Situated in southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada, West Nova is washed by the tides of the Bay of Fundy, juts into the waters of the Gulf of Maine, and extends deeply into the forested lake strewn interior of the province. West Nova is a place that joins land, sea and sky with a pace of life that often brings those who live here to exclaim, “Isn’t it beautiful ?”.
The people here are caring of each other with a friendliness and open hospitality that is fabled far and wide.
Its many regions provide West Nova with a physical variety of sea cliffs, beaches, harbours and coves, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, valleys, highlands, forests, fields, orchards, towns and villages.
The cultural history of West Nova is equally diverse, from the first peoples of the Mi’kmaq, to the French explorers of the early 1600’s, to the French, English and Black settlers of the 1600’s, 1700’s, and 1800’s; all enriched by those of recent immigrations, West Nova is proud of it all.
The Annapolis Valley
The Annapolis Valley, located south of the Bay of Fundy in south West Nova Scotia, is the fertile lowland which lies between the North and South Mountains. It extends westward for some one hundred kilometers from the Minas Basin at the eastern end to the Annapolis Basin. The West Nova Constituency portion of the Valley runs from a line just east of Waterville, Kings County to the Town of Annapolis Royal.
The floor of the Valley is dotted with impressive barns, silos, and farmhouses which speak with pride of the families who have worked them. Picturesque towns and villages throughout the length of the Valley provide commerce and services in peaceful settings. Some Valley residents can trace their lineage back to the Mi’kmaq aboriginal people, or to the Acadian people, or to the New England “Planters” who were encouraged by the British to further develop and farm the lands that the British had taken from the Acadians in the mid 1700’s.
The most commonly evident industrial base of the Valley has always been, and still is, diversified agriculture. In addition, the Valley has valued tourism, and the Canadian Forces airbase at CFB Greenwood which provides vital Atlantic coastal patrol, arctic sovereignty, and search and rescue roles. Also, the NSCC, College of Geographic Studies, in Lawrencetown is world renown for its highly qualified graduates and at the Annapolis Causeway there is the only tidal power generating station in North America.
The Fundy Shore
The Fundy Shore extends along the southern coast of the Bay of Fundy, from the village of Canada Creek at the northeastern extremity of the Constituency of West Nova to the village of Victoria Beach on the Digby Gut channel.
Many who live on the Fundy Shore trace their lineage to families from Yorkshire, England who arrived on four ships in the mid 1770‘s.
Livelihoods of the region can come from the forests but mostly the sea. Most navigable coves are armoured with breakwaters from the waves of the prevailing northwest winds. Tie ups for the vessels allow for the rise and fall of the world’s highest tides and when lobstering season is closed, traps are stacked high near wharves and in lobstermen’s yards.
The character of this shoreline is defined by the sloping cooled lava flows that form the North Mountain, as they dip below the Bay. The mountain is heavily forested with predominantly softwood and the shore features rocky beaches, small coves, and in many places, towering sea cliffs. As with the other western facing shorelines of West Nova, the Fundy Shore is noted for its spectacular sunsets across the water.
Annapolis Basin Region
The Annapolis Basin is the broadened western end of the Annapolis River. The French explorer Champlain first sailed into the Basin in 1604. There, he and his crew were befriended by the Mi’kmaq First People and their chief, Membertou. Returning in 1605, the French built their “Habitation” at Port Royal to start one of the earliest European settlements in North America.
The Acadian people followed, farming and fishing the shores of the Basin. Conflict between the French and English saw many battles at Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal ending in favor of the English in 1710. In 1755 the Acadians were driven out by the English and replaced by New England “Planters”. These were added to by Loyalists and German mercenaries after the American Revolution.
Farming, logging, ship building, and sea trade flourished in the 1800’s. Today, Digby harbours its famous scallop fleet, Cornwallis Park hosts leading edge industries, Bear River has its fine crafts and newly planted vineyards, and Annapolis Royal has its history, Historic Gardens, and the only tidal powered generating station in North America. Tourism abounds due to the intriguing history and beauty of the area.
Digby Neck and The Islands
From Point Prim Light on Digby Gut to Western Light on Brier Island, Digby Neck and The Islands are comprised a ninety-five kilometre long finger of rock that juts into the Gulf of Maine. This coastal feature is created by the same geologic formation that forms the North Mountain as it gradually dips below the sea to the southwest. The Neck and The Islands are forested in softwoods and much of the coastline is bordered with tall sea cliffs punctuated with sheltered coves and harbours that support an active fishery.
This region is a favorite of naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts as it boasts a wealth of seabirds, migratory flyways, hiking trails, and rugged beauty of land meeting sea meeting sky. Besides the fishery, industry of The Neck and The Islands gains another income from the sea through eco-tourism cruises that can be chartered to observe whales and seabird species that are rarely seen near land.
To gain access to Long Island and then on to Brier Island, one has to cross Petit Passage and Grand Passage by means of car ferries operated by the province. The rides are exciting as they buck against the tidal rip currents that run between St. Mary’s Bay and the Bay of Fundy. These passages, and the channel of Digby Gut, have been selected as three of the best sites on the Fundy to install the latest generation of large scale tidal power turbines. The Neck also boasts two large wind turbines.
