Favourite Maritime Walks – Bay to Bay Trail

Part of a series on my favourite walking routes in the Maritimes.

Please note that some of the amenities, parks, or services listed below may have limited hours depending on time of day and the seasons. Check the links included below for up to date information on what’s open and what’s not during your walk.

The Bay to Bay Trail is a favourite walking/cycling route between Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, part of the longer Rum Runners Trail that goes between Halifax and Bridgewater. You can walk it in either direction, of course, and if you are feeling ambitious you can walk from one town to the other, have lunch, and walk back again for a wonderful walking day. Since I live in Lunenburg, I’ll often just hitch a ride whenever my wife is going to Mahone Bay and then walk home.

Length: About 10 km, from Start to Finish between the towns, and it’s easy to add or remove a km or two depending on diversions.

Surface: Firm gravel trail, minimal grades and slopes.

Public Transit: none

Route:

I’ve started the route in Lunenburg. The Bay to Bay Trail is part of the Rum Runners Trail network, and officially it starts on the edge of town off of Maple Street. I assume you are beginning your walk in the heart of Lunenburg, so in that case the start is at the entrance to the Back Bay Trail, off of Dufferin Street and adjacent to the Knot Pub. Basically, you are at the old Lunenburg Railway Station which is now the Second Story Women’s Centre.

Facing the old railway station, you’ll see a gravel path to the left – that’s the Trail, so simply follow that. You’ll pass a vehicle gate, and you’re on your way. Your only navigation choice is about 200 m from the start – to get to the Bay to Bay Trail, take the left hand fork when you come to it and bear north west for about 500m along the Bay to Bay Connector Trail.

Note that if you bear right at that fork, you’re following the Back Harbour Trail (which is part of a favourite walk of mine that I call the Lunenburg Loop).

The Bay to Bay Connector Trail runs behind and below the houses along Dufferin Street and then Maple Street (aka Highway 3) and ends at a set of stairs.

Climb these and follow the path to the road – this is the top of Maple Street. Cross using the cross walk and turn right. You’ll see the pink marker for the Rum Runner Trail network and a large map that shows the overall Rum Runner Trail along the South Shore.

Entrance to the Bay to Bay Trail, at the top of Maple Street in Lunenburg

The entrance to the Bay to Bay Trail portion is in front of you, on the left side of the road, leading down into the old railway cutting. Follow that, and you are on your way. It’s 10km from this point to what I’ve marked as the end of the Trail, at the top of Mahone Bay’s Main Street where it curves west.

As you walk along the Trail, there are several sights that you’ll pass. About 200m along the Bay to Bay Trail, on your left near some electrical transmission lines, there is an osprey nest on a platform that the electric utility has put up to keep the birds from building nests on the electrical poles themselves. If you’re walking the Trail between mid-spring and mid-summer, you’ll often see and hear the osprey parents and sometimes their chicks.

Further along the trail, after about 2 km, you’ll pass Martin’s Brook. Here, a local artist named Gillian Maradyn-Jowsey has installed several sculptures that look like wood piles, called the Riverbank Habitat. There’s a bench on the bridge over the brook, so it’s a peaceful spot for a rest.

As you continue along the Trail, you’ll come to the beaver pond and marsh area. This open space is alive with birds in all seasons, and the trail crosses it on a slightly raised embankment. There’s a bench right in the middle, and that’s conveniently located right around half way between Lunenburg and Mahone Bay. I often stop here for a short rest – it’s lovely to listen to the breeze through the reeds along with the trickle of water. This space is about as far as the Trail gets from the local roads, so often there’s no traffic noise, just the natural soundscape.

Once you’re past the beaver pond and marsh area, the Trail is lined with forest on either side. The trees are mixed deciduous and conifers and there are little bursts of colour from wild flowers, lichens, moss, and leaves – this part is especially lovely in the autumn.

Keep going a couple of km through this section, and you’ll come to the road crossing at Fauxburg Rd, which signals the entrance to Mahone Bay itself.

The Trail continues past this road, so keep going. Since you’re now in town, you’ll pass a couple of other roads, as well as the Park Cemetery. Near the end of the Trail, you’ll cross over Ernst Brook, where there is another bench overlooking the water. I often stop and have a lunch here, if I am walking from Lunenburg to Mahone Bay and back again.

