Cumberland County lets you experience Nova Scotia waters of Bay of Fundy and Northumberland Strait, so drink in your fill. There’s a big emphasis in this county on birds and berries in a bunch of different ways, but there’s also places to find cool rocks, enjoy the water, and get into the wilderness. Grab the sunscreen, a bathing suit, and shorts with pockets, and you’ll be ready to go into Cumberland County!
Venture Deep into the Cape
Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is a park full of extremes. You’ll find 600ft tall cliffs above the Bay of Fundy’s Tides, the highest in the world. It’s really a wilderness park, and there are multiple places where nature is untouched. It has trails, certainly, 60km of them in fact, and there are walk in backcountry campsites, but these places have been designed and maintained in order to have the least possible effect on the wilderness. If you’re longing to feel at one with nature, this is a great place to start.
Address: West Advocate Road
See the Safe Space for Birds
Every birdwatcher knows that every season brings different bird species to watch, and migration times can be the most diverse. At the Amherst Point Migratory Bird Sanctuary Trail, you have a guaranteed place to watch up to 125 different species of birds. The trail itself is about 2.5km around Layton Lake, and it winds between forests and open fields. Keep a sharp eye for birds of course, but the trail is also home to red squirrels, snowshoe hare, and muskrat, so maybe bring a partner—one person looks at the sky, the other person looks at the ground.
Address: Southampton Road off Highway 104 exit #3
Explore the Park by Trail
This trail provides you with several options. Firstly, it’s a 4km round trip hike through the park, and you’ll pass through forests of different trees until you get to the Amherst Shore. Once there, you can explore the beach, enjoy the view of the Northumberland Strait, and even go swimming! There’s also a campground on site, where if you head south you’ll find yet another trail, which will take you through a mixed forest and back to camp. Having the park experience so intertwined with the trail guarantees you’ll end up experiencing more of it, so you’ll have more time to appreciate the beauty of the park that surrounds the trails.
Address: Highway 336, 4km west of Northport or 2km east of Amherst Shore
Hop Along the Trail
If you’re spending time in Oxford, the Bunny Trail is a great option for a shorter outing. It’s a 2.9km loop trail that goes along a river. There are steeper parts of the trail, but you can take short detours if that’s not your thing. The Bunny Trail is a simple outing that can lead to more, as it’s very close to the Great Trail. Bring your dog, get everyone some snacks, and set off for an adventure that allows for a fairly quick return to the town, which if you’ve got kids you know is vital.
Note: Hopping is optional.
Address: Trailhead is along Station Street, Oxford
Get A Better-Than-Bird’s-Eye-View of the Bay
The Bay of Fundy is an integral part of this list, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, and Cape D’Or Coastal Park has it as the central theme. The park is situated right above where the Bay of Fundy runs into the Minas Channel, and you can see that from every angle. You can even get a close up of the water below (and potential sea creature sightings) through one of the telescopes on site. There is a lighthouse that is just adorable, and a few steps away you’ll find the Guesthouse and Restaurant, so you can eat beautifully cooked meals and then head back to your room to enjoy an indoor view of the Bay (which is a good thing to have on a cooler day). Come and enjoy some chowder and fishcakes, take tons of pictures, and enjoy the power of the ocean.
Address: 1 Cape D’Or Road, Advocate Harbour
Find the Rocky Head
Clarke Head is one of the geoparks in Cumberland County that is stunning both for geologists and lay visitors. The rock formations’ origins are from around when the world came together to form Pangea, around 320 million years ago, but how the exact shapes came to be is still uncertain. The shapes are really cool, and to enjoy them fully you should go during low tide so you can have lots of time to enjoy the cool rocks.
Address: Two Islands Road, Glooscap Campground for directions
Splash and Play
Look, sometimes you want to get wet, but you don’t want to go swimming. Thankfully, there is a place in Amherst called the Dickney Park & Splash Pad. There’s a walking track, a playground, and lots of green space for picnics, but it’s best feature on hot days is definitely the huge splash pad, suited for visitors of all ages. Pro tip: make sure to reapply sunscreen afterwards, and then you’re free to frolic all day.
Address: 132 East Pleasant Street, Amherst
Drift Among the Wood
Driftwood is a wonderful souvenir from Nova Scotia, with the sea smoothing it down and granting it colourful flames (should you choose to burn it). You’re likely to find some at any ocean beach in Nova Scotia, but some are more likely than others. Driftwood Beach has more than earnedits name, because this sand and cobble beach has huge mounds of driftwood on it. It looks like there’s entire tree trunks in some places, which is awesome, but there’s also little pieces to examine. Sit on one of the logs and stare out at the bay as you imagine where all this wood came from, and what may happen to it next.
