Saturday, Sep 23rd, 2017

Hidden Beaches and Other Gems

“Canada’s Ocean Playground” is more than just a clever slogan. But you already knew that.

Nova Scotia is dotted with well-known beaches including Lawrencetown, Lockeport and Inverness, and each community also has a seaside locale that is known just to those who live nearby.

Last summer we compiled a list of hidden gems to help guide you when you just needed to escape from the demands of everyday life and into a special world. This summer we are adding a few more to the list, but not just beaches, there are some other landmarks worth a visit or two.

We have also not just stopped at the border of Nova Scotia but dared to cross the line into Sackville, N.B. and one of its hidden treasures.

We hope to inspire summer adventure in our communities.

Perhaps you can plan your summer getaways around a tour of one of these hidden gems.

Perhaps you’ll consider this guide a challenge to find your own hidden gem along the shores of your local ocean playground.

Either way, we hope you enjoy. And we hope to see you at the beach… or on the walk ways of some or our other hidden gems.

Big Glace Bay Beach, located between Glace Bay and Port Morien is considered a hidden gem by many. Greg McNeil – Cape Breton Post

Big Glace Bay Beach

To the left of a fork in the road that takes you to either Donkin or Port Morien is one of Cape Breton’s best kept beach secrets.

Big Glace Bay Beach, as it is known to locals, lies at the end of dirt road to the left of that fork.

• No lifeguards on duty

• 2 km long (estimate)

• Best features: sandy bottom

• Most popular with locals

• Federal/ provincial joint ownership

• Temperature: 15-17 C late August estimate

• No bathrooms, no change rooms

• Amenities include gas bar and convenience store and food truck found at beach entrance

Blue Beach

Blue Beach is a place where ordinary people can make extraordinary discoveries.

Chris Mansky, curator of the Blue Beach Fossil Museum, scours the shores on a regular basis, visiting the beach with a purpose that is far deeper than perfecting his tan line. In fact, he’s less likely to head to the beach on sunny days.

Beach at a glance:

• Blue Beach is a prime location for fossil discovery. It is untouched by development, home to impressive cliffs and flowing tides. It is predominantly an ocean rock beach, with mudflats visible at low tide.

• There are no public restrooms or boardwalks at Blue Beach. The beach is accessible by a beaten path that is a short walk from the parking area at the end of Blue Beach Road. Watch for steep embankments to the side of the path.

• The nearby Blue Beach Fossil Museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Sunday from April 15 to Oct. 31.

• Visitors should be aware of the Hantsport area’s tide times before venturing out for a long walk on the beach.

Blue Sac Road Beach

Just a few kilometres west from the Five Island Provincial Park, around a bend on the Glooscap Trail on Highway 2 towards Parrsboro is the Blue Sac Road. Its namesake is long forgotten to the ages, yet still tittered at by adolescents from the backseat of the family car.

It’s a road that seems simple enough as it rises to reveal a million-dollar view of the islands. But right after this view the recoils in fear as the road descends towards the beach. It starts gradually and then plummets like the end of a bell curve. The road narrows to a single lane and the sudden left hand turn in the middle of the drop serves to remind you of the ocean in front of you.

Beach at a glance:

• Type of beach: combination of dirt and rock, but not large rock.

• Washrooms: No

• Picnic Area: No

• Currents: Can be strong, use caution

Bull Beach

On the Eastern Shore, the sands of Taylor’s Head beach are often a destination for many.

But for some local residents a nearby but lesser-known beach is the preferred choice. A Nova Scotia Parks brochure describes a trail that winds along the coast overlooking the harbour. This is Bull Beach.

With a trail that’s backed by a forest of spruce and fir, it offers beach-goers something different.

Beach at a glance:

• Bull beach is part of the Taylor Head Provincial Park.

• The park provides spectacular coastal views and offers 16 kilometres (10 miles) of unspoiled coastline.

• The white spruce, balsam fir, red maple, white birch forest found along the coastline is typical of Nova Scotia’s often foggy Eastern Shore.

• Rocky barrens covered with dwarf shrubs such as crow- berry, and lichens such as reindeer lichen are found in the southern portion of the park.

• Several peat-filled bogs are scattered throughout the park and a small freshwater marsh is located within the northern boundary. Fields, once farmed by early settlers, now lay abandoned behind Pyche Cove and Bull Beach.

Waves gently roll along the pebbled beach at Cape John, a popular but “hidden gem” of the North Shore. Sherry Martell photo

Cape John Beach

Perched atop a red clay bluff in Cape John on the Northumberland shore, inviting benches overlook a pebbled, sandy beach offering a place to sit in comfort to watch magnificent sunsets; the likes of which must have inspired well-known fiddle tune the River John Sunset Waltz, that puts such a sight to music.

