Pictou County can be distinguished by its variety of stories. You’ve got stories of peoples coming together and learning how to live with each other, stories of people creating spaces to live and learn together outside, and stories of the natural world all over the county. Wherever you spend your time in Pictou, you’ll hear these stories and watch them play out. Come visit, and add your own stories to the tapestry.
Swim in Warm Water
Most of the ocean surrounding Nova Scotia is on the cold side, ranging from man-am-I-glad-it’s-hot to I-regret-getting-my-toes-wet. But Caribou-Munroes Island gives you a chance to enjoy warm saltwater swimming off a mile-long sandy beach. They’ve also got some nice trails and a bunch of campsites. You can even buy wood and ice at the park office, so whatever your evening plans are, they’ve got you covered.
Cost: Free to visit, camping reservations depend on serviced or unserviced site
Address: 2119 Three Brooks Road, Pictou
History by the Sea
People have been coming to Nova Scotia for centuries, and Hector Heritage Quay is the site of one of the earliest dockings. The Ship Hector came in on September 15th 1773 from Scotland, the first from that country but certainly not the last. The Hector Heritage Quay provides tours to hear all about the history of the Quay, and then you go aboard a full replica of the ship Hector. If you’re interested in genealogy, you can see a compiled passenger list and look into the Descendants Project to see if someone in your family tree came ashore from the Ship Hector.
Cost: 8$ for adults, 6$ for seniors, 3$ for students, free for kids 6 and under, 20$ for families
Address: 33 Caladh Avenue, Pictou
Learn Heritage History at the Park
If you want your trip to include the exploration of local history, spend some time at the Africentric Heritage Park. This is its 20th year and brings together past and present to become part of the cultural future of African Nov Scotians. It’s a beautiful park, with a pyramid shaped building in the centre. Each side of the pyramid represents a different part of the history of Black Nova Scotians, so you can learn as you walk around about what happened in the past, and how we can all do better in the future.
Address: Vale Road, New Glasgow
Zoom from A(nchors)-Z(ip)
If you’ve got a good head for heights and you like going super fast, you’ve got to check out Anchors Above Zip Line. This was the first zip line in Nova Scotia and is still the biggest. There are two lines, one 1,100 feet long and drops about six storeys, and one that’s 900 feet long and drops ten storeys. Strap in, wear your helmet, and get ready for the fastest way to get downhill.
Bike Along the Blue
The Blue Route Trail stretches through much of Nova Scotia, and the Pictou part of the trail is beautiful. It’s all along designated cycling routes, so people know what’s up and you can bike with fewer worries. You’ll pass through a couple of other places on this list on this 53 km trip (which I don’t recommend doing in one day). Get your bike on and enjoy the ride!
Address: 87 Caladh Avenue, Pictou
Kayaks and Cookies
Pictou is right along the North Shore of Nova Scotia, and if you want to explore via the water, you should check out Coastal Spirit Expeditions. They provide sea kayak rentals and tours, that will take you along either past Cape John or down River John. You’ll see plenty of wildlife, from seals to kingfishers, and you’ll be provided with a picnic provided by a local bakery. They’re ready for everyone from beginners to experienced kayakers, so this is a great outing for any group.
Cost: Various prices depending on tour, rentals, instructions, see site for detailed breakdown
Address: Cape John Harbour, River John
Climb Fitzpatrick Mountain
The Fitzpatrick Mountain Trail is part of the Cape to Cape Trail, and it’s a special park indeed. The route takes you over brooks, up to the mountain, and past abandoned farmsteads and modern wind turbines. This 8 kilometre journey provides spectacular views from the top of the mountain, great chances to observe local flora and fauna, and they’ve even got the perfect picnic spot set up with tables and benches just below the summit.
Address: New Road Road, Scotsburn
See the Fields of Green
If the Fitzpatrick Mountain is not accessible for your group, you can still get spectacular views of Pictou County at Green Hill Provincial Park. This park is a picnic park, so it’s on the smaller side, and they have a short trail around the pond. What makes this park really special is that thanks to its elevations you can look across miles and miles of farmland and forest. They’ve got picnic tables where the view is best, but if those are taken there’s plenty of room to spread out a blanket nearby and look your fill while you fill your bellies.