Just past Ernst Brook, the Bay to Bay Trail ends at the little triangle park at the base of Longhill Road and Main Street. There is a small car park here, and some bike racks. You can choose to end your walk here, and turn right to follow Main Street down to the shops and restaurants near the shore of Mahone Bay.

Parts of this walk are pretty exposed, so keep an eye on the weather and dress appropriately – the summer sun can be stronger than you think, and the winter winds can chill right through to your bones. The walking surfaces are usually fine, just be careful of ice in winter. There can be some muddy stretches just after a heavy rain, but other than that, for the most part you can walk this route in running shoes or light trail shoes most of the year.

Sights:

I love this walk for a number of reasons. It’s a good length for me as an exercise walk – it takes me roughly 2 hours. It’s easy to tack on a few km or more by continuing around Mahone Bay along a stretch of the Dynamite Trail behind the town. You can also shorten it a bit by exiting the Trail as you enter Mahone Bay, at Fauxburg Road or Hawthorn Road, and following those streets down to the town. Finally, the Trail changes its character as the seasons progress. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter all bring their own variations of colour, flowers, birds, and skies.

There is wildlife to see all along the Trail. I’ve seen deer many times, including within Lunenburg and Mahone Bay. Squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, ducks, geese, frogs, turtles, and snakes all live along the walk, and one of these days I’ll see the beavers at the beaver poind.

Food & Refreshment:

There are many options for refreshment at both the start and end of the Trail in either town. I like to reward myself by stopping at the end of the walk, which for me is often in Mahone Bay. Of course, you can also picnic along the Trail on one of the benches at Martin’s Brook, the beaver pond, or Ernst Brook. Sometimes I’ll take a flask of tea with me in winter and on a sunny day, it’s quite pleasant to sit despite the chill.

There are public washrooms located near the start of the Trail in Lunenburg, along Bluenose Drive, at the west end of the harbour. There is also a public washroom in Mahone Bay down by the water, near the 3 churches. There are no washrooms along the Trail itself however, so if you’re caught short between the towns there are many stretches of trees along the trail where you can make a discreet al fresco pit stop – remember to leave no trace if you do that, i.e. hike out your wipes and dig a cat hole if needed.

There are no garbage bins along the Trail so please remember to take all your garbage and waste with you – you’ll find bins at the start and end of the Trail in both Lunenburg and Mahone Bay.

Finally, there are no water sources along the Trail itself, so bring water with you. There are water fountains located near the public washrooms in the towns, so you can fill up at either end.

Diversions:

While I’ve described the route from Lunenburg to Mahone Bay, you can, of course, choose to walk it the other way.

As well, it’s easy to tack on walks round either Mahone Bay or Lunenburg, if you want to explore either town and make a day of it. For example, sometimes I’ll start by walking east around what I call the Lunenburg Loop and join the Bay to Bay Trail at the fork from the Back Harbour Trail – doing that makes it a 15-16 km walk.

Or, at the other end, I’ll do a loop around Mahone Bay by starting there at the corner of Main Street and Edgewater Street and following Edgewater north past the 3 churches, up Clearland Road to where Dynamite Trail crosses, and then following that Trail west around the back of the town to where it crosses Longhill Road, so I can rejoin the Bay to Bay Trail.

If I am feeling extra energetic, I will sometimes start in Mahone Bay, walk along Highway 3 (Edgewater Street) east and north out of town around the edge of the bay, to Oakland Road. Then I follow Oakland Road east along the north shore of the bay for a couple km, to Sleepy Hollow Road. Going north up that road lets me connect to the Dynamite Trail, where I turn west and follow the Dynamite Trail past Oakland Lake, under Hwy 3, and over the bridge at the Mushamush River,

and on around the back of the town to Longhill Road, which I follow southeast to connect to the Bay to Bay Trail.

Doing that loop makes it closer to a 20km walk, and it’s especially nice in autumn with all the colours on full display.


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Big Walks – PEI’s Island Walk

Over the past few years, I’ve been thinking about doing a Big Walk. My bucket list has a number of them – the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain, the Bruce Trail in Ontario, and many more – and I keep reading about ideas for others as well. I had plans to take on at least one of these in each of 2020 and 2021, but the COVID-19 epidemic meant that those dreams stayed just that – dreams.

So come spring 2022, after 2 years of listening to me wish and sigh, my wife finally put the boot in and said it was time to either do one of these walks or else stop talking about it.

