Within Nova Scotia, Canada’s second smallest province, are two national parks and a national park reserve. Whale watchers visiting Nova Scotia would be rewarded by a trip to at least one of these parks.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
It was established in 1936 on Cape Breton Island. Bordering the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean, and covering nearly 1,000 square kilometres, it is renowned for its varied landscapes. Visitors will see mountains and steep cliffs, forests with waterfalls and deep canyons etched by rivers. There are two fresh water beaches and several salt water beaches. Wildlife abounds here, with black bears, lynx, red foxes, moose and many other animals. Visitors may spot a bald eagle in the sky, and in the sea whales, dolphins and seals can be seen. Staff at the two visitor centres can advise on planning a route. There are over 20 walking and hiking trails to choose from. For campers, there are 8 camping areas. Keen golfers might want to use the 18-hole golf course.
Kejimkujik National Park
Founded in 1969 and additionally designated a national historic site in 1995, it is a park of two parts, with a total area of over 400 square kilometres. The largest part is on the Nova Scotia peninsula and comprises forest areas in an upland plain. The Kejimkujik Seaside area is south east of the main park, on the Atlantic coast, with beaches and wetland habitats. Both areas are outstanding in their beauty, and are home to a variety of wildlife, including woodpeckers, white-tailed deer and porcupines. The area can be explored by foot, as well as by kayak or canoe on the rivers and lakes.
In addition to its wonderful scenery, the park is rich in history of the indigenous Mi’kmaq people. Petroglyphs carved from stone still exist thousands of years after they were created, but in order to protect them, just one part is accessible to the public for guided viewing. Because of lack of city light pollution, the park is a Dark Sky preserve. Visitors may book a star tour, with guides who are knowledgeable in stories about the stars as seen from the Mi’kmaq perspective.
Sable Island National Park Reserve
This locale got its official opening in 2013. It is made up entirely of sand and is situated several hundred kilometres off the Atlantic coast. Access is by sea, or by a small plane, which lands on the beach. The island is long and narrow (40 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide). Apart from park staff and the people who run the island’s weather station, it is not populated, and overnight visiting is not allowed. Those wanting to visit need to contact Parks Canada and then arrange a charter flight or boat.
This might not market Sable as an easy place to visit, and indeed just 200 or so visitors make the journey each year. They are rewarded with bleakly beautiful sand slopes and marram grass, bird colonies and seals. Especially wonderful are the wild Sable island ponies, described as ‘magical’ by some. These were introduced to the island in the late 18th century and are now protected by law. Of all the world’s wild horse populations, these are truly wild, being allowed to roam, reproduce and feed without human intervention.