Sunrise Trail (Highway 6) runs along the Northumberland shore, which has miles/kilometers of red-sand beaches, and the water of Northumberland Strait is said to be the warmest salt water north of the Carolinas in the U.S. The strong, constant sunshine and shallow water help keep it at bathwater temperature. Also, you won't find lobster much fresher than there. The lobster fishery is one of the main industries along this coast. Take time to sample some locally produced maple syrup, ice wine or fresh blueberry grunt.
You can learn more about the people who settled the area at Pictou. A hand-built replica of Hector—the immigrant ship that brought 188 hardy Scottish settlers to Nova Scotia in September 1773—is on the waterfront. A three-story interpretive center at the Hector Heritage Quay details the life of the Scottish immigrants—before and after their perilous journey.
The town of Pugwash, an hour's drive to the west, celebrates a Gathering of the Clans Festival every 1 July, an energetic festival of Scottish music, dancing, food and traditional Highland games. From Pugwash, it's a trip of about 50 mi/80 km across the New Brunswick border to Cape Tormentine, where you can drive the 9-mi/14-km Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island, or catch the ferry at Caribou, a few minutes north of Pictou.
To the southeast, Melmerby Beach Provincial Park in Melmerby Beach has a good stretch of shoreline fronting Northumberland Strait and a boardwalk that crosses sand dunes. Farther east, Antigonish is a very pretty town to visit. The community sponsors Highland Games in July and a summerlong theater festival on the campus of St. Francis Xavier University.
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