To the east of Halifax, the coast of Nova Scotia seems to stretch to infinity. While the whole province boasts over 13,000km (8,000 mi) of coastline, you might start to think that the Eastern Shore contains the entirety of that figure. The pristine wilderness here, interspersed with fishing settlements, long stretches of white sand beaches, an abundance of nature trails and historic villages, gives an impression of endlessness. This is a place that was practically made for social distancing, with rugged rocky shores and hiking areas dense with trees. If you want, though, you can find tightly-knit communities through this stretch of the province and duck your head into cozy corners where the fish is fresh and the beer is sweeter on account of the company you’re in. Nova Scotia and the other Atlantic Provinces of Canada have a unique peacefulness to them, and in the wild of Eastern Shore, you can wake up in the middle of that feeling every day.
The many, many beaches of the Eastern Shore have some of the best cold-water surfing on this side of the Americas, but they’re also perfect for leisurely strolls along the water spent searching for sand dollars and sea glass. Heading just slightly east from Halifax, get acquainted with coastal life and the unique beauty of beaches in this region with a stop at Lawrencetown Beach. Even though it’s just 30km (18 mi) from downtown Halifax, the drive out to this windswept stretch of coastline will quickly make the bustle of the city a distant memory. Catch a sunset and some waves, and you’ll feel the stress melt away in no time.
If you want to find a beach further away from the city, and where solitude is as good as guaranteed, Martinique Beach might be the pick of the bunch. It’s incredibly popular with locals, but it’s also Nova Scotia’s very longest white sand beach, stretching for 5km (3 mi). Whether you come for surfing or solitude, you can find a spot all your own and experience the sea just the way you want. There’s ample parking, good facilities, a surf school if you fancy trying something new, and some cottage rentals if you want to sleep right by the sea.
Just a short jaunt from Halifax, Martinique Beach and some of the nearby communities are a great introduction to the culture and landscape of Eastern Shore. Musquodoboit Harbor is a quintessential regional town with some real gems like the Harbour Brewing Company and Uprooted Market & Cafe. The brewery is just one of several craft enterprises that have popped up along the Eastern Shore in recent years, and they’re already receiving plaudits for brews like their Blonde Wheat and Black IPA. Uprooted is a locally-sourced market offering fresh produce, meat, and coffee that’s all organic, not to mention sandwiches made with bread baked daily right there in town.
Fuel up with your choice or brew — beer or coffee — and get back out into the wild on the Musquodoboit Trailway, a great way for hikers, walkers, and bikers to get a sense of this region’s natural beauty. With benches throughout and a well-maintained path, you can take this trail at any pace you choose. At Skull Rock and Gibraltar, you can even hike up to a peak and get a nice overview of the surrounding area, the perfect place to enjoy the peace of a sunny day.
If the trail here sufficiently whets your appetite for a good hike, strike out farther east to one of Nova Scotia’s real hidden gems. Taylor Head Provincial Park is situated on its namesake peninsula that looks out at Mushaboom Bay near the town of Sheet Harbour. With lots of vegetation just off of its picturesque sandy beaches, this stretch of land is teeming with wildlife and complete with several looped trails. Whether you’re a photographer in search of Nova Scotia’s best sunsets, an enthusiastic trail walker, or want to work on your bird watching, this is the place to be.
Country Inns, Culture, and Good Company
Up the road from Taylor Head, the small town of Sheet Harbour has some food and drink that, in true Eastern Shore fashion, looks unassuming and modest but attracts people from all over Nova Scotia. The Henley House Pub and Restaurant is a classic eatery with a proper pub feeling — as rich as it is in local character, its classic look features a wood bar, the flags of the home nations outside, and a beer garden, the instantly recognizable hallmarks of a place you want to spend some time if you’re a weary traveler. While they attract a lot of attention for their seafood, the Henley has a number of tricks up their sleeve to keep things interesting. The bread and butter to start one’s meal is replaced with buttermilk biscuits and beer butter here, and you’ll want to wash your food down with a Black Oyster Stout from next door’s Sober Island Brewing Company (yes, it’s actually made from locally sourced oysters!)
Head further east along the winding shoreline road of this rugged region and, after you’ve lost count of how many islands crop up and then disappear on the horizon, you may find yourself in the village of Sherbrooke. A quaint lakeside village with camping grounds and cafes on main street, Sherbrooke is home to another historic village museum that tells the story of why this particular spot tucked in a quiet stretch of the province enjoyed prosperity. Sherbrooke Village’s original buildings still stand from a time when timber and gold made this village into what it is today. As a bonus, Beanie’s Bistro in town is known for their amazing sandwiches with recipes that the owners picked up on their travels around the world, and for making a pretty good cup of coffee. Between the blacksmith, historic buildings, and down-home hospitality, this might be just the trip back in time that you didn’t know you needed.
Continue along the Marine Drive of the Eastern Shore to the Guysborough area where you will find nature, truly unspoiled, natural, even untouched. The rich history and uncompromising natural surroundings of Chedabucto Bay provides you with an extensive range of day touring adventures such as sea kayaking, salmon and trout fishing, hiking, cycling, beachcombing and birding. Visit the Authentic Seacoast Distillery & Brewery, home to award-winning spirits and craft beer brands including Sea Fever Rum, Fortress Rum, GLYNNEVAN Whisky and Rare Bird Craft Beer.
The facility offers daily distillery and brewery tours in the summer months to provide a glimpse into the deep history of beer and spirits on the historic Guysborough harbour. Did you know that Guysborough is considered the birthplace of brewing in Atlantic Canada, started in 1659 by Acadian entrepreneur and explorer Nicholas Denys? For your convenience, you can also stay onsite at The Distillery House, or even a Yurt in the Vineyard as of 2021. Nestled within the pockets of the oceanside vineyard-hopyard-apiary peninsula, this one-of-a-kind glamping experience in authentic Canadian-made traditional Mongolian yurts in the vineyard envelops you in a sea-salty welcome on the edge of our pristine shoreline along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.