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THE VIEW FROM HERE: The things we take for granted

Sections of the south shore of Nova Scotia's mainland are often shrouded in fog.  It was a very still morning at the coast when Lew Turner snapped this  beauty.
Vernon Oickle knows his friends were thoroughly impressed with the South Shore and is certain they will return.. - Contributed

It really is true that we don’t appreciate the things right that are right in front of us until we are confronted with them.

I recently had the pleasure of hosting a couple of friends from Winnipeg for a day of sightseeing and exploring in this great region of Nova Scotia and, I am willing to admit, that even after all these years of researching and writing about the South Shore, I never grow tired of the amazing things you discover in the region.

My friends had already spent two days in Lunenburg so I wanted to introduce them to the southwestern portion of the region. We met up in Liverpool early that Friday morning where we spent the first half hour on a quick tour of the Port of the Privateers during which I introduced them to the historical district at Fort Point, and pointed out some of the important structures in town such as Perkins House and the old town hall, noting that it is a national historic site.

Our visitors were impressed with my hometown and I wish we could have spent more time here, but I had other plans for my friends. We had a full itinerary for the day that included getting to Cape Forchu near Yarmouth, which was almost a three-hour drive. If you have never been to Cape Forchu, I recommend you go this summer as it is worth the drive.

Cape Forchu, with its lighthouse perched high on the weather-beaten rocks is indisputably one of the most beautiful places in the province. The naturally stunning vistas highlighted by the Atlantic crashing on the rocks and the pristine scenery you’ll discover there will leave you awestruck, as it did my friends when we visited on June 14.

Speaking of the things we take for granted, I was inspired by my friends’ reactions to this spectacular place. While the unspoiled beauty swept them away, it was the crispness and cleanliness of the cool clean “salty” air that most inspired them. Imagine that. The bottom line, though, was that they truly enjoyed the hour we spent at Cape Forchu and plan a return someday.

We wanted to stay longer, but there was much more to see and do. After leaving this piece of paradise, we began our trek back along the South Shore by way of the Lighthouse Route. Along the way, we made a stop in Tusket to tour the Argyle Township Court House and Gaol. For those who don’t know, a gaol is a place of confinement and the historic structure in Tusket is Canada’s oldest standing courthouse. It was built in 1805 and operated as a working courthouse and jail until 1944.

If you are inspired by local heritage, then I would highly recommend a visit to this museum that was such an integral part in the history of this region. Not only is the unique structure a gem to behold but it also has an interesting story to tell. Even if you are not a history buff, you will still enjoy a tour of the building complete with a visit to the jail cells. Add it to your list of must-see places.

Leaving Tusket, we travelled further along the Lighthouse Route, a spectacular journey for both locals and visitors to enjoy. I never grow tired of the panoramic views one can enjoy along the way. As we drove the fog shrouded coastline that day, my friends soaked in the draw-dropping scenery that was a visual feast to behold.

It goes without saying that they were impressed with the beauty that awaited them around every corner. We even made it a point to stop at the famous Shag Harbour UFO crash site. Along with its unique place in the region’s paranormal culture, the location also afforded them a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean and all its spectacular and angry glory.

As my friends had been craving seafood, I knew just the place to take them for lunch — Capt. Kat’s Lobster Shack in Barrington Passage. If you are ever in the area and are looking for a place to enjoy lobster or any type of seafood dish, then this is the place to go. Their lobster rolls are, by far, among the best I have ever had. If I had to choose one word to describe them, it would be scrumptious.

After lunch, we headed to Barrington for a stop at the Barrington Woolen Mill where the scenery alone is worth taking in, but it is the history that’s really impressive. Powered by a water-driven turbine, the mill washed, picked, carded, spun, dyed and wove the wool. The mill was a thriving producer of woolens in the late 19th and early 20th century and is now a delightful museum.

From that picturesque location, we headed to the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in historic Birchtown. The Centre, with its mandate “to ensure the chronicles and contributions of Black Loyalists share a place with other communities that shape Canada’s cultural mosaic” is not just a museum. It is an experience to be embraced as it gives us the opportunity to discover a part of this region’s heritage that went largely forgotten until just a few decades ago.

The only caution I would offer here, is to make sure you allow sufficient time to take it all in. To fully appreciate the history and legacy of the Black Loyalist settlers, you should give yourself several hours to spend at the Centre, but it is absolutely worth the investment of time.

Moving on from Brichtown we visited the Loyalist town of Shelburne and explored historic Dock Street, which features the highest concentration of pre-1800 wooden buildings in Canada. Again, speaking of things we take for granted, the waterfront and streetscape of this picturesque South Shore town are gems just waiting to be discovered and you owe it to yourself to make a visit.

While my friends were wrapped up in what each of these places had to offer, as their tour guide I had to regulate our stops. If we didn’t keep moving, I knew we would never get to all the locations on my itinerary so as the day was waning, it was off to our next destination. On our route back to Liverpool, we left the 103 at Port Mouton and followed the Lighthouse Route where my friends soaked up the spectacular beauty that is the Summerville Beach area. Their conclusion? It’s a piece of paradise.

Back in Liverpool where our journey had started some 12 hours earlier, I had one more treat for my friends. In recent years, Cosby’s Garden Centre where the concrete sculptures created by the talented Ivan Higgins, has become a major attraction. I knew it would be the perfect exclamation mark on a day filled with sights, sounds, smells and tastes that had overloaded the senses. To say my friends were impressed with Ivan’s marvelous creations would be an understatement, indeed.

We wrapped up our daylong adventure with a delicious meal at Lane’s Privateer Inn where, once again, my friends enjoyed the delicious bounty from the sea served up in fine fashion by the friendly staff. Spending an hour and a half in the historic structure that, centuries earlier had been the home of Captain Joseph Barss, one Liverpool’s most prominent privateers, was the perfect ending to a day filled with fellowship and discovery.

It was a whirlwind trip, that’s for sure, and perhaps we bit off more than we could chew in one day, but it was worth the effort. I know my friends were thoroughly impressed with the South Shore and I am certain they will return. As I recall the enthusiastic reviews from these fine folks from Manitoba, I’m prompted to remind those of us who call this place home that we should never take for granted the view from here.

Vernon Oickle is a Nova Scotia author and journalist. His column, The View From Here, runs weekly in the South Shore Breaker.

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