Nova Scotia: Baby You Can Ride My Wave

Nova Scotia is linked inexorably to the sea. Water defines this Canadian province, located east of Maine. Halifax is the capital and it’s accessed by major airlines. Nova Scotia (meaning New Scotland) is a great vacation idea as they have come into their own with a thriving culinary scene, 15 wineries, several micro-breweries, a distillery, an impressive arts community, and a strong fishing heritage. Halifax is also the resting place for 150 souls who perished on the Titanic, buried in three cemeteries near downtown, including J.F.P. Clarke, the bass player from Titanic’s band.

Blue Rocks - a classic Nova Scotia fishing village

Water, Water Everywhere: The Bay of Fundy is the most dominate water force which bears down upon Nova Scotia, one inch at a time. It’s here where the world’s highest tides have been recorded; a daily natural phenomenon of incoming and outgoing tides of over 25 feet. This means that visible stretches of ground are covered with water as you watch it rise before your eyes. Birds cling to exposed rocks only to be forced alight in minutes; boats float to sea having been formerly on dry ground. Nowhere is this better expressed than at the Tidal Bore Rafting Park along the Shubenacadie River. It seems like a feeble marketing claim, “tidal bore rafting,” since you’re not really rafting at all. An inflatable Zodiac with a 60 horsepower engine takes you up river. Well, ‘river’ in this case appears misleading too as what you see on the Shubenacadie is shallow and muddy. 

At high tide, this boat will be fully afloat
 Yes, the geology is beautiful and you can clearly see high water marks along the shore, though it seems impossible the water can reach that high. There are bald eagles along the river, 75 to 100 of them, and though you won’t see that many, you will easily spot at least three or four. At one point my guide jumps into the river to demonstrate that the water is only waist high, and on one occasion the motor got stuck with mud. Yeah, real fun. I was taken to a massive mud flat and got out of the boat still unsure of what the hell was not-going on. Then, in the distance, a small wave comes towards me, a feeble thing which packs all the power of a ripple in my bathtub. It’s generated as the tides rise into the Bay of Fundy and work their way up river. The call to get back in the boats means the water is fast approaching and as it gets closer you can see it more clearly, though it’s still unimpressive. But within 10 minutes the mud flat is engulfed in water and the rush of the incoming tide gains strength and power.

It is the collision of the river running out to sea and the sea water running up river which becomes a stunning experience. The singular force of these two bodies of water forced through the narrow canyon slamming into each other creates waves of ten feet, and higher. I grab on to the Zodiac and we plunge head first into the “washing machine,” a spot of consistently harsh waves that crash upon us, one after the other, sheets of muddy water pummeling us mercilessly. We suck down a quick breath in between sheets of water bitch-slapping us; rope burns on our hands, but we manage to hold on. We are drenched and pitiful-looking as bathed cats, a baptism of sorts by Mother Nature herself. We then turn around and head purposefully into another series of waves that push, pull, and drench us, and we laugh like second-graders after too much candy; this is a killer experience. It’s not for the timid: you will be soaked from head to foot with ochre-colored water, it will stain your clothes, your head will be spinning, but you will have an awesome time.

Lulled to Sleep
Therefore sleep is essential. Using Halifax as a base, there are two very cool, though disparate, lodgings that might seduce you into making an hour’s drive. At the Train Station Inn, northeast of Halifax, whimsical meets clever. The inn began in a brick railroad station from 1887. It’s still intact with a few rooms upstairs as well as a gift shop and breakfast area. But the quaint building soon became the lesser sibling when James LaFresne assembled 12 cabooses, all sitting on their rails, and retrofitted them into accommodations. The “rooms” have TVs, coffee makers, a fridge and bathroom. These aren’t luxury accommodations, but they are fun and if the rails are a source of inspiration, or if the romance of a bygone era is appealing, like dining in a 1904 dining car, or sleeping in a box car, you’ll wake up like a well nourished vagabond.
The Train Station Inn

Over looking the Bay of Fundy, the Blomidon Inn in Wolfville, northwest of Halifax, casts an impressive visual as you pull into the driveway. Built in 1883 by a local shipbuilder, the 33 rooms are furnished with mostly original, very Victorian pieces and this former private residence, complete with creaky staircase, is complimented by family-owned hospitality and a desire for guests to experience the glory days of Nova Scotia. Breakfast is included but they also have a fantastic in-house restaurant for lunch and dinner.

The Blomidon Inn