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A Great Day Trip: Kayaking Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

A Great Day Trip: Kayaking Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

There is a timeless beauty to the Peggy’s Cove area in Nova Scotia. I’ve been many times and I never tire of seeing the place. But until recently I had never seen it from the water.

Kayaking Peggy’s Cove from one of the nearby offshore islands provides a whole other perspective. It’s surprisingly safe as you can tuck into the lee of islands and avoid big surf and swell. I spent a full day with Glenn Coltmann, an operator for Nova Shores Adventures in its East Dover location. Glenn knows the area like the back of his hand but as of 2020 doesn’t do trips anymore.

Contact Freewheeling Adventures – though chances are they will take you kayaking around Hubbards and the Aspotogan Peninsula. Also check out Kattuk Expeditions.

Kayaking Peggys Cove safely meant a launch in East Dover
Kayaking Peggy’s Cove safely meant a launch in East Dover

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How our day kayaking unfolded

We started off in a quiet cove just steps from his home. But within minutes we were in a large bay where you could see the multi-coloured homes of the West Dover residents.

The trip kayaking Peggys Cove starts by heading past the colourful homes in West Dover
The trip starts by heading past the colourful homes in West Dover
Kayaking Peggys Cove takes you past a rocky landscape
Kayaking Peggy’s Cove past an incredibly rocky landscape
We saw snorkelers - a first in the area for Glenn
We saw snorkelers – a first in the area for Glenn

From there the water got a little more challenging to paddle. Confused water – due to bounce off of the rock – made me focus on the task at hand.

Bounce, swell and kelp-covered rocks

Paddling through the islands was quite an experience – and an altogether different one than on the west coast of Canada. And as Glenn tells me it’s also very different for anyone who has just paddled on lakes. Some of those people end up being quite intimidated when they see the size of the swells – even though we don’t have to paddle them.

It wasn’t just waves and bounce we dealt with but we had to slither in our kayak between kelp covered rocks to get to deep water.

We continued to alternate between calm water and water with some chop to it. You could actually get quite close to some of the big swells – but their energy would dissipate before it reached us. Only a local though would know that from experience.

kayaking Peggys Cove includes squeezing through some rocks at low tide
Squeezing through some rocks at low tide
Kayaking Peggys Cove and trying to slither our way to open water
Trying to slither our way to open water
The view of Peggy's Cove from our kayaks
The view of Peggy’s Cove from our kayaks
The view of Peggy's Cove from our lunch spot
The view of Peggy’s Cove from our lunch spot
We paddled to our lunch spot in the calm waters on the left
We paddled to our lunch spot in the calm waters on the left

A stop near Polly Cove

We stopped at an unnamed island in the Polly Cove area for lunch. A huge expanse of granite – with nooks to get out of the wind if need be – and spectacular views of Peggy’s Cove is what we enjoyed.

Over on the mainland, just a stone’s throw away – you could see erratics – big boulders dropped by the glaciers in the last ice age. They add such a desolate beauty to the area – and are very reminiscent of the Burren region in western Ireland.

A beautiful lunch - most homemade and all packaged in recyclable containers
A beautiful lunch – most homemade and all packaged in recyclable containers

Lunch was prepared by Glenn’s wife Kristen. Even the bread was homemade and all the fruit and vegetables were locally grown, much of it organic too. The two of them have a huge focus on reducing waste so there is no throwaway packaging used at all.

The water is amazingly clear when calm
The water is amazingly clear when calm

Don’t miss a chance to explore Dover Island

After a very relaxing lunch we paddled back in the direction of East Dover but we had one major stop on Dover Island still to make.

Dover Island is about a mile long – and it’s a mecca for rock and boulder climbers. A local fisherman ferries people out and back. The people we saw had come with their tents and supplies for the weekend, one from as far away as Ottawa.

Kayaking Peggys Cove should also include a stop on Dover Island
Kayaking Peggy’s Cove should also include a stop on Dover Island; tuck into a small cove and avoid the big waves
Climber's tents with a view - and a breeze
Climber’s tents with a view – and a breeze
Dover Island is a mecca for bouldering/rock climbing types
Dover Island is a mecca for bouldering/rock climbing types
Some of the climbers came as far away as Ottawa for the weekend
Some of the climbers came as far away as Ottawa for the weekend

We walked the better part of the length of the island – which is about a mile long – and parked ourselves on a huge slab of granite to take in the view of the ocean. By now Glenn had figured we’d need a snack – but not any old snack.

He told me to turn the other way and then presented me with homemade rhubarb cake and fresh strawberry sauce. Delicious and totally unexpected. Tea was also served.

"Afternoon tea included homemade rhubarb cake with strawberry sauce"
Afternoon tea included homemade rhubarb cake with strawberry sauce

Slowly we hiked back to the boats, passing some beautiful wildflowers including the iris in the photo below. From Dover Island we paddled for about another 50 to 60 minutes – time enough to poke about a few lagoons and make our way back to East Dover.

"Wild iris can be found on Dover Island"
Wild iris can be found on Dover Island

After kayaking I was a tad wet and needed to change. I was pointed in the direction of the outhouse – which was a step up from almost all that I’d ever seen.

