18/04/2024

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Best Nova Scotia South Shore Beaches to Visit

15 min read
Best Nova Scotia South Shore Beaches to Visit

Nova Scotia’s license plate “Canada’s Ocean Playground” says it all. There are hundreds of beaches dotting the 7,500 plus kilometres of coastline that make up Nova Scotia. And while I’ve spent several years in the province, I am most familiar with the south shore beaches of Nova Scotia. And let me tell you, they are beauties.

From Halifax to Yarmouth there are a fantastic number of pristine, soft white sand beaches. Whether you want to sunbathe, swim, walk or just stare out at the sea and relax, there is a fabulous white sand beach for you.

The Nova Scotia south shore beaches are some of the most beautiful in Canada, so it’s hard to pick a favourite, even though that’s what everyone wants. My top picks – more from the point of view of long walks and white sand, rather than swimming and sunbathing – are Beach Meadows Beach, Cherry Hill Beach, Crescent Beach near Lockeport and St. Catherine’s River Beach.  

To keep these beaches looking their best and to protect birds and wildlife, please practice Leave No Trace principles. Most beaches I have visited are pristine and it sure would be nice to keep it that way forever.

Best time to visit the south shore beaches in Nova Scotia

The best time to visit the south shore beaches in Nova Scotia is in the summer from June until early September as you can usually count on warm weather, long days, and less rainfall. Some years June can still be on the cool side but July, August and into September are usually ideal.

Summer is the busiest time to visit the South Shore Nova Scotia beaches, so if you prefer solitude and you don’t give a whit about swimming, then a visit in spring and fall can be lovely. 

Ocean temperatures run cold off the Nova Scotia South Shore beaches, though the water warms up – a bit – as the summer progresses. A quick, cold swim is always invigorating – and very good for you. 

For those of you love to walk the beach, it doesn’t really matter what time of the year you visit. Pick a sunny, blue-sky day in the dead of winter, and you’ll feel invigorated by a beach walk.

Beautiful Crescent Beach near Lockeport
Beautiful Crescent Beach near Lockeport

Safety on the best Nova Scotia South Shore beaches

Dogs: Keep dogs leashed if asked to do so.

Birdlife: The endangered Piping Plover nests on fewer than 30 beaches in Nova Scotia but they need all the human help you can give them. From May until late August steer clear of sensitive nesting areas. Don’t let your dog off leash as they can easily inadvertently crush a piping plover egg. And walk near the tide line.

Rip currents: Some beaches in Nova Scotia have rip currents – something you don’t want to get caught in but could in theory survive if you know what to do. Check out what Parks Canada has to say.

Water temperature: Nova Scotia beaches are generally very cold, though some warmup by August. Warmer water beaches in Nova Scotia are typically found along the Northumberland Strait.

Tidal fluctuation: Any beach along the Bay of Fundy is going to see a massive tidal variation. To stay safe, head back to shore two hours before high tide. When it turns, it moves very fast.

Many beaches in Nova Scotia are lovely to visit in October - like this deserted Port Mouton Island Beach
Many beaches in Nova Scotia are lovely to visit in October – like this deserted Port Mouton Island Beach

Location map of some of the best Nova Scotia south shore beaches

                                                                     

Beach Meadows Beach – one of my top picks of the Nova Scotia south shore beaches

Beach Meadows Beach, only a 10-minute drive from Liverpool, is one of the best Nova Scotia beaches on the south shore with its beautiful, fine white sand. The beach is 2.2 km-long, so it’s a great one for an out and back walk. At the southern end of the beach there are some fantastic rocks for exploring and hanging out on – and at the other end a salty river. There is also a good view over to Coffin Island.

According to one of the locals I spoke with, the ocean is usually too cold for swimming except for three weeks in August. He also said there are no nasty rip tides.

You’ll find good amenities here including a picnic area, fire pits, a change room, washrooms, and boardwalks.

