As a peninsula only by a relatively slim connection to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia has miles and miles of coastland. So, naturally, there are several dozen beaches around the province. Each beach has its own aesthetic, as well as its own water temperatures, natural features, and sand type. These twenty-five beaches are only a sampling of the beach opportunities, but it should give you a good place to start on your Nova Scotia Beach Bingo (this isn’t a thing yet, but I’m going to make it so).
Starting off in Bayfield, Bayfield Beach Provincial Park is close to Antigonish. As it’s on the Northumberland Shore, you’re likely to find warmer water here. The beach is both sand and pebbles, so I recommend you bring water shoes if you have sensitive feet. There are lifeguards throughout July and August, and there are change houses, toilets, and a picnic area—so you’ve got everything you could want for a relaxing day at the beach.
151 Bayfield Beach Road, Bayfield
Black Brook Beach
There’s a part of me that thinks that this beach should be named for the waterfall that borders it, but Black Brook works too. You can swim in the ocean or you can wade in the freshwater brook (very helpful for cleaning sand off your feet). This beach is in the Cape Breton Highlands, so if you’re planning a vacation at one of the campgrounds or towns in the park you won’t have too far to go. With hiking trails off the beach and fire pits on the sand, it’s no wonder this is one of the most popular beaches in the park.
33637 Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park; 902-224-2306
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Chimney Corner Beach
This beach is large, beautiful and one of the best quiet corners of Margaree. It’s quite a distance from the main road (see site for detailed directions), so you get a real sense of privacy. The water is clean and fairly shallow, ideal for beginner swimmers, and you can also play in the stream on the beach. If you feel like walking out to the point, there’s no need to put your shoes back on—the path is smooth and worn all the way to the point.
Chimney Corner Road, Margaree, Cape Breton
Crow Neck Beach
Crow Neck Beach is right across from Cape Sable Island, which makes it one of the most southerly beaches in Nova Scotia. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is warmer, but the majority of visitors aren’t here for swimming. It’s a long beach that’s great for beach walking…and for bird watching. While it’s called Crow Neck, the majority of birds you’ll see here are piping plovers; this beach is a protected place for their nesting, so be careful as you observe these amazing little birds enjoy the beach.
Baccaro Road, Baccaro
Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park
One of my favourite beaches in all of Nova Scotia, Crystal Crescent offers not one, but three connected white sand beaches. The beaches are wide and sandy, and the water is usually warm enough for swimming in the summer. If you want to combine sea and forest, that’s no problem—the boardwalk connects all three beaches, but there’s also a trail called Pennant Point that provides a challenging walk all the way out to…well, Pennant Point. It’s so close to Halifax that you can get your toes in the sand in less than 30 minutes, so what are you waiting for?
223 Sambro Creek Road, Sambro Creek
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Dominion Beach Provincial Park
Dominion Beachsits right outside of the town of Dominion, and this park does the town proud. You walk to the beach over boardwalks specially designed to protect the dunes of the area, then you can step onto the 1.5km sandy beach. Whether you swim, build sandcastles, or get your steps in on the sand, you’ll be delighted to know that there are salt-rinse showers here. These are practically magic showers that rinse the sea from your body without leaving any of the crusty feelings. My advice is to shower with your bathing suit on, then take it off and put dry clothes on—it’s the best way to end a long beach day.
48 Lower Mitchell Avenue, Dominion, Cape Breton
Some beaches just aren’t made for swimming, and that’s okay! If you’ve got a hankering for driftwood, you can’t do any better than Driftwood Beach. This beach is bordered by high cliffs on each end (Cape Chignecto and Cape d’Or), which explains the stupendous amount of driftwood that’s cast up by the tide. Take a walk on the rocky shore, examine the driftwood, and maybe take a piece or two home with you.
Driftwood Lane, Advocate Harbour
Eagle Head Beach
This South Shore Beach is highly recommended for people with puppies (or dogs of any ages, I just like alliteration). You have to keep your dog on a leash if there are other dogs around, but the beach is long enough that they can run quite a distance even when leashed. There are no facilities at this beach, so it’ll be a shorter trip by necessity. But if your dog adores the beach and you do too, this will be a great vacation treat!
