Thursday, July 25, 2013

Touring Nova Scotia - The Lighthouse Route

This is part two of my series on Nova Scotia. You can read post one about Halifax here.

For ease of touring, Nova Scotia is divided into seven regions and ten scenic travelways. I don't think we had the seven regions when I was a kid, just the travelways, because simply seeing each scenic logo on the map makes me feel like I'm about ten years old again! Anyway, if you travel clockwise from Halifax, the next region over is called the South Shore and the route is the Lighthouse Route, which stretches from Halifax almost to Yarmouth. The most famous tourist attraction in this region is almost certainly Peggy's Cove.

My dad and I near the Peggy's Cove Lighthouse in 2008

I heard a rumour that the lighthouse is up for sale and that it's in danger of being torn down if no one buys it. My information is kind of out of date, so if anyone has heard anything more recently, please let me know! But I would say that if seeing the lighthouse is on  your bucket list, you should probably go sooner rather than later. :)

The Cove is about an hour from Halifax, and it's a great place to stop for lunch. The tiny community is full of shops and whatnot, but the most famous is the Sou'Wester restaurant and gift shop. It's been there as long as I can remember, and the food is reliable Nova Scotian fare.

From Peggy's Cove, continue up around St. Margaret's Bay until Peggy's Cove Road meets up with St. Margaret's Bay Road. There you have the choice of following SMB Road as it winds along the coast (beautiful!) or continuing a bit further to the 'new' 103 highway. It's about an hour and twenty minutes to Mahone Bay from Peggy's Cove taking the coastal route through Chester. If you skip Chester and take the highway, it's only an hour.

I've never explored Chester, known as a sailing hub, but plan to go next time I'm out there. If you go during Chester Race Week, you might see my brother lurking among the sailboats!

About half way between Chester and Mahone Bay is the infamous Oak Island. When I was a kid the popular theory was that the island was the hiding place of the pirate treasure of Captain Kidd. Since then, probably thanks to the invention of the internet, wild theories abound. It looks like tours go there now in the summer to view the "money pit" (which was originally called that for the pirate treasure, but now has the irony of also being a bit into which modern people sink money in the hope of finding something at the bottom of it...) and I would love to go on those one day.

Mahone Bay is another one of Nova Scotia's top must-see locations. Famous for its skyline of three churches, it's also the home of Amos Pewter, and they have a Pirate Festival in early August, which I'd love to check out.

From Mahone Bay it's about fifteen minutes to Lunenburg, a UNESCO world heritage site, one of five in Nova Scotia. My favourite thing in Lunenburg is the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The Fisheries Museum is part of the Nova Scotia Museum system, so considering getting a pass to all 27 museums if you're going to be going to several of them.

Go aboard the ship docked at the museum for a clean look at shipboard life

Lunenburg is the home of the Bluenose, the sailing ship pictured on the Canadian dime, although it's not there very often. Here's a bit of the history of the Bluenose. It's an absolutely beautiful and scenic place to stop.

About half an hour on from Lunenburg is Bridgewater. Honestly, I'm not sure that I've ever stopped there - when I was a kid it was just a place we drove through on our way from point A to point B, but I'll stop next time! It's home to one of Nova Scotia's museums, the Wile Carding Mill. It's also where actor Donald Sutherland, who was born in New Brunswick, grew up.

The most important thing about Bridgewater is that if you don't want to go all the way around the very southern tip of Nova Scotia, this is one of three places where you can cut across the interior and get to the Bay of Fundy. I don't recommend it unless you're extremely pressed for time and in a hurry to get to Wolfville. At the very least, I would go (and have gone) another half an hour on to Liverpool and then across the interior to Annapolis Royal on the Bay of Fundy from there. Next time I'm going all the way around the end though, and that's what we're going to do in this post.

About half an hour from Bridgewater, Liverpool is home to the Perkins House Museum of the Nova Scotia Museum (Simon Perkins was a privateer...), Privateer Days, and Fort Point Lighthouse where Champlain landed in 1604.

Another half an hour on is Thomas H. Raddall Provincial Park, with campsites and walking trails if you need a leg-stretch on the arduous 45-minute trip to Shelburne. :)

I haven't been to Shelburne since I was about five, but it's on my list of places to go again. It's the home of two Nova Scotia Museums - Ross-Thompson House and the Dory Shop. It's also the home of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, a fascinating and often-overlooked piece of Canadian history. There used to be a small military base there, starting during the second world war, which closed in 1995 and is now apparently decaying, and I'd LOVE to go see it. Apparently a German U-boat surrendered there in 1945, which sounds super interesting.

From Shelburne it's half an hour to Barrington, which is apparently the lobster capital of Canada. It too is home to two Nova Scotia Museums - the Woollen Mill and the Old Meeting House. There's also an independent museum called the Western Counties Military Museum. I don't think I've ever been to Barrington except to drive through, but it looks historically fascinating.

Cape Sable Island is about fifteen minutes from Barrington, and there's a causeway linking the island to the mainland. The pictures make me think of Florida...

You'll now cross the border between the South Shore region and the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region, but it's still the Lighthouse Trail until you get to Yarmouth.

Pubnico is the first stop in the YaAS region, and it's about half an hour from Barrington. You'll find the Nova Scotia Museum called Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse. I want to go there very badly. It's one of the places where staff in costumer go about the daily business of life in the Acadian era. So fun!

The Église Ste-Anne Church is the oldest Acadian parish on mainland Nova Scotia, and is a beautiful wooden building. It's about fifteen minutes on from Pubnico and looks like a beautiful place to take a few photos. Another five minutes down the road is the Argyle Township Courthouse and Gaol, Canada's oldest standing courthouse.

At this point it's another fifteen minutes to the town of Yarmouth, which we'll keep for another post. It marks the end of the Lighthouse Route and the beginning of the Evangeline Trail, which, if I HAD to pick a favourite part of Nova Scotia, would probably be it. :) Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to track down ideas or answers for you!

I just realized that this post took about three hours to write. Please don't let my labour be in vain - visit Nova Scotia today! :) And we're having a massive thunderstorm that made the lights flicker, so I'm posting this quickly before I lose all my hard work! If there are any typos, please don't let me know...


Rhonda H said...

Nice to find this blog as I will be going along that route this summer. Thanks for the guide!

MichelleH said...

So glad I could help! Enjoy your trip!