OK, agreed, but which walk to do? Knowing that 2022 would probably still have some COVID-19 travel disruptions, I decided to try something that was relatively close to home. Plus, knowing that this was going to be my first multi-week walk, it made sense to choose something that while challenging was also achievable in terms of length and terrain. That line of thought led me to the Island Walk.

Morning, Day 1

This is a relatively new addition to the world of long walks. It was first tried out in 2019 by a couple of experienced walkers from Prince Edward Island who had done the Camino de Santiago in Spain and who wanted to find a similar length walk that would showcase their home province. They came up with a route that combines walking on red-dirt back roads

with sections of the province’s Confederation Trail

to take you more or less around the coast of Prince Edward Island. It’s about 700 km in total, and is divided into a suggested 32 daily stages which range between 12 -26 km in length. In the end, I chose to do it a bit faster than that pace, finishing in 27 days.

Why?

The first question asked by most of the people I spoke to both on the walk as well as friends and family before and after is, why? Why do it?

The lazy answer to that is to say “because it’s there”, and that was part of it. Could I complete a long walk like that? And beyond that, I had a few other things in mind:

  • Exploring PEI – this was the only Maritime province I’d yet to visit, and seeing it on foot seemed like a great way to explore Canada’s smallest province
  • Physical challenge – despite trying to average 75 minutes of activity per day for the past 5 years, I’ve still managed to add a few pounds, and a good long walk was one way to shed a few of those
  • Trying out ideas – if I am going to do other long-distance multi-week walks, I’d like to figure out what works for me in terms of pace, gear, nutrition, etc. Doing so close to home was a bonus.
  • Thinking time – a walk is always a chance for me to clear my mind, but the mental challenge of maintaining focus while remaining observant while walking 5-6 hours a day is a new one
  • Put up or shut up – there comes a point where you either decide to do something or you put it aside.

Impressions

So having done, what did I think? Did I like it? Was it worth it? Did it meet my expectations or preconceptions?

At North Cape, Day 8

A couple of weeks have gone by since I finished it, and I’m still digesting it. There were things I liked – the structure of a long walk, the routine of getting up, getting ready, getting out, and getting it done, day after day. There was the rhythm of it, getting locked into a sort of Zen calmness and clarity, when the steady pace emptied my mind and I simply walked.

I liked some of the scenery. PEI is a low-key kind of place – no rugged mountains or crashing seas, but calm seas, long beaches,

green fields, wild flowers, fishing ports, and friendly people.

I liked the challenge, the push you need to start each day even when your feet hurt and the drive you need to see it through. I liked the solitude (I met exactly 6 other walkers and 4 cyclists on the route over 27 days) and I liked chatting to people that I met along the way.

I didn’t like the bugs – the mosquitoes were voracious.

I didn’t like the monotony of some stretches of the Confederation Trail, running flat and straight and on and on. I didn’t like having to to hitch rides most days to and from the route because there were few accommodation options adjacent to the route. And I didn’t like road walking, long stretches with no place to sit and rest, and hard asphalt that made my heels and ankles ache.

But those are quibbles. No journey contains only the highlights, there are always low lights and often no lights, and to expect otherwise is to be rudely awakened; but I wasn’t so much awakened to those things as resigned to them as being part of the journey that simply taught different lessons.

I guess the biggest takeaway for me is that a journey like this isn’t supposed to have one purpose, one impression, one lesson. Some time ago, a line I read in a blog post about the Camino de Santiago stuck in my head – “everyone walks their own Camino”. That message resonated again and again each day of my journey. No two people are going to do a walk like this, even if they are walking together, and do it for the same reasons while forming the same memories.

If I could distill anything out of this, I think it would be a few little mantras. Cherish the journey, respect the journey, and learn from it. Accept it on its own terms. Don’t overthink it. Your journey is its own lesson. Everybody walks their own Camino.

For the the last day, I’d deliberately walked extra distance on the preceding few days to ensure I’d have a short day at the end, partly in case of rain and partly because I didn’t want to finish the walk with a long sloggy day. And as I came into Charlottetown I was struggling to digest the journey, what it had meant, what I felt, how I thought of it. Ann wanted to meet me at Joe Ghiz Park where the route starts and ends, and a couple of friends, Michael and Carol, had come up from Lunenburg to surprise me and celebrate crossing the finish line. I was about a kilometre from the park, and way ahead of schedule, so I doddled a bit on the Hillsborough Bridge to look at the city skyline,

and then I texted Ann to say that I wanted to get there by myself so that I could try to process it. And so that’s what I did – walked the last bit trying to be normal, got to the park, took a selfie,

done

took off my pack, and when Ann walked in and gave me a hug, I started to cry. That was how I processed it – with tears, of relief and thanks. I thought I was walking by myself, and at that moment I realized that I was really walking with her.