How to get to Beach Meadows Beach: The beach is 8 km east of Liverpool. Take Highway 3 east of Liverpool and continue as it becomes Eastern Shore Road. Make a right on Old Meeting House Road. Stay on it as it becomes Beach Meadows Crossing Road. Look for parking off Israel Lane.

Beach Meadows Beach was my favourite in the Liverpool area and a top pick of the south shore Nova Scotia beaches
Beach Meadows Beach was my favourite in the Liverpool area

Carter’s Beach 

You’ll find Carter’s Beach, a beautiful white sand beach, less than a 20-minute drive from Liverpool. The beach is bookended by rocky islets. There are a few trees close to the parking lot and scattered low sand dunes.

With it’s tropical look thanks to aquamarine waters, this is one of the Nova Scotia south shore beaches that is a perennial favourite. The downside is that there is limited parking, a problem in summer, but not at other times of the year.

When it’s low tide, wade across the tidal river at the far end of Carter’s Beach to reach another white sand beauty. At high tide the water can be waist deep and is best avoided.

If you’re visiting with your young family, hang out on the beach beside the river as the water is warmer since it’s shallower and you’re usually out of the wind.

How to get to Carter’s Beach: From Liverpool, drive south on Highway 103. Turn east on the White Point Connector to reach Highway 3. Turn right or south on Highway 3 (the Lighthouse Route), continuing through Port Mouton. Take Central Port Mouton Road to Carter’s Beach Road and drive to the end.

Only a few visitors on an overcast day in the fall at Carters Beach, one of the loveliest Nova Scotia South Shore beach
Only a few visitors on an overcast day in the fall at Carters Beach

Cherry Hill Beach

The Cherry Hill Beach Nature Reserve “protects a 2 km long barrier beach and dune system between Broad Cove and Voglers Cove.” 

This south shore Nova Scotia beach is one of my favourites for a couple of reasons. The beach is long – as in you feel like you have the place to yourself and can get lost in your thoughts with the only distraction being the sanderlings in attendance. And the white sand here is luxurious feeling.

How to get to Cherry Hill Beach: The beach is a 3-minute drive from Bridgewater via Highway 331 along the south shore. Turn left near the fire hall on Henry Conrad Road for public beach access.

Cherry Hill Beach - one of the emptiest of the Nova Scotia south shore beaches
Cherry Hill Beach – one of the emptiest of the Nova Scotia south shore beaches

Crescent Beach near Lockeport

Pull out an old $50 Canadian bill and you’ll see beautiful mile long Crescent Beach near Lockeport featured. It looks much the same way it did back in 1954!

In summer check out the Crescent Beach Centre. Here you’ll find free internet, a canteen, change rooms and showers, washrooms, and lots of parking. 

I love this Nova Scotia south shore beach and think it would be a fantastic place to hang out for the day, especially if you caught a festival like the Sea Derby or showed up on the day of the sand building contest.

How to get to Crescent Beach: From Shelburne take Highway 3 northeast to Highway 103. At Jordan Falls turn right and go south on Highway 3 all the way to the end at Crescent Beach.

Crescent Beach was featured on the back of Canada's $50 bill for 20 years starting in 1954
Crescent Beach was featured on the back of Canada’s $50 bill for 20 years starting in 1954

Crescent Beach, Lunenburg County

Crescent Beach near LaHave is unusual in that it is a beach barrier called a tombolo – a natural sand bar that heads straight offshore to an island. The beach is approximately 2 km long by 40 – 65 m wide – so it’s an ideal one for a beach walk. 

The swimming judging by some hardy old folks I saw, seems to be very good as well into late September!

How to get to Crescent Beach: From Lunenburg the most direct route is to take Highway 332 south to East LaHave. The cable ferry departs on the 1/4 hour and 3/4 hour. Once in LaHave, take Highway 331 along the coast all the way to Crescent Beach. Allow 45 minutes to an hour – providing you’ve timed the ferry well. Note that the ferry from LaHave leaves on the hour and half hour.