“In the summertime there is always someone there,” said Ronnie Heighton, a fisherman at the Cape John wharf.

Beach at a glance:

• Temperature: Average temperature of the Northumberland Strait is 22 C, warmest beaches north of the Carolinas. This beach is in a sheltered location and water tends to be cooler than other beaches along the coast, but still enjoyably warm.

• Tide info: Tides change every 12 hours, at low tide a small sandy beach, littered with sun-warmed, smooth pebbles, is inviting. Water levels are higher close to the shore here than typical North Shore beaches. At high tide the sandy part of the beach is mostly covered.

• Type of beach: Sandy but covered in smoothed pebbles and surround by large rocks helping prevent shore erosion.

• Washrooms: No

• Picnic area: Yes, there are several tables and lots of benches.

When the tide has gone out, visitors to Cheverie Beach can take a stroll along the shoreline, exploring all the wonders that are left behind. Carole Morris-Underhill photo

Cheverie Beach

Blink twice and you might just pass it by.

Cheverie Beach and the neighbouring Cheverie Salt Marsh Trail and camera obscura, located along Highway 215, offer visitors a chance to stretch their legs and enjoy the great outdoors while learning a little about nature and the history of the Acadian dykes.

Beach at a glance:

• Picnic tables: yes

• Washrooms: no

• Walking trail: Not on the beach, but there is a one-kilometre salt water marsh trail adjacent to the beach

• Tides: Two high and two low tides daily; with strong ocean currents

• Type of beach: mainly rock, some soft mud as you venture further out

Chimney Corner is cradled in a cove and the rocky point has a path you can take to see the beautiful view from higher up. ©Lori MacKay

Chimney Corner

Off of the Cabot Trail, about 8 km south of Margaree Harbour, is a beautiful, white sand beach that many locals want to keep secret.

Chimney Corner beach is cradled in a cave and boasts warm, shallow waters making it safe for children to play and worry free for their parents. There are also fresh water streams that empty into the gulf kids can frolic in while the adults relax.

There’s a rocky point you can walk up along to see the gorgeous views from a higher vantage point. The path that is there, worn down from many beach goers over the years, is sandy and perfect for bare feet.

Chimney Corner is hidden from the main road and that privacy makes it popular and hard to find. There’s a blue bungalow that is an unofficial landmark for the entrance to the beach, found off a gravel road.

Sunset at Conrad’s Beach. Cory McGraw Photo

Conrad’s Beach

Imagine that Conrad’s Beach and Lawrencetown Beach are two brothers. Lawrencetown is the more popular, outgoing one that everyone knows about and can’t wait to see “a bit of a show off.” Now Conrad’s, he’s the quiet one who, once you get to know him, will become your best friend if you give him the time of day.

So, the question is: will you get to know Conrad’s Beach this summer?

Beach at a glance:

• Type of beach: white sand

• Washrooms: No

• Picnic Area: No

• Currents: Can be strong, use caution

Concrete picnic tables are strategically placed all around the East Bay sandbar, offering walkers a chance to take a break in the middle of their exercise routine. They’ve also hosted many family picnics. Greg McNeil photo

East Bay Sandbar

EAST BAY – There’s much more to East Bay Sandbar than its breathtaking view of the Bras d’Or Lake, though that’s reason enough to pay it a visit.

“The sun sets in the west and you go down there in the evening and you get an absolutely beautiful sunset,” said Tony Penney, past president of the East Bay Area Community Council, a group that takes care of the sandbar.

“You are looking right up the bay. It’s a beautiful spot, really.”

Beach at a glance:

• A two-kilometre sandbar that separates the communities of East Bay and Northside East Bay.

• Picnic Tables: Yes

• Washrooms: No

• Walking Trail: The quiet road through the sandbar is regularly used by walkers.

• Type of beach: Rocky shores, sand and a boat launch.

Located on Cape Sable Island, home of the famous Cape Sable Island Boat, many locals enjoy a kilometer long expanse of white sand punctuated by unusual rock formations at the Hawk Beach. Greg Bennett photo

The Hawk Beach

Located on Cape Sable Island, home of the famous Cape Sable Island Boat, many locals enjoy a kilometer long expanse of white sand punctuated by unusual rock formations at the Hawk Beach.

Tourists will find the beach listed on local brochures, but actually finding it can be a challenge.

Beach at a glance:

• Located near the Town of Clarks Harbour

• Kilometre of white sand punctuated by unusual rock formations

• Views of the Cape Sable Island Lighthouse

• Important birding area.

• Location of 1000-year-old drowned forest, visible at low tide.

• Bathroom on site during the summer months.

