If you’re looking for the ideal Nova Scotia beaches, then this is the guide for you!
It is said that Nova Scotia, a peninsula, would become an instant island given the perfect storm. The spit of land that joins the province to New Brunswick comprises low-lying marshland, so this is not a far-fetched concept. Still, the point is that Nova Scotia is surrounded almost completely by water, all of it salty, meaning beaches of varying sorts on all sides, but what few realize is that Nova Scotia is also a land of lakes and rivers. Some of the rivers are tidal, and therefore saline, but all of the inland lakes are fresh-water, most of them pristine.
It would be impossible to provide information about every one of Nova Scotia’s beaches in one article, so herein, some of the highlights, divided more or less into geographical regions. There are beaches on every oceanic shore and on most lakes, too.
Bay of Fundy Beaches
Situated on the north-west shore of the province, the beaches of the Bay of Fundy tend to be rocky and dramatic, more places to explore and rock-hound than the white, fine-sand beaches of the Atlantic coast.
- Burntcoat Head. This is the precise location of the highest and lowest tides in the world. The variance is as much as 60 feet, and it can be dangerous when tides shift. The beach is red sand, the natural colour of the soil in the area, and is the location of dinners on the seabed, a unique dining experience that sells out years in advance.
- Cape Blomidon Provincial Park Beach and Eustace (also known as Houston’s) Beach, adjoining. Coarse red sand, a good long walk, popular with dogs and their owners
- Hall’s Harbour Beach. A very pebbly tract near the Halls’ Harbour Lobster Pound, restaurant and gift shop, plus art gallery; great for wandering, and enjoying staggering sunsets.
Acadian Shores and South-western Nova Scotia
- Walkable at 1.5 km, Mavillette Beach is encircled by grassy dunes, and has thick, soft sand to cradle your feet. Waves are feisty, but safe, making this a very family-friendly beach. The local town of the same name has decent amenities and there are a couple of motels nearby; change rooms and toilets on site. An ornithologist’s paradise with many species of seabirds.
- Port Maitland Beach is similar to Mavillette Beach, but is in access to a lively fishing wharf; here visitors can bargain with fishermen for off-the-boat catches. A picturesque haven for artists and photographers.
South Shore (Atlantic Coast)
- White Point Beach is a sandy stretch of south shore sun, near Liverpool, and features one of Nova Scotia’s favourite resorts, White Point Beach Resort. This facility has (besides beach access) a hotel and cabins (they allow pets), plus every amenity a vacation needs to be utterly relaxing, including wedding and meeting rooms, sports and entertainment, plus fine dining.
- With an inland marsh and a one-kilometre beachfront boardwalk, Rissers Beach Provincial Park offers a white sand beach, hiking trails, camping facilities and support services; a great spot to sunbathe, swim, and collect seashells.
- Carter’s Beach is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Canada, with its fine white sand, and turquoise waters (feels more like the Caribbean than Nova Scotia!). Three connected crescent beaches form Carter’s Beach. Get there early as parking is limited.
- Queensland Beach Provincial Park is hugely popular with city residents. White sand, soft waves, and even a large pond on the other side of the parking lot make it an easy site to swim, sunbathe, or picnic. It’s not a large beach, and as such fills up very quickly on sultry summer days. Its sister sand-fest, Cleveland Beach, often takes the overflow and is similar in sand and surf.
Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM)
- Chocolate Lake Park and Beach is a created beach, left over from a quarry. The water is tested regularly, but occasionally is not fit for swimming, so visitors must check water quality. Nearby is a major chain hotel and on site are tennis courts, a basketball court and a children’s playground. The beach is small, but popular with families.
- Lake Banook Beach, Dartmouth, is technically a large lake with two beaches at opposite ends, surrounded by condominium buildings and close to MicMac Mall shopping. Swimming is available at both beaches (Lions Beach and Brookdale Beach), but the big attraction here is boating, from rowboats and kyaks, to canoes and dragon boats.
- Located in an area of HRM known as Sambro, Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park boasts three white sand beaches, boardwalks for strolling and a hiking trail favoured by birders. Close to the fishing village of Sambro, which is very much worth a visit and has a convenience store.
- Lawrencetown Beach. Surfing happens mainly in Hawaii and Australia, right? Wrong! Lawrencetown Beach is a mecca for competitive surfers from around the world, amid a supportive small community; excellent beachside facilities.
- The longest sandy beach in Nova Scotia, at 5km, is Martinique Beach. Crescent-shaped, it offers a hard-surface path which appeals to wheelchair-users, cyclists and anyone who loves to walk or run. Dunes and picnic areas surround the beach, which is a protected area for the piping plover and other migratory waterfowl.
Northumberland Shore (Gulf of St. Lawrence)
- With some of the warmest ocean waters in the province, Rushton’s Beach Provincial Park (River John, near Tatamagouche) is a big draw in shoulder seasons as well as summer. Long boardwalks bridge the salt marshes and their array of marsh birds to access the beach; at low tide, a wide sandbar is visible.
- Named in honour of the local Acadian village, Pomquet Beach Provincial Park (near Antigonish) is close to the lovely Acadian tearoom, Chez Deslauriers. The three-kilometre-long beach is a combination of soft sand topped with loose rubble, encircled by dunes, and complemented by a walking trail.
- Melmerby Brach Provincial Park (near New Glasgow) offers warm waters, a boardwalk for long strolls, a long sand barrier, picnic facilities and a boat launch. The currents here can be boisterous and swift, so caution should be exercised. Swimming, kayaking and kite-flying are popular here. Try a salt-rinse shower to tingle your skin!
Cape Breton Island
- Ingonish Beach is at the eastern entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Its rocky terrain adds to its fascination, and numerous events, including lobster suppers, are held here. Close to a ski area and public golf course, visitors who prefer to not camp will find rustic accommodations at nearby Keltic Lodge.
- Half way between Cape Breton National Park and the Canso Causeway (connecting mainland Nova Scotia with Cape Breton Island), Inverness Beach is close to two high-end golf courses. The beach is fairly narrow, sandy and with robust waves. Stroll the boardwalk; the view is breathtaking!
Interior of Nova Scotia Lake Beaches
- Kejimkujik Lake at Kejimkujic National Park is one of the largest inland lakes in Nova Scotia, the largest in Kejimkujic National Park, and highly popular with locals and vacationers alike. It offers a wide range of camping options and several beaches. If you plan to camp, you must reserve in advance.
- Aylesford Beach, Aylesford Lake, is about 20 minutes south of Kentville, accessed off Highway 101 and then Highway 12. A family-oriented beach, the surface is sandy, but becomes rocky on the bottom as you proceed further into the water. Playground facilities, picnic tables, change houses and washrooms, and a boat launch and dock, all backed with ample parking make this beach a draw. Due to occasionally high wind gusts, fire-pits are not permitted. Also, pets and alcohol are not allowed on the beach.
These are just a few of the better-known Nova Scotia beaches, but the list is long! Virtually every part of the shoreline has at the very least a stretch of beach, perfect for swimming, strolling, gazing out to sea, or just daydreaming. The coastline is varied and so are the beaches. Why not sample an assortment, from fine white sand, to golden grainy, pebbles and fossils to bold rocks? A beach a day keeps the spirit at play!