Category Archives: Wet & Wild

Brier Island … Something you Simply Should Not Miss

I know, I know. This was first meant to be a blog about why you should stay with us in our hostel. It then morphed into a blog about why you should stay in Lunenburg County … well, today I’m just going to go right ahead and smash down that final barrier and say you should visit Nova Scotia! Because today (well, yesterday) we spent the day in Brier Island, and I can’t even begin to explain what an incredible experience it was.

It was our intention to get up super-early and get going, however with garbage day and visitors in the hostel we didn’t end up getting away until nearly 9am. Still, we made it to the Island by noon, and even stopped a couple times on the way.

The drive through the middle of the province was winding and lovely — if we were going to take it easy we would have checked into Caledonia House Hostel for the night and spent the day in Kejimkujik National Park. Sharon & Dan run that backpackers hostel, and they are lovely hosts … and so close to Keji! It would have been perfect. Sadly, we are on a pretty tight budget for time, as there were people staying in the hostel, so we just plodded on passing through so many quaint little communities – I really would have loved to have stopped. We stopped briefly in Digby to grab some motion sickness pills for our 4 and 9 year olds, and a quick bite to eat from Timmies (yup – there’s a Tim Hortons pretty much everywhere) and then on to the first of two ferry rides.

The first took us to Long Island (… pity we couldn’t stop for an ice tea :) ). The boat ride was super quick, and Long Island was lovely. Little homes dotted here and there, the balancing rock (well worth the hike to see), shops, a school, cafe … a busy little island which we didn’t really have time to stop here though because our final destination was Brier Island, and we were hightailing it. The second ferry took a bit longer (like 7 minutes instead of 5) and we were there.

The first thing I saw was a local riding his lawn tractor down the road. Lawn tractors, 4-wheelers, golf carts … part of the regular flow of traffic on Brier Island. I was instantly in love. With the Island, not the local.

Our first stop was at Brier Island Backpackers to see Wally & Joyce. What an incredible hostel they have there. Colourful rooms, huge big kitchen & common room .. and the view? Absolutely breathtaking! Gorgeous!!

There was no time for chitchat, though, as Wally & Joyce bundled us up in the special wet-weather-flotation-gear and packed us into their zodiac. We practically flew out into the open ocean … and there? It happened.

Whoosh! A big spray of water up into the air and seconds later WOW the stinkiest smell … whale breath (glad I didn’t have to kiss one!). We found a whale who did some lovely dives for us. We sat and watched for a while and them zoom! We were off again and .. wonder of all wonders .. found a mother and her calf. Whale, not cow. We’re in the middle of the ocean, right? It was absolutely magnificent. They put on such a show for us – swimming along the top of the water for ages, blowing, rolling over, diving and showing us their massive great tails and, la pièce de résistance, the full breach. Two times. Seriously. If you haven’t seen it, you haven’t breathed.

Our three hours on the water passed far too quickly and we headed back (mostly, I think, because our 4-year old had had enough). We visited the lighthouse and the stunning beach. Ah! There was so much unexplored but we were running out of time :( . We had a delicious dinner at the Cafe there next to the Hostel — truly delicious: fried and yet completely ungreasy fish & chips. We met a very cool little puppy named Seven and Wally gave some dog treats to the kids to feed the sweet little guy. We watched a man drive his lawn tractor to the gas station and fill up with $1.87 gas and then drive off back home again. We caught the 7:25pm ferry to Long Island and began the treck back home. We got home at around 11pm.

So yes, please, come to Lunenburg and stay with us at our hostel where we have campfires and marshmallows every night the stars are out, and we are as relaxed and comfy and friendly as can be. Do it, because you’ll love it here. And it’s cheap .. even better, right?

But if you’re coming to Nova Scotia you simply have to make the trip to Brier Island. And if you’re coming to Nova Scotia and planning to go whale watching? Don’t do it from anywhere else. Brier Island is right there .. right at the open ocean. The Atlantic is surrounding you — it’s only a quick drive. You get to spend all your time watching one of the greatest creatures on earth. And if you’re going to Brier Island, you’ve got to stay at the hostel there. I mean, there’s an “upper class” lodge you can stay at of course. Which, I am sure, is incredible. But seriously – why go to Brier Island and not spend the night? It isn’t a day trip — there’s too much to see and do. Me? I could live there quite happily. But it’s worth at LEAST one night, but more likely two or three. It’s heaven!

