A Holiday Road Trip Along Nova Scotia’s South Shore

Barrington Lobster Trap Tree

Last weekend, we took a family road trip to #EscapeAndDiscover the unique holiday traditions found in some of the towns and villages along Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

Christmas in Nova Scotia

We borrowed a 2017 Ford Escape for our adventure, which started in Tantallon at the Bike and Bean, a cafe and bike shop built in an old train station. The station sits on the Rum Runners Trail. The old rail cut that runs from Halifax to Lunenburg has been re-purposed into a multi-use trail. Drew ran inside to get food (and eggnog lattes!) to go, while Charlie and I explored the snowy trail and stretched our legs before our long drive.

bike and bean nova scotia

rum runners trail

From Tantallon, we made our way to Chester, a seaside town just 45 minutes from Halifax. Chester is a lovely place for a daytrip, with many boutique shops, delicious local dining options like the Kiwi Cafe, and a charming theatre home to frequent plays, live music, and screenings.  Each December, Chester holds a Gingerbread Festival. The streets are transformed with large wooden gingerbread, dressed in bows, lights, and various professions.

Chester Gingerbread Festival

Chester Gingerbread Festival

Chester Gingerbread Festival

Chester Gingerbread Festival

But the real excitement is found inside the shops, where six elaborate gingerbread houses are set up for locals and visitors.

Chester Gingerbread Festival

Chester Gingerbread Festival

From Chester, we headed to Mahone Bay, another 15 minutes along the coast. In Mahone Bay, they hold an annual Father Christmas festival. There is a festival weekend which features a  Fantasy Christmas Experience, the Yuletide Gourmet Market, Carollers & Concerts, a Decorated House Tour and Horse-Drawn Transit. We were in town the week following the main event, but the streets were still filled with Father Christmas displays.

Father Christmas Festival

Father Christmas Festival

Father Christmas Festival

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Father Christmas Festival

We stopped into one of Nova Scotia’s newest craft breweries, Salt Box Brewing, to pick up a growler for home, and Charlie met the brewery dogs, Gracie and Kova.

Salt Box Brewery

It was a cold day (-8) and I was thankful for the seat heaters and custom temperature controls in our borrowed Ford Escape. We searched the radio and Sirius for some holiday music to take us the 45 minute drive from Mahone Bay to Liverpool.

Ford Escape

We were just in Liverpool the week prior for their Christmas on the Mersey event, which includes a festival of light, where members from the town carry candle light on land and youth from the Acadia First Nation carry fire light down the historic Mersey River, converging for a fire ceremony, grass dance, music, fireworks, and singing.

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It’s a must-see event, but if you miss it, there is still some unique light spotting to be done in and around Liverpool, including the Forrest of Christmas Trees in the Queens County Museum (32 beautifully decorated Christmas Trees in many styles), and the Jackalopes, snow globes, and festival of lights at White Point Beach Resort.

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From there, we stopped into the newly renovated Quarterdeck for a quick lunch with a sea view. I was brewing a bad cold during our road trip, and the cream of mushroom soup made fresh in house was just what I needed to keep going.

The Quarter Deck Liverpool

The Quarter Deck Liverpool

The Quarter Deck Liverpool

Drew ordered a veggie pasta. Delish!

Drew ordered a veggie pasta. Delish!

After lunch, it was onto Barrington to see the Lobster Trap Tree. Neither of us had been to Barrington before, something we’ve been meaning to fix for a long time. We needed a little help from the on-board navigation system in the Ford Escape to find the causeway to Cape Sable Island, where the Lobster Trap Tree is located.

Ford Escape

I had heard about the tree many times, a memorial to the fishers of Barrington lost at sea or who have since passed. But to see the tree in person is striking.

Barrington Lobster Trap Tree

The tree is made from used lobster traps. Each trap once sat at the bottom of the ocean. The buoys that deck the tree are placed in memory of fishers by their family and friends.

Barrington Lobster Trap Tree

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Cape Sable Island, itself, is a beautiful destination. We took time to explore some of the island. There are beautiful beaches and inlets, and the beach grass looked so pretty billowing in the blowing snow.

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This was a really fun road trip. It was so interesting to see the various ways that some of the towns along the South Shore celebrate the season, and certainly put us in the holiday spirit. This particular itinerary took us most of the day, leaving at 9 am and returning home around 6 pm, with just a little time to linger at each place, and which still meant missing some stops we would have loved to make.

Ford Escape

The Escape made for a safe, warm, and enjoyable road trip, and we didn’t get lost! There were some features that made us feel extra safe in the snow like sensors to help alert when cars or other objects were near the vehicle. There was also so much room in the trunk, a serious plus for us for hauling back cool local finds from our trip. Thanks to the team at National for hooking us up with a Ford Escape for the day and helping with the cost of our itinerary.

Now tell us what we missed! What South Shore light display should we add to this trip next time? What’s your favourite place to do some light-spotting in Nova Scotia?

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About the author

Gillian Wesley

Since getting together six years ago, we have given away our television, begun weekly DIY nights, experimented with urban homesteading, challenged ourselves to drive less (100 days car-free in 2013), and have learned more about food security. We have experimented with a range of budgeting strategies, all of which involve consuming less stuff. We buy food with reducing packaging in mind. We got a dog. We have been doing these things for a variety of reasons: financial, social, environmental, to achieve a better work-life balance. It has resulted in us enjoying an increasingly simple and satisfying lifestyle. We’ve been influenced by a lot of people we’ve encountered and things we’ve read about along the way, notably the Transition Movement, the Antigonish Movement, and, more recently, traditional Acadien living. And we’ve learned that we are by no means alone. There are many, many people who are taking steps to downshift their lives. Sign up for our eNewsletter, and we’ll send you a round-up of our new and upcoming projects once a month.

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