Nova Scotia is a feeling as much as it is a place. It is also many different feelings depending on where you are in the province. I guess what I'm saying is that I can never get enough of Nova Scotia.
My road trip along the Acadian Shores had me soaking in Acadian culture and a maritime lifestyle. You can read what I absolutely loved about this area here: Nova Scotia’s Acadian Shores: The Stories I Love to Discover.
In this post I'll share the practical information you need to make this trip your own.
To start, let's talk about getting there.
- Flying to Halifax. Halifax Stanfield International Airport is accessible from anywhere. I flew direct from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The convenience of not flying out of Pearson International in Toronto cannot be underestimated. Even if you're not located in the city, I would suggest considering flying Porter using the island airport. You simply need to take the GO train to Union Station and walk across the street to pick up the free shuttle on the east side of York Street. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes, more frequently during peak hours, and takes about 15 minutes to get you to the airport. The time it takes to get into the city is well compensated by fewer hours spent waiting at Pearson and a much smaller, simpler airport.
- Ferry to Yarmouth. The CAT is a ferry that runs from Bar Harbor, Main to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, taking you to the other end of this road trip. It doesn't run on the off-season but is an excellent option for people traveling from the United States to reach Nova Scotia the rest of the year.
Table of Contents
Day 1: En Route to the Acadian Shores with Two Interesting Stops
Before starting this road trip, it is worth exploring Halifax for a day or two. When you're ready to go, head southeast for highway 103. The trip takes about 3 hours driving time.
Once on the road, you may be tempted to take the Lighthouse trail along the shore rather than the 103. Be aware that doing so will add many hours to your trip. A detour to the famous Peggy's Cove alone will add 90 minutes to your trip. Delay gratification and you'll have all the rocky coastline and lighthouses you want along the Acadian Shores. You will also experience them without the crowds.
The two stops I do recommend on this day are:
- Black Loyalist Heritage Centre. Located in Birchtown, near Shelburne, the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre is just off highway 103. It houses a multimedia presentation of the Black Loyalist journey from Africa to the American colonies then to Nova Scotia and back to Africa. It includes the hardships at every point on this journey, including those in Nova Scotia where they arrived as free people. There is also a virtual copy of Carlton’s Book of Negroes (1783) which includes almost 3,000 names and in which people can search for their ancestors who may have experienced part of this incredible journey. You can read about this history in Lawrence Hill's novel, The Book of Negroes. The book was published in the United States under the title Someone Knows My Name. Allow a minimum of one hour.
- Barrington Museum Complex. I spent most of my time in the Barrington Woolen Mill, but the complex includes a Lighthouse and the Meeting House as well. The mill dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when wool was essential to warmth during Nova Scotia's cold, damp winter months. You can see the whole process from washing the wool to dying and weaving. It is the technology of the time that made this so fascinating to me. The mill is powered by a water-driven turbine. Allow 45 minutes for the entire complex.
Arrive in Pubnico area and settle into your accommodation. I recommend The Argyler Lodge.
Day 2: The Acadian Shores Road Trip Begins
I shared a brief history of the Acadians of this area in my last post. Here are the top two activities to help you explore this rich culture for yourself.
- HIGHLIGHT – The Historic Acadian Village. This a typical museum village with historical characters in costume ready to tell you about the history of the area and the way of life. The difference is that many of the people you'll speak with are descendants of those they represent. There is great pride in being a 10th or 11th generation d'Entremont or d'Eon, common names in West Pubnico. As you learn from the people there you can feel their personal connection to the history and the land.
- Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos. Not far from the village is the museum and research centre. I arrived to find it to be a center of community as well. I was greeted by Bernice who started my tour by introducing me to the women making traditional quilts. She then took me to the quilt shop which has a fabulous range of craft products including traditional and more modern quilts. We then explored the garden where she explained the purpose of the various plants in Acadian life. There is a house museum, but also, upstairs, a genealogical center where an extraordinary amount of research has been completed and is ongoing on Canadian families.