Address: 209 Dan Fraser Road, Greenhill
Drive to Golf, Golf and Drive
Golf Mount William is settled nicely in Westville. You’ll find options for 3-par golfing as well as an awesome driving range, all at very reasonable prices. It’s open now and ready to welcome visitors of all kinds, from members to people new to the area, and lessons are available. If you’ve got some spare time, check out their Facebook page, it’s got lots of great golf memes.
Cost: Prices vary
Address: 571 Mount William Road, Westville
Follow a Footbridge
Once upon a time the Hopewell Footbridge was one of many bridges built specifically for people to walk across. Then carriages and cars happened, and now most bridges are big enough for vehicles to use as well. But some still hang on, and the Hopewell Footbridge has been providing pedestrian crossing since the 1800s, with major restoring done in 1991. It’s a short bridge—about 0.4km all in—and it’s in a very pretty park. It’s a great way to quite literally step into history, imagining a time when bridges for just people were built. I wonder what the traffic was like?
Address: Riverside Park Road, Hopewell
Jog on the Jitney
The Jitney Walking Trail is interesting because it’s part of two larger trail systems, instead of the usual one. It’s part of the Blue Route (see above), but it’s also part of the Trans Canada trail. No need to walk to British Columbia though—the Jitney has plenty to offer in its 3km, including interpretive panels about local history, parts that pass close to shops and museums, and it ends at Brown Point, where the Ship Hector docked (see above). It’s a great place to ramble when you just want to go out and see what you can see, both in nature and in the town of Pictou.
Address: Off Caladh Avenue Pictou
Run with Miles
Some memorials can be somber reminders of lives lost, while others can be celebrations of lives well lived. The Johnny Miles Memorial Trail is the latter. Named for Johnny Miles, who won the Boston Marathon twice (1926 and 1929) and died at the ripe old age of 97, the trail gives you a chance to dream your own running (or walking) dreams. It connects to two other trails (Pioneer Trail and Thorburn Spur Rail Line), so you’re able to go quite the distance. I’m sure Johnny would be happy to see people aiming to make his goals, though you may need a bit more luck than him—can you be anything besides a great runner if your last name is Miles?
Address: East River Road, New Glasgow
Take a Beach Day at Melmerby
Melmerby Beach, like Caribou, is known for its warm waters, but this is a better beach to go to if you’re a multi-age group. The beach is longer, for one thing, so there’s more room for sandcastle building and kite flying, and it’s got boardwalks and salt-rinse showers (which trust me, if you’re not used to salt water you’re going to want to use one). Melmerby is supervised all summer long, and it’ll only take one visit to see why locals flock here.
Address: 6280-6380 Little Harbour Road Melmerby
Go Out on the Water
If you’re not a big fan of swimming, you can still enjoy the waters around New Glasgow with the New Glasgow Family Fun Boat Tours. Enjoy a day or sunset trip on a speed boat with your group of up to five people. You can go seal watching, fishing, or simply go for a cruise and enjoy the water. Pro tip: if you’re worried about getting seasick, just get ginger Gravol, it’s non-drowsy and it works really fast!
Cost: Varies on tour
Address: New Glasgow (message for details)
Got to the Causeway beCause of Birds
The Pictou Causeway is actually beautiful in its own right—there are trees on either side of the road, and if you only look forward you might forget you’re driving past water on both sides. But you may want to spend some time on the causeway itself (safely), because it’s also a great site for birding. In particular, there have been scoters, swallows, and even cormorant species spotted along the causeway, but for a full listed of spotted species take a look at the link below. Sometimes a road is to get you to where you’re going, but sometimes the road (causeway is still technically a road) is the place you’re going.
Address: off Sunrise Trail, Pictou
Enjoy Sea and Shore
Pictou Harbour is a place where land and sea meet in many different ways. If you’ve got a boat of your own you can launch it from one of the marinas, the Hector Heritage Quay (see above) is right on the waterfront, and there’s lots of museums, pubs, and shops to explore just up from the waterfront. Take a stroll down the waterfront and watch people meet in the middle of sea and shore while enjoying some local snacks, and keep an eye out for where you might want to eat and watch the sunset.
