Nova Scotia is a land of rolling green hills, grand cliffs, and peaceful beaches. With such beautiful nature and deep roots in Celtic culture, this Canadian province is one of the most understated wonders of North America. Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel there along with my mother. As we explored the province, we experienced the breathtaking beauty, refreshing wildlife, and incredible views that Nova Scotia is famous for.
Together we walked along the rocky shores, hiked the hills lush with an endless sea of trees, rafted the world-famous Bay of Fundy tides, and camped in solitude next to babbling brooks and ocean coves. There we found an escape from the hectic, modern world and immersed ourselves in the peace and allure of Nova Scotia’s nature. Just a skip and a hop away from our small New England town, Nova Scotia was the perfect getaway: a half day travel via ferry and we were there. From the moment we stepped off the ferry we were connected with the great doors of “New Scotland”.
Among our many outdoor adventures we had in Nova Scotia, one of my favorites was our afternoon sea kayaking in the waters off Tangier’s south shore. Having grown up in New England, an area where ponds, rivers, and lakes are found in abundance, I had my fair share of experience with kayaking. After only a few times out on the water, I had grown to love it. As listened to the soothing rhythm of my paddle splashing through the water’s surface, and admired the incredible wildlife that scurried around on the tree lined shores, I then discovered one of my favorite ways to connect with nature: kayaking.
Though I has conquered many lakes and rivers throughout my kayaking adventures, my experience with sea kayaking was limited, and I was eager to try it out again. My mother and I had planned a day trip with a group of fellow kayak lovers where we would explore a large cove located on the south side of Nova Scotia’s peninsula. After miles driving down a quiet, seemingly vacant road, we arrived upon a quaint lodge that looked out onto the ocean. We parked next to a dozen sea kayaks that colorfully lined the shore. The first thing I noticed was that these kayaks were different than the ones I was used to. They were longer and slimmer than my hard shell kayaks I took out on lakes and ponds.
On the stern of each kayak stuck out an oblong piece of plastic. I would later learn that this plastic was a skeg: a contraption similar to a rudder that, with the simple turn of a lever, could be descended into the water to help the kayak track better. I had never even heard of such a skeg, let alone use one. Apparently the currents of the ocean, if strong enough, could make navigating my kayak tricky, so I would want to use a skeg.
I was more than ready to get started; the glimmering ocean waters intrigued me. I evaluated the array of boats and selected a bright yellow kayak that, when I got out onto the water, would make me feel like I was gliding around in a giant banana. Before I stepped into my single kayak boat for the day, I was instructed to put on a spray skirt: another fancy piece of equipment I was unfamiliar with. The spray skirt was to be fit around the perimeter of the kayak’s cockpit to ensure not water splashed into the interior, because although it was late summer, the water was like an ice bath. Geared up with my hand spray skirt and skeg, I was ready to hit the waters. I grabbed a yellow paddle to match and dragged my kayak off the shore. I was finally out on the Nova Scotian ocean, and, man, did it feel great!
It was a fairly calm day on the water, so I was able to paddle with ease. With aA bundle of energy and excitement, I rode ahead of the pack as I powerfully moved across the water’s surface. We glided along the shores, weaving our way through rocks and patches of aquatic grass. Fish darted beneath us as the shadows of our kayaks startled them. We paddled toward a cluster of boulders that stuck out of the water. On top of these rocks was a gathering of harbor seals, basking in the sun. For the time being, they ignored us, too content in the warmth of the sun’s rays to care. Yet as we came closer, one by one they slipped into the water. We floated, waiting for them to reappear. All of a sudden, a small seal head popped through the surface, soon followed by another coming up for air. As quickly as they came, they dived away again. It became a game among the group of us to spot the next seal. I was pleasantly surprised when one seal popped his head up only ten or so feet away from me. I had never been close to a seal before; it was an oddly beautiful animal. It had a gradient, speckled pattern that ran down its neck and beautiful eyes that looked at me like a dog would. It stayed for a mere moment, as if only to say hello, before disappearing into the water. Though I got only a short glimpse, it was fascinating to admire a harbor seal up close.
The group of us paddled beyond the rocks and out of the cove towards a small island. As we paddled, we socialized with each other, sharing stories about our previous outdoors adventures, as well as recommendations as to where we should explore next. “Have you seen Cape Breton yet?” one kayaker asked my mother and me. Cape Breton is a large Island at the tip of Nova Scotia. We had not visited it yet, but we had heard it was the most beautiful part of Nova Scotia. More Beautiful than this? I thought as I looked out across the water, in awe of the endless sea I saw. Soon after our kayaking trip was over we ventured to Cape Breton, and let me tell you, it was breathtaking. The drive around the island consisted of incredible views of cliffs that overlooked the water and hills that towered above us. I did not know it then, but there was much more beauty waiting for me after my kayak trip was over.
When we finally reached the small Island across the cove, my arms ached from the hour and a half of paddling I had just endured. You do not realize it at the time, but kayaking is a great workout. It is just more fun than a trip to the gym because you are distracted by the nature that surrounds you.
We dragged our kayaks onto the shore and decided that a short hike through the woods would give us a chance to stretch our legs. We found a faint trail that brought us deep into the pines and hardwoods of forest. Only a few minutes in and we came upon a large hole in the ground lined neatly with stones and moss. It was the remnants of the foundation to an old home from back when people lived on the island. How cool it was to discover the leftovers of a house that had been overgrown by nature.
Once we finished our hike, it was time to head back to the lodge. I dragged my kayak into the water, which came up to my knees. Wading in the cold ocean water, I was refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to make the journey back.
Once again, we crossed the ocean waters, returning to the cove. We passed the formation of boulders on which the harbor seals had returned to nap in the sun. Along the shoreline we paddled, weaving in and out of rocks and water vegetation. By this point, I was exhausted from hours of paddling. We were only meters away from land where my warm car waited for me. As incredible an experience as it was, that kayaking trip had taken it out of me and I was ready for a warm meal and a dry change of clothes.
Having dragged our kayaks onto shore and rinsed of our equipment, my mom and I sat on top of our car as we replenished our energy with granola bars, looking out at the ocean. The sun had started to set, falling closer towards the horizon, and the dimming sky was painted with streaks of yellow and pink. I had an amazing day on the water where I found peace and connected with nature. What could be better?
If you are looking for some exciting, outdoor experiences of your own, then I would highly recommend venturing over to the beautiful province of Nova Scotia, where you are bound to find inspiration from it beautiful nature.