Nearing the end of the summer, many people try to fill as much in two weeks and as you would fit in two months. The main factors are the sun, wind, air and water temperature. The end of August is usually the warmest for East Coast waters. Yet, when experiencing Nova Scotia’s ocean playground, the degree to how much you yelp and curse while trying to get in the water is an occasion of its own. It’s especially humorous when you are observing from afar; the language can be quite colourful. I have not heard God’s name used in so many different ways than at the beach.
This summer, with a trusty sidekick, we embarked to experience beaches that we had either never been to, or have only visited once many years ago. We called it Beach Marathon 2014. The natural geographic was Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Our goal was to hit as many beaches as possible in one day. A Google search was our first point of action. The top SEO sites came up, each with its ups and downs. We had to cross check to make sure we were not missing any potential beaches. The best sites were http://nsbeaches.com/ and http://www.novascotiaparks.ca/misc/beaches.asp
To get the water temperature, provincial beaches with lifeguards post the daily water temperatures on-line. It’s good to check this site first as water temperatures can change daily depending on the weather and tides. The temperature is also different between beaches on the South Shore and Eastern Shore, as well as, those located on open ocean compared to inland bays. Check out: http://www.nsls.ns.ca/
We decided to work our way back from the Bridgewater area to Halifax. An early 7 am wake up call was needed for our departure. We began at Rissers Beach Provincial Park, a hidden gem located just outside of the Town of Bridgewater.
Finding the beach was confusing at first because the parking lot is on the other side of the road from the ocean. Visitors must walk through a tunnel under the road to get to the beach and picnic area…be careful if you are taller than 5’9. The beach grounds have an educational area, washrooms, a shower station and a canteen. (In front of the canteen there are some parking spaces off the main road.) With our early arrival, we were the first ones on the beach. The water temperature was posted on a boardwalk leading to the beach; it was a balmy 16 degrees Celsius. Nothing ventured, and like our 10-year-old former selves, we took the plunge. We then laid on our beach blankets and baked in the sun to dry off. My blanket is double-sided, nylon on one and fleece on the other. The nylon is great for keep out the damp. Roll up beach mats are great too. As time passed, more people came and it was time for our departure. Remember to bring extra towels to keep your car seats from getting wet.
The next beach was Crescent Beach in La Have. This is a long stretch of beach which attaches the mainland with the La Have Islands. Cars are allowed to park on this beach. We hoped to picnic at Crescent as last year when I drove by there was food truck parked at the beach. This year the truck was not there; I thought I saw it parked on someone’s lawn. Luckily we brought a cooler bag with snacks. Cooler bags are a must for beach travel. They are easy to pack, and you can keep food cold with ice or cold packs.
After our lunch, we took the La Have Ferry across to the Lunenburg side of the La Have River. It was a short ride and a nice experience. One way fair is $5.00.
The next beach on our map was Hirtle’s. We kept our eyes out for road signs. How pretty the area was and we admired all the lovely decorated houses along the way. Still no road signs. We finally happened upon a corner store. For those of us who still use maps and have no GPS, corner stores are your saviours. My co-pilot ran in got directions, and yes, my co-pilot was a woman. We had to turn around and turn down the first street on the left. As we got closer to the beach finally there were road signs. However, others knew how to find it, the parking lot was full and there were out of province license plates…they must have a GPS! This beach sits on Rose Bay and it’s spectacular. It’s bookended by bluffs with walking trails. We met people from the US on a hiking tour. Also on the bluff are new or renovated homes which have the most gorgeous views. The beach is clean and sandy with minimal seaweed. The water felt a little colder here, but none-the-less, if you are travelling from afar, you have to get in.
Next beach was Kingsburg, this beach was around the corner from Hirtle’s, not easy to find. Houses are situated along the beach and we finally found the public access area, but again there are no signs. Since it was so close, we moved along to the next beach, Sand Dollar. Once again, we were in the right area but no road signs. We asked for directions again, and found out we had to drive down a private road. I wasn’t in the mood to have some irate land owner come screaming at me to get off his or her property (which has been known to happen to Nova Scotia beach goers and new land owners).
We then made our way to Mahone Bay. We stopped at Tim Hortons for a coffee and then we visited the local tourist office. There, proudly in a tourism brochure, was a picture of Sand Dollar Beach. I asked the attendant why there were no road signs for Sand Dollar as well as Hirtle’s, but she didn’t know. My sidekick figured that the “locals” must have their own off-the-beaten-path beach. We were told by the tourist bureau attendant….they only sail in Mahone Bay. Well pardon me! After some prodding, we were told about a spot in Mader’s Cove. While in Rome, so we back tracked to this beach. It was a small area next to the road with a rocky shore line. When swimming in Nova Scotia, it is good to bring water shoes. You can encounter rocks or glass or sharp seashells, so it’s best to protect your feet.