You can swim at Crescent Beach and enjoy a long walk on the sand
You can swim at Crescent Beach and enjoy a long walk on the sand

Hirtle’s Beach – one of the glorious Nova Scotia south shore beaches

Both locals and visitors alike love Hirtle’s Beach, the starting point for the beautiful Gaff Point Trail hike. It’s just a 25-minute drive south of Lunenburg to reach it. The beach is 2.6-km long and is described as a living beach as “the beach moves and shifts at the whim of the ocean.”

Hirtle’s Beach is made up of sand and cobbles and as such is a great one for walking. There are several large ponds behind the beach, so it’s also a good place to visit if you’re a birder.

In September 2023, the parking area and shoreline was hit by a severe storm, but as this is an ever-changing beach, there will always be something to love about a visit here.

The scenery at this beach is more dramatic that many with headlands at either end. Look for boogie boarders and swimmers here. 

There are washrooms at the parking lot and many interpretive panels to read.

How to get to Hirtle’s Beach: From Lunenburg go south on Highway 332 to Indian Path Road and go south to pick up Highway 332 again. (Highway 332 is closed to Rose Bay.) Turn left and continue east at Rose Bay – where there is a great little cafe. Go south from Rose Bay on Kingsburg Road to reach a T intersection. Go right on Hirtle’s Beach Road to the end. There is a good big parking lot.

Hirtles Beach not far from Lunenburg
Hirtle’s Beach not far from Lunenburg

St. Catherine’s River Beach in Kejimkujik Seaside National Park

On a fall trip to Kejimkujik Seaside National Park, my friends and I chose the Harbour Rocks Trail. If you take it to its end you’ll reach the start of the St. Catherine’s River Beach, one of the South Sore Nova Scotia beaches you can visit only after the endangered piping plover has left – usually sometime at the end of August.

From the harbour rocks you can walk the entire length of the St. Catherine’s River Beach – which is approximately 2.5 km long. It’s a white sand beauty and would be a fantastic thing to do if you had the time.

The 5.5 km return hike to the beach on the Harbour Rocks trail is well-signed and straight forward. In the photo below, you can see the distant expanse of St. Catherine’s River Beach. It would be a full day’s hike in the fall to walk to the end of the beach and back to the parking lot, especially with stops, but the chances of seeing more than a few humans is slim.

How to get to the trailhead (and beach) in Kejimkujik National Park Seaside: From Liverpool it’s about a 25-minute drive. Take NS10s west for 23 km to Port Joli. Turn left onto St. Catherine’s River Road and follow it for 8.6 km to reach the parking area and trailhead for the Harbour Rocks trail.

St. Catherine's River Beach accessed via the Harbour Rocks Trail in Kejimkujik National Park (Seaside)
St. Catherine’s River Beach accessed via the Harbour Rocks Trail in Kejimkujik National Park (Seaside)

Port Mouton Island Beach

One fall day I enjoyed summer-like weather on a paddle from Port Mouton to Port Mouton Island. Not many people will be able to experience the gorgeous deserted white sand beach on Port Mouton Island, but if you are a kayaker, whether you live in Nova Scotia or you’re from away – I highly recommend the experience. Plan on a full day so you have plenty of time to lounge on the beach once you reach the island.

How to get to Port Mouton Island Beach: Kayak across from Port Mouton – either in your own boat if you have the experience or sign up for a tour with Liverpool Adventure Outfitters or Candlebox Kayaking.

Port Mouton Island Beach
Port Mouton Island Beach
This is my idea of heaven - a white sand beach, blue skies, no one around and a kayak
This is my idea of heaven – a white sand beach, blue skies, no one around and a kayak

Rissers Beach

Rissers Beach was one I was very much looking forward to visiting in 2023, but my timing was a week after a major storm that has closed the day-use beach until further notice. I’ll keep and eye on when it opens as this was the home of a beautiful 1.5-km long sheltered sandy beach and a boardwalk along an inland marsh. Some of the boardwalk is still standing but much of it was destroyed in the storm.

