Lace up your walking shoes and head out to trek past lighthouses, through seaside fishing villages and along windswept beaches with views of breaching whales. Meander among old growth forest, hug highland mountaintops or amble across the ocean floor when giant tides recede from the shores of Nova Scotia, one of Eastern Canada’s sea-salty Atlantic provinces and a diverse destination for hitting hiking trails.
The epi-centre for Nova Scotia’s strong Celtic roots – expect bagpipes, fiery fiddling and the Gaelic language – is Cape Breton Island. The Cabot Trail, an iconic, 298-km roller-coaster road trip, loops around the island where mountains meet the sea, skirting dramatic Cape Breton Highlands National Park where the 9-km Skyline Trail, one of the park’s 26 trails, follows a headland overlooking the rugged Gulf of St. Lawrence coast. Watch for Minke and Pilot whales, moose, Bald eagles, bears and madly flapping puffins with their multi-coloured beaks. The 7.5-km Franey Trail loop offers breathtaking 360-degree views over the Atlantic coastline.
Every September, Cape Breton celebrates the outdoors with a ten-day Hike the Highlands festival.
Inland, Kejimkujik National Park is an oasis of lakes amid the province’s oldest growth forest. The magical 5-km Hemlock and Hardwoods Trail winds through groves of giant, 300 year-old hemlocks as well as ash and White pine. Listen for loons calling and watch for Barred owls in the trees. “Keji” is laced with trails, from short and gently sloped – hike to the remnants of an old gold mine – to 100 kms of backcountry routes with 20 wilderness campsites, including three rustic cabins along the way.
Shared by Nova Scotia and the neighbouring province of New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy has the world’s highest tides – up to 16 metres! Check the tide tables and take a walk on the ocean bottom at low tide. Go clam digging as locals do and steam them over a beach fire. There are many trails along the Fundy coast, from short, easy ones in Blomidon Provincial Park to the longer, 16-km return route from Scots Bay to Cape Split, a spectacular day hike along a narrow finger of land pointing into the bay. The views are extraordinary and, if timed properly, you can hear turbulent tide waters surging in over submarine ridges far below, a hollow roar that fills the forest. The more adventurous can tackle the challenging Coastal Trail through Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, a 51-km, three- to four-day trek with beaches and viewpoints along the way.
The 10-km Atlantic View Trail near Halifax follows an old rail line route through salt marshes, headland bluffs, beaches and woodland. It is part of Canada’s Great Trail, the world’s longest network of recreational trails that will stretch 24,000 kilometres from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans when completed for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
In a province that is a peninsula with offshore islands, the ocean – and seafood! – is never far away. Look for crab, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, and mackerel. Watch for roadside seafood shacks serving up steaming platters of fresh local lobster.
Hiking, food and rapid-fire Celtic music come together every October during the Celtic Colours Festival, nine days of toe-tapping Cape Breton fiddling and international music amid yellow, orange and red autumn-coloured forest. And who knows… you might even find yourself invited by the welcoming Maritime folks to a Ceilidh, a lively Cape Breton kitchen party.
Article Source: The Australian