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Nova Scotia’s coast/marine life/beaches, Canada

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Did You Know … ?

  • The Sambro Island Lighthouse (1758) is the oldest working lighthouse in the Americas.
  • Most lobsters are greenish when caught; cooking turns them red.
  • Canada has the world’s longest coastline (125,290 miles).
  • The world’s oldest Acadian community is located in Pubnico (from ca. 1653).
  • Male humpback whales communicate using a complex song that can last up to 20 minutes.

From shore to shore

Nova Scotia’s coastline extends about 4,750 miles, impressive for a place that is smaller than West Virginia. But the province in eastern Canada sits in the Atlantic and is connected to New Brunswick only by a narrow (17 miles) isthmus. Besides, part of the province is an island — Cape Breton — linked to the mainland by a causeway.

For promotional purposes, Nova Scotia Tourism divides the province into seven districts. Five — Yarmouth and Acadian Shores, in the southwest; the South Shore, Eastern Shore and Cape Breton Island, plus the capital Halifax — face the Atlantic. The Fundy Shore and Annapolis Valley area overlooks the Bay of Fundy, opposite New Brunswick, and the north-facing Northumberland Shore looks across the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island.

The Northumberland Shore claims it has more warm-water ocean beach parks than any place in Canada (15). However, there are beaches in all the seven regions, even in the north of Cape Breton Island and on or near the Bay of Fundy. Beach activities range from sunning and swimming to surfing (on the Atlantic side) and, in some cases, bird-watching and wildlife viewing.

Tourist interest in marine life starts with whales. More than a dozen species come to Nova Scotia’s waters. Tourists have many choices for departure points and types of sightseeing craft, from the Zodiac to sheltered vessels, but much of the whale watching centers on the Bay of Fundy and the Cape Breton Island coast. On whale watching outings, tourists also may observe dolphins, porpoises, seals and seabirds (including puffins).

Nova Scotia is a land of seafarers, a fact that provides related coastal attractions (lighthouses, fishing villages); events (regattas, harbor festivals), and food (lobster, salmon and all-out eating fests).

Because of European settlement patterns, coastal towns retain French traditions (including the language) and Scottish customs. This background adds still more variety — Acadian museums, Highland games, traditional crafts, colorful festivals — when exploring Nova Scotia’s coast.

Roads follow much of the coastline, and Nova Scotia Tourism promotes scenic driving routes that focus on specific themes, such as lighthouses, and one each for the two key immigrant groups: the Evangeline Trail and Ceilidh Trail.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Surf the waves at White Point Beach on the South Shore or Lawrencetown Beach on the Eastern Shore.
  • Go to the open sea in a kayak at Lower Prospect on the South Shore or paddle a kayak at Five Islands Provincial Park in the Bay of Fundy. Or kayak alongside Cape Breton Island’s Cabot Trail, and you may be sharing waters with seals and even whales. Also, the Eastern Shore has 12 sea kayaking and canoeing locations.
  • Not all coastal events are about the sea. On the Northumberland Shore or on Cape Breton, look for Highland games and other festivals celebrating Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage.
  • On the Eastern Shore, run the Class 2 whitewater rapids on the Musquodoboit River. Or, on the Bay of Fundy, raft the tidal bore (with 12-foot waves) on the Shubenacadie River.
  • Look for seals and numerous shorebirds at Kejimkujik National Park’s Seaside Adjunct, which touches only 13.6 miles of coastline. The wildlife sightings are frequent.
  • It’s a natural thing to do in Nova Scotia — attend a lobster festival. Look for such fests in places like Shelburne on the South Shore, Pictou on the Northumberland Shore or towns along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Join a whale watching excursion on any of several types of vessels. Also, see dolphins, porpoises, seals and seabirds. Also, go deep-sea fishing.
  • Get acquainted with the coast’s varied attractions by driving the Lighthouse Route, mostly on the South Shore, or the Marine Drive, on the Eastern Shore.
  • Seafaring ways are celebrated in several places. Choose an event that fits your schedule, such as the Mahone Bay Pirate Festival and Regatta, the Chester Race Week and Yarmouth’s Seafest.
  • Mavillette Beach in the southwest is a place for bird-watching and photography.
  • Eat planked salmon, made by roasting the fish on a cedar plank over hot coals, a cooking method that originated with the indigenous people. Then, pick up a recipe for doing this indoors at home. Buy smoked salmon to take home.
  • Acadian culture (meaning French culture, centered mostly in the Canadian Maritimes) survives in many places along Nova Scotia’s coast. Visit relevant museums and historical villages as dispersed as the province’s far southwest to the Acadian region of Cheticamp on Cape Breton Island.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Grab a camera and, when on the South Shore, take photos of Crescent Beach, the Lunenburg Waterfront or the picture-perfect Three Churches in Mahone Bay, among others. Also, take photos of Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse — millions of others have. Mail postcards from the post office in the lighthouse.
  • Schedule beach time. On the Northumberland Shore, with 15 warm-water ocean beach parks, consider Heather Beach, Melmerby Beach and Rushton’s Beach, among others. Or swim at the province’s longest beach, Martinique Beach on the Eastern Shore.
  • After photographing lighthouses, visit a museum devoted to the subject: the Seal Island Light Museum at Barrington, housed in a replica lighthouse.
  • See how well the late-19th century sea captains lived. Take the Sea Captains’ Homes and Mercantile Heritage Walk in Yarmouth. Or, see how a fisherman lived in the early 1900s at the Fisherman’s Life Museum in Jeddore Oyster Pond on the Eastern Shore.
  • Shop for art and for handmade crafts in Yarmouth, in a region where artists and artisans have congregated. Or, shop for traditional Nova Scotian crafts at the Company Store in Sherbrooke Village on the Eastern Shore.
  • Tour the seaside Jost Vineyards at Malagash Peninsula, on the Northumberland Shore, and sample the goods. The Blue Sea Beach is on this peninsula, too.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency at