Although blogging has become commonplace on the web in recent years, I, oftentimes, find myself skeptical of the words I am reading. Perhaps because I'm a photographer, I'm biased toward photographs to provide me with an accurate picture (no pub intended) of any given subject. In this I'm apparently not alone.
The midwest state of Missouri bills itself as the 'Show Me' state and automobile licence plates there carry that slogan. The first time I came across this was a number of years ago when I was leading a group of American CEOs on a photo tour around Nova Scotia. These people were executives of major corporations in the U.S. and shared a common passion for photography.
One of them was from Missouri and I was telling him one day of a great photo spot that was not far from where we were on Cape Breton Island. I was going on in some detail about the photo possibilities that existed there when it interrupted me and said: "I'm from Missouri, you'll have to show me." I did later and we spent several hours there and got some great shots. My conversation with this Missouri CEO stuck with me and when I decided to do a series of blogs on my website, I decided to avoid words of 'frothy eloquence' and instead let photographs tell my stories. Except for some mild adjustments in exposure, contrast and colour correction, all photographs are accurate representations of actual scenes. I hope you enjoy them.
The most widely held view for the origins of the "Show Me State" motto is attributed to a Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver who during a speech in 1899 to a naval banquet in Philadelphia declared: I come from a state that raises corn, cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
Nova Scotia Tourism Regions - The seven regions shown in the above map are designed help visitors find their way around the province and to discover the unique scenery and experiences to be found in each region. The following series of photo blogs will give you a visual understanding of what each region has to offer, but the Nova Scotia highway map and the Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide are must-have items if you travel the province by road. Both offer a wealth of detailed information on travel in Nova Scotia and are available free at any of Nova Scotia's travel centres or on line at: novascotia.com/travel-guide
NOTE: If you're using a GPS or travel maps on your laptop or smart devices you should be aware that most mapping software has not caught up with the Tourism Region map above. Also, as you drive you will frequently see small road signs like 'Lighthouse Route', Evangeline Trail, Marine Drive and such. These were called Nova Scotia Travelways and since reference is still made to them on mapping software and road signage, I've placed a sidebar map on this page to show these Travelways so you can relate them to the Tourism Region map. Safe travels.
The Halifax metro area that includes the cross-harbour cities of Halifax and Dartmouth and surrounding communities is steeped in history. Halifax was founded in 1749 and Dartmouth a year later. Much of the early history of the province can be found here . . . the first legislative assembly; the first newspaper in Canada; The first Anglican Church in Canada; graves of Titanic victims and the list goes on. The British captain who ordered the burning of the White House in Washington during the American Revolutionary War is buried here too. Aside from history, this area is home to well over one-third of Nova Scotia's 943,000 residents and is vibrant metropolis of universities, business, entertainment and nightlife. The modern Halifax International Airport is the entry point for thousands of tourist who visit the province each year.
On a Nova Scotia tourism roadmap, the South Shore Region stretches from edge of the City of Halifax, southwest to just beyond Cape Sable Island, the most southerly point in Nova Scotia and the location of its tallest lighthouse. The main travelway through this region is known as the Lighthouse Route. The Lighthouse Route essentially follows the old Route #3 highway between Halifax and the Town of Yarmouth, but keep an eye out for Lighthouse Route signs as they often point to coastal roads that take you to picturesque towns and fishing villages steeped in history, much of it tied to the Atlantic Ocean which borders the entire region. The South Shore is best known for its many and varied seaside communities. Among the best known and most visited is the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, with its much-photographed lighthouse perched on the seemingly endless granite shoreline. Although Peggy’s, less than an hour’s drive from Halifax, it is one of more visited tourism locations, I never tire of coming here, especially in the early morning and late in the day when there are few people about.
Another community that tops the list of must-see places on the South Shore is the town of Lunenburg. The wooden architecture in this town has to be seen to be believed. Don’t take my word for it . . . UNESCO declared Lunenburg a World Heritage site some years ago, largely because of its impressive wooden houses and buildings, as well as its seafaring heritage. Nova Scotia’s sailing icon, the fishing schooner Bluenose and its replica Bluenose II, were built here. However, it’s not fair to single out just Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg when there are a myriad of other towns and villages along the South Shore, each with their own distinctive character . . . places like Chester, Mahone Bay, Bridgewater, Liverpool, Lockeport and Shelburne, to name a few.
