nova scotia’s minas basin & annapolis valley

Tuesday, September 27: We woke to a foggy and rainy Tuesday in Halifax, so we headed west to Wolfville, the Minas Basin and the Annapolis Valley. The Annapolis Valley is on the Bay of Fundy side of the narrow Nova Scotia peninsula. It’s notable for fertile farmlands, vineyards and orchards. The valley runs northeast, sheltered on both sides by the North and South Mountains.

We drove through Port Williams where we saw the tide was very low. Since everything about the Bay of Fundy is about the extreme tides, we stopped to take a picture at low tide.  We vowed to stop on our way back to take another picture at high tide, which we did. Between the two pictures, taken at 10:00 a.m. and again at 2:00 p.m., the tide had risen dramatically.  According to the Port Williams tide table, the difference between high and low tide is 27 feet.

Port Williams lies in Kings County, Nova Scotia between and to the north of the towns of Wolfville and Kentville. An agricultural community, its daily rhythms are determined by the Minas Basin tides. Its history is rich with the legacy of the Mi’kmaq, Acadians and Planters and it is defined by its dike lands.

The Minas Basin is an inlet of the Bay of Fundy known for its extremely high tides.

We went to Blomidon Provincial Park, which the waitress at the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse in Halifax had recommended to us. Rising dramatically from the shores of the Minas Basin, Blomidon is famous for its expansive views. Blomidon includes 180m (600ft) high cliffs, a variety of habitats, striking natural features, and abundant wildlife. Besides that, the world’s highest tides wash its shores. We had to consult with the tide charts to avoid getting stranded until high tide receded. We arrived as the tide started coming in, but we managed to walk on the mud flats in plenty of time to climb back up from the beach. Luckily a stream flowed down from one of the cliffs enabling us to rinse off our muddy shoes. The difference between high and low tides in the Minas Basin is 40 feet.

We saw a cute pumpkin display on our way to Hall’s Harbour, one of the best natural harbors on the Upper Bay of Fundy.

Hall’s Harbour was named after Samuel Hall, who acted as a pilot and guide to a privateer band raiding Nova Scotia in 1779. The band consisted of 17 men aboard the Mary Jane, led by Captain Gour. A 40-man militia from Saint John, New Brunswick repelled this group.

It is said that Captain Hall’s treasure is buried somewhere in or about the banks of the upper creek area to the south. Hall’s Harbour is known for its hand lining for cod, pollock, haddock and halibut.

As for lobster, in the early days the average number of traps per fisherman ranged between 30-35 traps. These traps were all set and retrieved by hand. Nowadays, the average number is 250-300 traps.

Fishing was from small boats known as dories, usually painted dark yellow with green gunwales, often without sails or motors. There were also fishing schooners which frequented the harbor.

We ate chicken salad sandwiches we had packed at a picnic table on the dock and then browsed a couple of gift shops without buying anything.

We drove through the town of Kentville where Mike spotted a bike store, Valley Store & Cycle. Mike bought a biking shirt and I bought a buff and two pairs of wool hiking socks for the walk I hope to do next summer, the Via Francigena through Tuscany, Italy.



We then drove to the fetching town of Wolfville, stopping to take our high tide pictures at Port Williams (see above).

Wolfville is a charming college town with ornate Victorian homes, a lively arts scene, and some fine restaurants. It was settled in the 1760s by New Englanders.  The fields around the town support a thriving wine industry.  This is partly due to a mild microclimate and partly due to an elaborate system of dikes built by the Acadians in the early 1700s to reclaim arable land from the unusually high tides. The dikes can still be viewed along many of the area’s back roads.

We had found a pub in every town, and Wolfville was no exception with its Paddy’s Brew Pub. We found the Just Us! Coffee House and the cool Acadia Theatre. A mural on a town wall says: “The tide flows seaward as the day expands.” ~ John Frederic Herbin, Herbin Jewelers (since 1885).

I perused a gift shop but when we went to leave it was pouring rain. Mike ran to the parking lot to retrieve the car so both of us didn’t get drenched. That Mike is a real gentleman! 🙂

We visited Domaine de Grand Pré, a restaurant and winery known for its award-winning vintages.  I imbibed in a glass of white wine and Mike enjoyed a wine flight as we nibbled on cheese and crackers. I mentioned walking the Camino de Santiago and another woman working there ran over, “You went to Santiago, Chile?” Sadly, I explained that I’d never been to Chile but I walked the 790km Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. She had been to Chile and loved it, but she was also excited to learn about the Camino.

After the winery, we stopped at Hennigar’s Farm Market where we bought lunchmeats, cheese, jams and fruits. It was a cool place with many enticements.

Finally, we drove back to Halifax where we went to dinner downtown at McKelvie’s.  I had the McKelvie’s Lobster Roll with seafood chowder. Mike enjoyed a crunchy haddock with creamy BBQ sauce and an “artisan salad.” I love how restaurateurs name something “artisan” to give it a classy edge.

After dinner we drove around a bit to see the damage from fallen trees and to determine how much progress work crews were making in cleaning up the area. Many neighborhoods especially near downtown Halifax were still a big mess.

We got cozy in our Airbnb and watched Virgin River and some episodes of Seinfeld, did our Duolingo and generally just enjoyed relaxing in our Airbnb.