Nova Scotia Travel

The Best Lighthouses in Nova Scotia to Visit

August 25, 2022

Nova Scotia is known for idyllic, sweeping coastal scenery that is nothing short of majestic. Accompanying those seascape views are lighthouses, which are not only picturesque, but also an important part of Nova Scotia’s maritime history. There are currently more than 150 lighthouses in Nova Scotia with the first one dating back to the 1730’s. Lighthouses have been used for hundreds of years to guide ships safely into harbours at night and during bad weather and to warn them of danger.

Keep on reading to find out which lighthouses you should visit as you road trip around Nova Scotia.

the cape forchu lighthouse in yarmouth nova scotia lighthouses

Cape Forchu Lighthouse

One of the most well known lighthouses in Nova Scotia is the Cape Forchu Lighthouse, located on the province’s southwestern tip. This historic lighthouse has been guiding vessels coming and going from Yarmouth Harbour since the mid-nineteenth century. Today, visitors flock here for the scenic harbour and idyllic landscape.

The Cape Forchu Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in Nova Scotia where visitors can get a tour of the lantern room. To climb the 77 steps to the top of the lighthouse, you can book a guided tour online in advance.

Once at the top you will be able to see 360 degree views of the cape and harbour. The sunsets and stargazing are well worth your time from around the lighthouse as well. This lighthouse is a stop on the Evangeline Trail, which is a scenic roadway in Nova Scotia.

The distance from Halifax to Cape Forchu is 312 kms (about 194 miles), with an estimated driving time of about three and a half hours.

the seal island lighthouse museum in barrington nova scotia

Seal Island Lighthouse

Also located in southern Nova Scotia is the Seal Island Lighthouse. Built in the mid-nineteenth century, this lighthouse was constructed to help guide those at sea through the especially treacherous terrain in the area.

The Seal Island Lighthouse is situated on an island, which makes it difficult to travel to. There is another option for seeing the lighthouse in a different way however, which is the Seal Island Light Museum in Barrington. This museum was built in 1978 as a duplicate of the lighthouse, and it imitates the top half of the tower. You can view the lighthouse equipment, and various items that highlight the history of the fishing and sailing industry in the area and the lights on nearby islands.

Adorning the top of the Seal Island Light Museum is a cast iron lantern from the original lighthouse. A fun feature of the museum is that you can climb the iron stairs to the third floor, and look at the initial clockwork structure and the Second Order Fresnel Lens from the original lighthouse.

The Seal Island Light Museum is part of the Lighthouse Route, which is a scenic roadway that hugs the south shore. Several of the lighthouses in this article are part of this route.

The distance from Halifax to the Seal Island Light Museum is about 240 kms (around 150 miles). That is an estimated driving time of just over 2 hours and 30 minutes.

a foggy day at the cape sable lighthouse on cape days in barrington nova scotia

Cape Sable Lighthouse

The Cape Sable Lighthouse is Nova Scotia’s tallest lighthouse, clocking in at 101 feet tall. Located in southern Nova Scotia it is also the third tallest lighthouse in all of Canada.

The origin of the Cape Sable Lighthouse stems from somber roots. Due to a significant number of lives lost at sea in the Cape Sable area due to the harsh territory, the first lighthouse was erected in the mid-nineteenth century. A distinctive feature of the tower was red lights, in addition to white lights, to help guide vessels appropriately. In the mid-twentieth century, the current Cape Sable lighthouse was built. This tower was made of reinforced concrete, so it would hold up to the strong weather conditions in the area.

The Cape Sable Lighthouse is somewhat difficult to get to, as it is located on the island of Cape Sable. (Not to be confused with nearby Cape Sable Island.) A great way to see the lighthouse is from the nearby Hawk Beach on the mainland. Take a stroll on the white sand beach and enjoy the beautiful views of the lighthouse in the distance. If you’re a bird lover, you’re in luck because this beach is also a great place for bird-watching.

The distance from Halifax to Cape Sable lighthouse is about 261 kms (around 163 miles), making for an almost 3 hour drive. Additionally, this lighthouse is part of the Lighthouse Route.

How to Get to the Cape Sable Lighthouse

You can hire a local fisherman to take you by boat to the island for the day. Look for posted signs around the area for who to contact. Also on the second Saturday of every August the community celebrates Cape Days and volunteers offer free boat rides to and from the island. Once there you can explore the island, enjoy the beaches, look for roaming sheep and visit the lighthouse. During Cape Days there are also outhouses available on the island and hotdogs and drinks for sale as well.