Memories

Green on red – PEI’s colour palette in June is layers of green upon red earth, with little yellow and purple and pink and white flowered highlights.

Blue maritime skies. Grey rain-filled lowering clouds, and soft misty mornings. Green tunnels of trees and shrubs and bushes and ferns.

Odd sights.

Blue-green seas. Black crows. Red mud. And more green on red, red on green, again and again.

The rural character of the province sinks deep into your brain, until you expect no other colours. Green on red. Sunshine and trails. Memories.


Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more about this walk. Stay tuned.

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Favourite Maritime Walks

Now that we’re settled out here in Nova Scotia, I thought I would collect together descriptions of my favourite walks here in the Maritimes to make them easier to find. I’ll keep adding to the list as and when the mood strikes.

Favourite Walks – Lunenburg Loop

Part of a series on my favourite walking routes in the Maritimes.

Please note that some of the amenities, parks, or services listed below may have limited hours depending on time of day and the seasons. Check the links included below for up to date information on what’s open and what’s not during your walk.

The Lunenburg Loop is a great way to explore the area around the town, gulp down that fresh Atlantic air, and get some great views of the harbour.

Length: About 7.5 km, depending on diversions.

Surface: Paved sidewalks and firm gravel trail

Public Transit: none

Route:

I’ve started the route by the waterfront, at the bottom of the stairs/ramp down from Duke Street where it joins Bluenose Drive. The harbour is in front of you and the red-coloured Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is on your right.

To start, turn towards the museum and walk west on Bluenose Drive, towards the west end of the harbour. After about 100m you’ll pass a public washroom – good place for a pit stop!

At the corner of Bluenose Drive and Montague, turn left and follow the gravel path to enter the little park – this is the Harbour Walk path. Follow this west past the end of the harbour, and up the wee lane to join Falkland Street. Cross Falkland here at the cross walk, and then turn right. Walk along Falkland past the Bluenose Lodge inn, heading for the cross walk at Dufferin Street. You’ll see the Knot Pub right in front of you on the other side of the street. After crossing Dufferin, turn left (unless the pub beckons) and walk about 20 m, then bear right into the car park of the old railway station. The Back Harbour trail starts here – it follows the route of the old rail line that once carried fish and freight to and from Halifax.

Proceed northwest along the Trail till you come to a fork in the path – bear right to stay on the Back Harbour Trail (left takes you onto the connector to the Rum Runner trail to walk to Mahone Bay, a lovely 10km walk in itself).

Follow the Back Harbour trail through the woods and then some open spaces.

The view in October

After about 1km you’ll come to the cross walk over Starr Street. Pick up the trail on the other side, and continue along, taking in the views of the back harbour and its fishing boats and leisure craft. After about 1.5 km, you’ll come to Sawpit Road – use the cross walk and pick up the path again on the other side. Follow the trail through the light woods and shrubs, past frog ponds and fields, until you come to the road crossing over Blue Rocks Road. The trail continues, on a diagonal line on the other side of the road – rejoin the Trail and follow it for another 200-300 m or so till it ends at Battery Point Road.

Turn right down Battery Point Road for a wee bit. At the intersection of Hospital Road, you can turn right, climb the hill for about 30 m, and take the left dirt lane by the post boxes. This dirt lane is the old Shore Road. Follow it up the hill, squeezing past the gate at the top (don’t worry, you’re fine). Follow the old Shore Road, up the hill and then bearing to the right, as you climb up along the ridge behind the fish factory. You’ll emerge at a little clearing with a new path in front of you that continues gently up the hill following the old route of the Shore Road.

Alternatively, instead of turning up Hospital Road off of Battery Point Road, you can keep going down Battery Point road towards the fish plant. The road ends at the car park for the fish factory – turn right and cut across the car park towards the harbour and the old warehouses and docks. At the end of the car park there’s a dirt road climbing up towards the right – at the top you’ll the see the little clearing and a path on your left – follow this to join the old Shore Road towards town. Going this way across the car park can be a bit better in winter if there’s ice around.

