Nova Scotia is a peninsula only by a few miles—it’s much closer to being an island. With coastlines known for being rugged and dangerous, lighthouses became a necessity. Lots of lighthouses. There are over 170 lighthouses around Nova Scotia, so you never have to go far. The 25 below are especially cool examples either for their history, their location, or their modern incarnations.
Getting to enjoy two parts of Nova Scotian culture at once is always fun, and Arisaig Lighthouse in Antigonish County allows you to do that. The lighthouse, a replica of one that burnt down in the 1930s (you’ll find that’s pretty common for lighthouses), is attached to the Lobster Interpretive Centre, which tells you all about lobster and the lobster fishery. The Dockside Café offers local seafood dishes to enjoy as you gaze upon the gorgeous view of the sea.
Address: Arisaig Point Road, Arisaig. Directions
Annapolis Royal Lighthouse
I couldn’t find anything to confirm it, but I’m fairly sure this is the shortest lighthouse in all of Nova Scotia. Standing as a light to warn boats that they can’t go any further up the Annapolis River, the original was built in 1889. It was restored in 2016 and is one of the landmarks of the Annapolis Royal Waterfront. Small but mighty, come for a visit and it will light up your life.
No, I will not apologize for that pun.
Address: Lighthouse Park, Annapolis Royal Directions
Black Rock Point
When a lake is as big as the Bras D’Or Lake, you need a lighthouse. Black Rock Point has lit the Bras D’Or Lakes channel since 1868, though the current tower ins the third to stand there. The lighthouse guided commerce and pleasure boats through the channel and out onto the lake or the ocean, connecting rural Cape Breton with the rest of the world. You can see it from the road, but it’s a bit of a hike out to see. If you’re headed this way, I suggest you bring some earplugs—it also has a foghorn!
Address: Community of Black Rock Directions
Brier Island Lighthouses
Brier Island sits in the Bay of Fundy, and with the crazy tides and frequent sailing excursions for business and pleasure, it makes sense that they have more than one lighthouse. They have three in fact; two on the island itself, and then the Peter’s Island Lighthouse, which is close by and is inaccessible because it’s a bird sanctuary. Brier Island holds a lot of history, most of it only made possible by these lights. As you roam the trails, walk the beaches, and look for rocks on the island, take some time to look at the lighthouses that cut through the stormiest of nights.
Address: Various Locations, Brier Island
Burntcoat Head Lighthouse
Burntcoat Head Park is a wonderful park to enjoy the Bay of Fundy, and your experience changes with the tides. One thing that has changed and yet stayed the same is the park’s lighthouse. The first lighthouse was built in 1859, but erosion necessitated building a second lighthouse, which was eventually burned down on purpose (an interesting change), and then for a few decades there was no light there at all. In 1995 the third lighthouse was completed and opened, with picnic tables, trails, and gardens to compliment the beautiful light. Nowadays it remains a beautiful community place, with local artwork being displayed regularly.
Address: Burntcoat Head Park
Canso Range Light
This is an absolute unit of a lighthouse, lighting up the Canso Harbour since 1905. It’s automated now, like many of its siblings, and it protects boats that move between the islands of the Harbour. Unlike most of the other lighthouses on this list, it’s never burned down, and while there have been renovations the lighthouse still looks much the same over a century ago. It’s the most eastern point of mainland Nova Scotia, so when you look out from beside the lighthouse, remember that it’s nothing but open water until Spain.
Address: Canso – Directions
Cape George Lighthouse
On a clear day, you can see both Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island—then again, the lighthouse was built because it’s not always a clear day. A classically-styled lighthouse, it’s the third building at the site, and it’s on a high cliff. If it’s sunny you’ll get a great view—if it’s not, you’ll see what sailors saw for centuries, with nothing but the lighthouse to save them from the rocky shore.
Address: 152 Lighthouse Road, Cape George Point – Directions
If you’re doing a tour of the Maritimes, I highly recommend you take the ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island (unless you get seasick). If you do so, you’ll get to see this lighthouse, standing at the edge of the tiny island. There were several keepers of this lighthouse in its three incarnations, with the second one being moved just down the road from the third one. The lighthouse tower is all that remains of the Caribou lighthouse, but it was saved from destruction by the Friends of Caribou Island and the Coast Guard. If you’re coming from PEI it’s the first Nova Scotian lighthouse you’ll see; if you’re going there, it’s the last.
