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Published: August 20th 2022
Upon departing Prince Edward Island, we again crossed the Confederation Bridge into Nova Scotia where we stopped for a few more photos. It is a beautiful piece of concrete. They will be paying off this bridge for a while….at over $50 Canadian per vehicle maybe it won’t take that long. So, we took our fair share of pictures and then some more. Perhaps better planning would have had us taking the ferry and perhaps shaving some time, but by the time we realized this, there were no reservations to be had on the ferry at a time of our choosing. Pushing on, it would be several hours until we reached our next destination, Cheticamp, a town at the base of the Cabot Trail in the Cape Breton National Park.
Once we checked into our motel, which was a super-cute Mom and Pop operation, we headed off to the grocery store to gather a few snacks for dinner. The goal was to hike the Skyline Trail and arrive at the observation point before sunset. The weather was perfect, and a great sunset was in the offing.
The Skyline Trail is one of the more popular hikes along the
Cabot Trail because it goes along the water. It has a dramatic headland which overlooks the rugged Gulf of Saint Lawrence coast. There is a very nice boardwalk that makes the walking easy as you approach the cliffs. Along the hike we went on one of the side trails to a two-level observation deck which allowed you to view the rolling hills and get an idea of what was to come. In part of this park, they had ten foot fencing with gates that we needed to pass through. This was the park’s attempt at keeping the animals away from some of the trees and shrubs as they had been damaging some of the plant life. Martha’s planning paid off handsomely, as we arrived an hour or more before sunset, grabbed a good bench and enjoyed the ever-changing sunset colors. It was spectacular!
The next morning after breakfast we headed for a full day excursion driving the famous Cabot Trail. We stopped at Lone Shieling to see 400 year old sugar maples trees and a replica of a Scottish crofter’s hut. Before arriving we thought we were going to see “ one tree” that was 400 years old. Once
there we realized the maple forest was 400 years old and the trees were about 115 feet (35 meters +) and they were 350 to 400 years old. It was a lovely, forested path with flowers, several butterflies, and birds.
As the day continued, we stopped at several scenic overlooks to ooohhh and ahhh at the dramatic coastline and quaint villages. Neils Harbor and a picnic lunch at White Point were two of our favorite stops along the Cabot Trail. We walked most of the Middle Head Trail, but it turned out to be a warm day and Martha was wilting in the heat…. so, after getting some phenomenal views of the ocean, we headed back.
After a tasty dinner at the Harbor Restaurant, we strolled along the boardwalk, feeling quite fortunate to get a table at any restaurant, given that there were four weddings in this small town that weekend. Sometimes you just get lucky…. Darmouth
With our last long day of driving ahead of us we drove the scenic route to Dartmouth, which is across the river from Halifax. This city has about 100,000 people and proved to be a nice respite where we
Beer & Lobster
Dave & Chuck... enough said!
found great pizza and cold beer in a somewhat Bohemian neighborhood. We stayed in a nice Air BnB which gave us an opportunity to do laundry. While the washers were doing their thing, we were able to walk a couple of blocks to a scenic overlook to enjoy the water, the bridge, and downtown views of Halifax.
The following day, we headed off in search of more lighthouses. We had an incredibly scenic stop at Peggy’s Cove on our drive. This town is all that you hope to see when visiting Nova Scotia. It is a picturesque place with its famous lighthouse as a focal point. Up to this point, we had been moderately disappointed in the lighthouses in this part of the world. Especially on PE Island, they appeared almost cookie-cutter in design and mostly of wood construction. Peggy’s Cove is different….it is perched high, surround by the sea and rolling hills of stone. Simply lovely. No wonder it is in so many photographs. We made a quick visit to the gift shop before strolling the quaint waterfront and shops. News flash… we finally found a painting we want to put on our living room wall. We’ve been
searching for seven years. (ever since we bought the condo in 2015) It should arrive in the Florida the week after we get home. We would have liked to have stayed longer but we needed to press on as there was much more to see. Cookville
Cookville was our base for the next part of our journey and it served us well, providing decent lodging, including yet another indoor swimming pool (these are quite popular in these parts due to the many months of inclement weather) along with a restaurant. On our way south from Dartmouth, we stopped at Rebecca’s Café in Mahone Bay, where we had a fabulous lunch (scallop and beet salad) and were quite fortunate to arrive when we did as they were closing that afternoon due to the heat! The general warmth experienced here was a bit much for our northern neighbors and they said the kitchen was simply too warm to cook. Temps were in the upper 80’s, which is far warmer than the norm in these parts.
