I’m sure the people from these towns would hoot and holler that I am grouping them all in one blog, but until I learn more about each (dear residents: feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments at the end), I just don’t have enough to say to give each place a category of it’s own. So, I’m going to go in route order, as to not step on any more toes.
Hubbards is exactly the kind of place that made me want to start Alternative Routes, because unless someone tells you directly to stop there, you probably won’t. What brought me in at first were the antique shops, one in particular really, right off the lighthouse route, beside another place worth stopping— The Trellis Café. I don’t know much about the owner, although he always seems to be there, and available, and charming. The place is sort of spectacular, an eclectic mix of mid century side boards at $8000 and classic nova scotia rag rugs, mine I negotiated, bought and loved for $60. There is easily something for everyone here, and lots of little local treasures, including handmade items.
Hubbards also boasts having Nova Scotia’s smallest provincial park and 10 beaches all within close driving distance to one another. They are a community with a lot of earned pride, and work hard to promote their local economy. One mainstay is the Shore Club, a place that claims to be the host of the “Original Nova Scotia Lobster Supper” and the “Last of the Great Dance Halls.”
Next on the line is Chester, one of my favourite little hubs in Nova Scotia. And I know I’m not the only one. Known world wide for Chester Race week that takes place August 13 to 16th and has been around for more than 150 years. But, Chester is about more than sail boats. Until the Nova Scotia liberal government squashed out all their resources, there was a once booming film industry in Chester. Yes, really. Don’t believe me— Dolores Clairbourne, Two if by Sea, and the television series Haven were all shot in Chester.
When people ask me for my Nova Scotia chowder recommendation, I have to tell them about The Kiwi Café. I’m not sure what a classic Nova Scotia chowder is supposed to be, but I imagine anyone who eats this one full of lobster and haddock, won’t care. It’s delicious. Barely a potato in sight, and I’m pretty sure a full lobster in each bowl, the only rival it has is my own and maybe my grandmothers. If seafood is what you are after, you can’t go wrong with this chowder. They have other fair as well, all day breakfast, sandwiches; they use Java Blend Coffee (locally roasted in Halifax since 1938), bread from La Have Bakery and sell four-dollar farm fresh eggs. They even carry specialty items that you probably can’t find anywhere else in Chester, like Thai curry pastes and Comptoire du Sud sugar cubes. I’ve never actually tried their take home meals, but I imagine they are as seriously delicious as everything else I’ve tried.
Mahone Bay must be as famous for it’s harbour view as it was for wooden boat building back in the day. If you’re on our route, you’ll get the best view as we drive in to the town. Everyone oh and ahs over the three churches that tower over the water, each one a different denomination and each differently beautiful in it’s own way. I’m not sure why exactly this has become such a spectacular thing to see, but when you see it, there is something a little quirky and strange about the whole deal, but mostly it’s just beautiful. The harbour itself is full of small islands—some are even populated. If you missed Amos Pewter when we were at Peggy’s Cove you can always make up for it here. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, this is the location where everything gets made, so if you’re luck and stop in at the right time, you might be able to see how it’s all done. If you happen to miss something being made, the staff is super knowledgeable and happy to tell you everything there is to know about pewter in Nova Scotia. If you’re into learning on your trip, you should check out the wooden boat-building museum. Shipbuilding is how Mahone Bay got its start.