Address: Caribou Point on the north end of Caribou Island. Directions
Church Point Lighthouse
The Church Point Lighthouse isn’t a true lighthouse anymore, but it’s a place where light is shed nonetheless. The lighthouse stood for close to 120 years, but it was eventually made obsolete, even when unmanned and automated. Finally swept away in the early 2000s, the Université de Sainte Anne built a replica on the site to present marine biology research about the area. Part research facility, part museum, and part birdwatching destination, this beautiful building allows visitors (Anglos and Francophones alike) to get a closer look at the life surrounding Church Point.
Address: 179 Lighthouse Road, Church Point – Directions
Coffin Island Lighthouse
While fire is a common decimator of lighthouses, lightning is much rarer. That’s what happened to the tower in 1913, which was struck by lightning that destroyed both the tower and the keeper’s dwelling. The current tower was built shortly after in 1914, and it’s been an interesting tug of war with the sea to keep the lighthouse standing. A tower has stood there since 1812, making it the fifth oldest in Canada, but the ocean threatens to take the tower by erosion soon. Come and see it while you can from the Beach Meadows beach or another point in Liverpool Bay—and keep an eye on the clouds, because lightning might just strike twice.
Address: Coffin Island, Liverpool Bay / Devil’s Island, Halifax Harbour
Five Islands Lighthouse
The Lower Five Islands Park gives you a tremendous view of the Bay of Fundy, including all the Five Islands, the Minas Basin, Cape Blomidon, and Cape Split. Naturally, their lighthouse is one of the best places to see everything. There’s a viewing scope (which is a fancy way of saying telescope) and a picnic shelter, so you can make a day of the park. There’s also a walking trail and a beach nearby, and you can walk onto the mud flats at low tide if you want (leave yourself plenty of time to get back to shore). Make sure you check the tide times before you go, because they change your view quickly and dramatically.
Address: 140 Broderick Lane, Lower Five Islands
This might be my favourite lighthouse because of its unusual shape. It looks like a red and white striped sucker, with a very thin tower up to the light. Walk the Leif Erikson Trail and dine at the Keeper’s Kitchen, but make sure to stay until it starts to get dark. The sunsets are gorgeous, unimpeded by any buildings, and once the sun goes down, you’re treated to a tremendous star gazing experience. Watch the ferry come in, search for geocaching treasures, and rest your eyes by keeping them on the open water horizon.
Address: It’s along route 304 – Directions
Fort Point Lighthouse
Fort Point Lighthouse lives at the point where Champlain and deMonts landed in 1604—that’s over four hundred years of history in one place, and 150 years of lighthouse history. The lighthouse certainly lives up to that legacy, with guided tours through interpretive panels and displays within the lighthouse. There’s also a park attached where you can enjoy coffee, sweets, and ice cream and look out over the Liverpool Harbour (you can actually see the Coffin Island Lighthouse (above) from here). When you visit, try to imagine what it must have looked like 400 years ago, or even 150 years ago when the lighthouse was first built.
Address: 21 Fort Lane, Liverpool – Directions
The Fortress of Louisbourg’s history of battles between the French and the English is well-known, but the fate of the original lighthouse, the first one built in Canada, was caught up in that struggle too. The first time the English attacked they left the lighthouse alone, but on their second attack they burned the lighthouse to the ground. A new lighthouse stands today, and a beautiful trail begins there, just across the harbour from the Fortress. If you’re visiting the Fortress, make sure to stop here!
Address: Havenside Road, Louisbourg – Directions
Mabou Harbour Lighthouse
Mabou Harbour was an important harbour for the transport of gypsum and coal, so it’s natural that they built a lighthouse to guide people through to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The lighthouse was integral to developing these local industries, which has saved the wooden tower of the Mabou Harbour Lighthouse. Though storms have damaged the tower, it’s been carefully restored in order to preserve it as a Federal Historic Site. A classically designed and beautiful lighthouse, it helped the community grow and thrive, and the community is now taking care of it in return.
Address: Mabou Harbour, Mabou –Directions
Marache Point Lighthouse
Isle Madame is an interesting place, because it’s not just one island—there are several fairly close together, making navigation difficult. After a petition for lighthouses to be built for entrance into Arichat Harbour, a beacon light was built. The living conditions were not great (and that’s not great for the time!), so a new lighthouse was built in 1869. That was eventually replaced in 1949, with even better living conditions for the keepers, but it’s stood unmanned since 1970, when it was automated. In 2017 a decision was made to replace it with a modern lighthouse and foghorn, empty but still serving the people of Isle Madame.
Address: Marache Point, Arichat Harbour – Directions
Out of the Fog Museum Lighthouse Museum
This isn’t quite a lighthouse, but its entire purpose is to showcase the importance of lighthouses in Nova Scotia. The museum shows off lighthouse technology from the last 150 years, some foghorns, logbooks, and even more artifacts from the lighthouses and their keepers. Created by a group of volunteers, Out of the Fog Museum will teach you about life at the lighthouses, so if you only have time for one visit, this is the place to go.
