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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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