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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About Town

I like walking around town here in Lunenburg, now that we’re a bit settled in. Several times a week I’ll do a bit of a wander, like a dog visiting his patch (though I promise I don’t mark my territory on lamp posts). If I go up the hill behind our house and then east along Lincoln Street,

I can wander past the art galleries and on towards King, and see if there’s a sale on a Stan’s Dad and Lad clothing store, or maybe some interesting specials at the Lincoln Street Diner, and the aroma of roasting coffee will tell me if the Laughing Whale is making a new batch.

And if I keep going past King and Prince and Hopson and Kempt and climb the hill on Lincoln towards Blockhouse Hill, I’ll go past a house that some folks are building that will be spectacular when it’s done, and sometimes they’ll be sitting out taking a break on their harbour-view deck. “Coming along”, I’ll shout, and we’ll wave to each other.

And then round the corner and up to Blockhouse Hill and round the park and up along Kempt a bit and then back west along say Townsend, past a few of the churches

and up and down the hills and along to Kaulbach, where I can swing right and walk up past the Hillcrest Cemetery entrance and take a turn past the wonderful Academy building,

and then swing back west along Lawrence and walk back to Kempt, and then go downhill past the Ironworks Distillery (yummm, smells like a new batch of rum is in the works) and left onto Montague Street.

And so back along Montague heading west a bit and then cut down onto Bluenose Drive and wander east along past public wharves and the dory boats and the Fisheries Museum, just mingling with the tourists.

Oh, the Bluenose is in port today.

And say, did I just hear a bit of German, and Farsi, and Hindi, and French, and Spanish. Plus those Yankee accents – oh yeah, must be that car with the New York license plates.

And speaking of license plates, is that car from Iowa? Haven’t see one of those all summer – COVID-19 is finally fading (fingers crossed) and the tourists are really back from all over.

And then keep going up into the Pioneer park and along the Harbour Walk – but look at that, someone has hung red dresses in the trees next to the historic plaques near the “pioneer” cemetery as a reminder that those early settlers didn’t arrive to an empty country and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are still missing and still missed and even a small town like Lunenburg cannot turn its back on history and social wrongs.

And then past that over to Falkland and left towards the park by the tennis courts where some older players are getting in a game, and then on past the arena and the curling club where the ice is now in and hockey and curling seasons are about to begin.

And past that around to the east through the basketball courts where some teenagers are having a game (yeah, the Raptor’s season starts soon!) and past the new Bluenose Academy and then down to Tannery Row and around back along Falkland and then up the Harbour Walk and then Montague towards home. A wave to John in the pizza shop, and a shout up to Robert our neighbour to the north who’s puttering about in the garden.

I like our little town. And I’m very grateful to be able to live here.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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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Whimsical Walks, Lunenburg edition

Earlier in the year, I posted about the idea of making a game of your walks as a way to keep things interesting. A friend of mine read it and took it to heart, and quickly did a series of alphabetical walks that covered street names in Toronto for every letter of the alphabet except I think X (there is no Toronto street starting with X) and Z (only a handful).

Having moved to Lunenburg, I took a look a the map and realized that it wouldn’t take long to cover the alphabet here.

Having walked the length of Yonge St in Toronto, it took me much less time to walk Young here in Lunenburg, to cover off the Y. But there are no streets that I can find in town that start with E, I, Q, R, U, X, or Z. I was somewhat surprised to realize that there’s a King but not a Queen street in town, since most towns in English-speaking Canada seem to have both, and the lack of a street starting with an R was a bit of a surprise too. I’m giving myself the letter O, by the way, as Old Blue Rocks Road, so if you don’t think that counts then there’s no O either.

But nevertheless, in under 2 hours I had pretty much covered all the other letters of the alphabet, and had learned a bit about the town as I went. The UNESCO-designated heritage area of the Old Town, with its colourful houses and well-preserved wooden churches, is always delightful to wander through.

More surprising to me, perhaps, was wondering through the New Town area to the west of the harbour, up near the hospital, where I went to catch the W’s (Wolff Ave and Whynacht St). Visiting the town as a tourist, I hadn’t wandered up here before. The lower part of the New Town has some stately Victorian-era homes turned into B&Bs, and as you continue up the hill the homes get progressively more modern until up by Wolff they are just a few years old.

It’s good to see the growth in town that way. There’s more to Lunenburg than just the chocolate-box cheer and the colours of the Old Town. There’s more to it than just tourism, for that matter – there are factories and shops and services along with the restaurants and museums and galleries. There’s a school and good coffee shops and a pub where the locals go, and a hospital, and groceries, and a library, and playgrounds. The harbour is a working fishing port as well as a picturesque background, and the hills rising above the harbour have more than pretty views.

I like that it’s a complete place, self-sufficient and year-round. I like that we welcome people from round the world and share our place with them. And I like that come the autumn, it’s going to be our place, where a close-knit community keeps a steady beat until the next cycle of tourists come round.

