If you are looking for outdoor activities or full-fledged eco-tourism adventures while you’re visiting Dartmouth, then there are a wide range of urban, coastal and park experiences to choose from.
Expedia ranked Dartmouth as #18 among most active Canadian cities in 2017.
Our trail systems have the advantage of some impressive scenery, be they the best views of Halifax or outstanding beaches and coastlines, most within forty-five minutes of where you are staying.
Below are some suggestions for hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, surfing, kite surfing, bird watching and picnicking in Dartmouth, Cole Harbour and within a short drive up the Eastern Shore.
Wear comfortable shoes and take your camera, binoculars, water, sunscreen and an umbrella or rain gear if rain happens to be in the forecast.
Pack a picnic lunch, too.
If you’re planning on visiting any beaches on a sunny summer weekend, a morning arrival is recommended in order to find parking.
Part of the Trans Canada Trail – the Dartmouth Harbourwalk links both ferry terminals and provides impressive views of Halifax Harbour and the Halifax skyline.
The distance is about 3km one-way (ferry-to-ferry)
Officially, there are 23 lakes in Dartmouth. The Canadian Encyclopedia says there are 25 lakes and other sources say there are 26.
No matter what the count, Dartmouth is well qualified as Canada’s “City of Lakes”.
Supervised beaches (July and August) can be found at Albro Lake, Birch Cove (Lake Banook), Penhorn Lake and Shubie Beach (Lake Charles). Suggested lake hikes are listed below.
Lake Banook is a 2.8km return hike from Graham's Grove or Nowlan St. parking lots.
The lake is named for the Mi'kmaq phrase for "First Lake", as it is the first lake in the system that later became the Shubenacadie Canal.
The Mi'kmaq people were the first to navigate the waters of Lake Banook, which contributed to the naming of Lake Micmac, Mic Mac Mall, and Mic Mac Amateur Aquatic Club (AAC).
Sullivan’s Pond is located about 1km from the Alderney Ferry Terminal or about 1.3km from the Grahams Grove parking lot.
3.9km from Baker Drive or Freshwater Drive to Morris Lake, return. 1.7km return from the Library or Superstore parking lot on Portland Estates Blvd. to Morris Lake return.
A suburban multi-purpose trail, with routes along streams and freshwater marshes.
If you’re staying in Burnside or Dartmouth Crossing, then a simple, accessible walk can be found nearby at Spectacle Lake.
The first fully recorded hockey game in Canada was played on Oathill Lake in 1867.
Oathill is a small, attractive lake situated between Maynard Lake, Lake Banook to the Northwest, and Penhorn Lake to the Northeast.
It has a small boardwalk and crusher dust path connected via Beckfoot Drive, Mountain Ash Ct. and Lorne Avenue.
Graham's Grove to Halifax Harbour (or vice versa) – 7km return
This route takes you through the heart of Dartmouth, past Lake Banook and Sullivan's Pond and with a couple of walking options through downtown.
Graham's Grove is a park (and parking lot) located on Prince Albert Rd. near Highway 111.
Take the route in reverse from the ferry or any number of starting points in downtown Dartmouth.
McNabs Island is accessible by private boat, or commercial water taxi and charter boat operators from Dartmouth, Halifax, and Eastern Passage.
Depending on pick-up and drop-off locations, the trip takes about 20-30 minutes from downtown Dartmouth or Halifax and 10 minutes from Eastern Passage.
The Trans Canada Trail traverses the Musquodoboit River Valley and heads west along the Eastern Shore towards Cole Harbour, Eastern Passage, and Dartmouth.
The Trail also connects to Halifax by way of the Dartmouth Ferry (Woodside, Alderney) or Macdonald Bridge.
Sections of the trail also head inland, the first being at the Cole Harbour Lawrencetown Provincial Park to Upper Lawrencetown; and the second at Canal Street in Dartmouth and heading along the Shubenacadie Canal to the end of Lake Charles.
Dartmouth-Cole Harbour to Martinique Beach or Clam Harbour Beach
Nova Scotia has some fantastic coastline scenery, and the roads and rails that connected the coastal communities formed the historic settlement pattern.
Most of the rails have since been converted to trails, but within an hour’s drive of Dartmouth, lies some of the Province’s most outstanding coastal scenery, all conveniently accessible along the Eastern Shore.
The recommended route is via Highway 207 from Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, east through Lawrencetown, Three Fathom Harbour, Seaforth, West Chezzetcook and Porters Lake, and then via Highway 7 to Musquodoboit Harbour, and on to Martinique Beach (45 minutes from Dartmouth) or Clam Harbour Beach (1 hour from Dartmouth).
Martinique Beach Provincial Park is situated in East Petpeswick, 11km south of Musquodoboit Harbour in the Eastern Shore region. (From Dartmouth take either Highway 107 or 207 to Musquodoboit Harbour and turn right onto East Petpeswick Road.)
Clam Harbour Beach Provincial Park is located in Clam Harbour (84km) from Dartmouth on Route 107 or 207 to Highway 7), then at Lake Charlotte, take Clam Harbour Road to the park.
Martinique Beach is Nova Scotia’s longest sand beach – about 7km return.
Activities include bird watching, surfing and supervised swimming, and the Park is best known for its protected ocean ecology.
Clam Harbour Beach Provincial Park is a long, wide, natural sand beach (about 2.5km return) and is best known for its annual sand castle competition, usually held on the 3rd weekend in August.
Cole Harbour Heritage Park Trails are located in Cole Harbour, off Bissett Road.
There are 7 main trails (22.5km total) highlighting the area’s heritage and natural flora and fauna, as well as woodlands, field and salt marsh shorelines.
The trails are open year-round (no winter maintenance) for all to explore the area’s wildlife, including bird watching, while hiking, cycling, skiing, and snowshoeing along the trails.
With the assistance of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Mary Osborne and David Kuhn donated land around the harbour to the people of Nova Scotia in January 1998.
The Nelson Conservation Area is part of the park reserve – it is an area of 462 acres protected under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
The Shearwater Flyer follows the route of the former Musquodoboit Railway from Bissett Roade to Shearwater.
For 7.5km, it tracks evenly across the unspoiled interior of the headland separating Halifax Harbour from Cole Harbour.
Four bridges cross seemingly remote streams. Unusual plant colonies dot the bogs close to the embankment.
Local yacht clubs offer mooring, services and other amenities for members and non-members:
Petpeswick Yacht Club (Eastern Shore)
East Lawrencetown is the main centre of surfing activities, with the East Coast Surf School.
Surf rentals can also be found in Three Fathom Harbour and Martinique Beach.
Nova Scotia has 452 bird species and the Province’s official bird is the osprey.
Suggested bird-watching locations for Dartmouth, Cole Harbour and the Eastern Shore can be found here.
You’ll need some advance planning for these long distance running and canoe races.
Listed as one of Canadian Running Magazine’s “Bucket List Races”, Sole Sisters sponsors races for girls and women of all ages. The races take place in Dartmouth and have attracted runners from all over the world. Sole Sisters sponsors the largest 5km women-only race and the only women-only half marathon in Eastern Canada.
Canoe to the Sea is a long distance race on the shores of the Canal between Dartmouth and Maitland on the Bay of Fundy.