The entire coastline of Nova Scotia is dotted with lighthouses, but only the stretch southwest of Halifax is called the Lighthouse Coast. Many of its lighthouses are accessible only by boat or helicopter. There is one, however, that is easily reached by road from Halifax, and it’s very popular: the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove, shown here in the very first light of day.
Pick up a guidebook on Atlantic Canada, and you’ll likely see an image of this lighthouse on the cover. You’ll also read that a massive number of tourists come here during the summer; the size of the nearby parking lot would seem to attest to that. One way to avoid the crowds is to wake up at 4am and arrive here at first light; very few people are nutty enough to be here at that time, and it helps make for a very non-typical photograph, like this one.
A more typical view of the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove, near sunrise. The structure serves as a post office as well; mail sent from here receives a special lighthouse-shaped cancellation mark.
The population of Peggy’s Cove numbers in the dozens, but that doesn’t prevent them from having a rather spectacular church. This is the St. John’s Anglican Church, built in 1883 and still in use today.
Nearby, a cat casually performs a remarkable balancing act along the edge of a board fence.
Another view of the St. John’s Anglican Church in Peggy’s Cove, the first of many churches that would draw my attention during this trip.
Thick ground cover near the church.
Sunrise at the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove, on Peggy’s Point, overlooking the entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay.
Another sunrise the following day over Mahone Bay, further down the Lighthouse Coast. This entire day was spent running back and forth to the little villages surrounding the bay: Chester, Lunenburg (including Blue Rocks), and the bay’s namesake village of Mahone Bay, my first stop.
No lighthouses this day, but plenty of churches. Mahone Bay is famous for the three churches situated along its waterfront, shown here from a distance late in the morning.
This is the first: the St. James Anglican Church, built in 1887.
Detail of the St. James Anglican Church, just after sunrise.
Trinity United Church is the third. It was constructed in 1861, but not in this location; it was dragged here by a team of oxen in 1885.
Between those two is St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, dating from 1869 but heavily rennovated in 1903. Even though the church is not open to tourists, the pastor was kind enough to let me photograph extensively inside.
The first thing one notices upon entry is the ceiling’s stunning woodwork, constructed like the hull of a ship flipped upside-down. Not surprisingly, it was created by ship carpenters; not surprisingly too, the work is structurally sound. As I was to discover later in my trip, a number of structures in the seafaring regions of Atlantic Canada use this same idea.
Organ flutes at St. John’s in Mahone Bay. Two ladies, apparently a teacher and her student, sat side by side practicing on the organ during my visit, and they were both quite good; I practically had a free concert while I was photographing.
The music was reason enough to stay for a while, but my main reason for doing so was because of the magnificent stained glass windows along the walls. They just begged to be photographed.
One local artist created all of the windows along the walls of the nave. The commission dates I saw on the windows indicate they were created during the 1990s. The artist has now retired, leaving the long, slim windows beside and above the church entryway untouched.
Detail of another three-panel window, entitled “Unto Us a Child is Born,” depicting the Magi. The pastor indicated that the artist had created sketches of ideas for those entryway windows, so that if they too receive a commission, another artist could do the work in a style similar to the existing windows.
The small town of Chester is a summer retreat that seems to cater to the same crowd as Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, with its upscale homes and specialty boutiques and nice boats everywhere on the bay. At the same time, the town seems almost devoid of population, and the few people who are out and about don’t seem to be in any hurry.
A shot late in the day from the main boat dock in Chester.
Another late-in-the-day shot of the waterfront in Lunenburg, with homes creeping up the hillside. Sadly, this is my only photograph of the place, because I simply did not allow myself enough time here; I would have needed a full day or two to wander the historic area and photograph all the old houses the way I would have liked. At least I now have a good reason to return.
One reason I ran out of time is because when I reached Lunenburg, I continued on a short distance to a tiny place called Blue Rocks, expecting to need no more than a few minutes to check it out. Wrong. It turns out that this is a wonderful little place to photograph. The entrance to the red-roofed shack shown here is one floor above the boat dock.
Four tiny cottages are clustered together at the very end of the road in Blue Rocks; go further, and you’re in the bay. This is a detail of one of the cottages.
A lobster shack at Blue Rocks.
Despite its small population, Blue Rocks has a local art scene. As I was taking the previous shot, a man opened up a shed across the street, put out some of his wares, and disappeared back inside his small abode. This was one of the craftsman’s creations: a painted two-by-four with a little rainhat, called a “Fishing Buddy,” size large. It’s yours for only $60.
Blue Rocks, a few miles east of Lunenburg.
A water-bound shack in Blue Rocks.
Fishing shacks near the end of the road to Blue Rocks. Of all the places I visited in Atlantic Canada, the Mahone Bay area is the one where I wish I had spent significantly more time. Since I also did not get to visit other nearby places like Shelburne, Annapolis Royal, and Grand Pré, I think I have a good portion of my next trip to the southwestern side of Nova Scotia already planned.