So you fancy those Pacific Islands, do you?

Nova Scotia has many islands worth a visit – too many for me to list all of them: some you need your own boat to get to — others you can get to by ferry (Brier Island); by tour (Henry Island); rent a kayak and paddle there (too many to mention!), drive there over a causeway (Isle Madame and Cape Breton Island) or even walk there at low tide (Micou’s Island).

The South Shore has many islands itself, and so today I thought I’d mention some of them. Some you can visit, some are protected. One of my sisters and her husband go and visit many more of our islands regularly – sometimes by kayak, sometimes by motor boat. If only I could take an excerpt from her brain and instal it here, you’d have more colour and nature and beauty than you could shake a stick at (always one of the weider expressions, in my opinion. I mean – you could shake a stick at any amount couldn’t you? ..weird)

There is, of course, Cross Island which you can see if you stand in Blue Rocks and look out to see. Not too far from shore, there is an old lighthouse there, and a few old cabins still used by locals who spend their time off in the summer there (locals love it so much here in Lunenburg County we don’t go far from home vacation time comes around — okay, there are certainly plenty of people who travel far and wide, but as many or more who stay put).

Sheep, Flat, Southwest & Shut-In Islands are easily kayakable, and some local tour companies actually offer kayaking tours to these islands.

Westhaver Island is actually just around the corner from us. The beach is a walk away (just over 1km) and you can see the island quite clearly from the shore (it’s not the HUGE island with the monstrous house perched atop it, it’s the lovely little one with the lighthouse). Like many of the islands around here, it’s lighthouse was not always automated … and when you see how tiny the island is you’ll find it incredible someone once lived on it. The original lighthouse is now gone, having been destroyed by fire in 1887. A new lighthouse was built, and the lighthouse keeper was moved into the oil storage building where the lighthouse keepers continued to live until 1921 when it became automated. The old wooden structure was finally replaced with steel in 1948 and fibreglass in 1945. While this island is only a stone’s throw from shore (okay, maybe a bit further) you can no longer visit it because it is a tern nesting site. The island needing mentioning, though, because it’s history is kinda cool.

Big Tancook Island is definitely worth a visit as well, and there are ferries from Chester each day to take you there. It has one of the few remaining one room schoolhouses still in operation. It’s not a crowded touristy place – it’s just lovely instead. Hiking & biking trails, lots of birdlife, fossils and geocaching. It’s a unique little island well worth a visit.

If you’re not into sea kayaking to visit islands you can always try rowing or canoeing on a lake! Lake Mush-A-Mush has plenty of islands worth visiting, and the water it crystal clear and soo refreshing!

Come and have a look at our islands: one of the many reasons to come down to the South Shore a stay for more than a day.

Swimming, you say?

Mahone Bay Pool
So I know it: I’ve mentioned a million (okay 3 or 4) of our totally rocking beaches that we have around here. Sandy beaches, castle-building-sand beaches, rocky beaches, beach glass beaches, sand dollar beaches, surfing beaches … we’ve got them all. What I haven’t mentioned, though, is a pool!

It’s true: not everyone always feels like a beach. Sometimes you might feel like swimming somewhere you can be sure there is no seaweed, or hermit crabs, or starfish, or fish, or turtles, or frogs, or anything else that might nibble at your toes or tickle your legs while you swim. And if that’s what you want, we’ve got that too. Both Lunenburg and Mahone Bay have pools, but today I’m going to chat a little bit about the Mahone Bay Pool, as you could probably tell from that photo up top.

The Mahone Bay Pool is perfect. It’s really inexpensive (10 swims for $35, or $4 a day … even cheaper, of course, for those of you who are going to hang around for a long time to purchase a membership – by the week, fortnight, month or season). The water is crystal clear and refreshing. There are shady spots to sit if you don’t want to be in the sun, but lots of sunny spots as well. It’s in a quiet little corner of Mahone Bay so you don’t have traffic noise or lots of people gawking at your jiggly thighs and not-so-freshly-shaven legs in your swimsuit (pardon? Everyone doesn’t have that worry? Sorry, my mistake.)

Anyway, the pool is staffed by the best and friendliest lifeguards around (in my opinion anyway!), and the pool is never so crowded that you can’t escape the more rowdy swimmers, whatever age they might be.

And if, like me, you want to plan a few hours with the pool all to yourself (or yourself and your friends) for an incredibly reasonable price you can rent the pool for two hours with a barbecue to boot, and the fee includes two lifeguards. What more can you ask for, right?