The last stop on our way back the city was the tried and true Queensland Beach. On St. Margaret’s Bay, Queensland is a favourite for people from Halifax and the surrounding areas. The water was a shock at first, but it was beautiful and I didn’t want to get out. The sun was setting soon; we dried off and returned to the city.
Beach Marathon Part Two
When embarking on a road trip, bring good sing along car tunes that you and your friends like. It helps pass time driving on the highway where there is not much to see. Again, we did the early AM leave and set out to reach further along Nova Scotia’s South Shore. After an hour of driving, we had to make a pit stop. My favourite is the shopping area off the highway at Bridgewater. There is a Wal-Mart, garage and other stores. Our first beach was Summerville Beach and Provincial Park outside of Liverpool. My sister had been there before and gave me good advice. We drove all the way to the very end of the parking lots and parked the car next to the beach entrance. This area gave us closest access to where the river runs into the ocean. The fresh water from the river is warm and, if you want, there is a small foot bridge to jump off of into the river. Summerville is another stunning beach. Like most, there is no shaded area so we set up a beach tent. Beach tents are great for shade and to put your stuff in. They also fold up small and can fit into your beach bag. Beach tents are good for beaches that are not crowded, but for crowded beaches, they are annoying to other beach goers.
We put down our stuff and it was off to the water. We swam in front of the beach then in the river. The current was strong in the river and it took us out to the sea. It may not be suitable for young children who are not strong swimmers. An adult should be present and within arms reach as even I got a little scared. At the river we attracted some unwanted friends….that’s right…the Nova Scotia beach HORSE FLY. These were mammoth horse flies, must have been something in the air from the former paper mill. They were so bad; they chased us from the river into our tent where we hid with rolled up crossword puzzle newspapers and ready to take aim. Pretty beach, but time to go once the horse flies came.
Along the shoreline, we stopped at White Point Beach Lodge and watched the surfers. A private beach, it looked cold and the sea much rougher.
Next was the town of Liverpool, perfect stop for an ice-cream treat. Our next haven was Beach Meadows Beach Park. This is a municipal beach in Queens County. I was told that the smell from the pulp and paper mill was not a friend to this beach, but now with the mill shut down, the beach area is enjoying a resurgence. Beach Meadows is huge and great for walking. Like other provincial beach parks, this one has a picnic area, playground, change rooms, washroom and boardwalks but no canteen. This too is a great beach for kids. There is a separate river area along the front of the beach in low tide that the kids can play in.
Back on the road, the last pit stop again was Queensland Beach. It was good to break up the hour-long drive back. This is a crowded beach and people need to understand beach etiquette. If your kids dig a huge pit, fill it in when you leave so no one unexpectedly steps into it and twists their ankle. One father decided to race his kid as fast as he could along the shore line. I shook my head and thought; this is an accident waiting to happen. Sure enough, a little kid with his bucket ran to the shore, and this grown man plowed him over. This guy is lucky the little kid’s father didn’t punch him, in fact I wanted too. I walked by him and called him a dumb ass, not sure if he heard me. When you are at a crowded beach be courteous, no wants to hear your music, constant swearing, your kids kicking sand and pick up your garbage.
Another lovely swim at Queensland and we used their changing rooms and got out of our wet clothes before the drive back to Halifax. Near Queensland is Tantallon. This area has a grocery stores, gas station and restaurants. We picked up food there to snack on before supper.
OTHER BEACH DAYS
Crystal Crescent Beach
Located near the village of Sambro is Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park. This beach is about a 35 minute drive outside of Halifax. It’s infamous for two things, the water is always freezing and located down from the main beach on Mackerel Cove is a nudist beach. Our first visit was not to the main beach, but to a private beach up the road. This is where the locals often go. You have to walk down a wooded path through private property. The owners have posted signs for people to respect their property and not to litter. (This was nice to see, instead of barbed wire fence. In Nova Scotia, no one owns below the hide tide mark, therefore most beaches are not as private as the adjacent land owners like to think.) The path opened to a lovely little beach. We navigated the rocky shore line to the sand. To my surprise the water wasn’t that cold, it was clear, the water was clean and there were a few jelly fish. Some beaches in Nova Scotia have rocks to walk over before you get to the beach. It’s best to wear sandals with a grip and these beaches are not suited for an elderly person to walk over.