The old Shore Road path offers lovely views south and west of the harbour on your left and there are some great lookout points. There is also a wonderful spot with a bench where you can have a rest.

After a few hundred meters, the footpath ends at a traffic barrier and here you rejoin the current paved stretch of the Shore Road. Follow it west and down hill to the intersection with Pelham Street. Bear left and follow Pelham west for several hundred meters, to Shipyard Hill Road. Turn left and go downhill to join Montague Street, bearing right (west) here. Follow Montague for several hundred meters to the corner where it’s joined by Bluenose Drive. Turn left and follow the road down a slight hill and then right (west) along Bluenose Drive, to finish where you started by the Fishery Museum.

Parts of this walk are pretty exposed, so keep an eye on the weather and dress appropriately – the summer sun can be stronger than you think, and the winter winds off the harbour can freeze your eyeballs. The walking surfaces are usually fine, just be careful of ice in winter. There can be some muddy stretches just after a heavy rain, but other than that, for the most part you can walk this route in running shoes or light trail shoes most of the year.

Sights:

I love this walk because of the varied sights – the history of the town on display in the views of the harbour front, the historic buildings like the Bluenose Academy (today, housing the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance as well as the town library), the working life of the town seen in the fishing boats,

and the wildlife that lives along the trail. I’ve seen deer many times,

along with ospreys, herons, finches, ducks, geese, frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles, mice, foxes, racoons, squirrels, and chipmunks. Stretches of the trail take you through a gorgeous tunnel formed by the arched branches of birch trees, and beside little ponds. The harbour views along Shore Road are some of the best you’ll get. And the houses tucked along Falkland, Pelham, and the Shore Road are a big part of Lunenburg’s Unesco Heritage designation.

One of the attractions of this route, for me, is that the sights change with the seasons. The spring brings chirping frogs and toads, crocuses and wildflowers, budding trees and greening grass. Summer is cool shade and warm breezes. Autumn is an explosion of colour. And winter is snow clinging to branches and ice in the harbour, tinged with the scent of wood smoke.

Food & Refreshment:

There are many options for refreshment at the start and end of the trail, near the harbourfront, ranging from ice cream to light snacks for full dinners. I live here – they’re all good! That said, I would be remiss in not mentioning our neighbours, John and Samera, who own J3 Pizza on Montague Street. And of course, the restaurant group that includes the South Shore Fish Shack, Half Shell Oyster Bar, the Salt Shaker Deli, the Beach Pea Kitchen and Bar, and the Bar Salvador (all along Montague Street), are favourites in part because our house used to be a restaurant where Martin and Sylvie started out.

I also can’t omit the Grand Banker, the Old Fish Factory, and the Shipwright Brewery along Montague, and the Dockside restaurant, the Ice Cream shop, the Savvy Sailor cafe, the No. 9 coffee bar, and Rascal’s Run Burrito Bar – all also along Montague Street. Plus there’s the Smoke Pit BBQ shack on Bluenose Drive, and more places up on Lincoln Street, including Lincoln Street Food, the Laughing Whale coffee roastery and cafe, the Moontown Market cafe, and the Lamprai and Spice Sri Lankan takeout. For a small town, we’re packed with options for refreshment.

And there’s more! Beyond all those yummy options, you might also want to pop into Foodland on Montague to grab picnic supplies and snacks. There’s also the Subway sandwich shop on Montague, and the Burger King on Falkland. And don’t forget about the Knot Pub, which does great food plus local beverages. On the other side of the harbour from the Fishery Museum, off Tannery Road, there’s the Lightship Brewery Pub along with the Barn coffee spot. Plus, just outside of the old town on the Bridgewater road, there’s Alex’s Chill and Grill for burgers and fish and chips, the Independent grocery store, the local Nova Scotia Liquor Commission store, and the local Tim Hortons. Spoiled for choice, we are.

There are public washrooms located along Bluenose Drive, at the west end near the start of the Harbour Walk trail, and at the east end by the Zwicker wharf. In summer, there is usually a portaloo located near the Back Harbour Trail where it crosses Starr Street.

There are park benches and picnic tables at several spots along the Back Harbour Trail, so why not bring some refreshments and enjoy the views while you have a rest. Please remember to take all your garbage and waste with you – you’ll find bins at several spots around town and by the trail access points where you can dispose of it.

