04 Apr A Photo Essay: Nova Scotia, Canada
Located in eastern Canada and almost entirely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Nova Scotia is filled with rugged wilderness and plenty of opportunities for adventure. We were road tripping around the USA and Canada for a video project and one of the destinations on the list was Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. Our road trip sent us around northeastern North America, and this particular leg of the journey saw us driving from Acadia National Park in Maine, straight to Cape Breton Highlands National Park—it was about a 10 hour journey north of Maine!
We spent the first two nights of the road trip camping in Cape Breton Highlands National Park for the project, and then I just had to tack on a few extra days to explore more of the providence on our own terms. After Cape Breton, we made our way to Halifax for a quick stop, but unfortunately our time in Halifax consisted of us barely leaving the hotel room because we had to work on a last minute video edit for a client. Next, we made our way west towards Scots Bay for a day hike at Cape Split, and then north to Truro where we spent the last two nights of our visit. Five nights was nowhere near close to enough time to explore, but we sure covered a lot of ground and had a great time doing it.
Our visit was in May, which is prior to peak tourist season, so we were met with quite a few closed doors and shuttered businesses. We also were hit with some cloudy skies and intensely foggy days. While these conditions weren’t necessarily the best for taking photographs and signing up for a number of adventures we were hoping to try, it did mean we practically had the place to ourselves, which is always a satisfying experience. Plus, when you encounter landscapes like the ones in Nova Scotia, you can’t go wrong any time of the year!
The first night we were in Nova Scotia, our campsite was located in the Cheticamp Campground, near the western entrance of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We were trying to beat the sunset so we didn’t have to set up camp in the dark, but we couldn’t resist stopping for a few photos of the sun setting over the ocean–the skies were absolutely gorgeous.
After a quick pit stop at a harbor side gas station, we made it to our camp, and thankfully we still had enough daylight to comfortably set up our tent.
The next morning we woke up bright and early to spend an entire day exploring the national park. We spent most of the day driving along the Cabot Trail, the main road through the park, and we left plenty of time to stop for multiple hikes throughout the day.
We hiked the popular Skyline Trail, which offers a 4.3 mile return trip, and let me tell you…it was sure windy up there! We felt as though we were going to get blown right off the boardwalk! Most of the trail is made up of a boardwalk, but there are quite a few stairs in the headland portion of the hike.
Next up, we made our way to the Bog Trail for a short 0.5 mile loop hike—this hike is short and sweet and the path consists of a boardwalk here, as well. We were hoping to see moose as this is a popular moose hangout spot, but we weren’t lucky enough to get a sighting.
When we were at the Bog, another visitor told us that he just saw a few moose on the Aspy Trail, so we decided to hit up that trail next. The 6 mile trail was super muddy and washed out, so the trail was temporarily closed down a couple miles in. Of course, we didn’t know that until we had already hiked a couple of miles through the mud, so we were a tad bit frustrated. Just as we had given up all hope to spot a moose, we felt the ground start to shake as a moose stood up and took off running less than 20 feet away from us. It was quite a surprise, and even though it was quick, we were excited to finally see a moose in the wild–too bad he was too quick for us to get a photo!
To wind down the day, we made our way to Black Brook Beach along the eastern side of the park. The beach was filled with smooth flat rocks and we spotted a hidden waterfall around the corner along the rocky coastline. And just like that, it was time to set up our campsite at the Broad Cove Campground for our second night in the park.
After a very brief stop in Halifax (where we didn’t even snap a single photo!), we drove towards Scots Bay to hike the Cape Split Trail. The Cape Split Trail is about a 10 mile return trip, and the views at the end of the trail are spectacular. Well, at least they were supposed to be. We should have seen dramatic cliffs plunging toward the Bay of Fundy over 200 feet below. Instead, we saw fog. Lots and lots of dense fog. Don’t get me wrong—it was still pretty and worth the effort to get there, but we just really couldn’t see anything.
Even though we didn’t see much from the scenic overlook, the trail had some interesting components to it, as well. Keep your eyes peeled for little pieces of art and tree carvings along the path.
After our hike, the fog magically cleared up and we had beautiful, sunny skies for the rest of the afternoon.
Next, we made our way north again towards Truro where we based ourselves for the next two nights. We ended up staying in a college dorm room that was converted into lodging for the summer, and it felt like we were back in college again. We ordered pizza and wings and laughed at the commotion around us. Singing flooded the hallways–there was a rowdy group of Marines bunking on our floor, and from the sounds of it they were definitely having a great evening. It was an interesting accommodation choice to say the least. The next morning we made our way to Sugar Moon Farm for a plate (or two) of all you can eat pancakes, which sadly is no longer offered on the menu—the all you can eat part—the tasty pancakes are still there!
Sugar Moon Farm is a working maple farm that offers guided tours of their maple syrup making process, and they also have a delicious onsite restaurant. We dined on pancakes topped with blueberry maple compote, crispy bacon, flakey biscuits and maple butter, and Sugar Moon coffee topped with maple whipped cream and maple sugar. If that sounds like enough maple for one day, you’d be wrong because after brunch, it was time for a tour of the syrup making process. To finish up the day, we tried samples of several varieties of maple syrup, and I was surprised to see how different maple syrup can taste based on how it’s harvested!
After stuffing ourselves silly with all the maple, we had one more adventure on the schedule—tidal bore rafting. This rafting experience is like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and it takes place on the Shubenacadie River, which experiences extreme tides from the connected Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tide in the world, where the difference between high tide and low tide can reach up to 53 feet! As you can imagine, this causes some extremely rare conditions, one of which is a tidal bore. We will share more details about the experience in an upcoming post, but basically, in just a couple of hours, the Shubenacadie River goes from completely dry to a rushing river full of rapids.
Our rafting experience was insane. Basically, you head upriver on a motorized zodiac on calm waters, and then once the tides start coming in, you ride straight into the rushing tidal bore rapids that can reach anywhere from 1-10 feet in height!
I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard as I did that day in a long time. It was all kinds of weird fun, and it was a great way to end our all too brief stay in Nova Scotia.
Have you ever explored Nova Scotia? What’s your favorite thing to do in the area?