Address: Highway 316, Queensport – Directions
This is the most photographed lighthouse in all of Nova Scotia, and probably one of the most photographed places in Nova Scotia in general. Standing above a beautiful fishing town, this iconic lighthouse has protected ships for generations from the dangerous rocks of the Cove. You can explore around the lighthouse, but please mind the rocks—if they’re darker, that means they’re wet and very slippery. Enjoy a meal at the nearby restaurant or set out on the trail that connects this cove to other areas, and don’t worry about getting lost—just look to the lighthouse.
Point Prim Lighthouse
Swimming in the ocean is great, but there’s so much more to experiencing Nova Scotian ocean waters. At Point Prim Lighthouse you’ll find an astounding range of activities centered around the sea. The lighthouse was built to be seen from the sea, so you’ll get an astounding view of the Digby Gut and the Bay of Fundy, making it an ideal place to observe fishing boats, birds, marine wildlife, and the ferry to New Brunswick. The grounds around the lighthouse include a park for picnics, trails, and shore ledges which will allow you to observe tidal pools from up close!
Address: Lighthouse Rd, Digby – Directions
Port Bickerton Lighthouse
This lighthouse is shaped like the L block in Tetris, a more unusual shape for a lighthouse but quite beautiful in its own way. If you’re looking for a beautiful ramble by the sea, the Lighthouse is surrounded by hiking trails. Each walk has its aesthetic, all connected by the coast, and you’re sure to see beautiful flora and fauna. If you want to brave the ocean water, you can also swim from the beach!
Address: Highway 211, Port Bickerton – Directions
Port Medway Lighthouse Park
The Port Medway Lighthouse is now dormant, but it contains some points of interest. Firstly, it’s the original building, built in 1899—no fires here! It was automated in 1967, at which time they changed the light from red to green. I guess they wanted a Christmas theme? The lighthouse itself was decommissioned in 1987, and the lighthouse is now surrounded by a picnic park full of interpretive panels describing the maritime history of the area. You can enjoy the lighthouse view of the Port from the lookoff, and learn while you lunch—what’s not to love?
Address: 1687 Port Medway Road, Port Medway – Directions
You know you’re in Nova Scotia when lighthouse is given red stripes so that you can see it more easily in the snow. The Sambro Lighthouse deserves to feel pretty though; it’s the oldest standing lighthouse in the Americas, built in 1758 and still operational. This might have something to do with the fact that it was made out of concrete, and not wood. Sambro’s seen a lot in its 250 years—it sits in the Sambro Channel just off of Crystal Crescent, so it has a great view of ships passing in and out of the Halifax Harbour, in times of war and peace, famine and feast…its original light has been replaced by a solar powered light, but it still stands proudly. You can view it from various points around Sambro, or you can view it up close from a boat.
Cost: Cost of transportation to the island
Address: Sambro Island – Directions
Sandy Point Lighthouse
This is an awesome lighthouse because it really is a sandy point—you can even walk over to the lighthouse at low tide across the sand bar. The beach is a great place to collect sand dollars and other ocean treasures, and there’s a picnic area and a canteen, so no matter when you come you’ll be able to wait for low tide. It’s a peaceful beach landscape that allows you to rest your body and mind, and it’s easy to imagine sailors relieved to see the light going and protecting them from running aground on the sand bar.
Address: 1586 Sandy Point Road, Shelburne – Directions
Seal Island Lighthouse Museum
This is a replica lighthouse that is a museum, and is only here because people kicked up a fuss (Maritimers are good at that). Rightly so, because while the building is a replica of the Seal Island Lighthouse Museum, the lantern is actually the original lantern. It was going to be taken to Ottawa (where there is no ocean), but the community protested and the lantern was brought by helicopter to its resting place. The museum holds exhibits about the Barrington and Cape Sable Island areas and the lighthouses that once stood there.
Address: Highway 3, Barrington – Directions
Sheet Rock Lighthouse
The Sheet Rock Lighthouse is one of the most necessary lighthouses in all of Nova Scotia. Sheet Harbour is a beautiful harbour and a wonderful community, but the sheetrock it’s named for presents a tremendous amount of challenge for boats. The lighthouse itself sits on an exposed location, and through the years there have been a number of lighthouses, landings, and boathouses built over the years. The most recent construction is a fibreglass tower that provides light for the harbour, and once that was complete the lighthouse built in 1936 was burned down.
Cost: Cost of renting transportation
Address: Sober Island – Directions
By: Adrienne Colborne