The Landscape of Grand Pré is a polder created for farmland by the Acadian community.
The reclamation of the land in this tidal flooded zone was carried out in stages in the 17th and 18th centuries. The polderisation used dykes as well as a community-based management system still in use today. The landscape includes the towns of Grand Pré and Hortonville, which were built by the Acadians and the British Planters respectively.
Grand Pré became the place of memory for the Acadian diaspora. These descendants of the 17th-century French colonists were deported from here in 1755 by the British colonial officers. A number of symbolic memorial buildings and monuments to commemorate this has been added to the landscape in the 20th century.
Map of Grand PréLoad map
Grand Pré is comprised mainly of marshland that was first polderised by the Acadians in the 17th century for farming and settlement. Its inscription is based on two justifications: (1) the site represents the development of traditional agricultural techniques by the Acadians that adapted to the environmental and tidal conditions of the area, and (2) the site is a testimony to an important part of the history of this region—the Acadian diaspora.
Our visit last November 2022 was an easy 1-hour drive from Halifax. As we were visiting outside of the dates of operation (from May to October) the visitor reception centre, the memorial church, and bookings for the tent accommodation and guided tours were all closed. The grounds remain open year-round. Visiting outside the season meant that learning about Grand Pre's history on-site would be limited to the information panels scattered around the area, and thus, prior reading is helpful. On a positive note, we didn't have to pay anything and you could expect that there would be a lot fewer visitors, which was the case during our visit.
After crossing a railway track that seemed to double as a walking trail, we were welcomed by the statue of Evangeline, the heroine of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that retold the story of Le Grand Dérangement. Past the statue is the memorial church, which was pretty much the main building on the site. We continued strolling to the west and reached an area where the tiny blacksmith shop stands. This area provides visitors the opportunity to view the expansive farms and dykelands. We circled and walked towards the east of the park, where there weren’t much to see other than the Herbin cross and the bust of Longfellow. As there was nothing much to do, we decided to go to Horton Landing to see the Acadian Memorial cross. We got to hang around the area for a bit before ending our visit to the site. Driving through the farmlands to reach Evangeline beach never crossed my mind as I was more interested in finding a restaurant to eat and relax. Fortunately, the lovely college town of Wolfville was just a few minutes' drive from Grand Pré. I would say that travelers to the area should not miss visiting this town, as the restaurants, bars, and the pretty Acadia University give the town its youthful vibe.
Whether it deserves inscription or not is a matter of contention. However, Grand Pré is undoubtedly an important heritage and archaeological site in this part of North America and a solemn love letter to the Acadians.
Nowadays this is mostly a Place of Remembrance for the Acadian people, who were forcefully evicted from their lands in 1755. No expense has been spared for a rather grandiose visitor center, a rebuilt church and surrounding gardens. Upon entering the visitor center, I was immediately stimulated to go and see the 20min video, which is being played in the theatre. It tells the story of how the Acadians were chased from their land. It left me with a weird feeling – it's like a propaganda film.
The World Heritage area is larger than this alone (and free to visit): it includes farmland in the polder, a wooden church from 1861 founded by the British Planters who subsequently cultivated the land, and a memorial to both the Acadians and the Planters at Horton Landing. By car I drove past all these locations, they are only a few kilometers apart.
All original buildings were burned by the British colonists. The picture shows the Acadian Cross at Horton Landing, the location from which the Acadians had to leave by boat. This visual perspective, with Cape Blomidon in the distance, is actually part of the World Heritage values. I have never seen “viewsheds” as this displayed so explicitly on a WH map.
Like most others, I rate this site very low. It should never have been inscribed. I have no problem with the descendants of the Acadians wanting to commemorate this place, but its universal value is lost on me.
Read more from Els Slots here.
I visited Grand Pré with my family in August 2019 during our WH trip to Nova Scotia. We came from Amherst (our base for Joggins) and headed next to Lunenberg. We stayed at a campground in North Grand Pré for two nights. It means we had to cross the core zone anytime we wanted to go somewhere.
As the tragic history of Acadians is already explained by previous reviewers, I will concentrate on my visit. We arrived there by midday and spent our first afternoon touring the polder. The size of the landscape is impressive when you consider that Acadians took it from the sea by building dykes and aboiteaux. Moreover, it's not any sea. It's the Bay of Fundy with the highest tides in the world, averaging 11.6 m at the site!
