Destination Bluenose Coast
A short scenic drive from Halifax takes you to a premier travel destination where you can experience just about everything Nova Scotia has to offer. If you know what you want out of your southwest Nova Scotia trip, the folks involved with Destination Bluenose Coast would love to help you get it.
Shelley Webb, owner of Havenside Bed and Breakfast in Hackett's Cove, Director and Past Chair of Destination Bluenose Coast, said she enjoys pointing people in the right direction whether they want to buy a handmade quilt or are looking for another place to stay along the way.
"The quality of the experience has to be paramount," Webb said, which is why she is thrilled to be a member of such a collaborative organization.
Destination Bluenose Coast is a not-for-profit umbrella organization bringing together local chambers of commerce, boards of trade, tourism organizations and independent business owners that can best be described as "people helping people."
"We are working together to ensure that the Bluenose Coast is something people will absolutely rave about when they go back home," Webb said.
Sebelle Deese, owner of Atlantic Sojourn Bed and Breakfast in Lunenburg calls it a "symbiotic relationship" and describes others who work in the tourism industry whether in Chester, Mahone Bay, or Bridgewater as "dear, dear, dear friends."
"That's what makes it so nice up here. All of us in the tourism business work together," said Deese in her native Mississippi drawl.
They work together developing itineraries, a web presence and other projects to make your stay, whether you're day-tripping from Halifax or holidaying from the U.S. or Europe, as action-filled and as pleasant as you want it to be.
"It's all about the experience. We know that our visitors want to experience. They don't want to just look anymore," said Trudi Curley, Bluenose Coast's Destination Coordinator.
"A lot of our job is to make people aware of what it is we offer," Curley said. To that end they created the Bluenose Coast Boarding Pass, a chronological list of 100 festivals being held from the western end of the Halifax Regional Municipality to the western boundary of Lunenburg County and inland to New Ross and New Germany. There are farmers' markets, lobster suppers, cycling, kayak and camping tours, music festivals, art festivals, boat races, parades and workshops in photography, quilt making and papermaking -- all on a pocket-sized brochure.
Curley said the organization is working on developing itineraries for visitors so that when they visit a popular destination such as Peggy's Cove they are offered information on local accommodation, restaurants and other places of interest in the area.
Last fall, the organization held a contest in which the winners were treated to a weekend tour of the area centred around Mahone Bay's scarecrow festival.
The trip started with an overnight stay and breakfast at Havenside Bed and Breakfast in Hackett's Cove. A short drive took them to the farmers' market in Hubbards. With their shopping done, the winners took a drive around the breathtakingly beautiful Aspotogan Peninsula where they lunched on lobster sandwiches. After lunch they traveled to Mahone Bay to see the scarecrows and then continued on to Lunenburg where they spent the night.
There are so many varied places and activities within the geographic area defined as the Bluenose Coast, it's difficult to name them all.
There are fabulous beaches along the Aspotogan Peninsula. There are also non-beach waterfronts worth visiting like The Ovens with its tide-worn caves, the rugged coastline of Blue Rocks and the working waterfront of Lunenburg.
To get away from it all you can leave the mainland and take the ferry to Tancook Island or Little Tancook Island. "That's a wonderful day trip," said Curley, "a real treat."
"You can pick up a picnic on shore and head out to Tancook for the day. It's great for hiking, you can take your bike out and that's amazing. A lot of people don't know that they can do that and it's one great way that they can get out on the water," Curley said.
Another option is to sail around the many islands in Mahone Bay, one of which, Oak Island, is the site of the world's longest-running treasure hunt. According to the Oak Island Tourism Society, the hunt began in 1795 with the accidental discovery of the "money pit."
The entire coast is filled with coves and inlets that make it perfect for exploring. There are many sea-kayaking businesses up and down the coast and a few places in Hubbards, Chester and Mahone Bay where you can take sailing lessons.
If you're not a water person, there's still a lot to do. You can take in the beauty of the ocean and surrounding scenery from the comfort of your car. The races in Chester let you enjoy the majesty of sailing from a comfortable perch on land. There are art galleries and shops featuring the works of local craftspeople up and down the coast from Peggy's Cove to Mahone Bay, Chester and Lunenburg.
As a UNESCO world heritage site Lunenburg is phenomenal for architecture. It's also a fabulous place to walk whether you want to work out on the hills or take it easy on the waterfront. Wherever you choose to walk, you'll be steeped in the history of the area from its churches to its working waterfront.
Curley takes pride in the fact that all the destinations within the Bluenose Coast are authentic.
But the coast isn't all about coastline. On a foggy or cool day you might want to head inland to take advantage of hiking trails or travel back in time at the Ross Farm Museum in New Ross where you can try your hand at milking a cow, writing with a quill or even doing some woodworking or blacksmithing. And, of course, everyone loves the hayride.
There is also the Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum in Maplewood where you can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the colourful heritage gardens or head inside the museum to study exhibits on everything from handicrafts to tools of farming and industry to aboriginal artifacts.
The wonder of the Bluenose Coast is that you can enjoy all this plus golf, theatre, art, and opera and you won't have to drive more than an hour in any direction.
For those who live and work in the region, "everything that the visitor enjoys, we have 365 days a year," said Webb adding, "If anyone had a choice, where else would they live except somewhere in this area. It is the perfect balance -- to live in a small coastal community that is just a scoot from everything a capital, cultured city has to offer.
"I wake up in the morning and look out over this beautiful cove where our boat is moored, and I say 'Thank you, God."
Feature story written by Catherine Buckie