Settling in

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to go for longer walks around Lunenburg. I feel like I’m getting to know the place.

It’s helped that we’ve had some lovely summer days. Heading off for a few hours when the sun is shining just feels good, and knowing that come winter I’ll be missing that sun puts a little zest into taking advantage of it now.

So I won’t complain about it being too hot, and truth be told there’s usually a breeze that refreshes as you walk. And it’s also been the case that a hot day here is 5-6 degrees cooler than in Toronto, and that’s another aspect of settling in.

There are some nice walking trails nearby, like the Back Harbour Trail, and the Bay to Bay Trail. I’ve done those, and I’ve walked some of the back roads out to Blue Rocks, Mader’s Cove, and the 2nd Penninsula too, plus wandered around old town Lunenburg and the new town too.

It’s been fun getting to know the place better, the way you do on foot instead of in a car. You notice the houses, and the little touches in the way gardens and kids toys and flowers and yard tools are scattered about, that let you guess at the lives of those who live there. I’ve also noticed the wildlife – I’ve seen ospreys, gulls, herons, ducks, deer, and snakes all within a few km of our home.

I can’t help comparing things to Toronto. There are way fewer fancy cars, and more bikes and pickups, and less traffic. There are lots of lawn chairs and fire pits for sitting about at night. There are fewer people out walking dogs, and no apparent nannies taking kids for a stroll. There’s money about evidenced by toys but these are outdoor toys like boats and ATVs.

The biggest thing you realize is that the cultural mosaic of Toronto is very muted here. Instead you notice a smaller number of surnames attached to roads and bays and coves and houses – the local families that have been here for 200+ years.

So I’m liking it, as I settling in. There are more walks to do and more to learn and see. I’m looking forward to it.

Quiet Walks

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been walking a bit around town here in Lunenburg and the surrounding area. There are some nice little trails nearby, and the backstreets of town are also fun for contemplative wandering, getting to know the place better.

I also finally walked the trail to Mahone Bay (something I’ve been itching to do for months), and really enjoyed getting out for a proper 2-hour walk, something I haven’t done in ages. And afterwards in thinking about that walk, what made the strongest impression on me was the quiet soundscape – just crunching gravel underfoot, gently-stirred breezed-on leaves, and the chirps of birds and croaks of frogs. No leaf blowers, no airplanes, no lawnmowers, no chainsaws, and only a distant occasional whoosh of a car on a road.

I can’t remember when I’ve been able to take a quiet walk, a truly quiet walk. Toronto is always filled with sound, even in neighbourhoods I thought at the time were sleepy. The Toronto trails are nice but often near roads – for instance the Lower Don Valley Trail is mere meters from the Don Valley Parkway with its 6 lanes of constant traffic. You really cannot hear yourself think, but you get so used to it that you come to hear that cacophony as normal.

And then you move to a place like Lunenburg and you realize what a quiet walk actually should sound like. It’s gotten me looking forward to some further explorations, something to plan for in the still evening silence.

I’m going to like it round here, right up till I start moaning in winter about how it’s too damn quiet.

Favourite Toronto Walks – Yonge Street

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Also be aware that some of the amenities, parks, or services listed below may have limited availability. Please check the links included below for up to date information on what’s open and what’s not.

And now on to the regular post …..

Samual Johnson once said, “when a man is tired of London he is tired of life”. With a nod to Dr. Johnson, I’d say that also applies to Yonge Street in Toronto.

The foot of Yonge looking north from the Lake

Many cities have a well-known street – Broadway in New York, Oxford Street in London, George Street in Sydney – but Yonge is a different from those thoroughfares in that, in a sense, there isn’t one “Yonge Street”. While it may be a single road, because it’s such a long street it takes on many moods, so that multiple stretches of Yonge form distinct little neighbourhoods, referred to usually by the cross streets – Yonge & Dundas, Yonge & Bloor, Summerhill, Yonge & St. Clair, Yonge & Eg, and so on as it goes north. Walking any 3-4 km stretch of Yonge between Steeles and the Lake will take you through at least a couple of these neighbourhoods, each with its own atmosphere and vibe. That, and Toronto’s famous mix of cultures from round the world, means that walking Yonge is like a mini tour of the United Nations dipped in maple syrup. I love it.

Length: Yonge is a little more than 20 km from the lake to Steeles, so allow about 5 hours if you want to walk the whole thing. That said, an hour’s stretch at picked at random is lots of fun and lets you explore the surrounding neighbourhoods too.

Surface: It’s a public road so concrete, concrete, concrete, and in winter add large dollops of salt. Wear comfy shoes.

Public Transit: Subway Line 1 runs most of the length of Yonge, from King up to Finch, and bus route 97 covers most of Yonge as well so it’s very easy to pick start and stopping points based on one of the subway or bus stops.