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peggys cove at sunset image credit cailin oneil nova scotia explorer

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse

Get your camera ready for the next lighthouse on the list. Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is one of the world’s most photographed lighthouses. This lighthouse is in the small fishing community of Peggy’s Cove and the lighthouse is also known as Peggy’s Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is intended to signal the point, rather than the cove. Specifically, the lighthouse also signals the eastern entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay.

The current tower was constructed in the early-twentieth century. The story behind how the lighthouse and cove got its name is vague, but some ideas suggest the origin comes from an early settler or shipwreck survivor named Margaret or Peggy.

Great news for visitors to the lighthouse is that there is a newly constructed viewing deck, perfect for stunning views of the tower and surrounding landscape. This new space also creates a much more accessible area and way to view the lighthouse and includes upgraded restrooms for visitors.

While you’re there, stop by the Sou’Wester restaurant for their famous gingerbread. And if you’d like a souvenir to remember your visit, they also have a gift shop. Grab a lobster roll from Tom’s Lobster shack. Or other great dining options nearby are the Rhubarb restaurant or Shaw’s Landing.

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is also part of the Lighthouse Route. The distance from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is about 45 km (28 miles), which is just over 45 minutes driving time.

cape dor lighthouse in advocate harbour nova scotia Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Patrick Rojo
image credit Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Patrick Rojo

Cape D’Or Lighthouse

The Cape D’Or lighthouse is located in Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia overlooking the Bay of Fundy home to the highest tides in the world. The lighthouse helps guide ships into the Minas Basin and keeps them away from the rocky shoreline and basalt cliffs.

The first warning signal located here was actually a steam fog whistle and was placed there in 1874. Later in 1922 the first lighthouse was built at this location. Today there is a lighthouse and two lighthouse keepers buildings. What makes this lighthouse so unique is that one of the keepers buildings has been converted into a 4 room B&B open May to November. The other is a restaurant called the Lightkeeper’s Kitchen open June to October.

This is the only lighthouse in Nova Scotia where you can spend the night. To guarantee your stay book ahead of time by calling or emailing them and know that they accept cash only. Visit their website HERE.

The Cape D’Or lighthouse is located a 3 hour drive from Halifax or 232km (144 miles).

point prim lighthouse in digby nova scotia

Point Prim Lighthouse

The Point Prim Lighthouse marks the entryway for the Digby Gut channel in south western Nova Scotia. Not to be confused with the Point Prim Lighthouse on eastern Prince Edward Island. Located on the edge of a cliff, surrounded by a forest and rocky coast. This setting makes for some absolutely incredible views.

Initially the light at this location was just a bonfire and a man who would fire off a musket as a warning signal. Then in 1817 the first lighthouse structure was built here. In 1887 the lighthouse keeper at Point Prim was Captain William E. Ellis and this is where he invented the first automatic foghorn.

When you visit the Point Prim Lighthouse, you will see fishing boats in the water, as well as the Fundy Rose Ferry passing by. There’s also a variety of wildlife, including birds, seals, and even whales. At the lighthouse there is a small park with a parking lot. You can also take a short hike along the trail to get stunning views of the landscape.

Along with the Cape Forchu Lighthouse, the Point Prim Lighthouse is a stop on the Evangeline Trail.

The distance from Halifax to the Point Prim Lighthouse is about 230 kms (almost 144 miles). A two and a half hour drive.

louisbourg lighthouse in cape breton Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Acorn Art & Photography
image credit Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Acorn Art & Photography

Louisbourg Lighthouse

Located on the eastern side of Cape Breton Island, the Louisbourg Lighthouse is perched on the edge of the Louisbourg Harbour.

Louisbourg is historically significant in lighthouse history. The first lighthouse built here was the first in Canada and the second lighthouse in all of North America. The first Louisbourg Lighthouse was built in the mid-eighteenth century however, it was later harmed by a fire, as well as crossfire during a siege on the fortress. The second lighthouse was built in the mid-nineteenth century, but it was taken out by a fire in 1922 and the third which is the current one, was constructed in 1923.

When visiting this tower, check out the Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail. It starts at the lighthouse, and as you hike along there are educational markers and fantastic views. Be sure to hike with a friend or a walking stick as there are coyotes in the area. Also nearby is Kennelly’s Day Use Area, which is a great place for a picnic and bird-watching.

The Louisbourg Lighthouse is located just under a five hour drive 432km (268 miles) from Halifax.

marache point lighthouse in cape auget cape breton

Marache Point Lighthouse

Situated near Cape Auget on Isle Madame is the Marache Point Lighthouse. Isle Madame is an island located off the southeastern part of Cape Breton Island.

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In the mid-nineteenth century, merchants and ship-owners requested that lighthouses be built to signal the southern and western entrances to the Arichat Harbour. A few years later, the first lighthouse was constructed, becoming the Marache Point Lighthouse.

