The waters of the Northumberland Strait are among the warmest waters north of the Carolinas! Yes, its true, in July and August while bathers on the southern side of Nova Scotia hesitate to enter the Atlantic beyond ankle level, the waters along the Northumberland Shore can reach temperatures as high as 25 degrees C (that’s 77 degrees F for our American friends). The driving forces behind these high temperatures are freshwater runoff, the prevailing westerly winds from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and of course, the tides. Combine these factors with generally shallow water depths, an abundance of ’sandstone’ deposits and you have the perfect conditions for some of the best beaches in Canada.
Here are our Top 5 Beach Destinations on the Northumberland Strait:
1. Melmerby Beach
Melmerby Beach is among the best known beaches in Nova Scotia. Known locally as ‘The Merb”, it was no surprise to the hundreds of sunbathers and swimmers that frequent the beach every summer, that it was named among the Top 10 Beaches in Canada in 2009. Melmerby Beach has two sides, an expansive outer side and a narrow inner beach, separated by beautiful dunes, wispy sea grass and weathered boardwalks. This spectacular, horseshoe beach is about a 20 minute drive from our location. For more information about Melmerby Beach, see our earlier blog post: ‘Melmerby Beach: Stunning Skies, Endless Sand‘.
2. Pictou Island
Pictou Island is the largest island in the Northumberland Strait about halfway between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Between May and November each year, a ferry service links the island’s 19 permanent residents with the Nova Scotia mainland at Caribou, Pictou County. Known as the ‘Jewel of the Norththumberland Strait‘ the topography of Pictou Island is similar to its larger neighbour, Prince Edward Island. There are beautiful sandstone bluffs, golden fields containing rich, red soil and of course, warm sandy beaches. The beaches on the island are among the best in the Strait. There are four main beaches – one at the West End, one at the East End, one at Roger’s Point and one at John Dan’s Cove. Bring your camera, you may just see a seal basking in the sun. Visitors to Stonehame can actually see Pictou Island from Fritzpatrick Mountain. The island ferry wharf is about a 15 minute drive from our chalets.
3. Waterside Beach
Waterside Beach Provincial Park is in Caribou River, about 20 minutes from our location on the Sunrise Trail. The long, sandy beach surrounded by salt marsh and open farm land is the perfect beach to stroll and unwind. There would be no hesitation about jumping into cold water here, the water is very warm and attracts swimmers and outdoor enthusiasts from across the Maritimes during the peak summer months (but is seldom crowded). And because Waterside Beach is part of the provincial parks system there are washroom and picnic facilities available. As an added bonus the area is also known as a popular birding destination, so bring the binoculars!
4. Big Island Beach
Big Island Beach is a wonderful beach to photograph. The long sand bar that forms the beach, the expansive dunes and beach grass that cover it, the weathered wooden posts that were once used as a breakwater to protect it, are all subjects just waiting to be framed. And with the right light, a good eye and bit of patience even an amateur photographer can come away from a visit with some pretty professional looking images. And like all beaches on the Northumberland Strait the water is warm and inviting. Big Island Beach is about 35 minutes away.
5. Caribou Beach
This mile-long sand beach is part of Caribou/Munroes Island Provincial Park. The park offers camping and picnic facilities and a walking trail. The beach is probably the most popular in the region and is considered one of the best in the province. And if you are not swimming in the warm water, there are many other things to occupy your time, from beach combing and painting to a leisurely stroll on the sometimes ‘hot’ sand. Bring the cooler, the sunscreen, the hiking boots and plenty of food, you may just decide to stay here for awhile. Caribou Beach is about 20 minutes from Stonehame.
A view of the beach from the park (Wendy Munro photo).
Swimming at Caribou Beach (Wendy Munro photo).