For our next visit, we decided to go to the nudist beach. It is illegal in Nova Scotia to be nude in public, however, this beach is generally known for its nudity. As long as no one creates trouble, the police leave people alone. We decided to take the wooded path to the beach….do not do this. I was leading the way, the path takes forever and I had two snakes slither out in front of me. I yelled out shrieking girly screams giving myself and my friend heart palpitations.
The nudist beach is located on a board walk and a main walking trail. There were a few gawkers who apparently never look in the mirror after a bath or shower. My friend also saw someone take a photo from the board walk, … really, get a life! We set up our tent at the end of the beach. For the middle of the day and on a work week, I thought the beach would be empty. Yet, it was pretty full with people trying to get the last rays of the summer. Almost everyone was nude, except for us and a group young adults at the end of the beach. We thought about going nude, but the water was freezing and I only got up next to my knees. While getting up the nerve, three boats of “local yocals” anchored off the shoreline, square in front of the beach. They tied up to each other and the guys sat there drinking “beverages” and watching the nude sun bathers. How pervy! Don’t these guys have anything better to do? Most of the people on the beach were men. The sun bathers and swimmers ignored the perves and the perves stayed for a good 30 minutes or more. By then, I had no desire to bare all. We walked back along the board walk and it took no time to get to the car. Again, with this beach, a reminder to parents and beach goers to ‘slam dunk your junk‘ and not at the nudy beach.
Tucked behind the dykes and on the Bay of Fundy is Evangeline Beach. The beach is located next to Evangeline Campground. There is a small parking lot with a canteen. It is not the sand beaches people think of in Nova Scotia. This beach is pure red mud. Great for the skin! The parking lot is on a cliff overlooking the beach and there are stairs leading to the shore. Up top there are a couple of benches to sit on, best to grab an ice-cream or treat from the canteen and watch the sun set over Blomidon Bluff. The vista is serene.
Will or won’t it be sunny today? And how cold will the water be? We are now at the end of August. Clam Harbour Beach in Lake Charlotte is on our radar. We have both been there many times, but it had been years. Clam Harbour is a great beach for adults and kids, as you can walk out and still be at your knees. Located on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, the water on this shore line is always colder. But with Clam Harbour, the sun hitting the golden sand in knee-deep water helps to warm it up. We didn’t leave as early as our other endeavours, but we were still the first to arrive. Our day was not warm, and quite windy. (I was there once when the fog rolled in and you couldn’t see the water.) We walked along the shore line, picked up some garbage along the way. Please people, no littering….and no cigarette butts. Like Summerville, we got in where the river meets the ocean. It was cold, but no current. We also braved the front of the beach. In the right conditions, Clam Harbour is an awesome beach. It’s an hour from Halifax, and near the beach is a replica old-time village called Heritage Village. http://heritagevillage.ca/visitthevillage_church.php. This trip would make a great family outing for the grand parents and kids, then a visit to the beach. Other beaches on the Eastern Shore include Rainbow Haven, Lawrencetown and Martinique. They are for the hardier souls who like to surf and there are also great walking and biking trails.
In September, it was still warm, and we thought we would try another beach. This time we drove out to St. Margaret’s Bay and stopped for a coffee at the Train Station Bike & Bean Café. Once an old train station, it’s now a café and bike shop. Behind the station are the old rail road tracks which are now a bike trail. It’s a great place for cyclists to stop and relax.
With our coffees in hand, we drove to Cleveland Beach Provincial Park. Cleveland Beach is a small and favourite beach among people with small kids. It’s not far from the ever packed Queensland Beach, so Cleveland is good when you want to avoid crowds. It’s September, mid-week, so there were six of us on the beach. People were brave to get into the water, I was not. My toes hit that cold, and it was enough for me. I sat on the beach and enjoyed my coffee. Thermal mugs are great to keep in the car. You can use them for hot and cold drinks; coffee on the beach is a lovely way to spend an afternoon as well.
Instead of coming back along Hwy 103, we took the long way back around Peggy’s Cove Road and Prospect Road. (As someone from the Prospect Road, I do get annoyed when I see travel writers and others journalists call it Peggy’s Cove Road.) We stopped in the beautiful and lovely Shad Bay, and soaked up the last remaining remnants of summer. It’s also good to keep beach chairs in the car. You never know when you need a seat and a suntan.
Our next Beach Marathon will begin in 2015, may be next year we will go the Northumberland Shore.