To the lighthouse

It’s a hauntingly beautiful landscape; difficult to describe in words. Easy walking paths weave over and through the vast field of smooth ancient rocks. Perched on the rounded rocks near the ocean is the famous red-and-white de-commissioned lighthouse — a post office in summer — that has become one of world’s most photographed. And like a magnet, the rocks and water pull me to come and explore each time I return to Peggy's Cove. But I do heed the cautions about rock-walking close to the ocean; numerous signs warn of rogue waves that can, and each year do, carry people off the rocks into the ocean.

Rock walking has been a long-time passion of mine and at Peggy’s Cove, I’ve always rushed straight to these magnificent boulders by the ocean. Normally I whiz through the village, barely giving it a glance. After a few hours on the rocks, I usually hop back into the car and like the many daily tourist buses, leave the scene. But this was not the case on my most recent visit.

The village of Peggy’s Cove

This time I decided to wander the narrow streets of this historic little village (population 76) which was founded in 1811 when six families of German descent were granted land of 800 acres by the Nova Scotia government. Most were fisherman who also farmed and raised cattle.

Peggy’s Cove continues to be a working community in the 21st century, with Cape Island boats still going out to sea for lobster fishing. It is a delightful place to walk along the narrow winding streets with its colourful painted houses, visit locally-owned little shops (like Beale’s Bailiwick) or look at the fishing boats tied up on Murray’s Wharf.

The Whalesback

One kilometre northwest of Peggy’s Cove is another dramatic place — The Whalesback — now also the site of a memorial for the Swissair Flight 111 disaster of 1998. (It wasn’t here on my previous visit.) Actually, there are two memorials in Nova Scotia commemorating those who died as a result of this tragedy: the Whalesback which looks out toward the original crash site on St. Margaret’s Bay; and Bayswater with its memorial wall containing the names of the 229 passengers and crew, and a mass grave containing the unidentified remains.

The two memorials and the site of the crash form a triangle.
The Whalesback stone monument is set in a beautiful, rugged terrain of huge granite boulders, rock croppings and low shrubbery. It has always reminded me of the barren lands of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Like the landscape in Canada’s north, this was now a landscape that I discovered reached deep into my soul.

The Whalesback is a popular stop for tourists; the parking lot was full of cars with license plates from all over North America. From the lot, a short walk on a gravel path leads to the ocean and the site of the monument. In English and French, it reads,

“In memory of the 229 men, women and children aboard Swissair Flight 111 who perished off these shores September 2nd, 1998. They have been joined to the sea, and the sky. May they rest in peace.”

A sanctuary by the ocean

About a five-minute drive from Peggy’s Cove was our lodgings, the Oceanstone Inn & Cottages (a member of Nova Scotia’s Association of Unique Country Inns). And what a fabulous place it was. Seven cottages sit right by the water’s edge. The rooms and suites at the inn are spacious (most with great ocean views) and the innkeepers, Ron and Carole MacInnis, are wonderful, warm people. (I immediately felt as if we were old friends; much in keeping with the famed Maritime culture.) I chuckled when Ron told me that people sometimes mistake him for the gardener, but his wonderful landscaping definitely adds a beautiful “wow” factor to the property.

On site there is an excellent massage therapy studio, Healthself Therapeutics with registered massage therapists Meigan and Rachel. There are lots of options to choose from in both therapeutic or relaxation massage: Swedish, hot stone, Reiki, aromatherapy, myofascial, craniosacral.

What made Oceanstone particularly special for me was its sanctuary-like setting by the ocean. Coffee in hand, I would wander down the path to the natural open space that the Mi’kmaq blessed as sacred ground. Looking out at the ocean and the unspoiled view from my Adirondack chair, I began to feel a sense of reconnection. Time seemed to have dissipated; I was truly living in the moment. It was a powerful and relatively new sensation for me.

I felt what I can only call a spiritual energy; something both soothing and energizing. Somewhere I read or heard that the famous sleeping prophet/psychic Edgar Cayce had said that in Nova Scotia there is an energy spot that can change the world. Could this be the spot?

Spiritual travel

Each time I visit this part of Nova Scotia, the landscape seems to grow even more dramatic and more powerful. As I get older I feel as if I am seeing nature and its landscapes in a more focussed and intense way. Recently I read that baby boomers (my generation) is the avant garde in a new trend in travel and tourism; exploring “spiritual” places and destinations that “touch the soul.” This is what I now experience when I revisit the sea, rocks and nature of Nova Scotia’s Lighthouse Route on the province's eastern shore.

For More Information

Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture & Heritage
P.O. Box 456,
Halifax NS Canada
B3J 2R5
Toll-free 1-800-565-0000 (within North America)
Local & Outside North America 902.425.5781
Fax 902.424.2668

Nova Scotia Association of Unique Country Inns

Oceanstone Inn & Cottages,
8650 Peggy’s Cove Road
Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia B3Z 3P4
Toll-free 1-866-823-2160
Fax 902.823.1282

At Oceanstone, it is just a short walk up the driveway to the come-as-you-are fine seaside dining at the Rhubarb Grill & Café. Owned and operated by the MacInnis’s son and chef Paul, the food is superb and the service world-class. For dinner, I had “Butter Poached Lobster Tail,” a 3-4 ounce lobster tail with sliced mango warmed in a lemon grass and kaffir lime infused coconut broth.

“. . . so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, ‘I am guarding you — I am your support," but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorsely beat the measure of life, made one think of the destruction of the island and its engulfment in the sea, and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow — this sound which had been obscured and concealed under the other sounds suddenly thundered hollow in her ears and made her look up with an impulse of terror.” — from To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

Nova Scotia: Soothing the Soul
by Elle Andra-Warner

There’s something quite extraordinary about standing on the large granite glacier-smoothed boulders at Peggy’s Cove on Nova Scotia’s eastern shore and gazing out on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve been there numerous times yet on my last visit, the scene was even more dramatic.

Located 43 kilometres (27 miles) southwest of downtown Halifax, Peggy’s Cove — with its typical Maritime fishing village, rocky landscape and lighthouse — is situated on the eastern shore of St. Margaret’s Bay. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in Atlantic Canada.


Photographs by Elle Andra-Warner