How to get to Risser’s Beach: Rissers Beach is easily accesses via Highway 331 along the coast. It is a 10-minute drive from LaHave and a 25-minute drive from Bridgewater via Crousetown, Italy Cross, and Petite Riviere Roads.  

Risser's Beach was hit hard by the September 2023 storm - and it seems the campground is open for 2024
Risser’s Beach was hit hard by the September 2023 storm – and it seems the campground is open for 2024
What's left of the boardwalk at Risser's Beach
What’s left of the boardwalk at Risser’s Beach

Summerville Beach

Summerville Beach is a 15 – 20-minute drive southwest of Liverpool. The Quarterdeck Restaurant looks out over the beach as does the oceanfront accommodation offered at the resort.

Summerville Beach is about a kilometre long and is backed by sand dunes and an open salt marsh. If you hike to the far end of the beach, you’ll reach an old trestle over the Broad River. Reportedly this is the beach in the area to visit if you want to go swimming.

How to get to Summerville Beach: From Liverpool head southwest for 14.5 km on Highway 3. Look for parking just past the Quarterdeck Resort.

Summerville Beach, one of the beautiful Nova Scotia south shore beaches with this section in front of the Quarterdeck Resort
Summerville Beach, one of the beautiful Nova Scotia south shore beaches with this section in front of the Quarterdeck Resort

White Point Beach

White Point Beach Resort, 10 km south of Liverpool, faces kilometre long White Point Beach. At high tide as you can see in the photo below, there isn’t always a lot of sand to walk on, so you’re forced up onto the rocks. I quite liked the walk on a windy, wavy day when hardly anyone else ventured out. The ocean isn’t very safe for swimming but it sure is a scenic one for a walk.

After you’ve enjoyed a walk on a mix of large cobbles and sand, head into White Point Beach Resort for a meal or a drink with a view. It’s a splendid way to spend the day no matter what the season.

How to get to White Point Beach: Head southwest on Highway 3 (Nova Scotia Trunk Road 3) for approximately 8.6 km. Turn left onto White Point Road Number Two for 400 m. Turn left on White Point Beach Resort Road and follow it to the end. There is lots of parking but it’s a bit of a walk to the beach.

White Point Beach Resort fronts White Point Beach
White Point Beach Resort fronts White Point Beach – one of the south shore Nova Scotia beaches close to Liverpool

Thomas Raddall Beach

Thomas Raddall Provincial Park, is literally across from Kejimkujik National Park Seaside. The park is home to three beaches, though I admit I have only walked one of them but what a beauty it was.

All beaches are sandy and suitable for walking and swimming including one at the day-use area. The park is open from mid-May until mid-October. From Halifax it’s a 178 km, two-hour drive.

How to get to Thomas Raddall Beach: From Halifax drive west on Highway 103. Turn left onto Highway 3. Pass Port Joli. Stay on Port L’Hébert Road. Make a left on Raddall Park Road. The beach is accessed from the campground at the end of the road.

One of the beaches in Thomas Raddall Provincial Park
One of the south shore Nova Scotia beaches in Thomas Raddall Provincial Park

More Nova Scotia beaches not on the south shore I recommend visiting

Blomidon Beach, Blomidon Provincial Park

Blomidon Provincial Park is only a 90-minute drive northeast of Halifax. The park, and in particular the mud flats make a fantastic family outing. What’s more fun than mud when you’re a kid? This park has lots of it, especially at low tide where you can walk for miles and miles on the ocean floor. 

A note of caution is in order. Tides on the Bay of Fundy move at incredible speeds and most people would never be able to outrun it. Plan your visit to coincide with a falling tide.  Ideally, plan to show up three hours before and after low tide.

Don’t wear white running shoes or any good clothes as the red mud has a nasty habit of getting everywhere and never leaving.

Blomidon Provincial Park is also home to dramatic cliffs, up to 600 feet tall, cliffs, a variety of habitats, and beachcombing opportunities. Plan a visit to Blomidon Provincial Park according to the Cape Blomidon tide chart available online.

