South Shore/Lighthouse Route

Overview

Introduction

The South Shore and Lighthouse Route starts at Yarmouth and ends in Halifax after passing more than 20 lighthouses. Yarmouth was settled in the 1700s by New England settlers known as Planters. The town has a great tradition of shipping and shipbuilding and has retained a lot of its historic character. The intriguing Firefighters Museum in Yarmouth displays a collection of antique firefighting equipment.

Shelburne, east of Yarmouth, is a charming town with a waterfront heritage district that preserves many 18th-century buildings. In the early 1990s, Hollywood producers filming Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter needed a setting like a New England town of 1666, and they chose Shelburne. You can learn how wooden dories were made at The Dory Shop Museum and investigate the town's Loyalist history at the Shelburne County Museum. At one time Shelburne was one of the largest communities in North America; today its population hovers around 5,000.

Continuing to the northeast, you'll pass Risser's Beach Provincial Park (55 mi/90 km from Shelburne), which has a good beach to picnic and spend the day on.

To the north is Lunenburg, a fascinating, old fishing port and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (two restored fishing ships and exhibits on the province's maritime heritage). You can sometimes see Bluenose II, a replica of the province's most famous racing schooner, in the harbor. The center of town is filled with colorful 18th-century buildings and, because it's in an area settled by German and Swiss immigrants, Lunenburg has a very different atmosphere from that in the province's Scottish or French settlements.

Southeast of town is Ovens Natural Park, a photogenic coastal area complete with rugged sea cliffs and blowholes.

Farther on, the Lighthouse Route passes Mahone Bay, famous for its harbor view of three historic churches. There are many great souvenir and craft shops along the waterfront selling pewter, woolen goods, art and other gifts. There are a number of charming cafes, as well.

Chester is one of the province's prettiest seaside villages and is popular with yacht enthusiasts. Chester Race Week, in mid-August, is a lively sailing regatta that draws participants and visitors from all over the region. Graves Island Provincial Park, just beyond Chester, offers nice views of Mahone Bay and its numerous islands.

As you head up the coastline to Halifax, make a stop in Peggy's Cove, which is probably the world's most-photographed fishing village. Needless to say, it's touristy, but it is picturesque. The houses are painted in pastels, the sea crashes wildly on the rocky coast (especially after a storm), there's an old lighthouse on a granite cliff, and the fishing boats congregate at the government wharf in the tiny, sheltered harbor.

At the William E. de Garthe Memorial Provincial Park, you'll find the Fishermen's Monument. This tribute—carved into the craggy granite that is the Cove's bedrock—is to the generations who have braved the challenges of the sea.

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