Arguably, the best thing about visiting the Marache Point Lighthouse is the beautiful sunsets.

The Marache Point Lighthouse is 320km (198miles) which is a 3 and a half hours drive from Halifax.

georges island lighthouse in the Halifax harbour

George’s Island Lighthouse In The Halifax Harbour

The George’s Island Lighthouse is located in the middle of the Halifax harbour in downtown Halifax on George’s Island. For the best views of this lighthouse take a stroll along the Halifax waterfront boardwalk. Or if you want to get a bit closer then take a boat tour to George’s Island National Historic Site with Parks Canada and Ambassatours. Once you get to the island, take a tour of the tunnels, explore Fort Charlotte, and enjoy the city views. Be sure to take a picnic to enjoy as well!

When the first lighthouse was constructed in 1876, it’s purpose was to direct vessels entering and leaving the Halifax Harbour. This lighthouse was later destroyed by a fire in the early-twentieth century. The current lighthouse was built in 1917 and it’s design was intended to mimic that of the Louisbourg lighthouse in Cape Breton.

sandy point lighthouse shelburne county nova scotia

Sandy Point Lighthouse

Situated on the south shore of Nova Scotia in the town of Shelburne is the Sandy Point Lighthouse. The first lighthouse in this area was built in the late-nineteenth century, and it was constructed on a pier. Unfortunately, the initial lighthouse burned down, and a new lighthouse was built to replace it in the early-twentieth century. That came to be the current Sandy Point Lighthouse, nestled on the eastern entrance to the Shelburne Harbour out in the water at the edge of a sand bar.

The Sandy Point Lighthouse is a tapered tower made of wood. When the tide is low, you can actually walk right up to the lighthouse from across the sand bar. Near the lighthouse, there is a beach, as well as a community centre that has snacks and refreshments. Arguably, the best time to come here is in the summer when the water is warm for swimming.

The distance between Halifax and the Sandy Point Lighthouse is about 217km (around 135 miles), which is about a two and a half hour drive. This lighthouse is also part of the Lighthouse Route.

baccaro point lighthouse shelburne county nova scotia

Baccaro Lighthouse

The Baccaro Lighthouse is located on the south shore by Barrington Bay. In fact, Baccaro is the southernmost point of mainland Nova Scotia. This lighthouse was built in the mid-nineteenth century. To visually distinguish it from nearby lighthouses, three black circles were painted on separate panels of the building.

Today, this tower is right by the edge of the ocean overlooking a rocky shore, looking out to sea. Also, the area where the lighthouse is located is a well known location in Nova Scotia to watch seabirds.

The distance between Halifax and the Baccaro Point Lighthouse is about 257 kms (around 160 miles), which is about a 2 hour and 50 minute drive. And like several other towers on this list, the Baccaro Point Lighthouse is part of the Lighthouse Route.

pomquet island lighthouse near bayfield nova scotia

Bonus Lighthouse: The Pomquet Island Lighthouse

Perched on Pomquet Island is the fittingly named Pomquet Island Lighthouse. This lighthouse is located near Pomquet Point by Bayfield, which is the northern part of mainland Nova Scotia.

This short, white lighthouse was erected in the mid-nineteenth century and my (Cailin) great grandfather used to be the lighthouse keeper. My grandmother grew up at the lighthouse and either took a row boat to school or a sleigh over the ice in winter.

While you’re in the area, check out Bayfield Beach Provincial Park. This is a nice place to get out and explore while you’re in the vicinity of the lighthouse. Pomquet is also a small Acadian village full of history.

The distance from Halifax to the Pomquet Island Lighthouse is about 236 kms (nearly 147 miles). A almost two and a half hour drive.

a lighthouse airbnb in five islands nova scotia

Lighthouse AirBnB Five Islands, Nova Scotia

If you want to stay in an actual lighthouse that unfortunately isn’t a current available option in Nova Scotia. However you can stay in an AirBnB that was built to look like a lighthouse. Thats close enough! Check out the Unique Lighthouse with Hot tub in Five Islands NS on AirBnB HERE. This is a three story lighthouse shaped building that sleeps four. There is a full kitchen, bathroom and dining area on the main floor. On the second floor is the main bedroom and a washer and dryer. On the third floor is a couch that turns into a bed, TV and 360 degrees views of the area. Outside there is also a nice deck and hot tub with great views as well.

If you do want to stay in an actual lighthouse however check out the West Point Lighthouse Inn & Museum in Prince Edward Island. Check it out HERE. W

For the most detailed map of Nova Scotian Lighthouses visit the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society website.

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