Finally, there are water fountains located near the public washrooms. Take some water, because there are no fountains along the Back Harbour Trail itself.

Diversions:

This route can easily be extended or shortened, as desired.

To extend it,

at the start of the walk, as you cross Falkland Street before turning towards the Knot pub, keep going straight up Broad Street. This will take you through what’s known as New Town, up the hill towards the Hospital. It makes a nice comparison to the houses you’ll see later along the route in the Old Town. If you continue all the way up Broad to High Street at the front of the hospital, turn right and follow High Street to Dufferin. Turn right on Dufferin and continue down the hill following the street, and you’ll come to the start of the Back Harbour Trail by the Knot Pub. This will add about 2 km to the walk.

To shorten it, you can jump off the Back Harbour Trail at several points – after about 1km where the trail crosses Kissing Bridge Road – turn right here onto Starr Street and follow that south back to Lincoln Street; or at Hopson Street (follow that south up and over the hill and back down, to rejoin Pelham); or at Sawpit Road (follow that south up and over the hill and back down to rejoin Pelham)

Also, if you follow the full route as described, then you’ll notice that beside Battery Point Road, there is a small trail leading off to the east – this is the entrance to the Salt Marsh lookout.

Follow this trail for about 100m and you’ll come to a shaded platform that offers great views out over the salt marshes and the many birds that make it their home. It’s a peaceful, cool spot for a picnic too. To rejoin the route, follow the trail back to Battery Point Road.

At Sawpit Road, where the trail crosses, you can turn left and follow the road north down the hill. Cross the highway here (no cross walk so use caution) and follow the road down the hill to walk down to Sawpit Wharf. There’s a bench on the end of the wharf which makes a great rest spot where you can look out over the back harbour. To rejoin the route, simply follow Sawpit Road back up the hill to the Trail crossing.

Another option is at Starr Street, where the Back Harbour Trail crosses it – you can exit the trail here and bear right to go up Kissing Bridge Road. You’ll be walking uphill with the Hilltop Cemetery on your right. About halfway up the hill, you can follow a lane into the cemetery and wander through it up towards the Academy – a lovely way to view the building. To rejoin the route, follow the cemetery paths back to Kissing Bridge Road, down the high to where the Trail crosses it.

Enjoy exploring Lunenburg.

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Little Walks – Lunenburg Harbour

Before we moved to Lunenburg, we’d visit every couple of years, and most times we were here I’d go for a stroll by the harbour. Now that we’ve moved in, I’ve come to appreciate that walk even more. Rain or shine, it’s a lovely spot.

We live just a block up from the harbour front, so I like to meander east along Montague Street past the shops and restaurants, to where Bluenose Drive curves up to meet Montague. Then I follow it down and head back west along Bluenose Drive, past the fishery buildings and then the piers and the Fisheries Museum.

I’ll keep going further west and where Bluenose Drive curves back up to meet Montague, I’ll turn left and follow the Harbour Walk path along the edge of the west end of the harbour.

The Harbour Walk past the old cemetery

The end of the trail leads up to Falkland Street, and if you turn left here and follow it past the shops and the Foundry, past the tennis courts and Nellie’s Takeout, you’ll come to Tannery Road. Follow that south and east and past some houses and businesses, and you’ll come to a little picnic area the town has built along the south side of the harbour.

And here you get that gorgeous view of the town that has tourists making a beeline for this spot so that they can take another of what must be a million photos a year, and yet in all weathers this view never gets tiresome.

If I want to stretch out a little more, I’ll keep going along Tannery Road towards Mason Beach Road and the entrance to the golf course. Here, if you look up, you’ll see the nest that a pair of osprey’s have made and return to year after year. They are surprisingly chatty birds, screeching and cawing and sometimes circling over your head, as they keep an eye on you. Their view back over the harbour must be fantastic.

And then the stroll back home, retracing my steps, and sometimes popping into the newly-added Barn coffeeshop that’s been joined with the Lightship Brewery pub and PJs Snacks in a building on a little point that juts into the harbour. It’s one of the best places in town to enjoy the view and now I’ve let the secret out that the locals like to keep to themselves.

It’s not a long walk, maybe 45 minutes if you stroll at a leisurely pace, but a great walk is about more than how much distance you cover.


