Shelburne County, Nova Scotia is located in the South East of the province making up the bottom third of the south shore. The county is made up of various towns and the Municipalities of Barrington and Shelburne. Once thought to be the capital of Nova Scotia this area of the province has quite a historical past. Over the years the area was settled by American Loyalists, Acadians, and Black Loyalists. However of course the Mi’kmaq lived here first.
Aside from visiting to learn about a lot of history there are also a lot of great places to eat, lighthouses to see, beaches to enjoy and more. Here is the best list of what to see, do and eat in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia.
What to See, Do and Eat in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia
Where to Eat in Shelburne County?
Barrington, Nova Scotia is the lobster capital of Canada. Lobster season starts every year in this area at the end of November running until the end of May. You literally can’t visit the area without trying lobster and there are many places that serve it in various different ways. From lobster rolls to lobster boils, lobster fondue, lobster dip, creamed lobster and more. Of course there are also a lot of other non-lobster delicious things to enjoy as well. Here are the best places to eat in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia.
Captain Kat’s in Barrington, Nova Scotia is known for their seafood and all of the lobster. They have a large extensive menu that features a bunch of fresh seafood from fish and chips to lobster fondue, baked lobster spinach dip, seafood chowder, fish cakes, haddock, clams, scallops and so much more. They also serve an award winning lobster roll that is not to be missed. Served on a toasted bun with garlic butter and mayo. So delicious. Their seafood is the best but there are non-seafood options available as well.
Dan’s Ice Cream Shoppe
Not only does Dan’s serve up the best ice cream treats around, they also have other great desserts, salads, and sandwiches too. From epic sundaes and banana splits to delicious cookies, Nanaimo bars, milkshakes, cakes and more. They are your go to ice cream treat destination on the south shore year round.
Nova Scotian Rollies and Catering Company
Located in Shelburne, Nova Scotian Rollies and Catering Company is a great place to stop to grab lunch or dinner as well as delicious desserts to enjoy there or take to go. They also sometimes offer freshly made sushi that is incredibly fresh and delightful. Nova Scotia Rollies also makes a unique lobster roll that was awarded second place in the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl Festival lobster roll competition. Their lobster roll is served on a sweet brown bread bun with a side of delicious mango salsa. The sweetness of the bread really compliments the lobster.
Boxing Rock Brewing Co.
Boxing Rock Brewing Co. is a craft beer company located in Shelburne. They serve delicious craft beers for various tastes. Stop in and grab some to go or stay and enjoy their indoor seating or outdoor patio. They also offer a great food menu as well. Along with Wild Axe they host a weekly axe throwing competition that you can sign up for for fun. If you fall in love with their drinks then be sure to check out the Boxing Rock Brewmance box. A subscription box of beer and goodies sent out every three months.
The Beandock Cafe
The Beandock is a cute cafe and shop located along the historic Shelburne waterfront. It is a great place to grab a sandwich or tasty dessert to go. Then you can enjoy them outside at a picnic table overlooking the Shelburne harbour. One of the best food items on their menu is the scallop bacon wrap. Pan fried breaded scallops in a wrap, with bacon, cheese, lettuce and house made tartar sauce. It might sound a little odd at first but it is so delicious and reasonably priced. You will probably go back for it more than once.
The Haddock Shack
The Haddock Shack is a roadside food stall located just past Shag Harbour. Their seafood platter with clams, haddock and scallops gets rave reviews. Their haddock fish and chips just on their own are really great too. Be sure to bring your appetite as the portion sizes are quite hearty. The Haddock Shack makes all food to go, but there are also picnic tables nearby where you can sit and enjoy your food too.
If you are looking for a great coffee or treat, then be sure to also check out the Salty Shores Cafe in Barrington or the Charlotte Lane Cafe in Shelburne.
What are the best beaches in Shelburne County?
There are many beaches in Shelburne County and depending on the location, tide height, amenities and more they are all great for one reason or another. Here are some of the best beaches in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia for you to enjoy.
The Hawk Beach
The Hawk Beach on Cape Sable Island in Barrington is one of the most popular beaches in Shelburne County. It is a beautiful large white sand beach however the reason it is so popular is because of it’s one unique feature. On part of the beach you can see remnants of an old drowned forest sticking up out of the sand. These ancient petrified tree stumps and roots date back to over 1,500 years ago. To see this unique feature it is best to visit the beach at low tide.