Address: Advocate Harbour
Fishing in Oxford Town
Oxford Town is famous for a few different things (one of which will be discussed later in the article), but it’s also got some hidden gems. One of them is fishing. There are three rivers in Oxford that converge, so you can pick one of the three or go straight to where they meet to try your luck. You’ll probably see some humans out on the river too, enjoying a nice day of canoeing. As long as you avoid hooking them and they avoid splashing you with their oars, you’ll all have a wonderful day.
Cost: Fishing License
Address: Where Black River, Little River, and River Philip converge
Visit Two Provinces At Once
This is an interesting place to visit, and not only for the history or even the kite flying. No, Fort Beauséjour is special because it is only partly in Nova Scotia. Cumberland County is partly along the border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and way back when the Fort was built it counted as the same territory for the French at the time. Now you can explore the fort, participate in 18th century equipment camping, and dress up in old timey costumes, all while walking back and forth between two provinces—talk about a workout!
Cost: 3.90 for adults, 3.40 for seniors, free for youths
Address: 111 Fort Beauséjour Road, Aulac (this is technically partly in New Brunswick so you get two provinces for the price of one!)
Follow Glooscap’s Trail
Glooscap is a central figure in Mi’kmaq culture, so it stands to reason that any trail named after him would be too big for one county to contain. The Glooscap Trail runs from Windsor all the way to Parrsboro, so it’s way too big for a day hike, but the section within Cumberland County is big enough to enjoy while not resulting in a multi day trip. You’ll find several stops along the way both natural and in communities, so you can enjoy your adventure to the fullest and never run out of snacks. You’ll see beautiful places as you enjoy your journey, so if you’re going to hike it make sure you bring a power bank to snap as many pictures as your heart desires.
Cost: Free for hiking, cost of gas for cars
Address: See site for map that shows directions for Cumberland County section
Picnic by the Gulf
This is the first park in a while that looks out over a shore, but it’s not the Bay of Fundy. In fact, the Gulf Shore Provincial Park looks out over the Northumberland Strait. As a picnic park, you’ll find it relaxed and ready for a comfortable afternoon of enjoying the view, a beach walk, and maybe a swim, since the water is warmer than in some other parts of the province.
Address: 1033 Gulf Shore Road, Gulf Shore
Find Some Fossils
If you didn’t get your fill of cool rocks at Clarke Head, you’re sure to be satisfied by Joggins Fossil Cliffs. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can see rocks and fossils from the Coal Age, which was 100 million years before the dinosaurs! Once a mine, you can now go for tours and see all sorts of fossils and petrified trees. Go find your favourite cool rocks….and maybe even a fossil!
Cost: Various costs for tours
Address: 100 Main Street, Joggins
Jost Find Some Fine Wine on the Vine
If you’re looking for wines to accompany Nova Scotian cuisine of both land and sea, you need to visit Jost Vineyards. You’ll find them in Malagash, where they cork wines of many kinds for any occasion. You can even find Sangria apple/blueberry wine and Maple Wine if you want to sample more than just the grapes. Come take a tour of the vineyard and the wine cellar, participate in a tasting, and enjoy the Seagrape Café once you’ve worked up an appetite. If you’re a group of grownups, come and roam the vineyard by the shore!
Cost: tour is 5$ per person
Phone: 902-257-2636 or 1-800-565-4567 (toll free)
Address: 48 Vintage Lane, Malagash
Putting by the Sea
If you love to golf and you want to try a more challenging course, the Northumberland Links is happy to oblige. The course is right beside the shore, so you’ve got all the challenges of seaside golfing, along with bentgrass greens to keep things interesting. If you’re staying nearby you’ll be able to find deals that let you golf and stay for a great price. Come play a round or two and enjoy the ocean breeze and gorgeous view—just don’t let your ball fall into the strait, because I don’t think you’ll be able to find it again.
Phone: 902-243-2808 or 1-800-882-9661 (toll free)
Address: 1776 Gulf Shore Road, Pugwash
Kayak in 2020
With Cumberland County nearly surrounded by water, there are plenty of opportunities for enjoying the ocean. And sea kayaking is a great way to get up close and personal with the water. Whether you’re a beginner or an old pro, Nova Shores has sea kayaking tours for everyone, from day tours to multiple night adventures to combining sea kayaking with yoga, which is pretty awesome (it starts real early in the morning though, just a heads up). With 20 years of experience under their paddles, make your 2020 special by booking a tour with Nova Shores!
