Boat dock Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

Bluenose Coast Nova Scotia

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks Nova Scotia  #58819   Purchase

Bluenose Coast Nova Scotia

In my last post I left off with our departure from Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia. In this post I’ll be talking about our visit to Bluenose Coast of Nova Scotia. This area of Nova Scotia has been high on my photography wish list for many years. Bluenose Coast contains some of the most famous tourist attractions in the Province. Situated southwest of Halifax the area includes Peggy’s Cove, and the lovely coastal villages of Chester, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, and Blue Rocks. How the term Bluenose originated is up for debate, some say it is a derisive term dating to political divisions of the late eighteenth century. However, others will say it refers to a bluish variety of potato, or the nose color of locals in winter.

Rowboat, Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58804  Purchase

Our drive from Cape Breton Island down to the Bluenose Coast was again a long tiring journey. Not only was the weather rainy discouraging, the route we took was longer than anticipated. Instead of taking a direct course via the main highway, we decided on a more scenic drive along the coast. While I won’t say this was a mistake we did find the road to be exceedingly long with very few coastal views. Most of the way travelled through heavily forested lands dotted with tiny villages. Occasionally the roads breaks out on the coast with views of numerous islands. According to our travel brochures this area northeast of Halifax is a haven for wilderness loving sea kayakers. I’d love to be able to return and explore this vast area with a boat.

The Fo’c’sle Pub Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastThe Fo’c’sle Pub Chester, Nova Scotia #58700  Purchase

At Chester

Between the rain and the torturous road we decided to finish the drive to Bluenose Coast the next day. We weren’t to thrilled at the prospect of finding our way through the Halifax area at night. After anxiously getting through Halifax in the morning we decided to base our stay at Graves Island Provincial Park. Well situated near all the sites I was hoping to photograph, Graves Island also had some of the best campsites on our trip. After setting up camp we went on to check out the nearby town of Chester. Founded in 1759, Chester is a quaint village on Mahone Bay noted for stately old homes, and a thriving artist community. Along with a boat filled harbor Chester is also home to The Fo’c’sle, Nova Scotia’s oldest pub. I couldn’t resist photographing the whimsical dragon hanging above the entrance.

After a few weeks of photographing mostly nature oriented locations we were finally in Coleen’s environment. Picturesque coastal towns with lots of shops to browse through was something she had been looking forward to. Although I’m mostly a wilderness nature lover I also was enjoying the change. The next day was perhaps the most memorable of the entire trip. It was a big day with lots of sites to see and photograph on the Bluenose Coast. We began it with breakfast at The Kiwi Cafe in Chester, a colorful establishment with great food, after which we proceeded to Lunenburg and Blue Rocks. Along the way we passed by Oak Island, the site of questionable buried treasure, made famous on the History Channel’s Curse of Oak Island tv show. Needless to say, we didn’t stop by to check it out.

Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastMahone Bay Sailboats  #58726  Purchase

Mahone Bay & Lunenburg

Along the way we had to stop in the town Mahone Bay for the annual Scarecrow Festival and antique fair. Even without the festival the town is definitely worth a stop. Dating back to 1754, Mahone Bay has numerous eclectic boutiques, art studios, antique shops, B&Bs, and restaurants. Of course with the festival in full swing Mahone Bay was overflowing with tourists, including us. We ended up spending several hours there checking out shops and the over 250 whimsical handmade scarecrows. But we had to move on, I was anxious to scout Lunenburg and the tiny fishing community of Blue Rocks. Aside from Peggy’s Cove these to locations are perhaps the most scenic and photographed in all of Nova Scotia.

Mahone Bay Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastMahone Bay Scarecrows  #58715  Purchase

Lunenburg is yet another old historic fishing town. In my mind it was the most interesting one we visited. The town sits on a gentle hill overlooking the bay, with many of the historic buildings sporting vibrant colors. For photographers looking to capture these colorful buildings on the waterfront there is no better spot than a park directly across the bay. You have the option of photographing from the waterfront or up a hill on the edge of a golf course. The later offers a wonderful elevated view of the town and boats.

Lunenburg Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastColorful Lunenburg Architecture  #58737  Purchase

Blue Rocks Fishing Community

After finding these locations and making a few photos we went on to scout Blue Rocks. Being new to the area it was a bit difficult to find among the maze of roads. However there was no mistaking it on arrival. Blue Rocks really is just a small community with several fishing shacks and boats on calm inlet. The location though is classic, old colorful fishing shacks and boats moored alongside with islands and the Atlantic as a backdrop. And the rocks are really blue, with the layers eroded into fantastic shapes. With crystal clear water and bright yellow skirts of seaweed the rocks boats and buildings presents a dazzling array of colors and shapes. I was bubbling over excitement at photographing this wonderful location! The only thing missing though were clouds, the sky was an empty electric blue. Perfect for picnics and leisurely drives but not for photography.

