Best of Nova Scotia Northern Mainland

Tips for Nova Scotia Northern Mainland Trip

Today we are travelling over the Canso Causeway. I will look at a couple of different scenic routes to enjoy Mainland Nova Scotia.


First, let’s follow the Atlantic coast, known as the Marine Drive.


The coastal beauty has long served as a destination for visitors from around the world.


I enjoy exploring the inlets and the islands. You can see nesting seabirds, seals remnants of early fishing settlements and see where hundreds, if not thousands of shipwrecks have taken place.


You will begin in Mulgrave on the Strait of Canso.


Founded in 1605, it is one of the oldest settlements in Nova Scotia. You’ll follow the coast to the town of Canso where French fishermen began using the offshore island as a fishing camp in early 1600 because it was very close to a lucrative fishing ground and could easily be defendant.


These fishermen prospered and developed a full-scale fishing settlement.


In the early seventeen hundreds the French for forced out by New Englanders who flocked to take part in the rich fisheries.


Today Canso is home to the Stan Rogers Folk Festival held in early July.


The festival is a mix of traditional Celtic music, country, blues, rock, bluegrass and folk music.


Thousands attend every year.


Further along, you’ll find Torbay of Provincial Park which opens up to the Atlantic Ocean with a mixture of sandy beaches, fragile sand dunes, and rugged offshore rock formations.


It was here, in 1875, the first direct commercial cable was used to successfully transmitted messages from England to mainland North America.


As you marvel at the rugged coastline you’ll pass through a number of small picturesque towns, many of them of Acadian origin.


Sherbrooke Village is definitely worth the stop.

Sherbrooke Village

It is the largest Nova Scotia museum site.


It depicts a typical Nova Scotian village from the 1860’s to pre-World War I.


There are approximately 80 buildings, with 25 of them open to the public most with costumed interpreters.


The town was originally built on the economy of shipbuilding, lumbering and gold mining and I’ll talk more about that.


Sherbrooke Village reflects Nova Scotia as it was during the industrial boom.


Further down the road is the District of Tangier, the location of Nova Scotia’s first gold mines.


First discovered in 1858, at Mooseland on the Tangier River.  At the same time, activities began Tangiers gold was discovered in various other areas in Nova Scotia.


During its heyday, the golden age of gold mining in Nova Scotia was between 1885 and 1903, with the 1890’s being the most productive.


243,699 ounces of gold were produced during that decade and if you are wondering what that would be worth in today’s market where gold is a value just over $1,664 an ounce, it would have fetched you a whopping $405,515,136 – approximately.


Now I know the golden age of gold mining has long passed but it might be worth taking a weekend or two, just a poke around.


I’ll let you know if I find anything.


If you’re traveling this route in August and stop a Clam Harbour, go to the beach and see if you find “The Annual Clam Harbour Beach Sand Castle Sculpture Contest”.


You’ll know if it’s happening. There will be thousands of sightseer’s, scores of sand artists, enormous castles, dragons and other amazing designs.


If you miss that particular weekend, don’t be disappointed. Enjoy the beach, look for surfers, that’s right surfers. You’ll find that many Atlantic coast beaches have surfers almost all year round.


Yes, the water is cold but you’ll see even in the middle of the summer these surfers will be wearing wetsuits.


I told you that Sherbrooke Village Nova Scotia is one of the largest museums in province. Well at Jeddore, Oyster Pond, you will find one of Nova Scotia smallest and yet most fascinating provincial museums.


The tiny house and farm are known as the “Fisherman’s Life Museum” and once was the home to turn-of-the-century inshore fishermen, his wife, and their 13 daughters.


The staff there are amazing and love to share the family stories.


A few kilometres from Musquodoboit Harbour is Martinique Beach, the longest sand beach in Nova Scotia and it’s a bird sanctuary.


The beach itself is a protected nesting area for the piping plover, an endangered species.


From here you’re only a few miles from Halifax Regional Municipality but we’re not going to go there yet. Instead, we’re going to backtrack and give you another option to explore mainland Nova Scotia from Cape Breton


The Sunrise Trail


This time, after you cross over the causeway you’ll stay on the Trans-Canada Highway and head towards the town of Antigonish


Now, don’t let the idea of traveling on the highway bother you. It is not like an interstate highway in the United States or the Autobahn in Germany. Here traffic moves comfortably, at a very relaxed pace and most of the time it is just you and a few other vehicles on the road.