Cost: Depends on tour, see site for details
Phone: 1-902-392-2222 or 1-866-638-4118 (toll-free)
Address: 37 School Lane, Advocate Harbour
Walk an Island Trail
Partridge Island offers a unique trail walking experience. You’ll start with a difficult 100 feet as you start to climb up the hill, but don’t worry, there’s a “Second Wind” bench right after it. The trail goes through the forest, lookoff at the Upper Minas Bay coastline, go around the top of the island, and then meet a fork in the road. One path will take you to another lookoff, while the other one will lead you to charts and panels to explain the significance of the lookoff, a firepit, and a picnic table. You’ll walk the rest of the way on the loop that takes you right back to where you started. If you’re looking for a compact adventure that still offers lots of beauty, get ready for a voyage to Partridge Island!
Address: Ottawa House, Whitehall Road, Partridge Island
Picking Wild Blueberries in Oxford
Oxford Town is most famous for wild blueberries—it’s actually the Canadian capital for them, and one of the main reasons why blueberries are a major export of Nova Scotia. The link below shows you plenty of places and ways to experience that blue speciality, from buying them fresh to enjoying pie, candy, and even Wild Blueberry pizza, which I now have to try. Once you’ve had your fill, head for Wild Blueberry Corner and take ridiculous pictures there showing your findings. Bonus points if you’ve got blue tongues!
Address: Various, see link
Watch the River Tides
If you’re really fascinated by the Bay of Fundy Tides and want a great view of them, the River Hebert Tidal Bore Park will certainly not be boring! It’s a small park right on the river, and the picnic tables and benches give you great vantage points. I’d recommend this place on a low-energy day, because your entertainment is literally watching the world’s highest tides change. And hey, if it rains, the Heritage Models Museum is right next door.
Address: 1872 Highway 242, River Hebert
Light Up History
If you like ghost stories, you should come to Spencer’s Island Lighthouse to learn about where the ghost ship Mary Celeste. If you don’t like ghost stories, the rest of the museum’s history isfantastic too. The museum is in the lighthouse itself, and you can climb to the top of the lighthouse and enjoy the view. If you want to stick around, there’s even a nice campground and a restaurant.
Address: Spencer’s Island Road, Advocate Harbour
Walk Where Boats Were Cradled
The history of this park involves trains and boats, and this trail will show you all the traces of those stories. As you walk along the 500m trail, you’ll see where the cradle to carry boats once was (it’s now just a path), and you’ll be able to see where the railway once was between giant trees. It’s a Provincial Heritage site, so if you want your trip to be educational and natural, this is a great place to start!
Address: Beecham Road, Tidnish Dock
Go Wild For Waterfowl
Ducks Unlimited has had an amazing impact on Nova Scotia in their 80 years by protecting the wetlands, and Wallace Bay National Wildlife Area is a great example of their work. You can experience the wetlands by following the 4km loop trail around the park. You’ll find several great places to birdwatch, and there’s even a great view at 1150 metres. Come and enjoy the wetlands, watch out for nests, and observe seasonal migrations.
Address: Aboiteau Road, between Pugwash and Tatamagouche
Fall in Love with the Falls
Where in Cumberland County can you pick berries, walk over a bridge, see animals like fishers, grouse and porcupines, walk through a valley, and see waterfalls? Why, Ward Falls Trail of course! This trail is just over 6km round trip that includes all of the above and more. Bring a picnic (you’ll have your choice of spots), and make sure that you wear shoes good for wet ground, because if you want freedom of exploration then you’ll want to do some wandering just off the trail.
Address: Highway 209 from Parrsboro, 100 m pass the second bridge
See Wentworth’s Nature Without A Chairlift
Wentworth is well known for its ski hill, but it also has a great provincial park. You’ll get a great view of the skill hill as you explore the park. They’ve got some cool roofed picnic spots, trails that are great year-round (they’re great for cross-country in the winter), or you can walk around the river into the woods to watch the birds. It’s all up to you!
Address: Valley Road, Wentworth Valley
The Lions Say Skateboard
It seems that every county in Nova Scotia has their own awesome skate park, which is wonderful. Cumberland County is no exception, with the Amherst Lions Skatepark right next to the Amherst Stadium. It’s 10,000 square feet of space, and it’s got everything from a custom quarter pipe to a bunch of ledges and stairs to practice on. Find a helmet and a board, and you’re golden for a day at the skatepark!
Address: 185 Church Street, Amherst
The Lighthouse on Cape d’Or.
Imagine standing atop a cliff watching the brilliant red sunset. The sky a plethora of different colours consisting of rich hues of purples, reds and blues. The water below shimmering like thousand minute crystals. This is exactly what you’ll experience if you visit the lighthouse cape d’Or at sunset. If you decide to stay awhile and bask in the sun you should definitely visit the Lightkeeper’s kitchen for a meal. You can order a delectable three-course meal at a reasonable price consisting of freshly caught shrimp or a variety of fish.
Address: 1 Cape Dor Rd, Advocate Harbour
By: Adrienne Colborne