Nova Scotia’s history is tied to fishing and we experienced that when we got to Lunenberg, which is a smallish town on the southwest
Theresa E Connor Schooner
Canada's oldest salt bank schooner
coast. Lunenberg is a UNESCO site as it is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Many of the houses and buildings have been preserved in their architectural tradition from the 1800’s. It’s a seriously cute town and did not disappoint. We toured the Fishery Museum and Sailor Memorial, which provided in-depth (no pun intended) information about the town’s place in history. The exhibits told the story of the hard life of fisherman, who often risked their lives and sometimes simply did not return due to harsh weather. Nova Scotians are very reverent in their regard for these proud men, who lived a hard life to feed the population. Yarmouth
Our drive that day ended up in Yarmouth, which was a major ship building town in the late 1800’s. We stayed at a rather tired hotel for the night but had a great meal at Rudder’s Seafood which buoyed (pun intended ) our experience. We had a lobster dinner, which was quite tasty! Yarmouth also has a well-done memorial to those fisherman who have lost their lives over the millennia.
We intentionally attempted to take the road less traveled on our
drives, in order to be as close as possible to the coast and see the inlets and most importantly, the lighthouses. Cape Sable was one of our favorites, as we fancied the design of the light house and got up close to hear the fog horns that sounded about every 30 seconds. The sound reverberated out on the foggy waters and provided a mysterious experience. We also took time to walk along the sandy beach near Cape Sable to take in the scenic views.
At this point, we would be remiss if we did not mention the indigenous population of these parts, the Miꞌkmaq. They are the first inhabitants of this region and were spread over a wide swath of land, that included the Canadian Atlantic Provinces, the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec as well as the northeastern region of Maine. We learned that while they did not mind sharing the land with the new white settlers, as usual, things did not go well. Chalk it up to an oft repeated history of interaction with white settlers in the “new land.”
We were able to visit the Kejumkeijik Park on our way to Digby, which allowed us an opportunity
Path along the Skyline
The Cabot Trail Nova Scotia
to view some very interesting petroglyphs. We learned that crosses, sailing vessels, and animals, were etched into slate rocks. Although we saw but a small sample of these due to a need to preserve them, the petroglyphs date from the late prehistoric period through the nineteenth century. At this site we splashed water on the petroglyphs so they would show up more dramatically.
Also worthy of mention are the Acadians, who originally immigrated from France in the 1700’s. As the British ended up claiming most of the regions where the Acadians lived, there became an issue as to whether or not the Acadians were loyal to the British or French. The British found most did not support them and as a result, most Acadians were deported to various British American colonies, where many were put into forced labor or servitude. Some Acadians were deported to England, some to the Caribbean, and some to France. After being expelled to France, many Acadians were eventually recruited by the Spanish government to migrate to Luisana (present-day Louisiana). Their descendants gradually developed what became known as Cajun culture. In time, some Acadians returned to the Maritime provinces of Canada, mainly to New Brunswick. Digby
It was time to head northeast and towards the town of Digby, which is just on the other side of a barrier peninsula from the Bay of Fundy. On our drive there, we stopped at a quaint little UFO museum. It seems that back in the late 60’s a cargo jet crew spotted something quite unusual in the sky. It became known as the the “Shag Harbour UFO incident”. The crew witnessed, but did not report the impact of an unknown large object into waters near Shag Harbour, a tiny fishing village. Others on the ground, however reported the sighting and an investigation ensued. Nothing came of the investigation….of course!
Digby is perhaps best known as the scallop capital of the world and certainly did not disappoint. Upon our arrival, we learned that a truck had accidentally caused a major power outage to the downtown area that morning. Fortunately for us, this got resolved by dinner time and we enjoyed some delicious scallops at a place on the bay.
Near Digby are three land masses called the Digby Neck, Long Island and Brier Island. You can drive to Long Island but must take a small
Bay of Funday Tide Changes
The water was high on the shore not long ago.
ferry to reach Brier Island…. and good news they are free of charge!