• Explore at own risk.

The salt water of the Minas Basin warms up nicely in the summer months as it flows in over the sand bars and mud flats off Kingsport beach. Kirk Starratt photo

Kingsport Beach

A Kingsport resident says there’s nothing like watching the spectacular sunrise with all of its seasonal variations. This is her favourite thing about living near the beach. “The morning is just glorious,” Sarah Hayes said.

Hayes is glad that she and her family decided to take the plunge and move from Toronto 20 years ago. It’s been “a fantastic living experience.” She has strong roots in Kingsport, as her father’s family, part of the community’s rich shipbuilding history, first settled there in 1776.

Beach at a glance:

• On the Minas Basin, the beach features the world’s highest tides.

• It’s a great swimming destination.

• There are red sand stone cliffs, sandy areas and clay areas.

• The community’s annual Gala Days featured a sand building competition at the beach for the first time this year.

• It’s usually windy.

• There are bathrooms and a boardwalk, including an accessibility ramp and interpretive panels.

It’s a beach off the beaten path, but still accessible by vehicle or footpath, depending on your sense of adventure. Sueann Musick photo

Lismore Beach

It’s a beach off the beaten path, but still accessible by vehicle or footpath, depending on your sense of adventure.

Located off the Shore Road in Pictou County, Lismore beach is nestled behind the Lismore Community Centre and can be reached following a wooded walking trail that leads to the beach. The path is well cared for and marked for locals and visitors who want to park at the community centre.

Beach at a glance:

• Parking: There are areas for vehicles located off the Factory Road. Picnic tables: No tables, but there are garbage and recycling containers on site.

• Water temperature: During the summer months, water temperature can reach as high as 25C.

• Beach conditions: Thick sand with some stones closer to the water. Very little seaweed or sea grass. Sandbars close to the shoreline.

• Walking trail: The Lismore Loop walking trail that takes you to the beach and back to the community centre is about 1.5 km in length.

• Distance from town: 34 minutes from New Glasgow, Pictou County, by car.

Gravel mixed with grass and sand overlook the hidden summer hideaway known as Morrison’s Beach. Greg McNeil – Cape Breton Post

Morrison’s Beach

A beach hidden at the end of an unmarked dirt road in Richmond County may perhaps be one of Cape Breton’s best-kept secrets.

One would assume the people of Framboise are aware of the treasure in their backyard known as Morrison’s Beach but it’s a good bet there are many not aware of the kilometres of scenic sand and hiking potential it offers.

Beach at a glance:

• This beach is a protected destination meaning no motorized vehicles are allowed on the beach.

• Pack a lunch because there aren’t any eating opportunities nearby. No gas stations close either, and cell phone service is minimal or non-existent

• Washrooms/picnic areas: no

Sandy Cove Beach is the only sand beach on the Bay of Fundy between Cape Split and Brier Island. Jonathan Riley photo

Sandy Cove

Sandy Cove is the one soft and sandy exception between Cape Split and Brier Island.

The southern shore of the Bay of Fundy between Wolfville and Westport is 200 kilometres of North Mountain basalt and cobble beaches – nothing but hard, hard rock.

Except for Sandy Cove, a sheltered crescent of toe-tickling goodness, 500 metres long, hidden away on Digby Neck.

Beach at a glance:

• 500 metres of sand in a sheltered secluded cove

• Cold water of about 8ºC to 12ºC, maybe a little warmer when the sun has been shining on the sand and then the tide comes over the sand

• Usually calm waters with no notable currents

• The beach has no facilities or supervision

• Whales occasionally wash up here and currently a small humpback carcass is barely visible under the sand at the far end of the beach

The Sackville Waterfowl Park has become a true gem for the community. In addition to being used by nature lovers, the park has over the years seen an increase in use as a walking, jogging and biking trail. Scott Doherty photo

Sackville Waterfowl Park

Popular among bird watchers and a wide variety of other nature enthusiasts, The Sackville Waterfowl Park may be lesser known to the thousands of average travellers who pass by it each day on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Featuring over three kilometers of trails, boardwalks and viewing platforms, the park is known locally as a true gem nestled in the core of Sackville, N.B.

The park is home to about 180 species of birds and a wide variety of other plants, animals and insects, all of which contribute to its stunning scenic beauty.

At a glance:

• Located within the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve.

• The park features over three kilometers of trails, boardwalks and viewing platforms.

• The park is an excellent location nature photography enthusiasts. About 180 species of birds have been reported within the 55 acres of the park and along its perimeter. Of these, 35 have been confirmed to date as breeding in the park. Muskrats and many dragonfly species can also be found in the park.

• Once a tour of the park is completed, visitors can exit into Sackville’s downtown core, which features a wide variety of restaurants, shops and other local businesses.

