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Explore Nova Scotia by Sea

Date Posted: July 7, 2016Reading time: 5 minutes

by Mark Gascoigne

If You Only Knew… Nova Scotia

If You Only Knew Nova Scotia is a weekly look at some of the wonderful things to do around our province. From Yarmouth to Meat Cove and Canso to Advocate Harbour, Tramps will be reporting on many of the famous and not so famous sites, events and highlights of Canada’s Ocean Playground. 

“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.” – Sir Francis Drake, Sea Captain

When you drive to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick, you are reminded that we are firmly attached to the mainland by a narrow isthmus of land of only about 23 kilometeres, or 14 miles long. However, when you fly into Halifax, whether you approach from north, west, east or south, you fly over water, every time. You could be easily forgiven to think you had landed on an island.

Further evidence supporting the island theory is that despite the fact that it’s only a little over 700 km from tip to tip, Nova Scotia has over 7500 km of coastline. That’s right, despite being Canada’s second smallest province, our tiny, beloved Nova Scotia has got more coastline than you will find across all of New England.
Since 1972, Nova Scotia’s licence plates have proudly claimed “Canada’s Ocean Playground” — a slogan that still holds true today.

FullSizeRender-1Sure, PEI and Newfoundland are both real islands, but neither has the diversity of activities, events and attractions that we have here in Nova Scotia. If you don’t believe me, just watch a couple of Tourism Nova Scotia’s new TV spots. This ad-series is apparently made up of over 200 examples of such activities, many of which pertain to the water, for obvious reasons.

In all of its glory, I suppose it really should have come as no surprise to me that even folks from New Brunswick appreciate our province’s coastline and its 3800 islands. This week, again passing MEC, I came across this couple from the Saint John, NB, area who had just returned from 4 days of paddling the South Shore. They were beaming about two spots in particular — the Kejimkujik Seaside and Port Mouton (the locals pronounce it ‘Port Matoon’). As much as this couple was proud of their home province of New Brunswick, they said that when paddling back home, they just don’t get the same feeling of the open ocean while still having the shelter of the hundreds of bays and islands that Nova Scotia offers.

NB Paddlers

NB Paddlers

Of course, I would humbly agree that this province is nothing short of a paddler’s paradise, and I happen to have a few favourite spots of my own down the South Shore way as well.

Blue Rocks, a charming old fishing village and top sea-kayaking destination, is an adventurous archipelago of over fifty islands for paddlers to weave in and out of, and a stunning place to paddle for its scenery. For one thing, the area gets its name quite literally from the beautiful blue colour of its slate coastal rocks. As if that’s not enough, there are also lots of opportunities to spot sea creatures here along the way — including seals. Our New Brunswick friends did Blue Rocks on their own, but if you’re looking for a tour, Pleasant Paddling offers three per day at affordable prices. The Ovens Sea Caves, LaHave Islands and the historic waterfront of Lunenburg are also great spots to paddle in the area.

Hitting the water in a sailboat can be another particularly satisfying way to explore and appreciate Nova Scotia’s vast coastline, not to mention maritime-like! One of my favourite places to sail and stay is in scenic Chester, which offers many B&B’s, restaurants and unique shops once docked. Of course, Chester is also home to the famous Chester Race Week (Canada’s Largest Keel Boat Regatta), which attracts thousands from around the globe each year.

Another sought-after experience is to sail the 365 islands of Mahone Bay, or even head up to Baddeck and sail Bras d’Or Lake — the famous ‘inland sea’ in the middle of Cape Breton Island and home to many highly regarded regattas, including the upcoming ‘Race the Cape’. Whether you’re setting sail on your own or taking advantage of organized tours, sailing is certainly a great way to explore the province and enjoy the views of Nova Scotia’s diverse landscape from the water.

FullSizeRenderThough our friends from New Brunswick had no plans to sail on their trip, I was happy to hear that they were keen to get out on the water one last time in Halifax before heading home the next day. I suggested they hop onboard the Tall Ship Silva schooner and enjoy a few cocktails on the deck while taking in views of the harbour from the sea — one of my personal favourites. To my surprise, it turned out they had actually already arranged a water taxi tour, which would take them on a sunset cruise of the Halifax Harbour and the Northwest Arm. With views of the historical harbour, Point Pleasant Park, vintage sailboats and luxurious waterfront homes, I knew this cruise would be a great way for our friends to cap off their trip.


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