The Hawk Beach, Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia.

I want to stand on the most southerly tip of Nova Scotia and look out to where the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Fundy separate. My imagination conjures up a scene similar, or equal, to that of Cape Point, South Africa where there is a distinct dividing line between the Indian and Atlantic Ocean; or maybe the wildness of the Drake passage between Cape Horn, Chile and Antarctica. I have not been to either of those places, but the graveyard of the Atlantic is minutes away and after a lifetime of stories and songs, describing its infamy, I can’t tell you in words how excited I am to get there.

It was named after The Hawk, a schooner that washed ashore in the 1800’s, but this is also a very important shore-bird migratory zone in the spring and fall so is aptly named for birdwatchers as well. It is late afternoon but I have to take advantage of this window of reasonably clear visibility. When you are jutted-out this far into the Atlantic, fog could steal your view in a heartbeat, as I learned at Peggy’s Cove.

The road I am currently driving on is a typical rural road, with no shoulders, lots of switch-backs, and lefts and rights leading to places named Daniels Head and Stoney Island. Clarks Harbour is in my rear view mirror now, and my instinct tells me to keep going straight on The Hawk Point Road. I may or may not have found the end of Nova Scotia, but I have definitely found the end of the pavement.

I make a left, drive across the hard-packed ground and park up against the breakwater. Even though it is the first week of August, a coolness blows in with a smell of the “briny ocean toss” -words from in the beloved song, Farewell to Nova Scotia. A single beautiful home is set back off the road and I spy a mail box and a large rock monument with a sign attached. I can’t make out what it is, so I walk towards it to investigate. It is not the residence’s Canada postal box, but a housing for a notebook; some sort of record keeping of visitor traffic. The plaque is a detailed account of all the known ship wrecks of the area.

Little sailing icons with the names of each vessel pin-point each of their final known resting places. I start counting the icons but quit after 67. There are well over a 100 wrecks somewhere out there and I want to have a look and see why.. Over the grassy hump I go. I am expecting to encounter a boulder filled coastline and smashing waves so you can imagine my surprise when I land on this.


“Wow!” Now I really want to come back tomorrow morning and have a better look .There could be treasure washing up on this beach from all the sunken ships. Just to feel the soft sand under my toes will enrich me . For now I head back to Barrington to secure lodging for the night and do a bit of research of the area.

The crack of dawn couldn’t arrive soon enough and I am on my way to the beach by 6 am. I get a little lost somewhere and I stop and ask a man on a bicycle. He is a resident of the island, out for a morning ride. He tells me to make sure I visit the drowned forest and he gives me a mental map and land markers to follow to find my way back to The Hawk Beach entrance. By the time I arrive, he is rolling his bike up the driveway of the house set off the road.

I walk a bit in my bare feet but the tide and waves that slide up this beach are frigid and so is the sand. To the soles of my feet it is like walking on a cold tile floor in the winter and I can’t put my runners back on soon enough.

After a long saunter to the furthest point of the above picture, I come back and walk the opposite length of beach towards the drowned forest. Its a little rougher, large rocks protrude here and there. I have an incredible urge to walk out and climb on one large boulder but my better judgement screams, “You don’t know the tide tables, there are most definitely rip tides here and you are alone.” I keep going and take pictures of some seals lounging on a rock but the sun ruins any chance of a good shot and I keep going, hoping for a better opportunity to photograph.

I start seeing signs of the petrified tree stumps poking out of the sand. Further around a stony point they get more numerous. It is hard to image what I am looking at is the remnant of a 1500-year-old forest still rooted in its soil, under the sand.

It looks like clumps of driftwood that have been driven ashore, buried over and over in sand then exposed again, but smarter historians and archeologists concur about what it represents: land that has eroded far inland to where an ancient forest once stood.

Following the shore looking for artifacts, I have found a beauty – Cape Sable lighthouse, Nova Scotia’s tallest lighthouse at 101 feet. In previous years you could hire a captain with a boat to bring you to the island but with COVID-19, few tourist businesses are operating and I have to admire it from here.

This is as far as I can safely walk. I see no dividing line beyond the stacks of rocks that become shoals when covered by tide. Its all Atlantic Ocean beyond. Westward takes you into the Gulf of Maine feeding the Bay of Fundy, it is shrouded in flog. I would need boat to go out and a strong constitution to wrestle that graveyard of ships. No thank you. A drone perhaps would be a safer choice I make a mental note to check if anyone has put one on YouTube. I walk all the way back having spent about 2 hours beachcombing. At the mail box I opened the book and signed my name and the date. In the comments I put I came to see what may be seen, Another line from a popular east coast mariner song, The wreck of the Athens Queen, written and sung by Stan Rogers. I still have a few more stops to make then I am off to Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Happy Travels from Maritimemac

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21 thoughts on “The Hawk Beach, Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia.

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  1. Wow, thanks for the trip, Kelly. I felt as though I was there on the beach too, such beauty! It’s amazing that the lighthouse survives so much harsh weather and temperatures. Be safe my friend. 😊🇨🇦

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  2. I tried to do this about 10 years ago; as soon as I approached the island, I was engulfed in fog. I figured if it was too foggy to see anything, there wasn’t much point! I retreated to Kejimkujic, which was also foggy – but not too foggy to kayak, as they have so many navigation markers on the lakes. I had the same problem trying to go as far as I could on the spit of land that makes St Mary’s Bay; I made it to the lake that’s half way down, and went back to Digby to hang out and enjoy the town before catching the ferry. I’d definitely like to go back again some day, and spend more time.

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  3. What a cool trip. Seeing all those shipwrecks on the map gives me the chills, and that drowned forest just adds to the spooky appeal—though on that peaceful, sunny day it looks nothing like a ship’s graveyard. I had a chuckle about that lovely tune Farewell to Nova Scotia. I’ve always belted out “the briny ocean top”… all these years and I’m finally learning that it’s toss😂

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    1. Thank you. It is a cool place. I’m surprised the tourist bureau doesn’t promote it more. Farewell to Nova Scotia. Has been in my head since birth. You’ve made me think…..so I’ll check but 100 sure it’s toss.

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  4. Good stuff! It’s fun to drive until you run out of road – we’re at the end of the road on our piece of coast. We have the summer fogs and treacherous to shipping shores, and when you’re out in fog on the water, it is unnerving to say the least. Even on the shore, when the fog rolls in and the temperature drops, I can be almost convinced when people talk of ghosts…
    Thanks, Kelly!

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