The best of Cumberland County, Nova Scotia | Coastal hikes, culture, music, and history

by W. Andrew Powell
Age of Sail Museum, Wards Brook

Unwind, refresh, and enjoy some of the best that the Maritimes offers in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia. The picturesque region is beautiful, and it’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, or to get away from it all.

I spent a week exploring highlights of Cumberland County, and it was a wonderful trip that took me back to nature. From Amherst and small towns like Springhill, to Wallace, Pugwash, and the coastal beauty of Parrsboro, each part of the county has a little something different to enjoy.

On the trip I walked a suspension bridge, found fossils on a beach, enjoyed lots of local seafood, stayed in a luxury dome tent, hiked through a coastal forest, saw lighthouses, and sampled locally made beer.

For trips from three days to a full week, there’s a lot to do across the area, and it’s an easy drive, plus it’s close to two airports for flights in and out.

Read on through this guide to find out about some of the best activities and highlights in each area of the county, including around the Fundy Tides, Wentworth Valley, and Northumberland Shores. Plus, watch the full travel vlog at the bottom of the story or on YouTube.

Planning your Cumberland County vacation

Pugwash, Nova Scotia
Pugwash, Nova Scotia

A road trip is the best way to explore Cumberland County and it’s an area that’s easy to explore by car.

If you’re driving from the west, you can take the Trans Canada Highway from New Brunswick to arrive in Nova Scotia. For flights, you can fly in to Moncton, N.B, or Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then rent a car. It’s only a 45 minute drive to Amherst from Moncton, and it’s a 2 hour drive from Halifax to Amherst. You can also easily plan a different route from Halifax, starting in Wentworth, or Wallace on the east side of the county.

Whichever route you choose, all of the communities and stops below are within a 30-45 minute drive from the towns of Amherst, Wallace, and Parrsboro.

My biggest tip is just to take your time. Plan to give yourself a chance to take this trip slowly to get the most out of each area, and enjoy that relaxed Maritime pace.

Read our full guide on planning your route, where to stay, and when to visit Cumberland County.


Tidnish Suspension Bridge
Tidnish Suspension Bridge

Amherst is the perfect place to start your trip if you’re driving in from New Brunswick. The Trans Canada Highway goes right through town, and there are a few hotels, inns, and places to stay in the area, making it a great hub for exploring.

If you want to take your time and explore the town and the surrounding area with a few hidden gems, two nights is perfect to get the most out of your trip.

In Amherst, be sure to wander the downtown streets a little to take in the vibrant town centre, and then find local crafts and art at Deanne Fitzpatrick Studio and Maritime Mosaic. For rare clothing finds, Mansour’s Menswear is a unique store selling everything from shirts, and sweaters, to outerwear. And Victoria Square is a nice spot to sit and sip a coffee.

For meals, there are a number of great restaurants, including Duncan’s Pub, the Art of Eating Deli Coffee Shop, Bambino’s Pizzeria & Fine Food, and one of my favourites, Our Backyard BBQ. And when you want to try a good beer, Mystic Sea Brewing has great brews.

Exploring the area, there are four highlights that are worth the drive.

Tidnish Suspension Bridge is a 20 minute drive from Amherst, and it’s a real hidden gem. From the town of Tidnish Bridge, head down Ketchum Drive to find the Henry Ketchum Trail. There’s space at the trail head to park up to two cars on the grass, and then you’ll walk less than 5 minutes to find the suspension bridge. The view from the bridge is beautiful at sunrise or sunset.

In summer, there’s also a park and beach that are worth seeing at Tidnish Dock Provincial Park and be sure to stop for ice cream at Tidnish Scoop Shack.

Joggins Fossil Centre is a 30 minute drive from Amherst, and from summer to fall it’s a unique museum and beach to explore and see lots and lots of fossils. For a small fee the museum gives you insight into the history here, from the Pennsylvanian Coal Age, and the types of fossils you can see on the beach, with examples of some of the best finds over the last several decades.

You can also sign up to join a guided tour of the beach during low tide, or explore for free on your own. And I have to say that I saw a lot of fossils on my own. There were fossilized trees and plants, shells, and even minerals.

You can also grab a bite to eat or a coffee at the museum’s cafe, during peak season, or stop by the nearby Bayview Restaurant for burgers, pizza, and seafood.

Springhill is a 30 minute drive to the south east of Amherst, and there are a few restaurants, and two special highlights.

The Anne Murray Centre is a museum dedicated to the life of Canada’s pop and folk superstar, her roots in the town, and her rise to fame. You’ll find mementos from her career, awards, photos and videos, a gift shop, and she sometimes visits the centre for special events.

Down the street from the centre is the Springhill Miners’ Museum, dedicated to the men who worked the mines in the town, and the mine disasters that happened there. After you explore the small museum with relics from their mining history, you’ll walk through a recreation of the buildings that were here before going down into a small section of the former mine. It’s eye-opening, seeing the conditions they worked in, and it’s fascinating.

Oxford is also 30 minutes away from Amherst, to the north east, and it’s a quaint small town with a few stores, a park, and the Blueberry Man. Called the “Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada,” it’s worth a stop on your drive to see the Blueberry Man near the local gas station, where you can also find the Trans Canada Trail that connects to Pugwash to the north east. Otherwise, stop by GJDE Enterprises on Water Street for a fun, eclectic shop filled with souvenirs, things for the kids, treats, and so much more.