So if you’ve got a hankering for an outdoor swim without the wildlife that sometimes accompanies it, why not head to Mahone Bay Pool. You won’t be sorry.

Hidden Gem’s? We gottem!!

So today I went to the Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct with my family, and it’s just incredible! I had only been there once before, and now I wonder what’s been keeping me away.

Only a hop skip & a jump from Liverpool, Nova Scotia (which is also worth a look, btw).

It is also fantastically unadvertised. Why, when you have such a beautiful piece of protected parkland, would you not scream it out to the world? “COME ONE AND ALL! Come see nesting grounds of the protected Piping Plover! Come climb on rocks, hike a super-easy hike through the woods (our 4-year old did it with no help) and get to the softer-than-soft white sand beaches. The amazing flowers and plantlife are actually quite breathtaking. And the seals shlumpfing along the rocks a stone’s throw away are also kind of neat to see.

Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct. You’ve really got to go there — you can camp there, there’s an awesome camping ground. You can go for the day — it’s only about an hour from our backpacker lodge (nudge-nudge wink-wink) … so about two hours from Halifax. But it’s worth it, man. You will NOT be sorry.

Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct. It’s worth a second look. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Scuba Diving, did you say?

So you’re travelling the world, and you are a scuba diver. Well, sadly, we don’t have the Titantic lurking off our shores … we do, however, have what many scuba divers call the best diving experience on Canada’s east coast: the HMCS Saguenay resting on the bottom of Lunenburg Bay.

Diving not your thing? Then do what we do: visit some of our beaches with your snorkel and flippers and go snorkelling. Bachman’s Beach is lovely, and really close to town.

Sand Dollars .. not worth much on the forex

Sand Dollar Beach is a little small beach in Rose Bay (the scenic route to Bridgewater … we went this way the other day when we took the cable ferry, remember?). It’s only minutes from Lunenburg. Sand Dollar Beach offers a spectacular opportunity for strolling along the shoreline and collecting sand dollars as well as other sea treasures.

This shallow sand bar gets completely covered by the ocean at high tide, but as the water recedes, beautiful little treasures show themselves – peak out from under the sand. They’re there for you to collect. Sand dollars don’t even seem like sand dollars – little small white circles, and then when you dig a little the whole shell emerges. Keep them whole or carefully break them open to see the three sets of angel’s wings hidden inside.

Finding your own sand dollars:

Start your search at low tide- The lower the tide, the better chance you have of finding perfect sand dollars.
Collect only dead sand dollars please — they are mostly white (sometimes with pinks or purples mixed in) and smooth.
Live sand dollars are brown and fuzzy.

Today is such and inCREDibly beautiful day I think sand dollar beach is the way to go. When you’re done come and stop by the hostel… we’re always happy to have you, and if there’s no room we’ll help you find somewhere suitable that does have room!

Another Glorious Day

Well there’s really nothing you can complain about when the sun is shining and there’s a constant gentle breeze which stops you from over heating. It’s just awesome here in Mahone Bay/Lunenburg .. all of Nova Scotia in fact – I can’t imagine why you haven’t come yet!

A trip to Westhaver’s Beach was in order – it’s only 1km from the backpacker hostel, and while it isn’t the soft sandy beaches which are most often found in this area, it’s still great for swimming … and better yet, perfect for beach treasures. Lots of gorgeous rocks (if you’re a rock-a-holic, as I am), shells and beach glass. Once we even found a perfect stainless steel hotdog skewer for roasting hotdogs over an open fire. The plan is to return one night for a beach bonfire, and I’m not lying when I say I simply cannot wait.

The hostel is quieter again once more … Lucky Fawn came down and within five days had found herself a fulltime job and an apartment. Now we just need someone to come and find a fulltime job and agree to stay on as our volunteer — free bed in exchange for cleaning the hostel. Awesome deal … you get to keep all your wages!

What to do on a gorgeous day like this?

It’s true – the day is completely gorgeous. A real stunner. And here I sit, writing you a quick note before I go for a full day’s work, trying to decide what I would do if I were you, waking up in our hostel on this glorious morning.

Today I’m thinking heading out Riverport way .. what do you think? Ah, it’s such a gorgeous drive, following the LaHave River past all the quaint little villages and communities .. but hey! What’s this on our left? Why, it’s the LaHave River Cable Ferry! Awesome! So let’s get on that old lady and take her across the river to The Other Side. The ferry ride is inexpensive, quick and also quite unique – there aren’t many other cable ferries still in operation these days.

