great information about the last working lighthouse keeper and all the seals that do tend to frequent the shores of the island.

Jocie’s Porch and the Campobello Gift House:

After two lighthouses and a good dose of fresh ocean air, we were in need of caffeine.  Jocie’s Porch is pretty much the only coffee shop and is located along route 774, making it easily accessible from everywhere on the island. The building is large with lots of space, both inside and out, to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and some food. We were happy to find non-dairy milk for our Lattes, and eager to log in on the complementary wifi.

Not far from the Park entrance was the Campobello Gift House. The large store has everything from jewelry and knick-knacks, to clothing and souvenirs. They have recently started selling items made by local artisans, too. Angie, the owner, was very friendly and quick to answer any questions we had about island life. We was curious about what folks do for gas for their cars (get it across the border in the US, there is no fuel available on the island) and how the mail gets delivered (one gentleman picks it up on the mainland and drives it via the US onto the island and drops it off at the Canada Post office. He also does the product and food deliveries for the shops and restaurants). Island life has its challenges, like having to drive an hour in to the US to find a Walmart, or take two ferries to get to the mainland for a run into Saint John, but the peaceful life and tight knit community, she said, was worth it.

Roosevelt Campobello International Park:

Wanting to leave July 1st open for Canada Day festivities, we decided to sneak in a visit to Roosevelt Campobello International Park on Friday.  This heritage site includes the main Roosevelt Cottage and the surrounding Hubbard and Wells-Shober cottages that have all been restored and decorated to resemble what they would have looked like when Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt stayed there.  The site’s main visitor’s center had informative displays on the history of the place, the Roosevelt families and friendship and political relationship between Canada and the United States.

We were also told that if we visited the park, we most definitely had to attend a “Tea with Eleanor” and that if we arrived when the park opened, they gave out a limited number of free tickets to the first tea of the day.  Free tickets in hand, we arrived at our 11 am tea and were greeted by the two wonderfully friendly ladies who would be our hostesses for the morning.  “Tea with Eleanor” came about after many of the guides felt that the park focused only on FDR’s and his relationship with Campobello and didn’t give Eleanor the recognition deserving of a woman who did so much, not only as first lady, but also for women’s and civil rights.  So with that in mind, this tea became a way for them to pay tribute to an amazing woman and give people a look at her life and how the people of Campobello remember her.  We had no idea what to expect going in, but between the sweet hostesses, the wonderful stories and the very tasty tea, it was a really enjoyable morning.  Make sure you see the picture of Eleanor Roosevelt’s gun license – it’s absolutely priceless!

Carriage Roads, Liberty Point & the Sunsweep Statue

After a morning of tea and history, we took off to explore more of the island.  The Campobello carriage roads are system of narrow gravel roads that wind through the island leading to different sites a bit more off the beaten path.  We inquired about taking the campervan down these roads and we were pretty much told that it was ‘go at your own risk’.  We were warned that they allow for overgrowth in many spots so that the roads resemble the way the island would have been back when the Roosevelts explored the island.  We decided to risk it and figured worst case it would have meant a really ugly 3-point turn (or 11-point, most likely!) to get ourselves back out.  As we made our way through we discovered the roads to be more than fine, besides the odd pot hole and low hanging branch.  We had heard Liberty Point was the nicest section to see so we headed there and decided to hike the trail that would take you out to the edge of the island where one of three Sunsweep Monuments could be found.  These joint art installations are meant to symbolize international friendship and were placed at sites that adjoin the Canada-US border (the others are in Washington and Lake-of-the-Woods).  We (and the dogs) headed out in the dense fog making our way in the mossy forests, past gorgeous beaches and cliffs to the southern-most point of the island.  After finding the Sunsweep statue, we headed back to camp, soggy and tired, but with some great photos and finally, our first seal sighting!