YARMOUTH & ACADIAN SHORES
One thing you’ll find in traveling through the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia is that French is the predominant language spoken in the region. The exception is the immediate area around the Town of Yarmouth. However, language is not a problem for the visitor, as the Acadian French, who populate most of this region, are equally as fluent in English as they are their native tongue. One of the things that I always marvel at as I travel through the Pubnicos or the Acadian communities along the Clare shore on either side of Yarmouth is that the French-speaking residents seem to have an uncanny ability to recognize when they have an English-only speaking person in their midst. Before I even open my mouth, they have switched from French to English. I often wonder whether I should look in a mirror to see if the word ‘English’ is stamped on my forehead.
This desire to accommodate the visitor is one of the more endearing characteristics of the Acadian people, not only the ones living in this region, but also those in other Acadian communities scattered throughout Nova Scotia. The mixture of French and English presence in the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores region not only gives a foreign flare to your holiday, but the diversity of the area in other ways is a positive experience. Fishing is the mainstay of this area, a fact that is plainly evident in the many fishing villages scattered along the Atlantic shore between Cape Sable Island and Yarmouth and throughout the many communities of Clare that border the shores of St. Mary’s Bay. The area is commonly referred to as the ‘French Shore’. Where there’s seashore, there is bound to be beaches and some of the most pristine are found here. Also, where there’s fishing villages, there’s bound to be fresh seafood. One of my favourites is the broiled haddock filet with lobster sauce served at a restaurant in West Pubnico. Also check out the ‘rappie pie’, a staple of the Acadian diet. Outdoor adventure, food, festivals and fun are also staples of the area as the attached photos will attest.
FUNDY SHORE & ANNAPOLIS VALLEY
One of the things that always appeals to me about traveling in Nova Scotia is the diversity of the scenery, both inland and along the various bodies of water that surround our 7,400 kilometers (4,600 miles) of coastline. The Fundy Shore & Annapolis Valley region is a prime example of that diversity. The Annapolis Valley is, as the name suggests, an agricultural area. It extends in an eight-kilometer wide swath for a distance of roughly 160 kilometers between the towns of Windsor and Digby. The valley is one of the prime agricultural regions of Canada and is lined with orchards of fruit trees, predominantly apples; scattered vineyards supporting a thriving wine industry; and, of course, rolling fields of vegetables and grains all nestled between North and South Mountains. The contrast comes when you take a short drive over North Mountain on any of a number of country roads that branch off the Evangeline Trail travelway that runs the length of the valley. On the other side of the mountain is the Bay of Fundy shore with its mix of weathered basalt rock formations and colourful red sandstone cliffs.
The villages dotting this coastline, that extends another 50 or so kilometers beyond Digby to the end of Digby Neck, are mostly small. They are supported by some agriculture, but mostly by fishing. Fishing in the Bay of Fundy is no mean feat as most of the harbours are devoid of water when the tide is out. This twice-a-day, in-out cycle of tides calls for some ingenuity on the part of fishermen, as their days are regulated by sailing out with the tide and then waiting for high tide to return home. This can mean up to 12 hours at sea and since the tide cycle varies by about an hour each day, so does their workday. One day they may leave port in the middle of the night and a few weeks later they leave in mid afternoon. But for those of us on shore, the cycle is nothing short of fascinating. The highest tide in the world, just over 15 meters (nearly 50 feet) was recorded at Burntcoat Head, just outside this region, in the late 1800s. As a result, the Bay of Fundy is unlike few other places on earth, where you can actually walk on the ocean floor at low tide. However, caution is advised, as the tide comes in quickly and the prospect of trying to claw your way up a sandstone cliff with water lapping at your ankles is not a pleasant one. When I’m photographing fossils and unusual rock formations along the shore, I use an iPhone app call ‘Clam Tide’ that keeps me up to date on the current tide conditions. If you’re not electronically inclined, most harbours post tide times to protect the unwary. There is much to write about this region; the food and wine, the whale watching and the historic towns and villages, to name a few. But that’s just scratching the surface, so as has been the pattern in my last few blogs, I’ll let my pictures tell the story.
The Northumberland Shore stretches from the New Brunswick border to the Canso Causeway that takes visitors from mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island. It is so named because it borders the Northumberland Strait that separates Nova Scotia from Prince Edward Island. This region is distinct from other regions of Nova Scotia in that it is largely agricultural and has an abundance of red sandy beaches which, in summer, boast the warmest salt water north of the Carolinas.