Other features of the beach include being able to see the 101foot tall Cape Sable Lighthouse, the tallest in Nova Scotia and it is also one of the best birding areas in all of Nova Scotia.
Note: To get to the Hawk Beach take Hawk Point Road, then turn left on to New Road. At the end of New Road, take the dirt road to the left and just before the house you see there are areas to park. There is also a ramp that takes you down to the beach so that you don’t have to climb over the rocks. Once you get onto the beach off of the small ramp walk to your right at low tide to see the drowned forest.
Stoney Island Beach
Stoney Island Beach is located on Cape Sable Island and is a gorgeous white sand beach. There is ample parking and tons of beach and space to enjoy the beach comfortably away from other people. The beach feels slightly secluded and is perfect for a nice walk in the waves, swimming, and getting a nice tan in the summer months.
Note: Google isn’t the best with directions to this beach. If you start driving on a sandy road, turn around and go back. Don’t take Kenny Road off of Centreville South Side Road to get there. Take Stoney Island road, then just at the end turn right onto Kenny Road which will lead you to the beach parking lot.
Louis Head Beach
Louis Head Beach is located at the mouth of the Sable River in Shelburne County. Take West Sable Road and turn on to Ferry West Road to access the small parking area. This beach is over 1km long and is very flat, so that you can walk out into the water for a long time before it gets very deep. It is so flat that at low tide you can even see the tide slowly coming back in again.
The beach is a quiet spot, shared with the the public and a few private cottages nearby. The area is also a critical habitat for the endangered bird, the piping plover. If you visit be sure to stay off of the dunes. Also be sure to carryout what you bring in and leave no trace.
Lockeport’s Crescent Beach is stunning and considered one of the most attractive beaches in Canada. The beach was even once featured on the back of the $50 Canadian Bill. Crescent beach is over a mile long and has a visitor information centre with washroom and shower amenities for the public.
North East Point Beach
North East Point Beach, also known as Causeway beach is located on Cape Sable Island to the left of the causeway after crossing over from Barrington Passage. There is a boardwalk to stroll along and gazebo to use along with the long white sandy beach to walk on and enjoy. This is a busier beach then most in the area but is great for swimming and watching the boats go by. On part of the beach there are also the remnants of an old ferry wharf and watching the waves crash amongst the remaining timber can be quite relaxing.
What are the Best Lighthouses to visit in Shelburne County?
Shelburne Harbour is the third largest natural harbour in the world. (Behind Halifax and Sydney, Australia.) In the 17 and 1800’s the harbour and surrounding areas of Shelburne county were very busy with boat and shipping traffic. To keep everyone safe there were a bunch of lighthouses built to keep ships off of the rocks. Many of the lighthouses are still being used today and are fun to learn about, enjoy and take pictures with.
Sandy Point Lighthouse
The Sandy Point Lighthouse in Shelburne County is one of the coolest lighthouses in Nova Scotia. It is also one of the only lighthouses located in the ocean instead of on shore or on an island. One of the unique things about this lighthouse is that at low tide you can walk on a sandbar bar right out to it. Depending on the time of year and tide times you can pretty much touch it and only be in knee deep water. This lighthouse protects ships in the Shelburne Harbour and has been around since 1873. Definitely do not miss visiting if you are in the area.
The Baccaro Lighthouse is located way at the end of Baccaro Point, jutting out into the Atlantic ocean. There isn’t much to see around the lighthouse which is perched on the edge of the ocean all by itself. You might be able to find a crustacean friend here though however. This lighthouse is also located at the most southerly point of mainland Nova Scotia. A lighthouse has been standing at this point since 1850.
Seal Island Light Museum
The Seal Island Light Museum is actually a replica lighthouse of the Seal Island Lighthouse that is located 18 miles off shore. The museum is one of the only lighthouses in Nova Scotia that you can actually go inside of. The Seal Island Light Museum in Barrington is 35 feet tall and filled with great seafaring artifacts from the area. You can climb all the way to the top to see the light up close and you can even step outside for a great view of the Barrington area.
Things to do for fun in Shelburne County
Explore the Shelburne Waterfront
The Shelburne waterfront dates back to the 17th century when the area was founded by Europeans with the arrival of the French Acadians. The town was officially founded in 1783. Previous to this the Mi’kmaq had lived here for over 10,000 years. Many buildings that the French and later the British and loyalists built still stand today occupying a 10 block area on the Shelburne waterfront.