Cape D'Or
Cape D’Or

Parrsboro quickly became my favourite stop on the trip, not only because there was so much to do, but also because I loved all of the coastal views, hiking, and history.

If you start in Amherst, Parrsboro is just a 45 minute drive to the south, and then it’s a great hub to explore the Fundy Tides region of Cumberland County. From Advocate Harbour to the west, and Five Islands to the east, this area is all about the coast, the dramatic rise and fall of the tides, and the rugged, untouched landscapes.

Stay in town at the Gillespie House Inn or The Maple Inn, and a little drive away from town, I really enjoyed Fox Point Inn, their tranquil location, and the amazing food.

When you’re ready to grab a bite to eat, I’m a big fan of Harbour View Restaurant with their seafood, pies, and fantastic service. I also heard great things about BlackRock Bistro, and Glooscap Restaurant & Lounge. For local beer, you need to try Two Islands Brewing. Their Fundy Fog APA, Parrsboro Porter, and By the Bay Blonde Ale are delicious.

And there’s a lot to do in town and around the area.

Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is a 45 minute drive along the coast from Parrsboro, and in addition to campsites, cabins, kayaking, and day use spaces, they also have epic hiking trails. It’s a beautiful, rugged, hilly area, and from the eastern visitor centre entrance, the trail is about 4.5 km, moderate difficulty, with views overlooking the ocean before you descend down to the beach and walk back to the visitor centre. At a good pace, you can walk the whole route in about 2.5 to 3 hours.

For the adventurous, the trail also continues along the coast, so you can easily do a full day or multi-day hike.

The park’s Eatonville area is along the coast as well, but keep in mind that the road from the visitor centre to Eatonville has been said to be rough driving. To visit this area many recommend driving route 209 to Apple River and then taking the Apple River Road to the Eatonville entrance. Adventurers here will be rewarded with stunning views of the Three Sisters rocks on the beach.

Cape D’Or is a scenic viewpoint with a lighthouse, small restaurant, and absolutely beautiful views. There’s not much hiking here, except the steep incline down to the lighthouse from the parking lot, and then it’s a steep hike up and out when you leave, but it’s worth the effort.

A short drive from Cape Chignecto, Cape D’Or has dramatic cliffs, with a small path you can take to the edge of the rocks that look out over the ocean. The small in, The Lighthouse on Cape d’Or, is also here and they have a restaurant available if you reserve in advance.

Local museums offer lots of history, culture, and perspective on the area, and Parrsboro has more than a lot of towns. In the heart of town visit Fundy Geological Museum for fossils and dinosaur bones, and to see their impressive mineral collection. Plus, they host guided walking beach tours in the summer.

Ottawa House By-the-Sea is the historic home where Sir Charles Tupper, the Premier of Nova Scotia, one of the Fathers of Confederation, and the sixth Prime Minister of Canada once lived. The grounds are beautiful and inside you’ll discover details on the history of Parrsboro, and exhibits showing what life was like when Tupper lived there. It’s perfect for an hour or two to talk the grounds and see this historic building and learn some of the history.

And in Port Greville, on the way to Advocate Harbour, the Age of Sail Museum is a large property with a number of exhibits, relics, model ships, plus a building that’s built like the hull of a ship. There’s also a blacksmith shop, a cafe, and a lighthouse. Stop here on your way to or from Cape Chignecto, and enjoy learning about the lives of shipbuilders, and how the ships were made here.


Wallace River Ranch & Domes
Wallace River Ranch & Domes

The town of Wallace is central to some of my favourite highlights in the north-east region of Cumberland County, and that includes Pugwash, Malagash, and it’s also close to Tatamagouche, and Wentworth to the south.

Staying in the Wallace River Ranch & Domes was a huge highlight on my trip, and it’s a cozy place to stay from spring to fall. Inside you have every amenity you could want, including a fireplace, shower, full kitchen, and king size bed, and outside you can enjoy nature. Plus, it’s close to a number of nearby gems.

Nearby, stop for dinner at Wiley’s by the Wharf or McMahons, hike at the Wallace Wildlife walking trail, and then visit Pugwash a slice at Harbour View Pizza.

Staying at the domes, a week would have been amazing in this area, and to really unwind, but a two or three night stay works really well to see some of the highlights.

Pugwash is a quiet town with a beautiful waterfront, a small downtown street with shops, and it was home to an important historic site: Thinkers’ Lodge, where the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs were held in 1957. Today you can still see the Nobel Peace Prize inside that was awarded to the conferences and founder Joseph Rotblat. The grounds, right on the Northumberland Strait, are also beautiful and worth the stop for the view.

Malagash is a short drive east of Wallace, and in addition to Vista Bella Farm, a provincial park on the ocean, and the Malagash Heritage Museum, you’ll find Jost Vineyards where you can enjoy a nice glass of wine and a delicious meal from their cafe. The peninsula is a wonderful drive for an afternoon taking it easy, and enjoying the scenery here. It’s quaint, quiet, and totally charming.

A little south-east of Wallace you can also explore Tatamagouche, with shopping, restaurants, and Tatamagouche Brewing Co., plus delicious treats from Appleton Chocolates.

And south of Wallace discover Ski Wentworth year round, where you can go hiking and biking in spring, summer, and fall, and in the winter, enjoy snowshoeing and skiing.

Travel resources

There are a number of resources for planning your Cumberland County vacation. I’ve included a few below, and if you have any questions just leave a comment below, and watch my video on the area below for more.

Looking for more travel stories? Visit our Canadian Travel Guide for ideas across the country.

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