When we planned our multi-family road trip to Brier Island via the South Shore and Yarmouth and Acadian Shores, we totally underestimated how much there is to explore. It’s like when tourists hit Cape Breton, and try to do it all in 48 hours – it just can’t be done!
But we gave it our best shot, first driving from Liverpool to Shelburne, then on to the Tusket Islands, where we spent the night in a traditional sea shanty. Finally, we road-tripped to Brier Island for some whale watching fun, staying at our favourite campground in Digby Neck.
In total, the trip lasted five days and four nights, but we could have easily spent a couple of days more.
Below is a rough itinerary with travel tips and recommendations for places to stay and things to do. I hope you can use it to plan your own adventure, either creating a week-long road trip, or breaking up the itinerary into smaller weekend getaways.
We are already planning our next journey to this wonderful, family-friendly region of Nova Scotia. See you there!
1. The South Shore (Liverpool to Shelburne)
Concrete Creations, Liverpool
We kicked off our multi-family adventure by meeting at Concrete Creations, at Cosby’s Garden Centre on the outskirts of Liverpool. We’d been hearing a lot about this place, a large-scale passion project by Sculptor Ivan Higgins consisting of acres of wooded gardens with hundreds of magical lifelike sculptures, most untitled, apart from a date. Tip: Stay off the sculptures, and on the paths! Although kids love this garden, it’s not a playground.
The Beaches of Queens County
Our second stop was Carter’s Beach – a beach that could rival any in the Caribbean. The crystal clear water here is cold, but the sand and scenery is absolutely stunning, and there is plenty of space to set down your towel (parking is another story!) Other nearby beaches we love are Summerville Beach, and the beaches at Thomas Raddall Provinical Park .
On our first night, we rented a beautiful Air BnB apartment, Steps to Shelburne, which was a stone’s throw from the waterfront, and also walking distance to a playground and skate park. This Air BnB host has another interesting property, across the road, Bruce House, which is steeped in history. Together, the combination of properties could accommodate a very large group (up to 15 people).
There is plenty to do in Shelburne for kids, especially along the historic waterfront. On another trip, we would visit The Shelburne County Museum and the Dory Shop, where kids can help build a dory. At Ross Thompson House, kids can spend an afternoon in the 18th century: churning butter, making candles, or tending a garden. Movie buffs will be interested to know that Shelburne has been a popular filming location for many large-scale productions including the popular TV mini-series The Book of Negroes (2015). Check the excellent Shelburne Museums website for more information on family activities.
Black Loyalist Heritage Centre
Located just outside Shelburne, the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre celebrates the history of the Black Loyalists, who arrived in Nova Scotia between 1783 and 1785, as a result of the American Revolution – the largest group of people of African birth and of African descent to come to Nova Scotia at any one time. The Black Loyalists have a rich history all over Nova Scotia, and this is where it all began.
2. Yarmouth and Acadian Shores
Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse
The Acadian expulsion of 1755 did not dampen the spirit of the Acadian culture in this region. Located on 17-acres overlooking Pubnico harbour, The Acadian Village (Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse) offers an historical reenactment of what life was like for the Acadians further along in history, in the early 1900s. This is a must-do for any Nova Scotian, but especially wonderful for students of French in our province.
One of the best ways to experience a culture is to hang out with the locals. But what if you don’t know anyone? The solution can be found at Tusket Island Tours, where the LeBlanc family will adopt you for the day by introducing you to their boat, their songs, their stories, their chowder recipe, and even their family cottage on Big Tusket Island.
The Tusket Island Tour costs $87 per person (or $55 for children under 18), and is definitely the best package tour in the region for families; the guide, Simon LeBlanc, is a former schoolteacher, and also works as a professional children’s entertainer. Yes, he takes song requests!
For the grown-ups, Simon’s brother, Lucien offers deep sea fishing tours, including a day-long shark fishing expedition where you will lure or “chum” sharks, tag them for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and return them to the sea. The fishing charters starts at $115 per person. A day-long shark fishing tour is $1200 for a full, 9-hour day.
Most families simply take a tour, but on our road trip, we took the experience up a level and rented the cottage on Tusket Island, arriving in the afternoon fog, and waking up to clear skies. The cottage, or “shanty” was built by the Le Blanc Brothers, who are among the region’s most respected boat builders.
Heading north toward the Fundy Shore, Mavilette Beach Provincial Park in Baie Sainte Marie, is a Mecca for runners, surfers and swimmers. The miles of flat sand make it perfect for children.
3. Digby Neck and Brier Island
Whale Cove Campground, Digby Neck
As a base for our Brier Island adventures, we stayed two nights at one of our favourite campgrounds, Whale Cove Campground. On the first night, we arrived late, having come from a fun and busy day on Tusket Island, and we were so very grateful for Whale Cove’s Rent a Tent Service, where for $50 your tent, chairs, and plates pots and pans are all ready for you at your campsite. Even the mattresses inside are inflated!
The next morning, we were up early, to get a place in line for the Tiverton ferry. I recommend staying somewhere in the region if you are whale watching. The drive to Brier Island includes two car ferries, which leave on a timed schedule. It’s best to relax and enjoy the journey, rather than rush.
Mariner Whale and Seabird Tours, Brier Island
Mariner Whale and Seabird Tours is the best tour for families on Brier Island. Highlights can include a hot drink and cookies (under normal circumstances!), and an education presentation with props such as baleen and even whale lice. On our day out, we saw a spectacular display from a group of three playful humpback whales who seemed to have been waiting for us!
Just Above Water Café, Tiverton
Whale watching is surprisingly hungry work. Lucky for us, the Just Above Water Cafe in Tiverton is located just before the final ferry passage back to Digby Neck. We decided to have supper there, rather than rummage around in our cooler back at the campsite. The food is not fancy, but it’s delicious! Tip: the Nor’ Easter Burger is definitely worth missing the boat for.
Maud Lewis Replica House
On our way back to Halifax, we stopped at the Maud Lewis Replica House, a true-to-scale replica built and created by Murray Ross, a retired fisherman who knew Maud Lewis as a neighbour when he was a child. His beautiful reconstruction of the house is to be admired -and he’s something of a folk artist himself!
If you want to know more about Maud Lewis, the movie Maudie is a great introduction for teens and grown-ups, while the book The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis, makes a nice addition to your family collection.
On our next trip to Southwestern Nova Scotia…
We can’t wait to go back to the region. Next time, we have vowed to explore the Pubnicos, and explore more of Baie Sainte Marie, including Church Point. We’d also like to do more hiking around Brier Island and Digby Neck.
Finally, there’s a brand new tour, Bay of Fundy Scenic Lobster Tours, which runs out of Digby Neck, and offers an excellent view of Balancing Rock, as well as an insight into the lobster industry, from the point of view of a female first mate!
Have you been to the South Shore, Yarmouth and Acadian Shores or Brier Island? What attractions did we miss?
Please tell us in the comments! 🙂