The waterfront has become a popular filming spot for TV shows and films as well as a great place for tourists to visit. Some of the remaining restored buildings are open to the public to visit and explore. A few even have re-enactors from the time period. The waterfront is filled with old wooden historical buildings painted beautiful colours, and is really a great place to take a stroll. There are also museums, a market, great harbour views, places to picnic, and more.
Visit the Shelburne County Museum and Gift Shop
The Shelburne County Museum houses a collections of artifacts dating back to 1740 and even earlier. These pieces of history are from the founding people of Shelburne County, the Mi’kmaq, Loyalists, Black Loyalists, Acadian and more. Here you can find a diorama of the old waterfront, costumes, tools, maps, model ships, and more.
The gift shop at the museum is not to be missed. It is filled with lots of great Nova Scotian souvenirs as well as a lot of locally made folk art, books, ornaments, and more.
Step Back in Time at the Ross Thomson House
You can purchase a ticket to visit the Ross Thomson House at the Shelburne Museum in combination with a pass for the museum. In the gardens of the home you can see re-enactors cleaning sheeps wool, growing vegetables and taking care of chickens. Inside the home you can tour the house with the re-enactors and see the living quarters. At the front of the house you can explore the historic storefront where the merchants once sold products from around the world like coffee, sugar and rum. Above the shop you can also explore the militia room with artifacts from the time period including soldiers outfits and guns.
Search for Lobster Sculptures
All over the Barrington municipality in Shelburne county you can see large lobster sculptures that have been uniquely painted by locals. First created to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday there are ten crustaceans and it’s a fun idea to see how many you can find while exploring Barrington. There is a lobster painted like an alien, some with fishing boats, sunsets and more. See how many you can find! To find them all check out the Shelburne County website for more information. I can’t give them all away!
Visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Society
Birchtown in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia was once the largest settlement of freed Black people outside of Africa. The Black Loyalist Heritage Society tells the story of the free, enslaved and re-enslaved Black Loyalists that were brought to Nova Scotia after fighting alongside the British in the American Revolutionary War. People with African heritage have been living in Nova Scotia for over 400 years and not enough people know about these brave women, men and children who risked their lives for “…freedom, equality, dignity and respect.“
Visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre to learn about their history and how they helped shaped Nova Scotia. The Centre shares just the tip of the iceberg of Black Heritage in Nova Scotia and it should be more widely known talked about.
Note: Currently the centre is open Monday to Friday but tours must be booked in advance. They also currently offer online virtual tours.
Explore the Barrington Woolen Mill Museum
Visit the Woolen Mill to learn how the water of the Barrington river was once used to power machines to make raw fleece into useable items like yarn and cloth for clothing. See how the wool was cleaned and yarn was created, learn how they were dyed and spun and even take a turn at using a loom. You can also buy some great locally made woolen crafts, tartans, yarn and more at the small gift shop.
The Barrington Woolen Mill Museum is part of the Barrington Museum Complex in Barrington along with the Seal Island Lighthouse, The Western Counties Military Museum, and the Old Meeting House Museum. The other museums are all close by in the area within walking distance.
Experience the Shag Harbour Incident Society UFO Interpretative Centre
Without a doubt the Shag Harbour Incident Society UFO Interpretative Centre is once of the most unique places that you can visit in Nova Scotia. The centre tells of a UFO that was seen by many locals splashing into the ocean near Shag Harbour on October 4th, 1967. To this day this incident is the only Government recognized UFO sighting in Canada and is one of the most documented UFO sightings in the world.
At the centre you can watch a documentary about the incident, and search for the UFO. You can also purchase books about the sighting, read newspaper clippings about the events that happened that night. The centre also features art about the sightings and there is a gift shop as well. If you are lucky enough you might even get to meet an actual witness of the event.
Where to Stay
If visiting the area it is best to stay somewhere central so you can easily explore. There are many Airbnbs but there are also proper B&B’s and motels too. I recommend staying at the Starboard Inn Chalets & Motel. The newly built Chalets are a great escape after a long day touring around. They are set up like a small apartment with everything you need so you can cook for yourself as well.
How to get to Shelburne County
Most likely you will be arriving in Shelburne County by car via Halifax. Take the 103 highway about 2.5hrs to get there. Follow the signs and/or your GPS for where you want to visit first.
Follow these tips and suggestions and you will have a wonderful time visiting Shelburne County Nova Scotia. If you have any tips or suggestions please leave them in the comments below!
NOTE: A lot of places on the South Shore are open seasonally. Be sure to call ahead or check online for opening hours before you visit.
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