The indigenous Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia gave Yarmouth and the surrounding area the name “Keespongwitk,” meaning “Lands End” — its remote location on the southwestern tip of the province shaped much of its subsequent history and has had a lasting impact on the culture of the Acadian Shore to this day. This is where the land meets the sea, where you can experience both English and Acadian cultures and where the darkest skies let the stars shine their brightest. It’s where the food is fresh and local, and the music is too.
This is where seafarers made their riches during Nova Scotia’s Golden Age of Sail, both building and sailing ships. This could be the site that Leif Erikson named as Vinland in the sagas of the Icelanders, the first landing of the famous Icelandic explorer in North America. This is the center of the world’s largest lobster fishing grounds. Need we say more? We will anyway — the Acadian Shore is also home to the Acadian Skies and Mi’kmaq Lands Starlight Preserve, the first certified dark sky destination in North America. A stargazing expedition is a must for any adventurous traveler who comes to Nova Scotia, and the true beauty of the night skies is best revealed in this southwestern corner of the region.
Where to Stay
Trout Point Lodge
Tucked away in a quiet wilderness area with bright starlight by night, this rustic and chic lodge offers both adventure and indulgence for its guests. This might be one of the best places to immerse oneself in the wild beauty of Nova Scotia, all while still enjoying a feeling of leisure and community. There’s no cell phone service out this far in the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, leaving you totally untethered to enjoy the library, a kayaking excursion, a cooking class, or even a starlight culinary experience where a local chef and sommelier will prepare a meal for you under the stars. Trout Point Lodge is the perfect combination of luxury, leisure and escape.
If the sea is more your speed, you can really test the worthiness of your sea legs by how well you sleep on Canada’s first floating bed & breakfast, La Boatique. The 41-foot cruiser is docked in Yarmouth Harbor, the perfect place to watch the sun set and rise from the upper deck while dining on a meal you prepared down below! There are forward and aft cabins, ensuite bathrooms, a spacious salon, and a separate dining area aboard the yacht that is parked within easy walking distance of downtown Yarmouth and the hidden gems you can find there. A passion project 8 years in the making, the owners operate the B&B between June and October.
Argyler Lodge and Restaurant
With classic waterside rooms, a full range of amenities, and bespoke dining options that center around traditional southwestern Nova Scotian recipes, the Argyler Lodge offers quintessential Acadian shore hospitality that will most likely leave you with an even greater appreciation for lobster — and how to prepare it! The lodge offers a Lobster Bay Culinary Experience where you can sip on specially-selected Nova Scotia wine along the waterfront, where experts will help you build your own wood fire and bring a pot of water to boil for your lobster lesson. If you prefer to leave it to the experts, be sure to try their version of creamed lobster: fresh local lobster is sautéed in butter and finished with cream, before being poured over poutine. Creamed lobster is a traditional dish in Southwest Nova Scotia and one you shouldn’t miss.
What to See
Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse
This historic village, located within the deep-rooted Acadian community of Pubnico where much of the population still speaks French, is quaint, incredibly informative, and staffed with historical interpreters who actually practice all the trades you’ll learn about during your visit. You’ll see the blacksmith at work alongside someone knitting traditional Acadian patterns, and you can try Acadian cuisine at the much-beloved cafe. There’s a small lighthouse down here, one of dozens in the province of Nova Scotia, and you can tell even during the day that this is an ideal stargazing location by night. Swathes of farmland and still ocean inlets make for lush natural beauty.
The Tusket Islands lie south west of mainland Wedgeport and are only accessible via boat yet are full of history on subjects ranging from lobster and tuna fishing, World War II spies, shipwrecks, buried treasure, and much more. But don’t worry – you can appease your curiosity by taking an excursion with Tusket Island Tours. Meet the LeBlanc boys and head out to the islands on their authentic fishing boat. Enroute you will learn how to haul a lobster trap and see the process that an actual lobster fisherman would go through on a day to day basis. With a stop on Big Tusket Island you can visit the LeBlanc’s own private fishing shanty and workshops. Enjoy fresh local seafood chowder, cooked that morning by the captain from a traditional recipe passed on to the boys through the generations. After filling up on delicious seafood you can enjoy live entertainment on the one hour sail back to the Wedgeport dock.
Cape Saint Mary and Mavillette Beach
Speaking of natural beauty, the Acadian Shore is home to some dramatic cliffs, stunning beaches, and panoramic views of the water, reminiscent of the Scottish landscapes that inspired this province’s name. About 30 minutes north of Yarmouth, you can find all of this in the same walk by traveling to Mavillette Beach and adjoining Cape Saint Mary, complete with the namesake lighthouse and park. The beach itself is almost 2 kilometers of pristine sands, with boardwalks stretching over delicate beachgrass. By the time you reach the cape, rocky outcrops will rise up before you and invite you to climb up to the lighthouse. This stretch of coastline is a must-do detour if you’re passing through Yarmouth on your way to the wine country of the Annapolis Valley. You might even see seals in the water from your hilltop vantage point!
Church Point & Le Petit Bois
Point-de-l’Église (or Church Point) is a small, French-language community home to the francophone Université Sainte-Anne, the tallest and oldest wooden church in North America, and a visitor center rich in more information on Acadian living in Nova Scotia. After learning more about the community and taking the best exterior photo you can get of the beautiful church, walk down Le Petit Bois and through the forest to have your choice of the gazebo or the lighthouse vantage point for watching the sunset, which is known to be particularly beautiful from this location. It’s a great spot for bird watching, too!
What to Eat
Red Cap Motel & Restaurant – Lobster Scrambled Eggs
The perfect place to stop for breakfast or early lunch before or after visiting the Historic Acadian Village in Pubnico, the Red Cap might look modest but the eats seriously pack a punch. The lobster scrambled eggs are as simple as they sound, seasoned slightly with salt and pepper and served with hashbrowns and toast, but absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious. While that might be their most notable lobster dish, the menu has plenty of other highpoints besides; the haddock with lobster sauce is a signature dish here, and the seafood chowder gets plenty of fanfare, too.
La Cuisine Robicheau – Creamed Lobster
Further up the coast, La Cuisine Robicheau in Salnierville is the perfect stopping place for a hearty meal on your way to walk the trails at Church Point. This is one of the most recommended restaurants on this side of Nova Scotia, with cars typically pouring into the parking lot as opening time approaches, no empty seat in the house. The portions are famously generous at good prices, and the food is so fresh it tastes like you’re eating in someone’s home. The seafood chowder, fish cakes, shrimp cocktails, and scallops are all popular, but the signature dish here is a recognizable staple of the region: haddock with creamed lobster. If by any chance you’re after something not from the sea at this point, the pulled-pork sandwich is a winner, too!