Life on the Road – June Part 4: Nova Scotia

Beach views at Cape Chignecto.

Our drive from PEI to Nova Scotia was harrowing, to say the least. It was dark, the rain came in sheets, the wind was blowing a gale, and the two lane highway headed south was badly in need of repair. Add on to all that were some other road users with obvious death wishes – passing on a 2 lane highway with oncoming traffic (road shoulders were a necessary part of that equation), driving well below the speed limit in a dark vehicle with no lights on in the dark, terrible visibility conditions… Those two were the worst, but they weren’t the only. We arrived at our camp for the night exhausted but buzzing. Thankfully this was not representative of our whole Nova Scotia experience, just a little trial upon entry.

Who knew we would get such fantastic sunsets on the East Coast!

Facing west across the Bay of Fundy we watched the sun go down over the estuary- at our camp spot for the night.

We spent our first couple days in the province tromping around on the Bay of Fundy and Minas Basin coasts, exploring the Chiganecto Peninsula and Cape Split. Cape split pinches the head of the Bay of Fundy and forms the Minas Basin, where the narrowed passage between the bodies of water contributes to the tidal delay that produces the extreme tides the Bay of Fundy is known for. The Cape is a popular hiking attraction, with a lush forested path following the narrow ridgeline out to a cliff-edge viewpoint over the eroded rocks and raging tides. The day we hiked it the wind decided to blow a gale out by the point, blowing salt spray on our faces and birds off of the cliffs. It made for some excellent wave watching on the bluffs, waves battering the rocky point and frothy sea spray carried on the breeze. It also meant you had to really put effort into not getting blown right off the cliff! Thankfully the blustery winds died down for the evening – we spent that night on a gorgeous little secluded beach with our own private river and sea cave, another Maritime camping gem!

A blustery day out at Cape Split!

The Minas Basin looking very “tropical” … but actually ice cold!

Nova Scotia – land of rad free beach camping, with a little risky driving!

“You drove that down here ?!”

Beach front camp sunsets, river and a sea cave!

Our next stop was Halifax to meet up with our friend Kelsey. We decided to take a shortcut through Nova Scotian Wine Country, and included stops in the cute little towns of Lunenburg (where the Bluenose was built and launched) and Peggy’s Cove. We grabbed ourselves some ice cream and some photos before cruising into the big city. We had ourselves a wicked BBQ at Kelsey’s place before heading out to a little brewery called Good Robot Brewing. We probably stayed out a little too late and had a few too many wobbly pops, but it was well worth it. The next day, we dropped Ferris of at the mechanic’s for a regular oil change and check up and toured the town on-foot. We went and spent a few hours wandering around the Halifax Citadel and brushed up on Canadian Military history, before heading off in search of the best fish and chips that Halifax had to offer.

Peggy’s Cove on 35mm film

35mm film (left) vs DSLR (right)

Peggy’s Cove

The next morning we said goodbye to Kelsey, and to Halifax. We hit the road for a big drive day to get us up to Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the Cabot Trail. Unfortunately, when stopping for lunch we noticed a big nasty bolt stuck in one of our tires, to make matters worse we also found that: a) our spare was crustier than originally thought; b) our spare was full size, but not the same size, as our main set; and c) our jack didn’t have enough lift to get our rear tires off the ground. With some help from a very friendly local, a call ahead to a tire shop in Cheticamp, and an online order with Canadian Tire, we got our spare tire on, a patch for our punctured tire arranged, and a new full-sized spare tire ordered for us to pick up when we got to Saint John’s. We then kept on trucking and made it into Cheticamp in time to enjoy the sunset at our beach campsite.

Had some fun on the beach in Cape Breton, shortly after driving there on the spare and getting our tire patched – we proceeded to get very, very stuck trying to drive down on to the beach for a more private camping spot, 1 hour later we successfully dug Ferris out with our poop shovel. Camp spot was decent regardless (below).

The famous Cabot Trail!

The next couple days we used Cheticamp as a base camp and did some exploring around the Cape Breton Highlands. We were a little disappointed with the very famous Skyline Trail, being that more than two thirds of the trail was closed for maintenance, and a good deal of the ridge walk that made the trail so famous is now closed for environmental protection. We more than made up for that disappointment on our next hike out to Pollett’s Cove. The trail itself is just outside of the park boundary, and doesn’t appear to see much formal maintenance, but the remoteness adds to the adventure. It takes you up and over a chain of forested headlands before arriving on an open bluff overlooking a lush green valley and a sandy alluvial fan. Amongst the beauty, we also had one of our most hair-raising experiences of the trip – we had read about wild horses frequenting the pastures and the beach at Pollett’s Cove – and their supposed friendly demeanour – but when we encountered them we just wanted to appreciate from a distance. The only problem with that being that the horses had set up camp directly on the trail. We made our presence known and tried to pick our way around the herd, but as we came to the far side of them they started to get spooked and proceeded to gallop downhill past and between us, barely more than an arms-length away. That got the blood pumping, and made use a little wary of going down to the beach and getting close to the horses again. We ate some lunch on the bluffs, calmed some nerves, grabbed some photos and made our way back to the van.

Pollett’s Cove.

Checking out the views, also very happy to not be trampled by wild horses!

Looking east over the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

More harbour front camping at another tiny community in Northern Cape Breton!

Continuing along the Cabot Trail, we checked out Meat Cove, the Northernmost settlement in Nova Scotia, and a very cool ridgeline hike above Money Point called the Kauzmann Trail (highly recommended). We were really enjoying all of the opportunities for exploring on Cape Breton Island, but soon enough it was time to head into North Sydney and catch our 16 hour ferry to Newfoundland. We got the van all stowed away, involving removal of the bikes and the rack, followed by some Tetris to get it all into the van, before loading onto the boat and waving goodbye to Nova Scotia. Onto the next province, and the next post!

Moody morning at Meat Cove.

Walking along the spine on the Kauzmann Trail & views below when the fog allowed!

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