While in the West Pubnico area:
- Stop into Dennis' Cafe which is across from Dennis Point Harbour, the largest commercial fishing wharf in Atlantic Canada.
- Go for a drink at Boatskeg Distillery. They sometimes have live music as well.
- Have dinner at the Red Cap Restaurant.
Day 3: Tuna, Trails, and Sea Shanties Along the Acadian Shores
On day 3 of your Acadian Shores road trip, explore another peninsula. Make your way to Tusket and stop into Anchored Grounds for a coffee and treat. Pick up lunch for your afternoon hike. Then travel down towards Wedgeport.
- Wedgeport Tuna Museum. The Wedgeport Tuna Tournament & Festival is an annual event that takes place near the end of August. However, throughout the high season, you can pop into the Museum to get a sense of the history of tuna fishing as a sport. Between the 1930s to the 1970s, Wedgeport was considered the Sport Tuna Fishing Capital of the World. Call first to confirm opening hours.
- Wedgeport Nature Trails. Spend the afternoon in the fresh air. This 5.4 km trail includes barrier-beach ponds, the Tusket River estuary, a mixed-wood forest and coastal marshes. It begins at the parking lot near the Wedgeport Tuna Museum.
- HIGHLIGHT – Tusket Island Tours. Now this here is the highlight of your day. Tusket Island Tours takes you onto the water to learn about the life and work of lobster fishers from Simon Leblanc, of a lobster-fishing family of many generations. You'll be given a demonstration and then taken to their shanty for the best seafood chowder there is (Simon makes it but he doesn't share the recipe). On the way back to the dock, Simon performs the most loved songs of Nova Scotia.
Day 4: Yarmouth, Cape Forchu, and the Night Sky
It's time to take in Yarmouth, the largest town on the Acadian Shores. After breakfast, here's your plan:
- Go to the lighthouse. Cape Forchu Lighthouse offers views and walks comparable to Peggy's Cove without the crowds. The walking path around the cape has lots of signage explaining the flora and the impact of the sea. You can also climb the unusual, apple-core style lighthouse. It is the only lighthouse in the province that is open to public tours to the lantern room.
- Learn about a fisher's life. The Lost to the Sea Memorial is en route to Cape Forchu. The memorial brings home the other side of a maritime life. It is not all beautiful seasides and sunsets.
- Mix with locals. Stop into Sip Café on Main Street of Yarmouth for coffee and lunch. While having coffee there I met and had a nice conversation with Joan. As if I needed a demonstration of how friendly this part of Nova Scotia is, after our chat, she left and returned with a jar of award-winning whiskey marmalade as a gift.
- Shop for a bit. Stop into Every Bloomin' Thing. It's next door to Sip Café and has a wide range of good quality clothes and gifts. This is where you can pick up a jar of that whiskey marmalade.
- Explore the waterfront. Walk along the town's waterfront where there are plaques that share stories of old Yarmouth.
- Grab dinner. While on the waterfront have an early dinner at Rudders Seafood Restaurant & Brew Pub.
- HIGHLIGHT – Deep Sky Eye Observatory. This could be the highlight of your entire Acadian Shores road trip. The Deep Sky Eye Observatory offers the chance to see and learn about astronomy. Light pollution prohibits most of us from seeing the sky as it truly is, but in the dark environment of Tim Doucette's Deep Sky Eye Observatory, we can see much more in the sky than usual. Tim begins the evening with a presentation on astronomy and physics. Lying in zero-gravity chairs, you can lean back and observe the sky with your naked eye as he speaks. Then you have the chance to use a number of powerful telescopes positioned to see details of different aspects of the sky. Saturn was my favorite. I loved this experience on three levels:
- learning about astronomy
- learning how Tim created the observatory. It's a tech story that he explains very well.
- hearing Tim's personal story. He is legally blind. See the video below.
Festivals and Events: There are things going on throughout the year. Use this link to find out what's on in Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores.