Exploring the Iconic Landscapes and Lighthouses in Southwest Nova Scotia
17 Mar 2023
Southwest Nova Scotia is dotted with iconic landscapes and lighthouses, providing travellers with a world of exploration and breathtaking sights. From the rugged coastlines to historic towns, where lighthouses stand guard over the region, this part of Nova Scotia offers something for everyone. Picture an ancient lobster boat bobbing in the harbour waters or a sunset view of rolling green hills rising above the relentless surf.
There’s simply no better way to take in the beauty of southwestern Nova Scotia than taking a leisurely drive through this amazing area to enjoy the postcard-worthy panoramas. Mix in some fabulous food spots and luxurious accommodations and you’ve got a recipe for a super fun multi-day road trip.
And that is exactly what we did.
We spent 3 days in southwestern Nova Scotia exploring stunning landscapes and iconic lighthouses, eating delicious East Coast delicacies, and staying at two of Nova Scotia’s finest properties.
Our first stop on our journey took us to Hipson’s Bridge, an iconic landmark in the small town of Lower East Pubnico. This picturesque old stone arch bridge was built in the early 1900s but abandoned when the highway was realigned and a new bridge was built. Hipson’s Bridge has withstood the test of time despite facing several severe storms over the years.
Pubnico Harbour Lighthouse
While not the original structure that was built in 1853, Pubnico Harbour Lighthouse in Lower East Pubnico is definitely worth it. Built in 1984, this freestanding fibreglass lighthouse is set on a low spit that extends into the water, and makes up for its stature by having the Pubnico Point Wind Farm in Lower West Pubnico as its backdrop. It’s quite a spectacular view! After taking some photos of the lighthouse, I enjoyed standing on the rocky beach and listening to the calming sounds of the waves.
Height: 29 ft
Built: 1854 (original), 1984 (current)
Lunch at The Salt Banker
The new restaurant we planned to go to for lunch was slated to be opened by the time we got there, but construction delays put a damper on that. We did get to tour The Salt Banker and see the kitchen layout and the almost completed dining room. It’s an old Royal Bank, so the interior had to be completely gutted and transformed into Chef Nicole Hopkins’ dream space with a caveat by the owners… it had to serve one-of-a-kind ice cream made on-site, and have a drive-thru window to serve the ice cream. The restaurant was just a few days away from being completed, so it was quite exciting to see the modern and classy space at this stage.
We did get to sample some of Chef Nicole’s food though. We headed over to a shared kitchen space where she served us a fantastic seafood stew, baked clams, and garlic toast. We finished our lunch with Chef Nicole’s take on Tres Leches, a sponge cake soaked in three different kinds of milk. The food was very delicious!
The Salt Banker is the first eat-in restaurant on Cape Sable Island in almost 20 years, and will be a welcome addition to the area. Not only do they offer fresh locally sourced ingredients, but their menu is also filled with traditional seafood favourites and Italian Fare. It’s a great space to meet up with friends for lunch and spend some time enjoying the many offerings of this beautiful seaside destination. Their commitment to quality food, customer service, and friendly ambiance makes it an ideal place to wind down during the day or kick off an evening of good times ahead.
The Hawk Beach
After a wonderful lunch experience, we were off to our next destination. The Hawk Beach in Clark’s Harbour Nova Scotia is a breathtaking destination filled with natural beauty. The beach is home to hundreds of species of migratory birds throughout the year – a great treat for birdwatchers and wildlife lovers alike.
One of its most striking features is a drowned forest, with ancient white pine stumps poking out from the sea, their haunting shapes providing a window into Clark’s Harbour’s distant past. It has been estimated that these smaller pines are around 1,500 years old, having flourished here for centuries before the rising waters of The Bay of Fundy and the North Atlantic Ocean snatched them away from view until recently.
Off to the south, you’ll see the rather imposing site of Cape Sable Lighthouse. Standing at 101 feet tall, it is Nova Scotia’s tallest lighthouse and marks the southern tip of the province.
With its pristine white sand, clear coastal waters, and stunning sunsets stretching across the horizon, it is easy to see why this beach is considered one of the most beautiful on Canada’s east coast.
This beach successfully merges land and sea into one sumptuous maritime experience.
Seal Island Light Museum
Located in the beautiful town of Barrington is the charming Seal Island Light Museum. The museum tells the fascinating tale and rich history of the lighthouse that stands tall off of the coast of Barrington. The original 60-foot lighthouse was established as a beacon more than 190 years ago to guide vessels to safety.
Opened in 1990, the Seal Island Light Museum has the original lens from the lighthouse and many artifacts that represent the area’s colourful marine history. This museum is a 35-foot-tall replica of the original lighthouse, and provides an interactive experience that all can enjoy while learning some interesting lessons along the way.
The Seal Island Light Museum offers a unique combination of education and entertainment and is one of those rare places capable of immersing its visitors in momentous stories from days gone by.
Height: 35 ft
Dinner at Charlotte Lane Café
The only thing that could top a spectacular sunset is an unforgettable dining experience right after. That’s exactly what we experienced at Charlotte Lane Café in Shelburne. This cozy restaurant offers a blend of hearty classics and unique dishes that delight all tastes.
With menu items ranging from comfort food favourites like Pork Tenderloin to creative concoctions like their Scallop and Shrimp Gratin, delicious culinary inspiration awaits you. Just like the weather, the menu at Charlotte Lane Café changes with the seasons.
I enjoyed tender pork belly for my appetizer, and steak with potatoes and seasonal vegetables for my main course. The food was very tasty!
Sunset at Sandy Point Lighthouse
Sandy Point Lighthouse in Shelburne is a charming and picturesque sight. Perched on a concrete base at the entrance to Shelburne Harbour, this elegant lighthouse has withstood the test of time serving both as a functional beacon providing guidance to seafaring vessels, as well as an iconic image that has become synonymous with the picturesque Maritimes landscape.
We got to experience a beautiful sunset on our visit to Sandy Point Lighthouse. The breathtakingly stunning landscape is pristine and inspiring, and creates an unforgettable experience for any visitor. Watching from the shore as the sun sets in the distance is like stepping into a real-life painting of nature’s beauty. When the tide is out, you can walk out to the lighthouse along the sandbar to get some wonderful photographs.
The Sandy Point Lighthouse has been a familiar landmark to locals for generations and remains an icon to many visitors from near and far. Watching the sunset at this beautiful site is the perfect way to end a day of exploring.
Height: 44 ft
Overnight at The Cooper’s Inn
After a long day of exploring the sites of southwestern Nova Scotia, I was looking forward to checking in to our accommodations for the night. Located on Shelburne’s breathtaking waterfront, The Cooper’s Inn offers comfort & style amid its carefully restored charm. This historic building has been carefully preserved to maintain its captivating character while offering luxurious amenities.
This cozy inn recently got a new owner, Amanda, who takes pride in providing her customers with an unparalleled experience. Every night, she heads out to the garden for a glass of wine, and invites her guests to join her. The selection and variety of local wines cater to all tastes from sweet vintages to dry favourites. The patio is very welcoming and comes to life at night with rope lights in the flowers and trees. It’s definitely a cool spot to enjoy an evening of drinks and camaraderie.
There are seven stylishly appointed rooms and an elegant suite – all boasting harbour views and private ensuite bathrooms. Whichever room you choose, you’ll be immersed in a unique blend of old-world style and modern hospitality in this Registered Heritage Property (c.1784).
My room offered simple but beautiful furnishings and classic decor. Spacious and comfortable beds provide the perfect place to take an afternoon nap or relax after an exciting day exploring the area.
The Cooper’s Inn also boasts luxurious amenities like air conditioning, high-speed Wi-Fi, mini-fridges, and complimentary toiletries so that you don’t have to worry about packing too much in your luggage. Experience the sights and sounds of historic Shelburne while staying at a locale steeped in some of the classic charm from many years gone by.
Mornings at The Coopers Inn are filled with tantalizing aromas and the comforts of a home away from home. Guests of The Coopers Inn can enjoy freshly prepared meals made with local ingredients. With classic favourites like eggs, hashbrowns, and bacon; to delightful twists like oven-roasted French toast and homemade baked goods, you are sure to find something you’ll enjoy. You will definitely be happy with whatever menu item you choose.
Step back in time and experience a slice of history at the Cooper’s Inn. The rooms, the view, the area, the service, and the hospitality is unmatched. It’s one of the nicest Bed and Breakfast accommodations I have ever stayed at.
Baccaro Point Lighthouse
Our next stop was Baccaro Point Lighthouse located on mainland Nova Scotia’s most southerly point. This historic lighthouse has been proudly standing watch over these storied waters since 1852. Its peculiar name is said to have derived from Old Basque language, “Baccolaos” translated as “cod-fish”. As there was no road at that time of construction, building materials had to be hauled over 10km across the shoreline.
Once an important means of navigation for commercial ships and fishing vessels, this lighthouse is now more a source of nostalgia for those who appreciate its remarkable history. It’s no surprise that this piece of maritime heritage has become a popular tourist destination in recent years.
Height: 45 ft
Built: 1852 (original), 1934 (current)
Yarmouth Buoy Wall
On our drive from Yarmouth to Cape Forchu, we saw many beautiful sites, including this beautiful wall of colourful buoys. We stopped to take some photos from the road as this thing of beauty is located on private property. It’s amazing the beauty you will find when you are driving around Nova Scotia.
The Yarmouth Buoy Wall is located at 1110 NS-304 in Yarmouth Bar, Nova Scotia. This is private property, so best to take photographs from the road.
Cape Forchu Lighthouse
The Cape Forchu Lighthouse is one of the most iconic attractions in the Yarmouth area. This picturesque lighthouse marks the entrance to Yarmouth Bay, and it can be seen from miles around due to its towering height. With its apple-core shape and winding staircase, the lighthouse is a sight to behold as you approach along the winding Cape Forchu coastline.
It’s the tallest lighthouse on mainland Nova Scotia, and the second tallest lighthouse (behind Cape Sable Lighthouse) in all of Nova Scotia. And, you can climb to the top for a phenomenal panoramic view of the surrounding area.
Height: 98 ft
Built: 1839 (original), 1961 (current)
Cape Saint Mary Lighthouse
The weather started to get a little wet during our drive from Cape Forchu to Mavillette Beach. Once we arrived at our destination, we noticed that a thick fog had rolled in. Taking photos of this next lighthouse was going to be a challenge.
Perched atop the rugged cliffs of Cape Saint Marys stands the picturesque Cape Saint Mary Lighthouse. This square concrete tower is both a functional beacon for sailors as well as a breathtaking site for wanderlusters. Owned by the Municipality of the District of Clare, this lone sentinel has been guiding local fishermen, coastal traders, and vessels out on the open sea for over 150 years – through thick fog, thunderstorms, and icy waters.
On a clearer day, the view from the lighthouse’s elevated property0 on the coast is stunning. Visiting this unique landmark is like taking a step back into history – where one can immerse oneself in nautical Canadian tradition and admire the sheer beauty of Cape Saint Mary’s untouched wilderness.
Height: 43 ft
Built: 1868 (original), 1965 (current)
Smugglers Cove Provincial Park
Our next stop was an unplanned but very interesting one. Located off Evangeline Trail in Meteghan is Smugglers Cove Provincial Park, a hidden gem tucked away with breathtaking scenery.
With both ancient forests and beaches, it contains a variety of scenery where you can go birdwatching or experience breathtaking panoramas. Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do with facilities for swimming, camping, canoeing, picnicking, and more. Smugglers Cove Provincial Park is also home to a rich history, being the site of a major international rum-running scheme during Prohibition in the 1920s. When the tides were low, they would hide their booze in the caves and stay there until the tides were starting to come back in before leaving again. When the tides was high, the caves were inaccessible. Leave it to the rum smugglers to use the tides to their advantage!
Belliveau Cove Lighthouse
The next stop will see us visiting the smallest lighthouse on our trip. Belliveau Cove Lighthouse in Church Point is a charming destination for sightseers and photographers. This lovely tapered square wood tower resembles a salt shaker, and is very much still functional, becoming automated in 1993. It stands guard at the end of a picturesque wharf that extends out into the harbour.
The lighthouse grounds feature an expansive beach that you can take leisurely strolls along during low tide, but beware at high tide moments – the incoming waters are known to fill up the harbour quickly!
Height: 22 ft
Gilbert’s Cove Lighthouse
On our way to dinner, we stopped off at another lighthouse. Situated on an oceanfront hillside in Plympton, Gilbert’s Cove Lighthouse has a unique and enchanting flair about it.
The Gilbert Cove and District Historical Society brings to life the rich history of its area with a special focus on preserving their iconic lighthouse. Founded in 1982, this non-profit organization has worked tirelessly ever since to keep their landmark safe from deterioration through fundraising efforts, memberships sales and craft merchandise from the gift shop. Visitors can also explore a vibrant collection of historic photographs along with various maritime artifacts at the site or enjoy a beverage in the quaint tea room.
Once I took a bunch of photos of the lighthouse, I sat at one of the picnic tables and admired the beautiful scenery. It was still drizzling a bit when we were there so I didn’t walk down to the water’s edge.
It is often considered one of the most picturesque locations in Nova Scotia, providing a perfect opportunity to observe eagles fishing or simply take a moment to appreciate and marvel at nature’s beauty. Today, this historic lighthouse continues to be an iconic symbol of our community and serves as an exquisite reminder of Plympton’s rich history.
Height: 36 ft
Overnight at Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa
After a long day of sightseeing, I was eager to check in to our lodging for the night and relax before dinner. Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa is a stunning destination for travellers looking to hit the links and relax. Located on a breathtaking waterfront overlooking Saint Mary’s Bay, its surrounding landscape makes it an idyllic escape for golfers of any level.
View this post on Instagram
The 18-hole championship golf course was designed by renowned Canadian architect Stanley Thompson and offers visitors magnificent views of the Annapolis Basin. Set amidst the impressive Acadian forest, each hole is unique and filled with challenges.
View this post on Instagram
And so that you can get your game in all year, they have a state-of-the-art Trackman Simulator where you can play on over 240 of the world’s best golf courses.
The Main Hotel offers 85 guest rooms, including 6 luxury suites. There are also 31 cottages (one, two, and three bedrooms) complete with fireplaces and verandas for the perfect getaway experience.
My room was in the main building and was spacious and tastefully decorated with comfort in mind. The fine linens on the bed made for the perfect place to relax and watch some TV before dinner.
Churchill’s Restaurant & Lounge
Churchill’s Restaurant & Lounge at Digby Pines provides an elegant and relaxed atmosphere for diners looking to enjoy a quality meal. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, guests are sure to find something they like with the extensive menu options including dishes such as Pan Seared Digby Scallops, Crispy Haddock Tacos, and Pan Fried Atlantic Salmon. Everything is made using top-notch ingredients ensuring an unforgettable dining experience each time. There’s also a lounge area with cozy seating that offers a selection of craft beers and signature cocktails with an impressive view of the breathtaking Annapolis Basin.
After relaxing in my room, I was really looking forward to dinner at Churchill’s Restaurant. I ordered a Grilled Alberta Beef Striploin and added on a lobster tail. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare, just the way I like it.
For breakfast the next morning, there was a breakfast buffet with lots of food options. There was a fruit station, cereals, breads, an omelette station, and lots of hot and cold items. I had eggs Benedict with a side of bacon, home fries, and fresh fruit. It was the perfect start to my day.
