Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nova Scotia: St. Margaret's Bay

The much photographed Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

On our second full day in Nova Scotia we headed off to the prime tourist attraction of Peggy's Cove, the most photographed spot in the province. Since we lingered on the front porch until almost 11AM, we decided to take the inland highway (103) to exit 5 and then cut in on the coastal route (333). There is a visitor's center near the turn off for 333 that is worth stopping for. There is also a very large grocery store. Had we known about the small size of Lunenburg's stores, we would have stocked up. We asked the docent at the Visitor's Center about food farther down and she said there was a great place at Peggy's Cove itself and not to worry. We should have worried! Pack a lunch if you go to Peggy's Cove!

Glacial erractics on the Swissair Memorial Trail

The drive down 333 was our first realization that these scenic coastal roads can be entirely in the trees. We were almost to the Cove before we could see the sea.

View of the Atlantic Ocean and the scoured rocks from the Memorial

Two kilometers west of the Cove is a pull off for the Swissair Memorial. This short walk was delightful. In 1998 and MD-11 aircraft crashed off the coast killing all 229 aboard. The memorial itself is tasteful but the views from the trail are what drew me.

An erratic and a view of Peggy's Cove in the hazy distance

From the memorial site, the unique geology of the area is readily seen. Like Blue Rocks, the area around Peggy's cove has been greatly affected by glaciation. The stark granite and dramatic coastline is the result of glaciers ripping away all the topsoil as they lumbered southward from the Arctic. The numerous boulders that dot the area, called glacial erratics, were carried by the glacier and deposited there as the glacier receded. They reminded me of Jimmies on top of a child's cupcake. You can also see Peggy's Cove in the distance, but the day we went it was slightly hazy and Peggy's Cove was obscured. Unfortunately, there is no trail beyond the memorial through this very interesting area.

Tidal rocks closer to the ocean

The village of Peggy's Cove is quaint, but after seeing Blue Rocks the night before, we were less impressed. This had less to do with the area and more to do with the miles of cars and "hordes" of tourists scurrying to and fro. We decided to drive up to the lighthouse itself rather than park down by the visitor's center. It costs $5 to park at the lighthouse, which is refunded if you buy something in the gift shop or restaurant. Since it was our intent to eat lunch there we did not have any issues with this.

The crowds like ants crawling all over the rocks

Since it was 1PM and we were starving, we made a bee-line for the restaurant. Enter disappointment. The place was mobbed, there was a long line to get in, and the prices were tourist-trap exorbitant. We decided to starve a little longer and bought a box of maple cookies in the gift shop, which we ate out on the rocks. After walking around for 15 minutes or so, snapping the obligatory pictures, we decided to head further down highway 333 to escape the crowds. This was a good choice.

A little ways beyond Peggy's Cove toward Halifax is West Dover. This quiet village had a decent restaurant right on the water. We pounced with grumbling stomachs. Sitting out on the deck with its colorful umbrellas we ate fish and chips and drank beer and congratulated ourselves on our good fortune.

A close up of the smooth granite

Feeling adventurous, we decided to continue up 333 towards Halifax even though it was inland. This route gets increasingly suburban but has some nice views of lakes and vacation homes. Once back on 103, we headed south again to exit 5 where we started. Here we got off the highway and returned to the coastal route (highway 3 going south) along St. Margaret's Bay. This drive along St. Margaret's Bay to Lunenburg is supposed to be one of the scenic wonders of the area. We particularly like the area around the Head of St. Margaret's Bay, a more developed vacation community in a sheltered inlet but found much of the route shrouded in trees. You can take 3 straight across, be we chose to follow 329 around the crenulation in the middle of the area. There were some nice views from this peninsula, but few places to stop and take pictures, an issue that would plague me the entire trip. Nova Scotia is very scenic, they just don't have the tourist infrastructure we are used to here in the US for scenic drives. Here there would have been vehicle turn outs every mile or so and certainly at every vista.

Quite thirsty we pulled into Chester looking for a cafe to wet our whistle. At 2pm in the afternoon the microscopic town was closed down except for the pub. We grabbed a soda to go there and continued on our way.

The view from the deck of the restaurant in West Dover. A much nicer atmosphere than the crowded tourist trap at Peggy's Cove.

The farther away we got from the exposed Atlantic coastline the hotter it became. By the time we reached Mahone Bay it was stifling and we had no desire to get out of the car and walk around. I took a quick photo of the much talked about church and jumped quickly back into the air conditioned car.

At this point the sun was setting and our predictable stomachs were talking to us again so we boogied back to Lunenburg in search of sustenance.

The three churches of Mahone Bay. Nothing stirred in the heat.

The drive from Peggy's Cove to Lunenburg was not as exciting as the guide book would lead one to believe. We found places to stop for photographs few and far between and more trees than we anticipated.


Nina said...

I can't wait to take the time to read all of these posts. I am a sucker for interesting geology, and these photos of the glaciated landscape look very interesting. I will tackle your trip report when I get back!

Linda said...

Disappointing - there's nothing worse than being a tourist and finding yourself among hordes of other tourists. And it's curious the different view of facilities that locals take. Your comment about lack of lay-bys on scenic roads intrigued me. I think we're probably guilty of the same thing in Scotland. Problem is, the road were built before there were many tourists travelling by car, and it doesn't seem to be a budget priority to create more.