Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia: More than just a lighthouse

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, CanadaAs our rental car navigated the narrow, twisting road off the highway, I nervously glanced at the clock. 10:05 AM. My husband and I had been hoping to make it to famous Peggy’s Cove by 9:30 to beat the tour buses that typically roll up around 10 and unleash throngs of camera-wielding tourists. We passed a white steepled church, wiry lobster traps strewn about and homes weathered by salt, wind and sea. It suddenly dawned on me that Peggy’s Cove was more than just a lighthouse: it was a community. And apparently we had that community to ourselves that sunny summer morning, as by some miracle we’d still managed to beat the buses—a welcome discovery as we finally pulled off the dusty road into the empty parking lot.

With no time to waste, we hopped out of the car and made our way to the iconic lighthouse, enjoying an uninterrupted view of Nova Scotia’s most famous landmark. As if on cue, a gentleman in a kilt emerged onto the rocks behind us, and the sounds of his bagpipe floated over us as we soaked in the scene. How’s that for an only-in-Canada moment?
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, CanadaOne of the most photographed spots in the whole country, most people associate Peggy’s Cove with its lighthouse, a beacon has guided sailors and fishermen since 1868. But it turns out there’s much more to the sleepy village, which is the kind of place where people still use clotheslines and streets have names like Church Road and Lobster Lane.

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, CanadaLocals have earned a living off the sea since the early 1800s, catching groundfish like cod, pollock and haddock which they would clean, split and salt before shipping overseas. But when fish populations started declining nearly two centuries later, residents were faced with the tough decision to stay and slog it out, or start fresh somewhere new. Several hardy families chose to stay, and continue to fish to this day, reeling in the likes of mackerel, tuna and lobster. Their vocation is made evident by the boats, nets and traps gathered on the docks lining the shallow waters of the cove (known as shoals)—essential tools of the trade.
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, CanadaWhile very much a place where people live and work, Peggy’s Cove also embraces the visitors who swarm the village—particularly in the summer months—and staff a visitor’s centre along with bed and breakfasts, gift stores and art galleries, a restaurant serving up fresh lobster rolls and even a bar. While some day-trippers might only snap a shot of the lighthouse before jumping back in the car and continuing down Nova Scotia’s Lighthouse Route, it’s well worth taking time to explore the charming village on foot.

RELATED: Nova Scotia’s South Shore: Historic Lunenburg and charming Mahone Bay
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, CanadaPeggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada

For residents of Peggy’s Cove, the coastline around St. Margaret’s Bay not only provides their livelihood, but also some dramatic scenery. The shoals, which have been given monikers like Halibut Rock and Horseshoe Shoal, are an eye-catching deep blue—creating a striking reflection off the water when the brightly-painted fishing boats are docked in the harbour.
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, CanadaContinuing along the coastline, lichens and moss cover what would otherwise be a barren, sandstone landscape. When glaciers receded over 10,000 years ago, they left huge boulders behind called erratics which now serve as a barrier between land and sea. Visitors are welcome to explore, but are warned to stay away from the ledge where the black rocks are as just one rogue wave can result in tragedy.
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, CanadaPeggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, CanadaAs I picked my way across the giant rocks and headed back to the car, I looked back for one last view of the lighthouse. In the 30 minutes that had passed, she had since been surrounded by dozens of people clamouring for the best angle of her bright white facade and cardinal-red top. I turned away, instead savouring my memory of her from earlier that day: a magical morning spent admiring a brilliant beacon in the company of a bagpiper and a cup of Tim Horton’s. Because Canada.
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Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada

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31 Responses

  1. Myrna Doyle says:

    I was 24 years old before I sow Peggy’s Cove, although I was born in Dartmouth, my mother was from the Eastern Shore my father from the Western Shore, we saw many places not as popular but just as beautiful and scenic, and not as populated, I think people should just get off of the main routes and go into some of the little fishing villages they would enjoy just as much, even if they don’t have the restraunts, it is the people that make the difference

  2. Natalie says:

    What a beautiful place! Canada is definitely a place that I would like to visit, especially when I see posts like this. Peggy’s Cove looks super charming and your pictures are really beautiful!

