"50th birthday spent in Nova Scotia" Province of Nova Scotia by MikeBird
Province of Nova Scotia Travel Guide: 2,077 reviews and 5,113 photos
I wanted to celebrate my 50th birthday in a special way and not being much of a party animal I decided I wanted to go Whale watching. We looked at the west coast of Scotland but then I noticed that a newish Canadian airline was offering really great fares to Halifax so that opened up the possibilities of a transatlantic visit with the hope of seeing Humpback as well as Minke and Pilot whales.
We prefer to go self catering and really enjoy the remoter locations so when I stumbled across the Big Hill Retreat near Baddeck in Cape Breton Island it seemed perfect. They had 3 wooden chalets all self contained and adequately equipped for our needs for 2 adults and 3 teenagers. I forget the price but it seemed very reasonable.
Baddeck is at sea level but the chalets are up in the hills several miles out of town. The sky at night was awesome and the view across the hills really magic.
My birthday came around and we booked our place on a sail bound schooner out of Ingonish harbour in the hope that we'd be lucky. We were encouraged by reported sightings earlier that day of a Fin Whale but alas all we saw were some interesting birds and my wife caught the glimpse of a Sunfish fin but I was too slow to see it. Never mind - the memory of the trip under sail was enough to keep me happy.
Later that night back in Baddeck we had a traditional Nova Scotian supper of unlimited Clam chowder followed by a lobster each. But vegetarians beware - my eldest son was told that he could have a ham salad which was the closest meal they did for a vegetarian.
In the enormous Durango 'Rig' that we'd hired ( we thought having enough room for the kids would help to stop them squabbling but it didnt make much difference) we went off on the scenic route around the northwestern side of CapeBreton. This road encircles the Highlands National Park and is called the Cabot trail after John Cabot who landed at a spot just off the trail in the 1500's ( I think).
Stopping off in Pleasant Bay we knew that several of the boat trips guaranteed whale sightings so we knew we were likely to be in luck this time around. In the end we saw a pod of about 15 Long finned Pilot whales. It was really great - the boat, being small and manouverable, could get really close to them. Our boat also had a set of hydrophones so we could listen to the whales as they swam around nearby. I loved it but although we were assured they really were whales they are on the smaller end of the whale spectrum and about twice the size of a dolphin so not really one of the giants. Never mind I was consoled by the fact that we'd had great views of lots of them.
In our second week we had moved further south in Nova Scotia and had a rented a privately owned chalet right on a lakeside - Molega lake. Again it was a wooden chalet, but this time it was clearly the owners second home , and their pride and joy. The chalet was very comfortable but we felt were intruding slightly. All of the owner's personal momentoes were there and we worried that we might break something precious. In the end we didn't do any damage but on balance we probably wouldn't want to hire out someone's own family holiday home. We preferred the arrangement at Big Hill which was clearly for let to vacationers and seekers of peace and tranquility.
Price wise both chalets were about the same - I think between $350 and 400 per week. The location on the lake though was lovely and the morning mist rising off the lake surface with the Loons calling was a fantastic memory. The chalet also came with two canoes which we used to explore the lake. White tailed Deer, muskrats ( with a row of babies) and turtles were seen on our canoeing explorations.
Anyway on our visit to the interesting old town of Lunenburg I was encouraged by the toting whale trips so we went off for a third boat ride ever hopeful. This time we had a close encounter with a Minke whale. It was clearly bigger than the Pilot whales. I was happy to watch it surface several times before it disappeared.
At the end of our stay in Nova Scotia we had wanted to go and visit my wife's distant relatives who lived in New Brunswick - outside St John. We took the 3hour car ferry from Digby across the Bay of Fundy ( highest tidal rise and fall in the world) to St John in New Brunswick. The boat trip gave us an unexpected bonus because from the upper decks we saw Dolphins, Giant Shearwaters and, way off in the distance through our binoculars, we saw the spouting humpback whales doing all of the classic whale type of activities with their tail fins that we had so wanted to see. Never mind that we saw it only through binoculars it was still a magnificent sight. A fitting end to our two week holiday. Our kids all unanimously agreed it was the best holiday ever - which is really saying something.
- Pros:Wonderful wildlife, friendly folk and beautiful beaches
- Cons:It can be foggy - even in August
- In a nutshell:Our best holiday ever - so many great memories
We were visiting relatives living near Saint John, New Brunswick and we wanted to take the Bay Ferries, Princess of... more travel advice
St Anns Bay is between Baddeck and Ingonish and near to the Englishtown ferry. We had made a reservation for our family... more travel advice
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