Beach season is upon us, that ever so short summer in the Maritimes when it is hot enough to want to swim in the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I make no apologies for it as a west coaster living on the east coast: the waters here are cold.
Beaches aren’t just about the water, though. Location, landscape, trails, amenities, and a nearby ice cream shop all contribute to a successful beach day. We have frequented many of the beaches in Nova Scotia, and I have selected five that I think offer the best overall experience.
Point Michaud Beach, Richmond County, Cape Breton Island
Point Michaud looks like it should be a beach in some sunny southern clime. The sand is amazing, the beach goes on forever, and the waves are mesmerizing to watch. The water is so, so cold, but on a hot, hot day, a quick plunge is refreshing. There are picnic tables, change huts and outhouses – all the amenities you need. The coastal scenery around Point Michaud is rugged and gorgeous as well.
Black Brook Cove, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
While we’re on Cape Breton, Black Brook Cove is a must see. Likely one of the most photographed beaches in the national park, it brings in waves that make body surfing possible. Our first time there was a memorable stop for a bite to eat followed by a riotous hour of crashing in the waves.
Port Hood, Inverness County, Cape Breton Island
Port Hood has a little park where the visitors go to a lovely long beach that is quiet and the waters are actually warm. The bay is sheltered and shallow so the water warms nicely. The only warm waters I’ve found. The locals go to the beach across the bay by the wharf, so you can get two beaches for one visit. Quiet and warm, though, are the qualities that brought us back to Port Hood.
Tor Bay, Guysborough County
Tor Bay Provincial Park has a cool little beach with several curves and twists, interesting walking trails, incredible sand in some areas, massive rocks to climb over in others. It looks like it would be a rough place in a storm, but on a beach day, while it may not be the best place for swimming, it’s a sweet find off the beaten path.
Blomidon, Annapolis Valley
Blomidon Provincial Park is one of the nicest camping parks in Nova Scotia. Too bad they close the park after Labour Day – a serious misstep for their tourism industry. The beach is accessible year round, down, way down, a set of wooden stairs. The picnic area is up where the view is, the beach is down the cliff on the Minas Basin. Don’t even think about going in the water, but make sure you take the time to explore the vast beach and the waterfall. The cliffs that rise several hundred feet as the backdrop add to the drama of this beach.
Nearby Kingsport Beach is a similar great beach to explore at low tide with a view of all that makes the Annapolis Valley spectacular. A winery or two to visit on the way to the beach helps make the journey the destination.
Two bonus beaches!
Halls Harbour and Advocate Harbour beaches are rocky more than sandy, and the Bay of Fundy waters are way too cold to contemplate swimming in, but I am offering both locations as bonuses because they are two of the most impressive landscapes in the province. Well worth the winding roads that lead to them.
That’s way more than five beaches. Nova Scotia does call itself Canada’s ocean playground. Enjoy!
Prince Edward Island desperately needs a museum. News that Founders’ Hall in Charlottetown will not open this year is just another indication that there really is not much to attract families to the island outside of summer. Not that Founders’ Hall was the best interpretive centre around; political history doesn’t have much appeal on the surface, but Founders’ Hall did a good job of making it interesting. It was something family friendly, educational and cultural. It offered something that nothing else on the island offers.
A family friendly museum creates a destination for weekend travellers. It’s something that is understood in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We have experienced several interesting, engaging and family friendly museums in the Maritimes, and each time we ask ourselves why PEI could not have something like this.
During spring break last year, we, and many other Islanders judging from the people we met, went to Halifax to see Sue the T. Rex at the Museum of Natural History. The dinosaur exhibit was incredible, more so because it came to what is essentially a small market. The permanent collection of the museum was great as well. It was bitterly cold in Halifax; indoor activities were in high demand. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was another hit. Something both places got right was having hands-on activities for children. Seeing is one thing. Seeing and doing is so much more.
The Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg is another great example. There is a lot to see, but there is also a lot for children to do. They can experience something there, and that makes a large museum tolerable and even attractive to them. It also makes the educational experience much more memorable.
It doesn’t have to be just a shoulder season attraction either. The Fundy Geological Museum, in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, with its dinosaur interpretive centre, was a destination for us on a camping trip last summer, and it was the perfect place to spend part of a rainy day. Inclement weather happens anytime. An indoor attraction is a bonus when you are living in a small tent.
Our museum excursions started with a truly enjoyable fall weekend in Saint John, New Brunswick. The New Brunswick Museum‘s Hall of Great Whales has full whale skeletons and life size full body models of whales. It has a mastodon skeleton. Who doesn’t like to wander among giant animal recreations? The changing earth exhibit is interactive. The children get to look for fossils and tracks and make rubbings. To our surprise, after enough things to do, the girls were willing to go through the art gallery and pick which paintings they liked the best.
The key to a good museum is engaging the visitors, especially the younger ones. They don’t have to be big. A couple of hours is plenty of time for most young children to see and do everything. They typically are not expensive to visit, certainly not when compared to the high prices of most of those tiresome amusement parks. And each time we visit a museum and have a memorable experience, we start to look for others to visit. We make a list, and this year we’ll cross off a few more enticing destinations. Perhaps one of these years, that destination will be right here on PEI.
One of the dynamics of my wife and I both being photographers is that we sometimes compete not only for the camera but also with our photos. After she went out to the bus yesterday morning and took along the camera, I ventured outside to take pictures in our frosty yard as well. Stephenie shared some of her photos here. Since a snow storm is trying to get going tonight, I decided to end the seven days of photos of the details of our house with this frosty close up of a metal decoration that is attached to our front deck. That’s still part of the house, right?
The response and feedback on this assignment and the photos I have shared have been interesting and insightful. I appreciate all the likes, comments and traffic immensely. Clearly photography is a popular topic on WordPress. I gained readers/viewers. It’s made me feel more pressure than I anticipated to post good photos that will bring people back! At the same time, I caught myself thinking more than once, what was I thinking promising a photo every day?
Is this a hole in the floor, in the wall, or the ceiling? It’s a mirror on the wall reflecting the ceiling. One more photo to go tomorrow!