Home for the (Summer) Holidays

Planning your perfect Atlantic Canadian staycation

In the 20 years we’ve lived in Nova Scotia, my family has almost never left Atlantic Canada for a summer holiday. Why would we? Summer is short and often gorgeous and one of the beautiful things about the region is the variety of landscapes and many types of experiences available so close by. One year I was on the phone with someone at the Maine Tourism Association and when I gave her our address on the Peggy’s Cove Road she said, “Why would you want to come here?”

You don’t even have to set aside extended holiday time to enjoy what the region has to offer because there are so many great day trips available.

One of my highlights of last year was heading to Pockwock Falls with one of my sons in late spring after a heavy rainfall. It’s an impressive waterfall barely a half-hour from my home, yet I’d never been there. The Pockwock River waterfall is one of 100 featured in Benoit Lalonde’s book Waterfalls of Nova Scotia.

Pockwock Falls, Pat O’Malley

(Somewhat confusingly, the book has the same title as one written by Allan Billard and published in 1997, but it is a completely different endeavour.)

In his day job, Lalonde is an environmental scientist. He brings a scientist’s thoroughness to the book. Organized using the familiar tourism “routes and trail” system (Lighthouse Route, Glooscap Trail, etc.) Waterfalls of Nova Scotia offers an easy-to-read and comprehensive guide to each of its 100 falls.

The book includes photos, information on finding trailheads, difficulty level and GPS coordinates for the falls themselves. One nice feature is Lalonde’s “Bonus falls,” directing the reader to other points of interest—often a nearby, less spectacular waterfall that is still worth visiting. In addition to the specifics on each of the falls, Lalonde offers an extensive introduction filled with tips on safe and successful waterfall treks, including whether it’s worth going during dry periods and a classification system for waterfalls, so you’ll have a good idea what to expect when you get to your destination.

If you’re planning a hike in New Brunswick, you’ll want to get your hands on the brand-new 4th edition of Hiking Trails of New Brunswick, by HA and Marianne Eiselt. The Eiselts have a breezy, chatty style, sharing their enthusiasm for the trails—all 800 km of which they re-hiked over a two-year period in researching this book—and the regions in which they can be found.

Since the previous edition of the book, 12 years ago, New Brunswick has seen new trails, revamped or rerouted trails, and yes, some closed trails as well. The Eiselts can’t include every trail in the province. They focus on routes that have particularly interesting features and that are designed specifically for hikers. That excludes most multi-use trails, which also welcome ATVs.

Photo by Peter Zwicker

What makes this book really stand out is the clarity of the writing. Writing trail descriptions is harder than it seems and the Eiselts succeed in guiding readers with writing that is clear and full of detail, without being dry. The book is also packed with helpful, detailed maps and features spectacular photos.

Striking photos are also on offer in Bluenose: On Board a Legend by Devyn Kaizer, with photography by Peter Zwicker. The book serves as a re-introduction to Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador, following the Bluenose II’s extensive refit. It offers a history of the vessel, its intimate links to its homeport of Lunenburg and a taste of daily life on board—both above and below decks.

Zwicker’s photography is stunning and Kaizer’s text provides enough detail to satisfy mariners while remaining accessible for those who couldn’t tell you the difference between a sheet and a boom. The Bluenose is a regular site in the summer waters of Nova Scotia and the book gives a fine taste of what it’s like to get aboard.

The book is divided into two sections: the first is a guide to the Bluenose today; the second is an extensive and accessible history detailing the original schooner’s rise to fame (along with the story of the famed captain Angus Walters), her ignominious end hauling cargo in the Caribbean and the commissioning and building of the Bluenose II—which had the 82-year-old Captain Walters aboard for her maiden voyage in 1964.

For those in Canada’s easternmost province, Field Guide to Newfoundland and Labrador, edited by retired Memorial University biologist Michael Collins, promises to be a handy guide for those living or vacationing in the province and wanting to learn about its natural history. I wasn’t able to review the book before press time, but it includes essays on flora, fauna and phenomena such as weather and icebergs from nearly two dozen contributors, and packs an astounding 900 photos and illustrations, along with an index.

Written By

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and radio documentary maker living near Halifax. Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoscovitch.

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