• Maps of the park are available at the Sackville visitor information centre, 34 Mallard Drive.

• Washrooms are located at the Sackville visitor information centre and in the middle of the park.

The cliffs of Red Head on Digby Neck are made up of layers of sandstone laid down 200 million years ago, as the first dinosaurs were evolving. Jonathan Riley photo

Seawall Beach

Driving down the hill towards Seawall, you all of a sudden get a great long view of St. Mary’s Bay and the hills of Digby Neck stretching off to the horizon.

The beach in Seawall is right there beside the road, beckoning the traveller to stretch their legs, grab a lung or two full of salty air and poke around the intriguing seashore.

Beach at a glance:

• Kilometres of rocky shore and stretches of sand at the head of St. Mary’s Bay

• Shallow cold water of about 8ºC to 12ºC, but warmer if the sun has been shining on the sand and then the tide comes over the sand

• Not great swimming but lots of cliffs, ledges and mud flats to explore plus rock and fossil hunting

• The beach has no facilities or supervision

Four-year-old Christopher Davis, of Pugwash, plays in the sand at Skinners Cove West, in Pictou County. He spent an evening building his sandcastle with grandmother Gloria Thompson who spent many days in her childhood enjoying the same beach. Sherry Martell photo

Skinners Cove

When the tide goes out a sandy bottom is a natural playground for kids, offering a safe place to run and explore sea creatures left behind by the tide.

The beach is close to a fishing wharf and Skinners Cove East, a beach area that is also popular with the local community where kites can be flown far from power lines and swimmers can take a dip in the warm Northumberland strait.

Beach at a glance:

• Average temperature of the Northumberland Strait is 22 C, warmest beaches north of the Carolinas.

• Tide info: Tides change every 12 hours. At low tide lots of sand is visible, making an ocean playground, you have to walk a distance in the water to reach levels above shoulders. At high tide there is still lots of warm, sandy beach, water levels drop slowly.

• Type of beach: Sandy with a small amount of driftwood and seaweed naturally present.

• Washrooms: No

• Picnic area: No

A lone shell waits to be examined. Carla Allen photo

Sunday Point Beach

With full southern exposure, Sunday Point Beach, just outside Yarmouth, beckons sun-seekers hunting for maximum rays.

Broad Brook, the waterway that runs through the heart of town, reaches the ocean at the far east end of the beach.

At low tide it’s a mecca for youngsters intent on damming the streamlets or splashing in shallow pools.

Beach at a glance:

• Average July sea temperature is 11.9 degrees Celsius. In August the temp is two degrees warmer.

• To check tides visit: http://tinyurl.com/per427f

• No strong currents

• Sandy beach, rocks/sand at east end

• No washrooms

• Park on dirt road (very low traffic)

Wentworth Falls

The Wentworth Falls — multiple rivulets of water tumbling over an 18-metre cliff in the midst of a hardwood forest — provide a restful soothing sanctuary just 200 metres from Hwy 4 in the Wentworth Valley.

The trailhead to the falls is not marked directly but is easy to find, straight across the road from a large billboard that says Wentworth Valley, Four Seasons of Adventure.

That billboard is beside a large blueberry field just as you arrive at the valley floor after coming down the steep hill from Folly Lake.

The path is level but has some roots and rocks. The base of the falls is a perfect picnic spot and could soon become a lot more public. A new owner bought the property last fall and is interested in erecting some signage, developing a small parking lot and creating a public day-use-only park.

For the GPS minded the falls can be found at N 45° 35′ 27.609”, W 63° 33′ 47.1488”. Directions to the falls can also be found by searching Wentworth Falls online.

©SaltWire Network

Victoria Park

Nova Scotia is known for its many beautiful beaches.

But despite being land-locked, Truro doesn’t feel the least deprived – there are lots of beaches, but only one Victoria Park.

Some people need convincing before they’ll visit Victoria Park but once they do, they’re hooked.

At a glance:

• Access: Main entrance to Victoria Park is by Park Road, which is just off Brunswick Street; access is also available from Adam Street and Wood Street. Signs are posted throughout Truro.

• Parking: In the lower area off Brunswick Street; more is available at pool parking lot, off Adam Street; Wood Street parking is more limited.

• Washrooms: In the lower park.

• Picnic Tables: Picnic tables are situated throughout the park and a picnic pavilion is available (registration required).

• Amenities: A canteen is open during the summer with lighter refreshments; restaurants, convenience stores and grocery stores are in close proximity.

• Features: Nearly 1,000 acres of parkland and a unique trails system; Dr. Jim Vibert Trail is approximately 1.6 km.; outdoor pool; children’s playground; bandshell.