Route:

If it were me, I’d pick a stretch partly based on the weather and partly on the kind of food I like to eat. Starting down at the Lake on a sunny late spring day can be fantastic, and so can exploring mid-town or uptown. Downtown, mid-town, and uptown there are too many restaurants and shops to count, and there are parks like Ramsden or Alexander Muir Gardens or York Mills along the way too.

One way to decide is to simply pick a subway stop at random and then tell yourself you’re going to walk at least 3 subway stops either north or south along Yonge – keeping in mind that north of St. Clair, the stops are quite a bit farther apart than they are downtown.

The Beltline Bridge over Yonge, just south of Davisville

However you do it, try walking not just Yonge but also the surrounding streets that parallel it. Often a block east or west of Yonge takes you into residential streets and that’s a great way to explore too, and also get away a bit from the traffic and hustle.

A favourite stretch of Yonge for me is in mid-town, between Bloor and north past Eglinton. This stretch goes past Ramsden Park (a mid-town jewel) as well as Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and it’s lovely to detour into those treed oases for cooling greenness on a hot summer day.

The entrance to Alexander Muir Park on the east side of Yonge, about 2 blocks south of Lawrence Ave

Sights:

Sights on Yonge are as much or more about the people than about the buildings or shops. People watching on Yonge is a year-round sport, and endless fun. Part of that is being people-watched yourself – the way you walk down Yonge, what you wear and what you carry, will provide gossip for others just as much as you can gossip about them. In summer, that includes sitting at one of the sidewalk cafes and patios and people-watching the street scene, sipping a cold glass of something while the passers-by judge you by the food you’re eating. Oh the joys.

Of course, there is history along Yonge as well, if you want to explore. Yonge-Dundas Square, which has become a celebration point when something big happens, like the Raptors NBA Championship win in 2019. Or little bits of history like the plaque that marks the Montgomery Tavern at Yonge and Montgomery, where William Lyon Mackenzie set off with a group of like-minded followers in 1837 during the so-called Upper Canada Rebellion to protest against the government of the day. And landmarks like the clock tower of the old CN rail station at Summerhill that’s now become an iconic location of the LCBO.

The Hockey Hall of Fame at Yonge and Front Street

Of course, for many people Yonge is really about the shopping. For most of it’s length, it’s lined by shops of all descriptions – antiques, clothing, shoes, foods, guitars, bikes, tea, electronics, and so much more. We lived for many years just off Yonge in mid-town and did all of our daily shopping within a 2-block stretch of Yonge that included a fishmonger, a greengrocer, a cheese shop & deli, a bakery, and a butcher, all great little shops where we knew the shopkeepers and they greeted us by name. Sure, Yonge has its share of the big chain stores, but why would you bother when you find some little neighbourhood gem for a unique experience? Between the shops and the many unique little restaurants and bars, you can shop local and follow your 100-km diet. Who needs more?

Food & Refreshment:

It’s Yonge, so expect at least a coffee shop if not an actual restaurant or takeaway every few hundred meters pretty much the whole length of the street. You’ll find virtually every type of cuisine the city offers, and every type of establishment from bars to bistros. There are also countless food shops, butchers, cheese shops, fishmongers, grocery stores, and greengrocers, so you can do all your shopping along Yonge – bring a knapsack and some shopping bags.

Keep in mind that Yonge is an urban streetscape for most of its length, so a hot summer’s day can feel even hotter, just a cold winter’s blast of wind can freeze to the bone. The many shops and refreshments along the way will give you breaks from the weather.

Finally, while there are no public toilets or water fountains available on Yonge Street itself, there are many options available. Downtown, there are washrooms & water fountains in the malls off Yonge at the Eaton Centre, College Park, and Yonge-Bloor. At mid-town, there are washrooms in the mall on the north-east corner at Yonge & St. Clair, and on the north-west corner at Yonge & Eglinton. Uptown, there are malls on the north-east corner at Yonge & Sheppard and the south-west corner at Yonge & Steeles. Of course, there are tons of coffee shops along the way so you can always pop into one of those.

Diversions:

  1. Make a game of it – how many coffee shops can you find along Yonge? How many couples walking dogs will you spot? How many BMWs per block?
  2. You can also use Yonge as a corridor between wider neighbourhoods that are well worth exploring, like Yorkville, Rosedale, Deer Park, or Lawrence Park. In that case, pick a couple of neighbourhoods that are separated by a few km of Yonge, and use the street to walk between them.
  3. There’s much debate about what counts as “downtown”, “mid-town”, and “uptown”. If you want to break down Yonge by those labels, then I’d say downtown is Yonge from Bloor south to the Lake; midtown is Yonge between Bloor and Eg; and uptown is north of Eglinton. Of course, ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different definitions so try exploring what your friends suggest is downtown or midtown or whatever.
  4. Yonge is ever-changing and flows with the seasons, so exploring any part of it will be very different in December versus June.