Boat dock Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58778  Purchase

It was still early so we went back to Lunenburg to check out the town and have a bite to eat. We found another gem at the tiny Salt Shaker Deli. I would highly recommend stopping by if you are in the area. The food was wonderful, probably the best seafood chowder in the Province, and the friendly staff and outstanding harbor view made for a memorable experience.  And if this wasn’t enough, as we were finishing our meal I noticed some interesting clouds moving in!

Rainbow, Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks Rainbow  #58795  Purchase

Blue Rocks Evening Photography

Our plan was to head back to Blue rocks after dinner for evening light, and then hurry back to Lunenburg to photograph the waterfront at twilight. Arriving at Blue Rocks the sky darkened and rain began to come down in sheets. A complete opposite of the earlier sunny blue sky. I was getting discouraged at my prospects when the showers began to move on. The elements for some great evening light were beginning to come together. Firstly a rainbow began to take shape, followed by curtains of rain and clouds being illuminated by the setting sun. Moving around I found many compositions among the boats and fishing shacks. As the light began to peak and fade I worked to photograph one of the most iconic shacks in the last glowing light of the evening. So far this was the best combination of light and subject matter on the trip.

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58807   Purchase

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58825   Purchase

Blue Rocks Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastBlue Rocks, Nova Scotia  #58811  Purchase

We were also able to get back to the Lunenburg location in time for more photography. I quickly set up and made some photos just as the lights began to turn on in town with a purple twilight glowing above. All in all it was a perfect autumn day, sightseeing in historic towns with Coleen, great meals, and successful photography. But there was more in store for us along the Bluenose Coast the next day at Peggy’s Cove, our final location in Nova Scotia.

Lunenburg Nova Scotia Bluenose CoastLunenburg, Nova Scotia  #58836  Purchase

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaCape Breton Island seaside farm  #58624   Purchase

It’s funny how life can be so unpredictable. Some may be tempted to replace “funny” with frustrating, discouraging, exciting, or fun. Last year at this time I was on a dream trip with my wife Coleen to photograph in Nova Scotia and New England. This year I’m stuck at home in the office, working on marketing and fantasizing about future trips. So since I’m not able to get out on the road anytime soon, the next best thing is to relive last year’s trip by writing blog posts.

In my last post I wrote about our brief visit to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. In this post I’ll be recapping our visit to Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia, one of the main highlights and destinations of the trip. As with any new location I hoped to see as much of the province as possible. We had to carefully choose only a few of the best locations to visit in our available time. After years of poring over Nova Scotia maps and images I settled on a couple of areas. For me Cape Breton Island and Peggy’s Cove Coastal Region were obvious choices. Cape Breton Island represented the rugged wind swept character of the Canada’s Atlantic Provinces.  While Peggy’s Cove Region highlights the historic and thriving culture of the province. There is, of course, much more to see, but these locations will make a good start.

Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaCape Breton Island, Nova Scotia #58622   Purchase

Onwards to Cape Breton Island

After leaving New Brunswick we drove straight to our first destination, Cape Breton Highlands National Park. On the map it looked like about a half day drive. In reality it took us most of the day to arrive, exhausted from driving, at Chéticamp in the park. Of course we had to make a few stops along the way. Part of the appeal of Cape Breton Island is it’s Scottish heritage, most notable along the Ceilidh Trail. Picturesque Ceilidh Trail (pronounced Kay’-Lee) runs along the west coast, and has its road signs written in both English and Gaelic. Along the way are quaint villages, world class seaside golf courses, and North America’s first single malt distillery.

Further north the Ceilidh Trail gave way to the world famous Cabot Trail. Possibly the most scenic drive in all of Atlantic Canada, the Cabot Trail encircles the entire northern section of Cape Breton Island. During our visit we focused on the western section of the trail, from Margaree Harbour in the south to Pleasant bay in the north.

Fishing boats, Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaFishing Boats Grand Étang Harbour Cape Breton Island  #58583  Purchase

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Arriving in Cape Breton Highlands National Park was exhilarating. We were just about as far north in the province as we could drive. The land had begun to take on a wilder primordial feel, even more evident high on the Cape Breton Plateau. There were few towns, and those being very small fishing outposts. Although Cape Breton Highlands lies only at 46º north, I had the feeling of being on the southern edge of the vast expanse of Canadian subarctic lands. I imagined that if I squinted hard enough I could see Newfoundland, then Labrador, and finally Baffin Island. I should state here that for most of my life I’ve had an obsession with everything arctic. Especially the Canadian Arctic, which holds a tight grip on my imagination, partly due to it’s rich and often tragic history of exploration.

