Welcome to the Northumberland Shore: with its collection of relaxing, rural communities and beautiful beaches, this part of the province is a popular seaside destination. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of hiking trails, and opportunities for kayaking and sailing. Plus, the Northumberland Shore is home to an iconic vineyard and one of the province’s best breweries. Quiet communities along the Northumberland Strait, including Malagash, Tatamagouche, Pugwash and Amherst Shore, are all beautiful spots for cottaging, camping and beach trips. Visit Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore for its unique scenery, small-town feel, and stunning red sand beaches.
Where to Stay
Pugwash is a lovely town nestled along the shores of the Northumberland Strait. This area is popular in the summer with cottagers and visitors from around Nova Scotia and beyond. To learn more about an important piece of Nova Scotia’s history, visit Thinkers’ Lodge National Historic Site. Here, the village of Pugwash held the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs in 1957. The conference hosted 22 scientists from around the world – from both sides of the Iron Curtain – to discuss the threat of nuclear weapons. The conference was later awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for its efforts, and the site is now a National Historic Site.
In the summer months, golfers head to Fox Harb’r Resort, one of the top destination resorts in Canada, and one of the only 5 star resorts in the country. Near Pugwash, golfers can also visit Northumberland Links, which overlooks the waters of the Northumberland Strait.
Tatamagouche is a not-to-be-missed seaside village with a bustling Main Street. An easy day trip from Halifax, here you will find an award-winning craft brewery, a bustling farmer’s market, handmade chocolates, fresh baked goodies, chowders, and bike rentals. If you’re looking to stay overnight in Tatamagouche, make sure to check out the Train Station Inn. The site is home of the former railway station for the village and has been turned into a unique accommodation base – you can spend the night in one of the renovated cabooses or boxcars.
The region is also home to some beautiful camping spots. Amherst Shore Provincial Park and Caribou-Munroes Island Provincial Park are two great options for campers. Pack your tent, waterproof jacket, insect repellant, and some warm layers, as it cools down at night. For those a little more adventurous, head to Pictou Island where you can stay in wooden tents or yurts, providing an off-grid experience with all the amenities, all perched alongside an unbelievable white sand beach.
What to See
The Northumberland Shore is home to Nova Scotia’s beach country, with distinctive red sands and warm waters. In fact, the waters around here are known “warmest waters north of the Carolinas.” The saltwater averages more than 22 C (72 F) in the summer — a far cry from the cool open Atlantic ocean water beaches near Halifax.
The warmth of these waters is a result of the shallow Northumberland Strait that separates the province of Nova Scotia from Prince Edward Island. Go straight to the source by striking out on the Malagash Peninsula to Blue Sea Beach Provincial Park, a wide and sandy beach with a marsh inland that is popular for birdwatching.
Melmerby Beach Provincial Park is a 2km stretch known for its particularly warm waters, ease of access with multiple parking lots, and the depth of its waters that tends to increase a little faster than other beaches in the area to make for more swimming opportunities.
Other great picks include Bayfield Beach Provincial Park is a beautiful sand and cobble beach near Antigonish, while Northport Beach Provincial Park is a great option for picnicking in the Amherst area. It boasts stunning red sands and warm water, making it a quintessential North Shore spot.
The seasonal Tatamagouche Farmers Market at Creamery Square is a great place to buy local products, crafts, produce and baked goods. Creamery Square is also a heritage complex featuring community museums, exhibits, collections and archives for the Northumberland Shore region.
For a glimpse at the town’s past, visit the historic Sutherland Steam Mill, located in Denmark, a rural area near Tatamagouche. Built in 1894, this steam-powered sawmill produced a number of products, including the famous decorations known as “Gingerbread Trim.” The machines are still working, so visitors can get a glimpse into how steam engines were used to power mills like this back in the day.
Pictou is known as the “Birthplace of New Scotland,” since the first wave of Scottish immigrants landed here in 1773 onboard The Ship Hector. Today, The Hector Heritage Quay in Pictou pays homage to this history and visitors can check out a full-size replica of the Ship Hector. Learn more about Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage at the McCulloch Heritage Centre, also located in Pictou. This heritage site has an extensive genealogical archive, which helps people explore their family roots.
Along with Pictou’s Scottish connection, there is a long-standing fishing history to explore. Check out the Northumberland Fisheries Museum to learn all about the history of the fishing industry in this part of the province. The museum features artifacts from shipwrecks, a model lighthouse and an operating lobster hatchery. Here, the Adopt-a-Lobster program is a unique and successful ‘catch and release’ program that helps educate residents and visitors alike about the lobster life cycle. Visitors can give their lobster a name, receive a certificate commemorating the adoption, and release the lobster back into Pictou Harbor.
What to Eat & Drink
A few minutes from Tatamagouche’s Main Street you will find Sugar Moon Farm, a working maple syrup farm, known for its excellent restaurant. Tour the working farm before tasting delicious pancakes, locally made sausages, and, of course, many maple syrup treats! It’s easy to work up – or work off – an appetite by spending the day exploring some of the more than 30 km (18 mi) of trails surrounding the farm.
You can also enjoy a delicious meal of seafood chowder, fish cakes, bacon-wrapped scallops or other locally inspired dishes in the carefully restored 1928 Dining Car at the Tatamagouche Train Station Inn.
The Tatamagouche Brewing Company is an award-winning, family owned and operated microbrewery in the heart of Tatamagouche. The brewery’s lagers and session ales are top-notch, but the brewery also experiments with odd flavors like chocolate breakfast porters, or sour ales aged with cherries or blackcurrants.
A trip along the Northumberland shore isn’t complete without a stop at Jost Vineyards. Sitting on the shores of Malagash Peninsula — with beautiful views of the Northumberland Strait — this vineyard is known for producing world-class wines. Visitors can tour the vineyard, browse the winery shop, and sample local wines. You can even rent a bicycle on site to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside. The winery’s restaurant, Seagrape Café, also serves locally inspired meals to accompany your delicious glass of wine.