"Colourful outhouse"
Attention to detail even with the outhouse at Nova Shores Kayaking

An exceptional day kayaking Peggy’s Cove

I really had a most amazing day of kayaking. Certainly the cooperative weather played a part but really it was only a minor role.

The rocky landscape in the Peggy’s Cove area is both breathtaking and compelling. The kayaking is challenging enough that I had to focus and the non-kayaking stops were spectacular. It was a day of superlatives from start to finish!

For the trip I did, I think you need to be an intermediate paddler or an adventurous beginner in a double kayak with someone who knows what they’re doing. Fortunately there are protected islands with calmer waters than we paddled that are perfect for half day family type trips too. Glenn told me he has taken people out between the ages of 3 and 85.

Glenn doesn’t rent kayaks and I can appreciate why now that I’ve been out paddling. It’s an area that’s unpredictable and unless you’re an expert kayaker enjoyed best with the help of local knowledge. I don’t say that often as I’m not one for tours – but this is an exception to make.

If you’re in the Halifax area or anywhere along the south shore of Nova Scotia I highly recommend discovering the Peggy’s Cove area from a kayak.

Places to stay in and near Peggy’s Cove

For a cottage situation the Sand Dollar in Indian Harbour is ideal for two people. It is rated superb.

Sunfish Cottage, a beachfront property in Indian Harbour, would also be an excellent choice for 2-3 people.

For basic motel accommodation right in Peggy’s Cove, check out the Clifty Cove Motel. All rooms are ocean front overlooking St. Margaret’s Bay.

Further reading on things to do in Nova Scotia

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A fun day trip from Halifax - kayaking the Peggy's Cove area

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 30 Comments
  1. Beautiful photos and a wonderful tale, Leigh. I loved, loved, loved that outhouse!!! So much more inviting than the port-a-pottie plastic ones around here. And that cake made my mouth water.

  2. That is cool that the rocks create a breakwater and protect you from the dangerous swells. Kind of reminds me of dancing around islands in Quetico to avoid strong winds.

    Sure looks beautiful there and the food looks fantastic. I love coming across wild iris. We usually see blue flag irises in Wisconsin and Illinois although I have yet to see one this year.

    1. @Ted Dancing and getting in the lee of the islands is definitely what we did. And yes to the beauty – some of the best in Nova Scotia I think and the food was particularly good – which really helps make one’s day.

  3. I went kayaking only once in my life in Vietnam and I know how hard it can be. I was way too weak to paddle. Beautiful landscape as always. I see you are eating so healthy – veggies, brown bread. Would die for a small bite of this delicious cake!

  4. Definitely an experience full of superlatives from start to finish. The food looks mouthwatering (I’m ready for breakfast!), and the bathroom exceptional. Great trip all round. Thanks for showing me Peggy’s Cove from land and sea.

  5. Incredible photos, Leigh! I have always thought that Peggy’s Cove was one of the most beautiful places on the East Coast. I’m afraid those swells would be a bit too intimidating for me to try ocean kayaking though!

  6. Ahhhhhhh amazing! Makes me even more excited to get back home (for the first time in 5 years!) and truly appreciate and enjoy the beauty and uniqueness that this special place in the world has to offer. So glad you enjoyed 🙂

    1. @Kate I’ve been in NS for two weeks now – and other than a solo backpacking trip in Cape Chignecto I have loved my time here. The backpacking was pretty but looking out for bears non stop on your own is not much fun.

  7. HI Leigh,
    Wow, Peggy Cove looks breathtaking. I can’t believe the blueness of the sky and water. What an amazing place to Kayak. And what a great kayak guide you head – feeding youwith real homemade stuff! Wow, that outhouse is rather fancy! Thanks for takin us on your spectacular kayaking trip!

  8. These photos are beautiful! I’ve never been to Nova Scotia, but wow, you just moved kayaking out there way up on my bucket list Leigh. The colors are amazing!!! I’m into rock climbing as well, so, this would be an awesome place for me to set up shop for a few days and do a few different sports. Gotta love some multitasking. 🙂
    Not a bad lunch either. 🙂
    Cheers!
    – Lauren (@outdoor_minded)

  9. Beautiful photos! Peggy Cove looks so beautiful. Have not yet been to Nova Scotia… must increase the places in Canada we have explored. Your photos definitely make me consider doing more kayaking! That outhouse is too funny!

  10. Skipped Peggy’s Cove when we were in Nova Scotia – looks like that was a mistake. What a gorgeous area. (The lunch looks like a Norwegian breakfast, except for the biscuits 🙂 )

  11. I am fast becoming a huge fan of your site!! Came across a twitter repost by one of the many Canadian travel related folks and places I follow there (check out my lists!).

    This is an amazing article Leigh, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve wanted to see Peggy’s Cove ever since seeing some of the amazing photos of the area on Pinterest.

    If you do guest posts, I’d be honored to publish one (or many!) on my blog.

  12. Hi Leigh…hope all is well with you. Wonderful to revisit this page, and be reminded of my old home in East Dover. Kristen, Zoe and I have relocated to Gaspe in the last year – and looking at heading out on the Blueberry Trail for a family bike tour next week…so great to read your review there. Kayaking is nice here in Gaspe, but really, hard to compete with the Dover Island paradise!

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