By Elliott Fuller
Situated on northeastern Canada’s coastline, Nova Scotia is one of the country’s most stunningly beautiful provinces: with rolling hills, verdant forests, tranquil rivers, and a vibrant community sharped by maritime history, it’s no small wonder where “New Scotland” gets its namesake. Nova Scotia is a playground for shipwreck enthusiasts, a shining beacon for maritime historians, and a wonderland for anyone seeking adventures both rustic and cosmopolitan. And with 4,660 miles of coastline, and nearly 4,000 small islands, the crown jewel of eastern Canada offers exploration and adventure in all flavors.
Given its location, straddling the northeastern-most reaches of North America, it’s no small surprise the province is replete with seaside opportunities, which emphasize its rich maritime culture. Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax, was instrumental in recovering the forlorn victims of the infamous sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912; Fairview Cemetery, located in the city, inters 120 victims, most of whom are recognized and honored through granite plaques. Much of the history surrounding this event, particularly from Halifax’s point of view, can be discovered at Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: a popular establishment, which routinely showcases maritime history through exhibits and guest speakers.
While lesser known in comparison to the ill-fated juggernaut that made Leonardo DiCaprio a household name, the SS Atlantic, a steamship that sank in 1873 off Lower Prospect coast, is another vessel honored through the works of diligent Nova Scotian historians. Visitors interested in learning about the SS Atlantic – it’s purpose, people, and events surrounding the unfortunate incident – can be enjoyed at the SS Atlantic Heritage Park in Terence Bay: a shipwreck museum, offering interpretive exhibits and artifacts from the disaster; and an open, outdoor area, which highlights significant landmarks, including a large burial site that inters 277 unidentified victims of the tragedy.
Beyond these culturally enriching opportunities, visitors to Nova Scotia can experience the province’s maritime heritage in motion: whether taking in art of culture or visiting the numerous lighthouses and seaside features, which dot the province’s expansive coastline. Cape Breton Highlands National Park, located in Nova Scotia’s northeastern portion, offers breathtaking vistas, a long hiking trail, and a host of beach areas suitable for all members of the family: from freshwater, to salt, to brackish. Sand Hills Beach Provincial Park in Villagedale, located on the peninsula’s southernmost tip, provides warm waters perfect for swimming along with scenic sand dunes and birdwatching opportunities. Beyond these examples, Nova Scotia also provides an abundance of outdoor recreation and activities, ranging from rafting and fishing to hiking and nature viewing.
When avid explorers are ready to turn in for the, they can enjoy any number of tourist locations and attractions, which cater to different interests: pottery, art, and cinema; historic sights and tours; rustic local eats, fine cuisine, and artisanal wines.
With such a wide swath of coastline to explore, Nova Scotia offers manifold scuba diving adventures, though most are centered on shipwrecks, which number 4,500 submerged vessels in total. Scuba aficionados generally dive around the island from May until October when conditions are at their peak: during this period, water temperatures hover around 58 degrees, while visibility averages about 57 feet. On average, divers can find most shipwrecks in depths around 80 feet, allowing divers of varying skill levels opportunities to explore to their heart’s content. Where there are wrecks, there are artificial reefs, and in turn, there is life: Nova Scotia boasts an impressive amount of sea going fish, including striped bass, eel, shad, sturgeon, and Atlantic whitefish and salmon. As a result, underwater photography is another key reason why divers add Nova Scotia to their itinerary.
St. Paul Island
St. Paul Island, fixed between Cape North on Nova Scotia’s northeastern edge, and Channel-Port aux Basques, stands tall as one of Nova Scotia’s most treasured dive destinations. Nicknamed “Graveyard of the Gulf”, the remote island is recognized for being a hotspot for shipwrecks with over 350 submerged vessels ranging from the 1700s to early 1900s ready to see and experience; and explorers are finding more wrecks each year. Due to its remote location, fish life here is plentiful, and it’s not uncommon for visitors to see whales and porpoises on a routine basis. A smaller island, measuring about three miles wide and one mile across, it is also a popular spot for intimate, rustic camping. Unfortunately, the island’s availability can be a bit tricky: late summer is generally the best time to go due to better overall water conditions and stabilized weather; accessibility can also be challenging as visitors require permission from the Canadian Coast Guard due to the island’s fragile ecosystem.
Resplendent coasts, a hearty seaside community, and plenty of water sports and recreational activities await thrill seekers and vacationers who visit Nova Scotia. The province’s expansiveness, coupled with its proud maritime heritage makes it a unique addition to any diver’s logbook or bucket list. For more information on visiting the crown jewel of eastern Canada, visit www.novascotia.com.
Scuba H2O Adventure Magazine would like to welcome any Nova Scotian divers or travelers who have experienced the province’s scuba diving opportunities firsthand to share their experiences with our readers. Interested parties can contact Senior Editor John Tapley at email@example.com .