When the notion of an RV trip to Eastern Canada first began to percolate in our minds, we envisioned one place: Lunenburg. The entire downtown of this tiny Nova Scotia community is a UNESCO World Heritage site, its waterfront one of the most recognizable of any in the Maritimes. In addition to offering colorful, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that exude charm, there’s an RV campground located just a few blocks from the waterfront, allowing easy access to the town’s many appealing features. We had high hopes this stop would be a memorable one, filled with the kinds of experiences we love. Happily, Lunenburg did not disappoint. It was one of our favorite Canadian destinations.
While Lunenburg is undoubtedly touristy, there is an air of authenticity that surrounds it which we enjoyed very much. This sense of authenticity was even more noticeable when we visited the famous fishing village of Peggy’s Cove a few days later. Peggy’s Cove was so pristine and perfect, it looked like a Hollywood set. Lunenburg, on the other hand, just seemed a bit more genuine.
Further lending a sense of authenticity to this working port is the large memorial, located on the docks, commemorating the many local fishermen who have perished at sea since 1890. Two things jumped out as we examined the sadly lengthy list of names; first, the large numbers of men with the same last names who died at the same time, presumably family members working on the same doomed ships; and second, the continued danger fishermen face today. While, thankfully, the number of entries on the memorial has vastly decreased over the years, deadly accidents still occur with surprising frequency. Indeed, the most recent name was added in 2014.
Of course, plenty of the boats docked in Lunenburg were less about work and more about play…
However, our favorite boats were the PIRATE SHIPS!!!
Several of these tall ships were in port during our visit, and every time we saw one, we had a Jack Sparrow moment! Sure, our fellow tourists gave us some odd looks as we yelled across the docks, “Ahoy, me hearties!!”, but you know they were just jealous of our deep knowledge of authentic pirate lingo!
Even more exciting, we got to see the famous Blue Nose II, a replica of a famous racing and fishing schooner that was lost in 1946. The Blue Nose II is considered the “sailing ambassador” of Nova Scotia and docks in Lunenburg for several months each year.
One night we noticed the decks were open to visitors so we climbed aboard to have a look. The ship is simply magnificent!
Realizing we were quickly approaching the end of our time on the Atlantic coast and that we had, somehow, not yet spent any time out on the water, we decided to take a two hour cruise with a local touring company. The sail was on a slightly smaller vessel than the ships we’d been ogling all week.
As we headed out on our cruise, our guide noted that the Blue Nose was out on the water for an event. He raced over as quickly as he could so we could see it with its sails up, but, unfortunately, we were too far away for me to capture a good photo of it.
Lucky for us, though, as it was motoring back to port, it sailed right by us….
Even without its sails up, the Blue Nose was impressive.
We spent the remainder of our time on the tour boat attempting to capture the beautiful Lunenburg waterfront…
and enjoying a calm night on the Atlantic while watching the sun set.
Lunenburg reminded us quite a bit of Saint Andrews in that it was within walking distance of our campground, it offered a veritable ocean of picturesque waterfront scenery, and the homes in the neighborhoods were chock full of character. Indeed, there are no boring houses in Lunenburg….
Hell, there are no boring doors in Lunenburg….
In addition to the colorful houses, the shops are all independent (no Starbucks here…), there are numerous captivating art galleries, and the streets are full of horse drawn carriages…
What Lunenburg had that Saint Andrews fell short on was a long list of bars and restaurants to while away the day. Several, like The Salt Shaker Deli, The South Shore Fish Shack, and The Grand Banker offer fabulous views in addition to delicious and inventive seafood dishes.
Other Lunenburg restaurants were winners for a different reason.
The thing was, Lunenburg was our last stop in Canada. And after five weeks in coastal Canada and three weeks in coastal Maine, we were finding ourselves pretty burned out on seafood. On a particularly rainy and chilly night, I started looking around for options when I came across the perfect remedy for all that ailed us: Schnitzel!!
Located just three miles from the waterfront, the Old Black Forest Cafe offers traditional German favorites in a warm and cozy environment. It was perfect!
We also discovered this place – The Knot Pub. Considered a locals bar, set away from the main tourist area, and larger than it looks from the outside, we found this watering hole to be an easygoing and welcoming spot for a meal and a beer after a long day of sightseeing.
The Swiss Air 111 Memorials
One of the things I wanted to see when we visited Nova Scotia was the memorial to the victims of the 1998 Swissair Flight 111 crash. What I didn’t realize is there are actually two memorials. It was only when we pulled up to the first site, and it looked nothing like the pictures I’d seen online, that we realized there are two different monuments set several miles away from one another. Turns out, after the crash, members of the communities of Peggy’s Cove and Bayswater assisted local authorities with the recovery mission. Both towns, therefore, have memorials.
The monument at Bayswater lists the names of those who perished and is the final resting place for many of the victims. This is the much less visited memorial and the one I was unaware of.
The memorial in Peggy’s Cove is the one you’ll see photographed more often.
Perched on an overlook, commanding sensational views of the coastline, it is a solemn and moving remembrance.
Peggy’s Cove is a tiny picturesque fishing village built next to an iconic and oft-photographed lighthouse. It is spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, the village kind of feels like a movie set. Everything was so beautiful and clean and pristine and perfect, we couldn’t help but wonder whether anyone actually lived in the houses or whether they were just set pieces. Whatever the case may be, it was stunningly beautiful and our arrival, just prior to sunset, could not have been better for taking it all in.
The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove is the main draw here for good reason. The structure itself, its location out on the rocks, and the way the last sunlight of the day illuminates it, combine to create a mesmerizing picture. It’s like stepping into a painting.
We were also awed by the powerful surf that surrounds the village. The waves were massive and relentless and, as we learned later, can sometimes be deadly.
Finally, we noticed that while the area surrounding the lighthouse was consistently very busy with photo-taking tourists, by simply turning around and looking down the coastline, we were gifted with views just as fabulous, but much less frenetic.
Not a bad view. Not a bad view at all.
Where we stayed: Lunenburg Board of Trade Campground