Address: Pictou Harbour, Pictou
Go Halfway to PEI
There are many Pictous in Pictou County—there’s the county itself, the town of Pictou, the Pictou Causeway, and the Pictou Harbour. Well, here’s another one for the list: Pictou Island. Sitting right between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, it’s a quiet island with a cool market, a park and public access beach, and several cool places to stay, including the Wooden Tents Campground and the Innedof the Rainbow B&B (nope, that’s not a typo). This is a getaway from a getaway, and if you’re looking for peace and quiet with beautiful scenery, you will love this island.
Address: Pictou Island (ferry departs from the Caribou Port Authority Wharf)
Explore on the East Side
If you want to explore the east side of New Glasgow, the Pioneer Trail is the perfect place for you. It’s a 2km trail that goes through city streets, by the river, and then down a gravel trail behind Tartan Field, and it ends at Tim Hortons, which is a perfect place to end a hike. Some other highlights include the Charlie Hoegg Kinsmen Covered Bridge and a gazebo lookout, two of my favourite things at once! Pioneer Trail is a great shorter trail to enjoy, especially if this is your pioneering visit to New Glasgow (I am unsure if that’s a real word, but it is now).
Address: Riverfront Marina, New Glasgow
Peruse a Perfect Park
Alliteration is the best, which is part of why Powells Point Provincial Park is so cool. There are other reasons, of course, one being that it also has access to the same warm salt water swimming as some of the other places on this list. The beach is sandy on one half, rocky on the other, and there’s a picnic area near the middle. You can also explore the woods, or you can venture further out on the water in a kayak if you’ve got one.
Address: 8049 Pictou Landing Road
Rush to the Beach
When you head to Marshville, you’re likely expecting to see, well, marshes. And Rushton’s Beach Provincial Park certainly has those. The salt marsh in the park has a huge variety of birds, so see if any are on your Bird Bingo! If you’re tired of the marsh, enjoy the beach with its low tide sand bars. And don’t worry if it looks like rain—the park has sheltered picnic grounds, so rain or shine Rushton’s Beach is the place to be.
Address: 723 Highway 6 Marshville
Take a Rest from the Road
Salt Springs Park is a park nestled right next to the highway with picnic tables a plenty. That gives you a great place to do an outdoor stop on a road trip with your road food (of any kind, there is no judging in road trips), especially since there’s also toilets and water taps available. If you’re planning on staying a bit longer, there’s forest to explore, a pretty river to swim in, and a trail to follow.
Address: 2532 Highway 4 Salt Springs
Walk on Iron Lit By Lampposts
Like many trails in Nova Scotia, Samson trail was created along the route of an old railroad. Unlike most trails, Samson Trail was built on Canada’s oldest iron railroad bed. If that’s not cool enough, allow me to give you another reason to go, especially near sunset: there’s a lamppost. In fact, there are several antique lampposts along the trail, which is just an awesome lighting choice for a trail built on nationally historic ground. If you love the Chronicles of Narnia, this will fit your aesthetic perfectly.
Address: Terrace Street, New Glasgow
Take a Walk on the Railroad
Short Line Trail is not along the Short Line Railroad from Monopoly, but it was once a railroad. Coal, stone, and salt was shipped when the trail had tracks, and modern usage is just as varied. It’s 12.7 km of compacted surface perfect for walking, running, biking, ATV-ing, and snowmobiling in the winter. Go take a ride on a railroad in your imagination, and walk the trail in real life!
Address: Brown’s Point, Blackie Road, Lyons Brook
Try Out Trenton Park!
Everyone should be very excited about Trenton Park, according to novascotia.com; I’ve never seen them use so many exclamation marks! They’ve got walking trails, hiking trails, a mountain bike trail, and a picnic area. But wait, there’s more! You can fish trout in one of the three ponds, play at the playground, and enjoy either the swimming pool or the water splash pool! It’s big, ready for anything you might want to do, so what are you waiting for? Get to Trenton Park!!!!!
Address: 119 Park Road, Trenton
Enjoy the Provincial Park that Encapsulates Pictou
This last item on the list embodies the best parts of several of the preceding places, all in one convenient park – Waterside Beach Provincial Park. You’ll find a long wide beach next to warm water, a salt marsh with a good chance of seeing cool birds, and picnic tables in open farmland. It’s generally not super crowded, and with the space and quiet it’s a good place to go on low energy days, because then you can just go, swim if you feel like, or just hang around, all while enjoying the great outdoors.
Address: 649 R. Grant Road, Waterside
By: Adrienne Colborne