How to get to Blomidon Beach: The formal park address is 3138 Pereau Road, Blomidon. If you get there, it will be an easy walk down to the mud flats. From the centre of Canning, drive north on Highway 358. Turn right onto Bessie North Road and then left on Perau Road. Continue until you reach Blomidon Provincial Park and the campground. From there look for stairs down to the mud flats/beach.

Blomidon Beach
Blomidon Beach

Lawrencetown Beach

Head to Lawrencetown Beach, 25 km east of Halifax if you’re into surfing. It’s the top spot for surfers in Nova Scotia and there’s a surf school if you want to take lessons. September and October is prime time for surfing as its in Nova Scotia’s storm season when hurricanes occasionally threaten. I’ll stick to watching from the safety of the sand dunes. 

The 1.5 km mostly white sand beach is a beauty. There is good parking just above the beach on Highway 207.

How to get to Lawrencetown Beach: From downtown Halifax, go north for 5.7 km on Barrington Street to reach Highway 111. Continue on Highway 11 South and Nova Scotia Trunk Road 7E to Ross Road/NS328S in Westphal. Turn right onto Ross Road for 3.7 km. Turn left onto Nova Scotia 207 East and continue all the way to Lawrencetown Beach. Allow about 45 minutes.

Lawrencetown Beach - one of the best beaches in Nova Scotia
Lawrencetown Beach – one of the best beaches in Nova Scotia

Martinique Beach

I visited this beach a zillion years ago but before the time I took photos. It is Nova Scotia’s longest beach, coming in at a whopping 5 km. On this beach look for sand dollars and beach glass. There is a protected area for the piping plover on the beach along with a wildlife refuge.

Facilities at the beach include a picnic area, outdoor washrooms and a change room.

How to get to Martinique Beach: From Halifax take Highway 107 east to West Petpeswick Road in Musquodobit Harbour. Continue on East Petpeswick Road for 13.6 km to reach Martinique Beach. 

Martinique Beach - Phot credit: John Douglas on Flickr Creative Commons
Martinique Beach – Phot credit: John Douglas on Flickr Creative Commons

Pond Cove Beach, Brier Island

Pond Cove Beach is well off the beaten track as few people make it as far as Brier Island

The Brier Island Nature Preserve Coastal Trail hike starts near Pond Cove Beach. The beach as you can see is a beauty at sunset and a lovely place to enjoy a fire. Wood pallets formed into seats situated around a fire pit ensure a lovely evening of sunset watching and stargazing. There’s a supply of dry wood under a tarp to make your beach experience that much more enjoyable.

Pond Cove Beach has an end of the world feeling to it. You feel far removed from civilization, and chances are the only thing you’ll hear are crashing waves and the gulls.

How to get to Pond Cove Beach: Assuming you’ve made it as far as Brier Island, then the rest is easy. From Westport drive southeast on Water Street to reach Gull Rock Road. Full it for 3.1 km. Turn right to reach a parking lot. The beach is a short walk away.

Pond Cove Beach on Brier Island is the perfect place to catch a sunset
Pond Cove Beach on Brier Island is the perfect place to catch a sunset

Final thoughts on the beaches of Nova Scotia’s South Shore

The South Shore of Nova Scotia  is home to a large number of stunning beaches – and I have by no means visited them all. I know Nova Scotians aren’t shy about sharing their favourites, so if you have one please let me know in the comments. If you have a good photo even better – and I’ll add it with photo credit of course to the blog. For those of you who live in Nova Scotia, consider yourself lucky to have so many world-class beaches on your doorstep.

For the rest of us a visit to Nova Scotia, especially in summer, would not be complete without spending time on one or more of the south shore Nova Scotia beaches described. 

Carter's Beach - one of the best beaches on the Nova Scotia south shore
Carter’s Beach

Interested in experiencing more of Nova Scotia

Do you love to hike? 

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Paddlers won’t want to miss this trip

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Best beaches on the south shore of Nova Scotia to visit

 

 

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