Once you reach the other side of the LaHave River (and remember .. it’s pronounced with a hard ‘A’, not a soft ‘A’ .. forget the word have, because it entirely different from LaHave … bah – I’m sure all of us could go on at length about the way people mispronounce our names or communities which surround us … hey: maybe that could be the blog one day: how to properly pronounce all the often mispronounced names of Nova Scotia haha) ……….. so where was I? Ah yes, so we’ve crossed the LaHave on the cable ferry and now we’ll turn left as we drive off the ferry. A hop, skip & a jump up the road is the LaHave Bakery which I highly, highly recommend as a place to stop off and pick up your picnic lunch, as well as some supplies for your dinner tonight. Their breads, pastries, pizzas … their everything is absolutely delicious and baked there on site. There was once a hostel in operation over it, actually, but I believe the whole licensing issues were too difficult to comply with (it’s not easy for hostels in Nova Scotia!). But downstairs is a cooperative artisans market, where you’ll find some remarkable art for sale from the artisans themselves — if you sell your work there, you take a turn working. How cool. I am a particularly huge fan of Rumpelstiltskins (I’m a terrible speller … I’ll bet I got that wrong…) – anyway, she makes mindblowing masks and characters from molded leather — I can’t really explain in words what she does. You’ll have to Google her – try Nova Scotia Rumplestiltskins. Her work is incredible, and I wish I owned some of her work, which I don’t. Sad me.

Oh dear, off track again. So when you’re finished in the bakery and the artisan market, keep heading in that same direction for a good 10 kms or more .. on the right you’ll come to Crescent Beach – a long & lean white sanded beach, great for a gentle stroll and a bit of splashing your feet in the water. Great, too, if you have a dog. Then just a wee bit further up the road you’ll see the first sign for Risser’s Beach, which is one of our favorites. There’s a big parking lot off to the right, and then you can either walk to the back of the parking lot and follow the path under the highway, or just cross the street at the beginning of the parking lot and get to the beach there, across the road. The beach goes on for quite a long white, and there’s always plenty of stunning shells to add to your collection. Sand dollars galore on a good day. I’m not sure if the canteen is open yet or not, but it’s always great when it is so you can get an ice cream or some fries before heading back to town. The sand is great for building sand castles (and we all know not all sand is, so this is actually an important thing to note!), or for laying back and relaxing and catching a few rays if that’s your thing. The waves here after often quite big and just perfect for body surfing (although actual surfing? Not so much..).

Are you glad you came with me? It was an awesome day, wasn’t it….

♫T’ik o’ fog, T’ik o’ fog, this North Atlantic weather isn’t fit for man nor dog ♪

So keeping up with the traditions of the season, it’s a very foggy morning, but it’ll all burn off and turn into a lovely day. Sunday is a day a rest, right? NO WAY! Not around here. Leaves and flowers are bursting out all over, so why sit inside somewhere? Get out and enjoy Lunenburg and Mahone Bay in all it’s newly sprung glory. Today a drive to Hirtle’s Beach is in order. Hirtle’s Beach is what they call a ‘living beach’ with the sand coming and going each year. Yes, I’m serious. Some days you’ll go and the beach is nothing but the smoothest, most gorgeous rocks you’ll ever see, ranging in size from a thumbnail to a fist. Go back a week later, and it’s all smooth & gorgeous sand. Incredible! But that’s not the best part ….. you walk down that beach heading to your right (sorry, I’m not a NSEW kinda girl) and follow the path up the side of the cliff, and go on and hike Gaff’s Point. Wow – amazing. Gorgeous walks through forrest, barren fields, craggy rocklined cliffs .. and gorgous views of the ocean where you can actually, honestly, (although most definitely not every day) see whales playing in the ocean. Truth. So as much as I’m urging you to go today, you actually need to come back again when the waters are warmer (say August/September) and come watch the whales.

The hostel had a few empty beds last night! Disastrous!! Not at all – a really nice couple turned up on their motorbike as the day drew to an end, and they made an awesome addition to the group already out there. Sat out and had a few beers while dodging the june bugs (man! what’s up with all the june bugs this year?). Nova Scotia in the spring .. what could be better? Except, perhaps, Nova Scotia in the Summer, Autumn and Winter .. depending on your favorite season!