Tourists visiting Nova Scotia invariably want to see a perfect fishing village. They yearn to experience the fresh sea air with gulls and terns circling overhead, brightly coloured fishing shacks propped up on stilts along a rugged shore, weathered, shingled saltbox houses clinging to the rocks and brilliantly painted fishing boats bobbing in a protected cove.
Of course not many functioning fishing villages are picture perfect. But Peggy’s Cove comes pretty close to the ideal. It is one of the busiest tourist attractions in Nova Scotia and there are very good reasons for this.
The drive from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove is 45 km (or 28 mi.) and takes about an hour. As you approach the village along a winding road you pass through rocky, treeless terrain dotted with ponds. Sometimes the traffic in the summer will slow you down but this gives you more time to admire the scenery.
Your first stop will be the round, red and white lighthouse perched on a weathered granite point marking the entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay. Camera toting tourists cannot resist clicking away as they circle the structure and clamber over the impressive rocky coastline. Because the Atlantic swells that crash up against the shore are extremely dangerous you are warned to stay well back from waters edge.
In and around Peggy’s Cove you will see huge boulders that were deposited here when the massive ice cover that smoothed the rocks melted some 20,000 years ago. The town is built on the bed of Devonian granite that was produced when molten magma from the earth’s core reached the surface, cooled and solidified more than 400 million years ago. It quite humbling to consider the span of time involved in the creation of what we see today at Peggy’s Cove.
While the Peggy’s Point Lighthouse dominates the seaside of the town, the little village itself is marked by St. John’s Anglican Church. It is a picturesque structure built in the Carpenter Gothic style, that is, it is a 19th century wooden building designed in a style was based on the architecture the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe. For example, the pointed arches of the church’s widows are meant to make you think of the era when the faithful built Westminster Abbey or Canterbury Cathedral.
The notion that Peggy’s Cove is the ideal Atlantic Canada fishing village is, in large part, due to the popularity of the paintings of William de Garthe (1907-1983), a Finnish immigrant to Canada, who settled here. A small gallery celebrates his work which entranced tourists and inspired countless other painters to try their hand at capturing the romance of the idyllic community. Be sure to see de Garth’s carving on a granite rock entitled Fisherman’s Monument.
Peggy’s cove has an abundance of amenities to make the visitor’s experience complete. The Sou’Wester Restaurant and Gift Shop offers steak and lobster for the hungry and maritime souvenirs and crafts for the shoppers. If it’s paintings of the area that interest you, visit Jo Beale Gallery or Rogues Studio Gallery. There are several craft shops that are worth inspecting. Shopping is relaxing here as all the little stores are close together and each one has distinctive stock.
If you are staying the night in Peggy’s Cove there are several Inns, bed and breakfasts and cottages to choose from or you can continue to drive along the coast to Chester, Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. Each of these communities has its own character and offers fine accommodations, restaurants and shopping.