Nova Scotia nature at its best
Four vehicles pull up at Mason Point in Tangier on a warm day in late summer, each carrying one canoe, two people, and enough gear and grub to last four days
We’re headed out to Baltee Island ( part of the 100 Islands) where we’ll set up camp. Over the years, hundreds of kayaks have left these shores. That’s not a big deal; what’s unusual is that we intend to do this trip in canoes — a rare sight, as few venture out for a wilderness canoe trip over the briny deep.
The forecast calls for everything from sun to rain, wind, fog and an electrical storm. Do we have what it takes to camp and explore the 100 Wild Islands, Nova Scotia’s largest coastal wilderness region, for four days in spite of the weather?
We not only survived, we thrived. Sure, the swells on the second day were a bit of a challenge (downright scary), but we took our time crossing to Carryover Cove where the rocky cliffs and emerald lagoons were simply spectacular.
That trip was so memorable, I returned the following year with a group of women for another wilderness trip. There were five kayaks and two canoes with a total of nine women.
This time, we set up our base camp on Shelter Cove where we tucked our tents into the woods on the edge of a crescent beach and did day trips exploring the region.
The 100 Wild Islands feature more than 250 kilometres of coastal habitats and 400 acres of wetlands. It includes everything from boreal forests, and islands galore to bogs and barrens, hidden coves, and pristine sandy beaches.
And we can thank the staff and volunteers at the Nova Scotia Nature Trust for acquiring and preserving this region. If kayaking (or canoeing) is your thing, this is nirvana. Don’t have a boat? Sign up for a kayaking excursion with Coastal Adventures at Mason Point.
When I originally made my list of wow natural spaces in Nova Scotia, I had more than 50, and the list kept growing.
The ones that surfaced to the top are below. They all rate a number one spot. And this is only a smattering of what the province has to offer.
Baxters Harbour Falls
Located on the Bay of Fundy in Kings County (about 15 kilometres from Kentville) is a little-known yet charming spot that’s well worth exploring. It features a waterfall that you can walk right up to at low tide (and step behind it!) as well as stunning columnar basal formations along the shore and cobble beds that are visible at low tide. Great place both s ummer and winter.
A photographer’s delight.
Cape Sable Island
(Not to be confused with Sable Island) is home to the famous Cape Island Boat or Cape Islander. The island is located in the most southern part of Nova Scotia and is accessible by a causeway from Barrington Passage. Once on the island, head to The Hawk. Designated as an Important Bird Area, it is a destination for bird lovers the world over. At low tide it’s also home to the 1,500-year-old drowned forest of exposed petrified tree stumps.
Joggins Fossil Cliffs
Is a UNESCO World Heritage site which just happens to be the world’s most complete fossil record of life in the Coal Age dating back 300 million years. Best appreciated by taking a scheduled tour of the cliffs with an interpreter from the centre, or hire a guide in the village.
Not to be confused with Cape Sable Island, is a National Park Reserve located far out in the North Atlantic. This is home to the famous Sable Island wild horses, where they roam freely. It’s also home to giant shifting sand dunes, as well as the world’s biggest breeding colony of grey seals, and scores of plants, birds, and bugs. The island’s human history is rich, varied and ancient. Accessible only by sea or air.
Tobeatic Wilderness Area
Is the largest wilderness area in the Maritimes. It spans parts of five counties and encompasses 118,000 hectares.
Referred to as the Tobeatic, it features everything from old fire barrens to unique old growth forests, giant erratics, expansive wetlands, long stillwaters, more than 100 lakes, the Heritage Shelburne River and more. It’s a provincial jewel.
Local lore says there are 365 islands, one for every day of the year. That’s a tad exaggerated but most agree that including islets ands significant ledges, there are more than 200 islands, each with a distinct personality. As the crow flies, The Tusket Islands stretch about 32 kilometres from Robert’s Island off of Yarmouth, to Seal Island off of Shag Harbour. To get a sense of the islands, its history and culture, sign up for Tusket Island Tours.
The view from Big Tusket, one of the many islands in an area referred to as The Tusket Islands.