You’ll be able to take this time to enjoy the scenery.


Look at the coves and the bays along the Northumberland Strait. Or the view out to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.


Take a glimpse to the meadows in the fields where you might see a deer taking a drink.


I mentioned in an earlier podcast it’s very important to relax when visiting Atlanta Canada. Leave your stresses behind and enjoy everything that is around you.


You’ll pass by the community of Monastery, named after the French Trappist monastery of La Trappe, France.


This Nova Scotia monastery was opened here in 1825 and was closed in 1919 but reopened to get in 1938 under the St. Augustine fathers, who came to this country to escape Nazi persecution.


The monastery is not open to the public, but there is a public outdoor chapel in the glen that features a natural spring


Not far off the highway is the village of Pomquet, settled in 1761 by the Acadians, six years after the Acadian expulsion.


Today, many homes proudly fly the Stella Maris, the Acadian flag which looks like the flag of France with a gold star.


Antigonish holds a special spot for me. It has a very strong Scottish heritage and is home to lots of my relatives. It is also the birthplace of my dad.


It is here the largest and oldest Highland Games held outside of Scotland takes place.


The Antigonish Highland Games have been held here every year since 1861.


To continue along the Sunrise Trail, follow the shore of the St. George’s Bay; some argue this is one of the most scenic drives in Nova Scotia.


Watch for the turn that leads to the Cape George Lighthouse, standing high on a bluff, about 300 meters or about 1000’ above the flow of the tide.


A lighthouse has stood here since 1895.


The present lighthouse was built in 1968.


On clear days you can see Prince Edward Island over 50 kilometres or 30 miles away.


A short drive down the road is the Arisaig Provincial Park where you can stop and stroll along the shoreline and see fossils millions of years old in the sedimentary rock.


This route brings you back to the communities of New Glasgow, Stellarton, and Trenton where coal was first discovered in 1798 and mined up until just recently.


A short drive back on the Trans-Canada Highway will bring it to the exit to Pictou and the Prince Edward Island ferry terminal.


The historic town of Pictou one of the largest communities of Northumberland shore is a popular destination for visitors.


The town dates back to September 15, 1773, when Nova Scotia’s first boatload of Scottish Highlanders, where 33 families and 25 unmarried men sailed the Atlantic Ocean for 2 1/2 months on the ship Hector.


This was the beginning of the wave of Scottish migration that has had such a major impact on the development of this province.


You can use your imagination on what it might have been like to sail across the Atlantic Ocean when visiting the Pictou Waterfront and touring the full-scale replica of the ship built there at the Hector Heritage Quay.


A few miles from the town is the ferry terminal to Prince Edward Island.


There’s still more to see and do in Nova Scotia.


For example; the Creamery Square on the waterfront the historic town of Tatamagouche.


Creamery Square houses amazing exhibits including 290 million-year-old fossils from the Brule fossil collection.


Then onto Pugwash, a charming village located on a scenic harbour at the mouth of the Pugwash River.


Now, Pugwash gained world attention in 1957, when millionaire industrialist and humanitarian Cyrus Eaton conveyed the first Thinkers Conference.


The Pugwash movement became synonymous with themes of global cooperation and nuclear disarmament. The Pugwash conferences and their chairman Joseph Rotblat were awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1995.


Next is Oxford, known as the blueberry capital of Canada.


The oxford region produces over half of Canada’s total blueberry harvest each year.


This trail ends at the historic streets of Amherst.


Graced with charming Victorian and Edwardian architecture, Amherst was remarkably the home to four of the original 36 Fathers of Canadian Confederation.


As the sunrise trail ends, so does today’s podcast but not our travels through Nova Scotia.


If you are looking for information about Sherbrooke Village or Pugwash or places in between or things to do when visiting, let “Nova Scotia is Amazing” be your resource.

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Nova Scotia, Cape Breton & Donald Trump
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In the next video, we are going to take a look at the southern part of Nova Scotia.


Until then, have a fun day.



Northern Mainland of Nova Scotia image Credits:

Wally Hayes

Julia Manthorne


Video Music Credit


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