We started our visit around the church, with the statue and the nice gardens. We then walked to the viewpoint which is a must do the realize the size of this podler! [photo showing the view of the church and Cape Blomidon in the background, which was included in the buffer zone for this view] Our next stop was the Covenanter church, which is just outside the core zone. This church was built in 1811 and is the oldest extant Presbyterian Church in Canada and a National Historic Site of Canada. We then made it by car to Horton Landing and the Deportation Cross, which is where Acadians were forced to board boats, but also where New England Planters landed.
We dedicated our second day to a hike at Cape Split. Nevertheless, we visited two other points of interest around Grand Pré. First, the small and closed North Grand Pré Community Church. Lastly, we enjoyed The Guzzle, at the tip of East Long Island Road. It offers a great view of the Bay of Fundy and is good for birding. When we were there, we saw thousands of sandpipers moving in synchrony. Evangeline Beach is a similarly interesting site for wildlife spotting and tides watching.
Overall, Grand Pré depicts an important history and impressive landscape planning techniques in a large tidal range environment. Nothing is life changing here, but it is definitely a pleasant visit.
Visited 20JUL 2018
This site is in a marshland area on the south shore of the Bay of Fundy, close to Wolfeville, being pleasant and historic and would be a good place to stay nearby.
The Visitor Centre at Grand Pré is impressive, especially its multimedia exhibits of the brilliant diking systems of the Acadians and in-depth explanations of their cruel expulsion by the British from the lands they worked so hard to tame from the sea.
Caught between French and British power struggles, around 10,000 Acadians were eventually put on ships and taken to other colonies, many winding up in Louisiana in the US, but some of whom found their way back to their cherished homeland. The visitor centre also depicts the way Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made this shameful part of history well known by penning his epic poem “Evangeline.”
There is a pleasant walk along beautiful grounds to see the Statue of Evangeline, a re-built church dedicated to the memory of the Acadians, and a rustic blacksmith shop. Atop a hill, overlooking the Sea is a panoramic vista of the Acadian farmlands. The UNESCO plaque is also to be found there.
Inside the church were some paintings with lines from the poem, “Evangeline”, which were moving. In fact, this whole site was touching and brought to mind one of the many examples of man’s inhumanity in our sad history.
They were caught between two great powers in the 18th century, and so the French Acadians of Grand Pré fell on the wrong side of history. The French settlers had constructed dykes to improve farmland along the coast of the Bay of Fundy, and established trade ties with the British to sell their agricultural bounty. Nevertheless, the Acadians were unwilling to cut ties to the French, and were thus unceremoniously rounded up and exiled from the land they had built. I was familiar with the story of the Acadian diaspora from history classes in school, but it became much easier to envision after visiting the museum at the Canadian national historic site at Grand Pré in September 2017. The museum includes a film about the deportation, while the nearby memorial church displays artifacts and stories from the settlers. I climbed the trail above the site to a lookout (with the World Heritage plaque) in order to view the rich farmland left behind after the British expelled the settlers and burned their villages; the tranquil setting today belies the tragic history. A cross in nearby Hortonville commemorates the Acadian deportation, but Nova Scotia's loss was a gain for the United States, as many of them moved to Louisiana and created a distinctive Cajun culture.
Logistics: Grand Pré is about an hour northwest of Halifax, and can be reached by private transportation; once there, the museum, church, and lookout at the national historic site are all connected by footpaths.
Grand Pre is a cultural landscape located in the northeastern part of Nova Scotia, on the southern shore of Bay of Fundy. This part of the province is not very crowded and the landscape itself is not spectacular, especially comparing to the beautiful ocean views in the south. The site is connected with the history of Acadians, French settlers of this place, expelled by the British in the middle of 18th century. The World Heritage Centre is devoted to the history of Acadians, their daily life and exile. Then, visitors may walk to the surrounding meadow, garden and church (actually, serving as another museum of Acadia rather than as a place of religious ceremonies). The historical part was quite interesting but I am sure that if was not inscribed as WHS, it would not attract many tourists. Being there do not forget to drive along the polder to the sea shore, which during early summer is a place of stop for thousands of migrating birds (I did not see any in September).
By the way, the WH centre informs that the place is the newest WHS in Canada, which is not true since Red Bay Basque Whaling Station was inscribed in 2013.
Janelle Bourque Hoffart
As a direct descendant of those deported in 1775, I finally felt like pieces of my life had come together and I had a real connection to my past. When I arrived at Grand Pre, I felt like I had come home. It was also a very humbling experience to walk where my ancestors lived and eventually left from.The land where I grew up in Louisiana had always been important since this is the area my family settled after leaving "Acadie". Now I know why. The beauty of Grand Pre was indescribable. It is a place I want to return to again.
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