Canada Day at Campobello:

After ten years in Fenelon Falls, Ontario, we liked the idea of Canada Day festivities in another small town.  Campobello Island put together a great day for the people staying at the provincial park and for all the locals.   They had a ton of activities for kids – bouncy castles, an extreme jumper and a scavenger hunt.  For everyone else they had a BBQ, local vendors, a dog/pet show, town parade, birthday cake and live entertainment in the evening.  It was a little reminder of our home town and it was a great way to celebrate July 1st.

Ferry Rides to Deer Island and Letete:

To save some time, some miles and two more border crossings, we decided to take the ferry to get us to New Brunswick.  To get there, we actually had to take two ferries – the first from Campobello to near-by Deer Island and a second from Deer Island to Letete, NB.  East Coast Ferries is a small private charter that charges based on size of vehicle and passengers.  For our 21 foot campervan it was only $24 ($20 for the vehicle and first driver and $4 for an additional passenger).  We arrived a couple minutes before the 10 am ferry departure and were surprised to have the whole thing to ourselves.  It was an incredibly foggy morning, but the water was still and it was an easy 25 minute ride across.  The woman who collected payment was really friendly and even said we could let the dogs out to wander on deck since we were the only ones onboard, but between PJ’s fear of water, Irma’s lack of attention and Gizmo’s keen ability to fall out of stuff, we figured it was safer to keep them in the RV.  Things to keep in mind for this ferry that no one really tells you about: a) If you have a larger RV or are towing a trailer, make sure you aim to take the ferry mid to high tide to avoid bottoming out on the dirt road on Deer Island; b) East Coast Ferries doesn’t run all year – be sure to call to confirm operating dates.  The second ferry crossing was on a large provincially run boat and is free to take.  However, we were jammed in like sardines with only inches between vehicles.  You can get out of your vehicle, but since the trip is only about 20 minutes, most people stayed in their cars.  We wanted to try these two shorter ferry trips as kind of a test-run in preparation for the marathon ferry ride we’re planning when we cross into Newfoundland in August, we can only hope the conditions are as calm for that trip.

The Joy-Rides

Meeting People (and their dogs!)

One of the most interesting parts of this trip is getting to meet new people, pretty much everywhere you stop.  At Herring Cove Park, we met another really nice couple and their adorable puppy, Daisy, who was just a bundle of ‘-oodle’ cuteness.  They had made the drive up from Florida and had just started on a trip of their own and would be following a route similar to ours.  It was great to compare notes and pass along information we had discovered to hopefully save them a little time and frustration later on and they were kind enough to offer us parking at their home if we ever make it down to Kissimmee.  Its connections like these, that are such a great part of this adventure and are opening doors for us in the most wonderful of ways.

The Speed Bumps

Best Laid Plans for Food Blogging

One of our goals for our four days at Campobello was to get the first couple of recipes posted for our food blog (Two Happy Rabbits).  Knowing we had a border crossing coming up we knew we couldn’t risk bringing produce across, so we planned all of our food, picked up our pantry items in Maine and organized a really basic list of food to pick up in Campobello, knowing we’d be limited simply because it was such a small place, there was only one grocery store and because food had to be more difficult to get delivered to the stores here.  We had no idea how limited we’d be.  Even with the simple list we had planned, we couldn’t get 3/4 of it.  So after trying Plan B and Plan C, we gave up and decided to just get whatever we could eat and worry about recipe creation later.

What we’re enjoying:

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Autobiography A little inspired reading after our ‘Tea with Eleanor’, recommended by our hostess, Taunya, who told the stories so well, we wanted to learn more.  It’s a little dry, but pretty interesting.

Allagash Brewing Company’s ‘Uncommon Crow’ We grabbed a bottle of this when we visited the brewery in Portland, Maine.  It’s an ale that’s been brewed with their custom blend of barley, wheat and rye malt and then aged with blackberries which give it this amazing cola color and wonderful berry flavor without tasting overly fruity or sweet.

Wet Noz Bowls for the Pets – We picked these up before we left because we wanted something durable, but would also keep the pet food up off the ground so bugs or dirt was less likely to get in it.  Plus, they’re super cute!

WHERE TO NEXT:   New Brunswick

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