When you arrive at Brier Island’s Western Light, wind in your face, it feels as though you are looking off the edge of the world.
St. Mary’s Bay Region
The area of Weymouth was settled in the late 1700’s by Loyalists, Black Loyalists and Acadians. Fishing first attracted settlers to the banks of the Sissiboo River. Later, it was the lumbering, shipbuilding and shipping industries that sustained Weymouth and surrounding communities along the St. Mary’s Bay into the mid 1900’s.
Until the 1920’s, the waters of St. Mary’s Bay were used as a “roadway”. Those living along its shores and those of Digby Neck often travelled by boat to shop and re-supply in Weymouth. A disastrous fire in 1929 destroyed much of the downtown business area of Weymouth, an event from which it has never recovered. Mink ranching began in the early 1950’s and has helped sustain the economy after the collapse of the lumber trade and fishing industry.
Rich history, beautiful scenery, and recreational opportunities have boosted the area’s tourism in recent years. The drive from Weymouth to Brighton passes neatly kept properties that slope to the water to offer many grand vistas, especially at Gilbert’s Cove and the provincially owned Savary Park. (Written by Karla Kelly of Weymouth North)
The coastal fishing and forestry communities of the Clare region, which are often referred to as the French Acadian Shore, hug picturesque St. Mary’s Bay for over fifty kilometres between St Bernard and Salmon River. The spoken language of many along this shore still rings of 17th century French with a new world twist. The tri-colored Acadian flag with yellow star is proudly flown throughout the region.
Wharves, boats, and fish processing facilities show today’s dependence on the sea. The privately owned shipyard in Meteghan River is one of the largest in Atlantic Canada, lumber from the mill in Meteghan is distributed far and wide, while fish products from Clare are sold world wide.
Clare region is rich in Acadian talent and hosts a wide variety of cultural festivals and events such as Musique de la Baie, the Festival Acadien de Clare, the Clare Bluegrass Festival, and the Sacred Heart Church Quilt Exhibit. Clare is also home to a vibrant art community. In Church Point is the only French language university in Nova Scotia, Université Sainte-Anne, attracting students and professors from around the world.
Clare is a place of vibrant industry, bright entertainment, fresh seafood, and an unique culture with warm hospitality.
With its secure international port facilities at the western tip of the province, the Yarmouth region is the western gateway of Nova Scotia.
The Yarmouth area was settled in the mid 1700’s, mostly by families emigrating from New England. Many lived on the land, pursuing forestry, farming, and shipbuilding. Commerce by sea was dominant, first in the 1800’s by tall ship and then in the first part of the twentieth century by steamship. Much of the impressive Yarmouth County Museum is focused on that nautical period.
Inland, rural communities are nestled amongst rolling hills of woods, fields and streams. The coast of the Yarmouth region alternates between attractive sandy beaches, estuaries, low cliffs, and small photogenic fishing harbours.
The Town of Yarmouth is the commercial hub of Nova Scotia’s western Tri-Counties. Retail and professional services, government center, ground, sea and air transportation, convention center, health care, education, light industry, and a fishing port comprise a vibrant community. Yarmouth and area plays a very important role in the tourist industry of Nova Scotia with its high speed ferry connections to and from New England and an international airport of recognized potential.
The Municipality known as Argyle lies along the most western shore of Nova Scotia where the Gulf of Maine meets the Atlantic. Along this coast, long fingers of sea flow into the low terrain of the land to create marshy estuaries and sheltered harbours. In early farming times, the vast crop of naturally growing salt marsh hay was coveted to over-winter the cattle. Today, the lobster industry of this area is the most productive in North America and it and other fisheries dominate the commerce of the region.
The Argyle region saw its first European settlers come from France in 1635 but its name was received from Lord Argyle, a Scot, in honour of his home country when he received a land grant in 1766. The culture of Argyle is firmly based in the Acadian traditions of the French speaking families who returned in the latter part of the 1700’s after the British had confiscated their land in 1755. Today, the French language predominates in Argyle; seventy percent of its population being Acadian.
In the midst of the Municipality of Argyle lie the villages known as the “Argyles”. These communities were founded by the New England Planters who began to arrive in the area in 1760.
Argyle is a place of firsts and contrasts. In the Village of Tusket is the oldest, still-standing courthouse and gaol (jail), near Dennis Point is the largest wind turbine farm in Nova Scotia, and Wedgeport is the Sport Fishing Tuna Capital of the World.
The Forested Highland is all that region of the West Nova constituency which is inland from the more inhabited portions found along the coasts of the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine.
This area is cloaked with a variety of tree species that comprise the Acadian Forest, a mixture of hard and softwoods. Forest industry predominates here; harvesting, trucking, lumbering, and silvaculture.
When seen on a map or from the air, one soon realizes that besides the forest is a wealth of lakes and waterways. Recreation and tourism abound in the highland with lodges, private cottages, camping, paddling, fishing, and hunting. Communities of the area are dedicated to their surroundings and are situated along the roads of the provincial highway system that pass through the region. Privately owned logging company roads abound into the backcountry.
Large tracts of the interior are reserved by governments, the federal government managing Kejimkujik National Park. The provincial government manages the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and the Tobeatic Wildlife Management Area for the preservation of the Forested Highlands’ ecosystem, unique to Nova Scotia.