Haughn’s Road, just outside of Liverpool
Hirtle’s Beach is never quite the same size from hour to hour. Oh it’s always the same length—about 3 km of sand out to the start of the Gaff Point Trail. But as the waves roll in and out, they drag the sand in and out too. Make sure to set up your beach spot a bit further from the surf than you might do ordinarily since saltwater is not a great condiment. With all this sand and surf, it’s perfect for a large group beach day, since there’ll be room for everyone to do their favourite beach activities and then come back together for snacks and sunbathing.
Hirtle’s Beach, Kingsburg; 902-541-1343
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Hubbards Beach and Park
If you’re looking for a beach with reliably warm water, a canteen with reasonably priced and good food, and good facilities, welcome to Hubbards! Hubbards Beach is a longstanding tradition, and it’s extremely popular with families. Like I said, the water is generally warmer than the rest of the South Shore, and there’s a float you can swim out to for diving purposes. It’s a great place to cool off, have a beach day, and just get out of the city.
St. Margaret’s Bay; 902-857-9460
Hunts Point Beach
You don’t have to hunt too far for this beach! Hunts Point Beach is smaller than some of the others on this list, but it makes up for it by having great swimming conditions and having a great view of the wharf. There’s also a restaurant nearby that sells ice cream for beachgoers, so you can grab one before you get all sandy. Then when you’re done swimming for the day, why not head back to that restaurant for dinner?
6783 Highway 3, Hunts Point
This beach almost made it into my lakes article, because while this is an ocean beach, there is also a freshwater lake right next to the ocean. The beach is wonderfully sandy and pretty long, so you can stroll along if the water’s a bit cold for swimming. There’s also a playground nearby, and like Black Brook this is within the Cape Breton Highlands, so there’s plenty of activities near the beach once everyone’s had their fill. Whether you prefer freshwater to saltwater, waves to calm water, or just want some variety, Ingonish Beachis the place for you.
90 Beach Road, Ingonish Beach; 902-224-2306
My dad is a huge un-fan of cold water; so are lots of people, and that’s totally fair! If you want your beach vacation to include water that everyone should be able to reliably swim in, Inverness Beach is the place for you. Not only does it have the warmest water “north of the Carolinas” (which is pretty far south according to my spotty knowledge of US geography), this 1.5km beach is right outside of the town of Inverness, so you won’t have to go far from wherever you’re staying. There’s a canteen on the beach as well as a boardwalk, and they have beach-accessible mats and wheelchairs so people with mobility issues can still enjoy the beach!
158 Beach No.1 Road, Inverness
Lawrencetown Beach is well known for two things: having cold water most of the time, and being fantastic for surfing. There’s a whole surfing school there, where they supply the equipment and the training, even if you’re only there for the day. It is warm enough to swim sometimes, and if not, you can walk the beach and look for cool rocks (they usually have some awesome ones) and sea glass. Just remember to bring a bucket!
4348 Lawrencetown Road, East Lawrencetown
Speaking of cool rocks, you’ve got to check out Mahoney’s Beach. The beach trail is roughly 1.4 kilometres one way, and gives an excellent view of the bay. The beachcombing here is great, but you should also keep an eye on the sky, as it’s also a great place for birdwatching. This beach is great for a day when you don’t feel like swimming, but you want to be outside and by the ocean.
Mahoney’s Beach Road, Mahoney’s Beach
Down near Yarmouth you’ll find Mavillette Beach, a 1.5km long beach with dunes protected by boardwalks. The tides are pretty big here, so try to hit low tide for your best chance at beachcombing. Swimming is supervised in the summer, and there are change houses and vault houses that help make your beach day comfy. There are also freshwater taps, which as I’ve mentioned before are important for washing the beach day off of you before you get back in the car. Also keep your binoculars handy; this beach has specially built platforms for birdwatching, so keep an eye out!
295-395 John Doucette Road, Mavillette
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Melmerby is right on the Northumberland Shore, so like Bayfield and Inverness you’re much more likely to have warm waters here. This makes Melmerby a popular destination, but with 2 km of sand there’s plenty of room for everyone. They have the coveted salt-rinse showers, along with picnic tables and a boat launch, so you can have a varied and comfortable day at the beach. And if you feel like taking one last walk before you leave, you don’t have to get your feet sandy again—just walk on the boardwalk!