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South Shore Walks

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a chance to revisit some old haunts in Nova Scotia such as Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. That’s reminded me of walks past in different places along the South Shore. Since I’m writing this on a rainy autumn day, it’s as good a time as any describe some of our favourite places for a walk.

Mahone Bay

We first visited Mahone Bay nearly 30 years ago. Back then, it wasn’t quite as touristy as it is now. There were a few nice little B&Bs, and a few shops. The draw was the view, both of the harbour and the bay, and also of the iconic row of 3 churches that sit side by side along the shore at the top of the inlet.

Since then, we’ve visited the town many times, and twice have stayed in vacation properties there. Those visits have given us lots of opportunities to wander about the town, taking in more than just the waterfront. On one of those visits, we were out for a stroll after dinner along the quiet back streets of the town, and nearly jumped out of our skins when we came upon a deer which was contentedly munching flowers in someone’s garden.

It’s that kind of town. If you visit on a sunny summer Sunday in mid-afternoon, you’ll think the place is busy all the time and crowded with tourists. But wait a bit past dinner time, or visit mid-week, and you’ll find that once the city tourists are gone, the little town’s charms are all the more evident and available as you poke about the shops and restaurants. A leisurely 30 minutes will pretty much cover the town, and it will be a relaxing way to get to know the place.

Lunenburg

Lunenburg is most famous as the home of the Bluenose, the iconic schooner that graces a Canadian dime. Today, the Bluenose II is often in port, and you can tour the boat and even book a sailing cruise on her.

More than that, however, is the year-round town – the shops and services that the surrounding area depend on outside the tourist season. Because of that, we’ve visited many times. We love to wander up and down the steep streets that rise behind the harbour. You can spend an hour or so doing that and getting in a workout, and there’s also a lovely little walking trail that circles the town. That walking trail, by the way, also offers a way to walk Mahone Bay (about 10km), if you’re up for a longer hike.

Hirtles Beach and the Gaff Point Trail

Another favourite that we discovered more than 10 years ago is the Gaff Point Trail. It’s a short drive out of Lunenburg, south east towards Kingsburg. The Trail starts at the parking lot for Hirtles Beach, another favourite spot for splashing in the waves, and follows the Beach towards Gaff Point itself.

There, it loops around the tip of the point through forest and along the rocky shore, and provides fabulous views up and down the shore along with many spots where you can sit and just watch the waves and seabirds. We usually take a picnic when we go, and spend some time chilling. It’s about a 7.5km walk there and back so give yourself at least 2 hours, and if the weather is nice it’s great to kick off your shoes and splash along the water’s edge as you finish the hike. A pro tip is to do the walk at low tide so you can walk on the firm sand rather than along the rocky berm at the top of the beach.

Peggy’s Cove

Over our various trips to Nova Scotia, we had always skipped Peggy’s Cove. My parent’s had dragged me there as a reluctant 8 year old back in the early 70’s, and ever since I had written it off as overly-touristed and out of date. That changed on our most recent trip. It was just my wife and I, and without our own child (now 18!) in tow, and at an off-season time of the year, it seemed like a good time to visit and see what the fuss was about.

I have to confess I didn’t know what to expect, but choosing a sunny October day was wise, because it’s lovely to sit on the rocks near the famous lighthouse and listen to the sea and bask in the sun. The little town itself is quaint, if conscious of its touristy charms, and even though you’ve probably taken a million selfies it’s still fun to grab one here.

Chester

Over the years, we’ve been to Chester a few times and I have to admit that I could never quite warm to it. It’s a bit of an anomaly for the South Shore – it’s a touristy place but also a place with a lot of wealth. The annual Chester Regatta is a famous tradition, and it’s attracted sailors for generations. Many of them have the money needed to go with large yachts, so many of the homes in Chester reflect that. It feels a little like Cape Cod in the summer.

This year, visiting on a misty damp October day, it felt quite different. There’s a bit of a melancholy air to a resort town out of season. Many of the houses are closed up for the winter, and the town’s year-round residents can get together in peace. Walking up and down its quiet streets, we realized that it’s actually a lovely little place. The trick, it would seem, is to come off-season.

There are some little parks and shops downtown, and the harbour area is atmospheric as well. We brought a picnic and ate it in the wet, and that made it that much more savoury, staring over the water and listening to the gulls. I have to take back what I said about Chester in the past – it’s not the snooty place I thought it was.