The Scottish influence is strong in this part of Nova Scotia as it is in many parts of Cape Breton Island. Scottish settlers arrived in Pictou on the ship Hector in 1784. A replica of the ship Hector sits beside the Hector Heritage Quay, an interpretive centre in Pictou. Highland Festivals are held throughout the summer, not only in Pictou, but in nearby towns of New Glasgow, Trenton, Stellarton and Westville, all former coal mining communities. An annual Scottish festival at Pugwash on July 1 opens the festival season in this region and the Antigonish Highland Games later in July has become on of the premier events in Nova Scotia.
Besides warm sandy beaches, there are a fine selection of museums stretching from Amherst to Antigonish, home of Saint Francis Xavier University. In Amherst the main street showcases a fine selection of red sandstone public buildings and church . . . built from the same sandstone from nearby Wallace that was used in the construction of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and the Provincial Legislature in Halifax.
CAPE BRETON ISLAND
Cape Breton Island makes up about one-third of the land mass of Nova Scotia and its famed Cabot Trail is among the top ten scenic drives in North America. But there is more to Cape Breton than the Cabot Trail that winds for over 100 kilometres along the seacoast and through the highlands that so reminded Scottish settlers of the home in Scotland that they named the province Nova Scotia. Translated from Latin it means New Scotland. The Scottish heritage is strong, but then too are the cultures of the native Mi'kmaq, who occupied Nova Scotia for thousands of years, and the French whose fortress town they established at Louisbourg in the 1700s became a battle ground between warring French and English before the English finally gained permanent control of Eastern Canada.
Today, Cape Breton Island is a melting pot of these three predominant cultures and communities of Mi'kmaq, Acadian French and Scots are scattered throughout the Island. They are easily recognized by their distinctive names: Mi'kmaq communities like Membertou or Whycocomagh . . . French settlements like Isle Madame or Cheticamp . . . and of course Celtic name like Inverness or Dundee. English may be the predominant language in Cape Breton, but Mi'Kmaq, French and Gaelic area still everyday languages in pockets of the Island. Celtic music is alive and well through festivals and events throughout the year, the highlight being the Celtic Colours festival that coincides with spectacular autumn scenery through the Island in the fall. Combined with the fabulous seacoast and mountain scenery, no visit to Nova Scotia is complete without spending at least a few days on Cape Breton Island.
The Eastern Shore region of Nova Scotia stretches alone the Atlantic coast from Dartmouth to the Cape Breton Causeway where it meets up with the Northumberland Region. Although it is one of the less travelled regions in the province, it is one of may favourites for photography and simply getting away from the maddening crowd. Actually there is no such thing as maddening crowds in Nova Scotia because of its small size and population of less than one million people, but to have endless miles of sand beaches all to yourself is not something you're likely to get elsewhere in the province.
The Eastern Shore is almost exclusively made up of hundreds of lakes, rivers and streams, winding roads and tiny villages, the exceptions being communities like Sheet Harbour, Sherbrooke, Guysborough or Canso, but even these are small, boasting populations of less than 1,000 each. There are no four-lane highways, but who needs them because traffic is light and in some cases non existent.
COLOURFUL PEGGY'S COVE
Peggy's Cove, a small fishing village a 40-minute drive from Halifax on Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast, is best known for it's statuesque lighthouse that is perched above the ocean overlooking the miles of bare granite coastline. Although Peggy's Cove is probably one of the most visited and photographed places in Nova Scotia for both residents and visitors alike, I never cease to marvel at the new picture possibilities that crop up with the ever changing time of day, the seasons, the tides and the weather.
I've photographed at Peggy's for over 50 years. It's a great place for a sunrise or a sunset; for crashing surf after a storm or reflections of the lighthouse in still pools of water. Each visit seems to yield something different to photograph and when I ventured there a few days ago, sure enough, there was a riot of colour just begging to be captured by my cameras, Multi-coloured lobster traps (or pots), freshly-painted floats and coils of rope in an amazing selection of colours were piled at random on the rocky ground in front of a fisherman's shack in preparation for the upcoming lobster season.
ANNAPOLIS VALLEY BLOSSOMS
The Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia is one of the major apple growing regions in Canada so it stands to reason that the advent of Spring heralds the arrival of apple blossoms on trees in the hundreds of orchards that dot the Valley. Valley residents celebrate the occasion with the annual Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival in late May with community events in communities big and small throughout the length of the Valley.
It's also a great time for photographers too. The Annapolis Valley borders the Bay of Fundy, home of the world's highest tides, so there are lots of photo opportunities along the shoreline . . . sandstone cliffs and colourful fishing villages, as well as orchards and vineyard. Yes! the Annapolis Valley in recent years has become a major grape growing area and award winning wineries have attracted a large following.