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View Fall Colours Musquodoboit Trail Slideshow Courtesy Adrien Blanchette

Many locals and experienced visitors to Nova Scotia will tell you that the best time to visit the province is in autumn.

Most of the tourists, at least those with school age families, have gone home.=, taking with them rocks and shells gathered on the beaches, t-shirts with pictures of Theodore Tugboat, the Titanic or breaching whales, and perhaps a lobster pot or two strapped to the roof of the car.

A quiet hangs over the city waterfront, where only a few weeks ago was the throb of fiddle music, the hum of harbour tour boats and the sound of laughter in a hundred different languages.

In the country and coastal areas, Nature is dressing for her biggest show of the year. The fog that creeps over the land in early spring and summer has given way to warm sunny days and cool made for walking evenings. The mosquitoes and blackflies are gone and the air smells of ripening wild apples and spruce, and the salty tang of the ever present sea. The Acadian boreal forests that spill over hills and valleys from the edge of the Atlantic coastline make a final show of brilliant colour that defies belief. It doesn't get much better than this.

The Eastern Shore is a perfect example of the natural autumn splendor that has made Nova Scotia famous the world over. For the fall traveler, there are almost as many outdoor choices as in the summer, but with fewer crowds. Whale watching, river canoeing, kayaking, surfing and sailing are still popular, but for those who just want to spend a few gentle (and drier) hours communing with nature, the province has an expanding network of walking and hiking and trails. With a group or going it solo, you can spend hours or days on the many trails on the Eastern Shore.

If your kicks won't reach the lamp-shade anymore, there are delightful areas where a walk is only a skip-jump to a beach and rest area. And for those who want to pick up the pace by bike, motorcycle or (gasp!) a car, try 'shunpiking' the off-trails where time has little meaning.

Here are some of the best viewing spots on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore:

Musquodoboit Region
From the Harbour to the Valley, this area definitely tops the list. Loads of hardwood with enough brilliant red maple and bright yellow ash to make your vision blur. Take a jaunt on the Musquodoboit Trailway. Part of the Trans-Canada Trail System, the Trailway is part of a unique area with many attractions and quite close to the city for day-trippers. The Valley is one of the most beautiful fall drives in the province. Centered in Middle Musquodoboit, it can be accessed by car through Highway #102 from Halifax or #224 from Sheet Harbour.

Musquodoboit River in AutumnBay of Islands Region
From Sheet Harbour to Sherbrooke, the Bay of Islands is a stretch of unspoiled vistas along the coast. Small fishing communities dot the highway and everywhere, the forests are ablaze and reflected in the rivers, lakes and coves. This area is home to many sea kayak routes and 4 of the province's 30 proposed wilderness areas. Boggy Lake, Alder Grounds, Liscombe River and Big Bog were designated in the 1998 Bill 24. Keep your eye out for the rolling Eastern Shore Drumlins. The tops are covered in red maple and birch. Magnificent.

At Moser River, take a drive up the Wilson's Falls Road toward Kelly Lake. The Kelly Lake region is closed to bird hunters (although larger game is still unprotected). You might glimpse deer, moose, bear, fox, coyote and lots of smaller wildlife... if you're really quiet. Seaward, you'll see hundreds of small islands. Part of this outcrop scattering includes The Eastern Shore Wildlife Management area, a group of 70 islands that have been protected since 1976 for their nesting colonies of seabirds and Grey Seals. The islands, bearing intriguing names like Pumpkin, Frying Pan and Brokenback are popular with sea kayakers and sailboat enthusiasts.

St. Mary's River
From Sherbrooke to Antigonish, Highway 7 ambles along the St. Mary's River through one of the most stunning autumn drives in the whole province. The St. Mary's is world famous for her salmon and many local groups are working hard on eco-projects to insure the reputation isn't obliterated by climate and environmental changes. This is an area of rolling farmlands where Dutch dairy and crop farmers spread their countryside charm over the landscape and you'll sing "Strawberry Fields Forever" if you stop to pick a basket or two or in the fertile river valley. On the hillsides, there are huge stands of hardwood that spread their reflected colours across the river, a treasure for painters and photographers.

A Cross-Canada cyclist (Kate Kennedy) who toured the country with the Climate Change Caravan had this to say, "As we drove we came to the alarming conclusion that we had forgone perhaps the nicest bike ride of the entire trip in our attempt to be productive. The landscape along the eastern shore is out of this world. The road follows the coast almost the entire way and with the setting sun edging the islands in view made for a beauty that challenges my praises of the Saint Lawrence landscape in Quebec."

Here are a few links to help you unearth the backpack you haven't seen for several years, weatherproof your old hiking boots, and get ready to feel exhilarated by the east coast of Nova Scotia's truly great, truly beautiful outdoors in autumn.

More Resources

Autumn Leaf Watch Update - Eastern Shore
Bay of Islands Center
Marine Drive Outdoor Database
Halifax County Trails- A clickable map with hiking routes
Eastern Sea Kayak Routes - 14 well-mapped routes from Cole Harbour to Canso
Marine Drive Highlights Map
Shunkpiking Fall Mystery Tours
The Trans-Canada Trail - NS Regional Trail Councils

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 Related Features
Signs of a Silent Spring
More Eastern Shore Nature
NS Environment Links
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Nova Scotia Frog Sound Files
Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists
Nova Scotia Nature Trust

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Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
Last Change: 01-Feb-2017