After setting up camp in Cape Breton Highlands National Park I anxiously began to scout out the coastal drive. Along the west coast the Cabot Trail climbs high and has stupendous views of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. At its height you can see all the way to the Magdalen Islands, situated nearly in the center of the Gulf. I like to think this section of the Cabot Trail is Canada’s east coast version of Big Sur in California. After winding up along the coast the road heads inland to the plateau highlands and a dramatic change of scenery.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaCape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia #58564   Purchase

Cape Breton Plateau

Dominated by boreal forest with a distinct sub-arctic feel, the Cape Breton Plateau is a windswept wilderness of barrens, bogs and lakes. Most people think of the Appalachian Mountains ending at Mount Katahdin in Maine. However, geologically they continue much further north. Cape Breton Plateau is actually an Appalachian mountain worn down by glacial activity. To reach the true end of this ancient chain of mountains you would need to travel as far as the highlands of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. Since the weather was grey and forbidding on the plateau I headed back to photograph the coastal drive in evening light.

While in the park I wanted to hike the Skyline Trail to photograph the iconic view from the top. At the end of the trail a dramatic headlands cliff overlooks the winding road and the vast expanse of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. This  trail and view is one of the hallmarks of the park. However, my timing to get there was poor. I failed to take the length of the hike into consideration, it would’ve been dark by the time I made it there. I was fortunate to drive to an alternate overlook just in time make a few photos of evening light breaking through the clouds.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaCabot Trail Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia #58637   Purchase

Margaree Harbour & Lobster

The next day Coleen and I drove south to scenic Margaree Harbour to photograph fishing boats and coastal views. I really enjoyed this area, there were picturesque seaside farms, sandy beaches, churches, and colorful boats. An interesting find was Centre de la Mi-Carême, an interpretive center focusing on the Acadian celebration of Mid-Lent with masks, music, and dance. Attracting us to the center was the display of colorful effigies on display in the parking lot. Unfortunately our visit was cut short as the center wasn’t open at the time.

Back on the lobster hunt, as we found out in New Brunswick, lobster was out of season. However, we were lucky enough to find that in Margaree Harbour the Island Sunset Lobster Pound still had some some available. After chatting with the friendly owner and a patron about our travels we hurried back to camp to cook our long anticipated crustaceans. In the warm afternoon sun we made a glorious mess of cracked shells lobster meat and melted butter! This was the way to do it, out in the open air by the sea, not in a stuffy restaurant.

Margaree Harbour Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaMargaree Harbour Cape Breton Island  #58615  Purchase

Church Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaChurch in Margaree Harbour  #58607  Purchase

Cabot Trail Coastal Photography

In the evening, and again the next morning, I went out to make photographs along the coast. I had some nice light for photography while in the area but it didn’t last very long. I came back with only a few new images, including one of a beach whale, headless and rotting on the beach. This is usually the situation when visiting a new location. Without prior firsthand knowledge of a location it’s difficult to be in the right place at the right time. In my experience I might get lucky a few times on an initial trip. But it normally takes several return visits to really understand the its character. There are some spots from which I still have not created a defining image, although I’ve been there many times and know it intimately.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaCape Breton Highlands National Park  #58560  Purchase

Dead Whale Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaWhale carcass, Cape Breton Island  #58647   Purchase

Over to the Atlantic Side

After packing up our camp we began our drive north and over to the Atlantic side of Cape Breton Island. At Green Cove we got our first real view of the Atlantic Ocean. Getting out of the truck to stretch our legs I found this to be a great place for photography. The headland is composed of beautiful pink granite laced with striped intrusions. Given the right lighting conditions I could spend hours here photographing the fascinating patterns. Unfortunately a storm front was arriving with the first drops of rain which lasted all day.

I wished we had better weather and more time to stay and explore beautiful Cape Breton Island. One of my biggest regrets was having to pass up a visit to Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Located on the far eastern edge of Cape Breton Island, the fort is a wonderfully preserved 18th century military installation. Among activities here are interactive tours and reenactments of 18th century life. Including Louisbourg on our trip would’ve meant excluding other important locations further on. And I definitely didn’t want to miss out on photographing iconic Peggy’s Cover and historic Lunenburg. So it was onward into the rain, and part two of this post!

Green Cove Cape Breton Island Nova ScotiaGreen Cove, Cape Breton Highlands National Park  #58656  Purchase