Sitting on the edge of my wooden seat, gripping onto my headphones, sweat started to fill my body as a tear rolled down my face. The tragedy that is the history of the Grand-Pré was hard to fathom. 450 men tricked into a meeting, then to be pulled from their families and their land, possibly never to be reunited again.
As a mother and a wife this harsh reality was difficult to face, even though I was only watching a video reenactment of that fateful displacement of the Acadian people. As a Westcoaster, I haven’t had the privilege of learning about Acadian Culture and this trip to Grand-Pré further solidified my passion for our National Historic Sites and why visiting them is an important opportunity for families and visitors alike.
Why is Grand-Pré a World Heritage Site?
The Grand-Pré National Historic Site commemorates the Grand-Pré area of the Minas Basin in Nova Scotia, Canada. The site includes the remains of Acadian dykes and habitation sites, as well as the Church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines. In addition, the site features a variety of interpretive programs and exhibits that tell the story of the Acadians who lived in the area.
The interpretive programs and exhibits at Grand-Pré National Historic Site help to bring the history of the area to life for visitors. Through these programs, visitors can learn about the unique culture of the Acadians and the events that led to their expulsion from Grand-Pré in 1755. As a result, Grand-Pré National Historic Site is an important place for Canadians to visit in order to learn about our country’s history. I’m embarrassed to say how little I know about Acadian culture in Canada but grateful to Parks Canada for sharing this important story and helping visitors learn about our history and the future of Nova Scotia’s Acadians.
When was Grand-Pré Founded?
Grand-Pré in Nova Scotia was originally founded in 1680 by French settlers. The name “Grand-Pré” refers to the large meadow that the settlers found when they arrived. The community quickly grew and prospered, thanks to the fertile land and access to the nearby bay. Fishing soon became the main industry in Grand-Pré, and the town became known for its lobster. In 1755, the British deported the Acadian people from Grand-Pré, and the town was left empty. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that settlers began to move back into the area.
Why is Grand-Pré Important?
In the early 1600s, the first French settlers arrived in Nova Scotia, drawn by the region’s abundant natural resources. They called the area “Acadie” and established a thriving community centered around the village of Grand-Pré. The Acadians prospered for nearly 150 years, developing a unique culture and way of life. However, their peaceful existence came to an abrupt end in 1755 when the British began deporting them from their homeland. Over the next decade, more than 10,000 Acadians were forced into exile. Although they were scattered across North America, many Acadians eventually found their way back to Nova Scotia.
Do Acadians still Exist?
Today, their descendants (Estimated to be at 4 million) continue to live in the region and keep alive the memory of their ancestors. The village of Grand-Pré is now a national historic site that commemorates the Acadian people and their history.
Immerse in a powerful monument that unites the Acadian people. Uncover the tale of Le grand dérangement through engaging multimedia. Admire the statue of Evangeline, the heroine of an epic Longfellow poem. View impressive artefacts and statues, storytellers of a turbulent history.
Located in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is Grand-Pré National Historic Site—once the epicentre of Acadian culture and now the most significant memorial to their tragic upheaval.
Your Guide to Visiting Grand-Pré National Historic Site:
Grand-Pré National Historic Site Interpretive Centre
Your visit will start at the Interpretive Center where I recommend watching the informational video sharing the story behind this National Historic Site. As I mentioned it was difficult to watch at times as I found it very relatable as well as hard to believe that this actually happened on Canadian soil. However, I do recommend it to visitors as it is a professionally produced reenactment that really showcases the history, insights into the people, and the lifestyle that was once enjoyed on this land.
Sensitivity Warning – The video shown at the National Historic Site may not be suitable for sensitive family members or younger guests. While an important story told very professionally, it is an emotional one that can be difficult to process.
Artifacts and Educational Displays
After watching the video you’ll be welcomed over to the display area where you can enjoy a variety of educational displays showcasing the agricultural landscape, lifestyle of the Acadian people, food and farming, as well as daily living. Be sure to check with one of the Parks Canada Interpreters as they may have additional programing available depending on the season.
As you walk outside and out onto the park’s land you’ll be greeted by a series of statues that was commissioned in 2006 to mark the 250th anniversary since the great deportation occurred. This once stood high above the park in the field overlooking the site but was moved closer to allow guests to see it better. Standing there you can really connect with the vision the artist had, which was to showcase the tearing apart of families that happened right here on this site.
The Evangeline Statue
The Evangeline statue in Grand-Pré Nova Scotia is a beautiful and moving monument. Evangeline was a fictional character, who vowed to find her true love, Gabriel, but decades after looking for him only found him days before his death. Her love story was written in a 100-page poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and inspired millions. Her story became a symbol of the Deportation and the perseverance of the Acadian people. The statue stands in the center of the Acadian settlement and is a beautiful and moving tribute to the Acadian people and their culture.
Church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines
The Church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines celebrates the 100th Anniversary of its creation in the Summer of 2022. Originally erected in 1922 to commemorate the Acadian history and mark the significance of this place, it has been visited by millions to pay their respects and learn about the history of the Acadian people and the great deportation.
Inside The Church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines
Inside you’ll find curated artwork that showcases a visual representation of the story of life before, after, and during deportation. One of the most striking features seen best from inside the Church is the stained glass windows, when looking closely you’ll see a depiction of a family being torn apart, the men hauled out to sea and the women and children left behind on shore.
Walking the Grounds of the Grand-Pré National Historic Site
Whether you take a 15-minute stroll or spend a week exploring the 110 Harvest Moon Trailway there are lots of ways to explore the parkland, the history that lies within, as well as the area that surrounds Grand-Pré and the history that is woven between all of the stops along the trailway.
Xplorers Program at Grand-Pré National Historic Site
If you’re visiting with children I highly recommend participating in the Xplorers program. Grab a book from the main desk and head out on an interactive and fun scavenger hunt as you learn different facts about Grand-Pré in a child-centered form of learning. To learn more about what to expect from the Parks Canada Xplorers program check out this article.
oTENTiks at Grand-Pré National Historic Site
Set back into the rolling hills overlooking the Church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines are the classic Parks Canada oTENTiks. Perfect for families looking to extend their stay, these glamping accommodations are the perfect combination of comfort and experience all wound up into one campsite.
FAQs about Grand-Pré National Historic Site:
Is Grand-Pré open?
Grand-Pré National Historic site is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 4 pm.
How much does it cost to go to Grand-Pré?
Prices change on an annual basis, so check here for the most up-to-date pricing.
Why did Grand-Pré become a popular tourist attraction?
Situated on the banks of the Annapolis Basin in Nova Scotia, Grand-Pré has been a popular tourist destination for many years. The area is best known for its role in the Acadian deportation when thousands of Acadians were forcibly removed from their homes by the British in 1755. Today, visitors can learn about this dark chapter in Canadian history at the Grand-Pré National Historic Site, which includes a memorial to the Acadian people. In addition to its historical significance, Grand-Pré is also a beautiful spot for nature lovers. TheMarsh Boardwalk offers scenic views of the tidal flats and salt marshes, and there are several hiking trails through the nearby woods. With its rich history and natural beauty, it’s no wonder that Grand-Pré is such a popular tourist destination.