The Breakfast Buffet is subject to business levels. A La Carte Breakfast is available if buffet is not.
Point Prim Lighthouse
Point Prim Lighthouse is located at the mouth of the Digby Gut, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. Built in 1964, this 46’ tall concrete structure is the fourth lighthouse built at this location since 1804. It sends out a three-second audible fog signal every 30 seconds. The Friends of Point Prim have maintained the lighthouse and surrounding park and trails since 2011.
There is an interpretive panel showing where the original lighthouse used to stand, which was much closer to the coastline.
Height: 25 ft
Built: 1817 (original), 1964 (current)
Digby Pier Lighthouse
Once a prominent beacon of Digby’s harbour, the iconic Digby Pier Lighthouse had been decommissioned and moved to Saint John in 1971 when problems with pier safety arose. Nearly four decades later, Mayor Ben Cleveland decided it was high time for this beloved symbol to return home; he believed that not only did its presence complete the new breakwater plans for his town but also served as an important link between modern-day progress and past history. After diligence on both sides of the Bay of Fundy, it seemed fate would reunite what once was lost – prompting cheers from Digby citizens who eagerly awaited their lighthouse’s triumphant reappearance.
Armed with 230 lbs of Digby scallops, the Mayor and 30 residents took the ferry to Saint John in October of 2012 to retrieve the lighthouse. It spent the next few years in storage awaiting funds for restoration.
The lighthouse was finally awoken in July 2015 when it won $15,000 in the National Trust’s This Lighthouse Matters competition. This generous amount of money enabled crucial repairs to be made and in June of 2016, its journey continued. Cranes carefully lifted it onto a flatbed trailer for transportation to its new home on Admiral Walk, where it was placed atop an awaiting platform.
The moral of the story – Digby scallops are so delicious, they can even be used to purchase a lighthouse! 🤣
Height: 27 ft
Built: 1887 (original), 1903 (current)
Lunch at The Crow’s Nest
At The Crow’s Nest in Digby, you can enjoy delicious dishes from the Atlantic coast. Located on the picturesque waterfront of Annapolis Basin, this renowned restaurant features some of the most delicious dishes in Nova Scotia. With recipes cooked from the freshest seafood caught just off its waters, the dishes offer an exquisite experience that is bursting with mouth-watering flavour. The warm and inviting atmosphere provides guests with a cozy respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life while they enjoy their meal along with lovely views of the water.
I ordered the deep-fried scallops with a side Caesar salad and a cup of seafood chowder. I figured this was the last meal I was having in Digby, so I better have some scallops to make my lunch memorable. It was an awesome choice because they were big and juicy with a nice crispy batter, fried to perfection.
I’m happy I took Henry Wieglicka’s recommendation to try the seafood chowder. He spoke so highly of it, I knew I couldn’t leave Crow’s Nest without trying it.
Experience the Scenic Wonders of Southwestern Nova Scotia
Exploring the breathtaking landscapes and lighthouses of southwest Nova Scotia is like taking a step back in time, allowing us to discover the province’s unique culture, history, and expansive beauty. From white sand beaches to rugged coastline bluffs and traditional fishing villages, you can explore it all in this beautiful region. It’s truly a magical experience to stand in front of one of these majestic structures that were originally built to protect mariners from danger in treacherous waters. Each lighthouse offers its own story, and each landscape has its own beauty.
A big thank you to Sandra Phinney (writer, traveler, and photographer) and Carla Allen (photographer and retired news reporter) for being our amazing tour hosts for this scenic 3-day itinerary. These two ladies shared their knowledge and passion for the landscapes and lighthouses scattered along Nova Scotia’s southwestern shoreline and got us safely from point to point.
To set off on your own adventure full of awe-inspiring views and hidden gems is one of life’s greatest joys. Take some time to immerse yourself in the mesmerizing scenery of Southwest Nova Scotia and discover your own timeless adventure. Go out there, be inspired, get lost – but most importantly… enjoy!