  3. Lesley Carter says:

    I grew up not far from Peggy’s Cove and I always loved going for a Sunday drive there. Such a beautiful spot. Not to mention your Tim’s cup at the end 😉 You have me missing home.

  4. Brenda says:

    Peggy’s Cove certainly looks much more than just a lgbthouse,especially illustrated by your photos. I’d love to visit as you did, before and/or after the tourists get their pictures of the lighthouse. I bet there’s some delicious seafood to be had too!

  5. I spent a summer in Nova Scotia (studying French of all things) but never made it to Peggy’s Cove. You’re so right, that many tourist places are also living communities, which gives them an added depth. You’re photos rock!

  6. Marteen says:

    I posted my Canadian wanderlust list recently for my move to Canada but didn’t have Peggy’s Cave on the list. The area looks so beautiful, I’ll have to add it.

  7. Loredana says:

    One should always explore a place as much as possible – going off the beaten path often 🙂 It’s wonderful to see these photos, to read these interesting details )loved the info about the erratics ). I’d like to be there right now!

  8. Rosemary says:

    Peggy’s Cove looks amazing and I’d love to visit the site and the food. Have not made it yet to Nova Scotia yet and based on your photos, I’m missing a truly charming experience. Great article and will have to get there soon 🙂

  9. Annalisa says:

    Apologies, my comment got entered before I could finish! As a lover of seafood and the sea, a trip to Nova Scotia sounds perfect for me. Lobster Lane sounds so cute!

  10. Carly Moore says:

    I have seen sooooo many photo’s of that lighthouse but I didn’t even know it was in Canada. I am such a bad Canadian lol! 20 years I lived in that country and I never did get to visit the East Coast. I wish I could though, because damn it looks amazing.

  11. One more place to add to our list 😉 Peggys Cove looks so charming and cozy. Beautiful coastline, a lovely lighthouse and seafood? We are in 🙂

  12. Annika says:

    The place looks quiet and relaxing to visit. I would love to go there and take a photo of that lighthouse!

  13. Connie says:

    I love NS! The first trip was an amazing week with my son before he headed to college. We sailed the Blue Nose II, went fishing, visited all of the museums, and learned the history. But our best tour was the bus trip out to Peggy’s Cove! The lighthouse was a Canada post office back then so we mail post cards that we addressed while sitting on the rocks. The return trip to Halifax was by boat. We saw minkie whales and the university students pulled up lobster cages, and my son and I took pictures with them. On my second trip I toured NB, PEI, the Cape, then went to Pier 21 and found history of my fathers’ family arrival to Canada from England in 1926. My last trip was for a week last year and I got to tour the Cape again. I will be back with my sisters next year!

  14. Betty-Jean Porter Alger says:

    Just Beautiful as always, last time I was there was in 2004. My husband and I crossed from Maine into New Brunswick on Motorcycle and did the whole tour of PEI, The Cabot Trail, and all the other spots some not so well known down to Yarmouth. I surprised my cousin who I had not seen in 35 years ans visited our family land out toward the point in Kelly’s Cove. My family is from Yarmouth and we had planned to go back up the East Coast but rain and fog moved in and was expected to linger for 3 days so we took the CAT and met people from SC who had also been touring on motorcycle. It was one of my best trips home and need to get back again.

  1. September 17, 2016

    […] YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY: 13 stunning spots on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail worth stopping for Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia: More than just a lighthouse […]

  2. October 3, 2016

    […] hour along Highway 103, but it’s worth taking some detours to see famous Nova Scotia sites like Peggy’s Cove along the […]

  3. October 3, 2016

    […] Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia: More than just a lighthouse […]

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