The next day, we found a nice rocky perch on Long Island and had a nice picnic lunch while watching the water, which was slowly receding from the tidal pull. We enjoyed watching the birds and ships. The weather was quite pleasant, making for a grand day on the water. Our tour of the peninsula saw us catch passage on ferries that took us to Brier Island, where we were mesmerized by the tidal pull of the waters through the Grand Passage which separated Brier Island from Long Island. We sat in amazement of the rapidly flowing water as it made its way from the Bay of Fundy, through the Grand Passage to St. Mary’s Bay and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. Gulls and Comoran ducks found this spot quite appealing for food and what appeared to be…fun!
Late afternoon as we drove back toward Digby from our island adventure, we stopped to take photos at a fishing dock we had stopped at earlier in the day. During high tide the boats were anchored to the dock but on our return, they rested on the muddy
floor of the bay. It is something to see the dramatic water changes!
Our drive the next day took us to Annapolis Royal, which has a rich history in Nova Scotia. It was the first British capital of Nova Scotia and also housed Fort Anne, which changed hands a few times between the French and British during several battles. The Acadians and the Miꞌkmaq were a part of this as well and as a result were part of the rich history of this region. The strategic placement of this fort prevented many attacks. The modern-day reconstruction provided us with a deeper understanding of the times and a quite pleasant stroll of the grounds. Grand Pre
This was another great moment during our time in Nova Scotia. Dave had seen the tide change at the Bay of Fundy as a youngster and was incredibly eager to see it again. We were impressed by the location we picked to stay in Grand Pre as we were on the waterfront and could sit and watch the tides come and go. We knew high tide was at 1pm and arrived early so we would be there to see how high the
tides went. After watching for a while, we made a speedy trip into town to purchase refreshments for lunch so we could continue to sit and watch the changes. We were filled with joy so we changed our dinner plan and got a take-out meal so we could continue to watch the rapidly changing tides. The clouds changed, the tides changed – we were surrounded by a unique event that happens twice daily, and we wanted to cherish each moment. Low tide blew our mind due to the billions of gallons of water (yes you read that right) that disappeared from the cove. About every six hours, 50 billion tons of water move in or out of the bay’s location. That’s hard to get your mind around, but there it was.
At low tide, we took a short walk on the bed of the bay. The further out we went the thicker the mud got so we turned around and enjoyed the view from our bench. We made it ¾ of the way to the lowest tide point. The setting sun was magnificent, and the sky was filled with colors of yellow, pink, and orange. Our day was complete.
Some of the neighbors at the hotels set off fireworks in the evening. The celebration seemed justified somehow.
Due to the previous day’s experience, we decided to linger the next morning and watch the tides until we were forced to check out of the motel. We then headed to breakfast about a mile from where we were staying. After breakfast and before heading to our next destination we circled back to watch the tides for another half hour. We wanted every moment with this amazing phenomenon. In retrospect, we should have stayed another day….or six. Halifax
The next stop would be where it all began….and unfortunately this would be where we would part ways with our friends Chuck and Martha as we were flying on to Newfoundland and they would stay another day in Halifax. We spent a pleasant day on the waterfront and took in the sites of this city. With a full day in the sun, we retired to our hotel for a fine last meal, knowing that this part of our journey was concluding. They spirited us to the airport the next morning for a flight to St. John’s, Newfoundland, where more adventures await….. Last Thoughts
The people of Nova Scotia are so welcoming and friendly. In town after town, they have done a marvelous job of honoring the fallen sailors and fisherman. Each museum does an excellent job of conveying the danger and difficult work of the commercial fisherman. Storms are not their friends and fishing is hard labor.
If you like carrot cake this is the place to visit. They grow lots of carrots and almost every restaurant we were in served it … and it was almost always homemade. Living the dream.
Places we stayed:
The Cornerstone Motel in Cheticamp – we highly recommend this motel.
Windmill Walk – Air Bnb
Best Western Bridgewater Hotel in Cookville
Rodd Grand Yarmouth Hotel – Yarmouth
Admiral Digby Inn – Bay View
Beach Breeze Motel – Grand Pre
Inn on the Lake – Ascend Hotel Collection – Fall River
Restaurants we recommend:
Harbor Restaurant in Cheticamp
The Last Chance Sandwich shop in Cheticamp
Brewry in Darmouth
Rebecca’s in Mahone Bay
Rudder’s Seafood in Yarmouth
Shanty’s for breakfast in Yarmouth
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