66280-6380 Little Harbour Road, Melmerby Beach
Mira Gut Beach
This beach is unique on this list because it isn’t an ocean beach. But it isn’t a lake beach either—it’s at the mouth of the Mira River. It’s still connected to the ocean though, so it counts! Mira Gut is well known for its low tide, because when it happens you can walk on the river floor for kilometres thanks to a sand bar. When the tide is high you can swim just fine, but pay attention to the flags and the lifeguards, as there is a current that can be challenging for weak swimmers.
45 Mira Bay Drive, Mira
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North Bay Beach
This beachis close to Ingonish Beach—they are both in Ingonish after all—but I have to highlight it because it’s my absolute favourite beach. North Bay has beautiful white sand, but not be surprised if it’s a bit rockier after a storm. The water is pretty cold most of the time, but it has amazing waves and it’s perfect for boogie boarding. Make sure you bring water shoes, because if you’re there after a storm there will probably be some rocks in the water. Even if it’s been calm there are a few bigger rocks in the water and they are not fun to graze with your bare toes.
37123 Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park; 902-224-2306
Port Hood Beach
If you want a beach day that doesn’t involve dodging big waves and currents, Port Hood is happy to welcome you. There are several sandbars in the water, which makes the water very shallow and lets it warm up quickly. It’s also the only supervised beach in the community in the summer, so it’s the perfect place to take kiddos and beginner swimmers. There’s a canteen, washroom, and showers too, so you’ve got amenities to keep the kids happy and (hopefully) not too sandy for the car ride.
40 Court Street, Port Hood
Port Maitland Beach Provincial Park
If you’ve got an artist or photographer in your group, Port Maitland is an excellent beach day. The beach is sand and cobble (which means you can find cool rocks!) and there’s a picnic area on the grass behind the beach, so you should be able to eat without getting too sandy. You can swim with lifeguard supervision in the summer months, or you can watch the nearby fishing boats and wharf. This is where the artist comes in—beaches are naturally great places for painting and photography, but if you also get the wharf and boats in the background, you’ll get unique beach media perfect for Instagram.
3297 Main Shore Road, Port Maitland
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Queensland Beach really is fit for a queen. It’s one of the most popular beaches on the South Shore for its wide white sand beach and great swimming conditions. There are no currents and very few waves, so it’s a good place to take people who aren’t used to swimming in the ocean. It can be a busy beach on warm days, so most people recommend getting there early. I’m the opposite though—the hour or so before sunset tends to be quieter at most beaches, as people have packed up for the day, and as long as there’s plenty of light you can swim to your heart’s content.
9600 Highway 3, Queensland
One of the most popular beaches in the HRM, Rainbow Haven welcomes hundreds of swimmers each year. It’s close to Halifax, has plenty of facilities to make the day enjoyable, and has fairly warm water as a rule. The swimming areas are clearly marked, and you shouldn’t swim outside of them (otherwise you’re dealing with strong currents and those can derail a beach day lightning quick). It’s a great beach for families to enjoy the surf and the sun, and if it’s a windy day make sure to bring your kite!
2249 Cow Bay Road
Rissers Beach is tucked into a sheltered bay, which makes it one of the calmest beaches on this list. It’s shallow with very little surf, perfect for a quieter beach day. You can bring floaties too, but if there’s an offshore wind you won’t be able to launch them (you can still use them as beach seats I suppose). Rissers Beach is also a provincial park with several camping sites, so why not plan a beach getaway that includes sleeping in a tent after s’mores, letting the quiet surf lull you to sleep?
Highway 331, Crescent Beach; 902-688-2034
Waterside Beach Provincial Park
I would argue that all beaches are waterside (that’s part of the definition), but it is named for the nearby town, so I guess it makes sense. On that lovely Northumberland Shore, the beach’s warm water is complemented by a salt marsh and farmland with picnic tables. The best part of this beach might be that it’s not as popular as some of its beach sisters. If you’re looking for a bit more peace and space, check out Waterside.
649 R. Grant Road, Waterside
By: Adrienne Colborne