Thinking about planning a trip to Halifax? Whether you’re looking for a little adventure or to take in the local history and culture, you NEED to visit these islands located in and around the Halifax Region.
With hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny specs dotting the waterways and ocean around the Halifax area, we’ve pulled together a list of a few of our favourites for you to explore on your next visit:
1 – Borgles Island
This place is not a joke – seriously just look at the images captured in this Carribean-esque paradise.
Borgles Island is located about 80 kilometres east of Halifax and encompasses about 215 hectares of white sand beaches, and ancient boreal rain forests that have been virtually untouched for 10,000 years.
The island is home to more than 100 species of birds.
A long white sand bar sits between two beaches on Borgles. Tucker’s Head, a spot with a view of the rest of the islands can be reached by paddlers and hikers.
Green says Borgles was the most threatened island by potential development. Recently, a developer hoped to clear cut the island, making way for homes and a golf course. Now, Green says the no trespassing signs the developer stuck up will be removed and the island will be preserved.
“It’s staying as is and people can continue to enjoy it,” he says.
Sable Island is a small island located 300 km southeast of Halifax. The remote island spans about 1.5 km, and is only accessible by air and by sea.
Dating back more than four centuries, Sable Island has a long, fascinating, yet devastating human history, earning it the title, “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
More than 350 sea vessels have been wrecked in the waters surrounding the island due to rough conditions at sea, fog, and hidden sandbars. And, as a testament to survival in an unlikely environment, Sable Island was home to Canada’s first life-saving station, established in 1801.
Fortunately, times have changed and today accessing Sable Island is great deal safer. And trust me, this wild and windswept island is a place that should be on every nature enthusiasts’ bucket list. Roaming Sable Island freely, are hundreds of wild horses and the world’s biggest breeding colony of grey seals. Plants, birds, and insects have adapted to life on the island as well, some of which are found nowhere else on the planet.
3 – Oak Island
While not TECHNICALLY part of the Halifax Region, Oak Island is just a quick day-trip from the area and is a fascinating piece of Nova Scotian history.
1 hour 10 mins drive
Oak Island is one of over 350 islands in Mahone Bay, located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. The island is about an hours drive from downtown Halifax, and under a half hour drive from Old Town Lunenburg, one of only two urban communities in North America designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
For more than 200 years, Oak Island has fascinated and frustrated those who have search for the renowned Oak Island Treasure. Despite the difficulties and risks, there have been many determined efforts by people to find the legendary treasure, even attracting the interest of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The mystery of Oak Island began in 1795 with the discovery of a circular depression in the ground by a local teenaged boy. Not long after this discovery, another group of treasure hunters took over. They were convinced that it was the site of long-lost buried treasure, a so-called ‘Money Pit’, possibly belonging to Captain Kidd or Blackbeard. The group claimed to have found a flagstone etched with symbols that, according to an amateur cryptologist, translated into “forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried”. Unfortunately, after persistent flooding, the group was forced to abandon their search for the treasure below.
Today, the island is privately owned and visitation is only through guided tours, but the search for its treasure continues and likely won’t stop until the infamous Money Pit is found. Learn more about visiting Oak Island, here.
4 – McNabs Island
McNabs Island is the largest island and is located at the entrance of the Halifax Harbour. The island provides visitors with 22 km of hiking trails to explore, a variety of forested and coastal settings, and historic sites to discover. It’s the perfect day-trip to escape the hustle and bustle of the city; you’ll feel as if you’re thousands of miles away, when actually you’re in the heart of it all.
Getting to McNabs Island is easy. The island is accessible by boat from downtown Halifax, Dartmouth, Eastern Passage and Purcell’s Cove. The trip takes about 25 minutes from downtown Halifax, or 10 minutes from Eastern Passage.
Make the most of your visit to McNabs Island with a knowledgeable island guide on a Forts and Folklore tour.
Melville Island and Deadman’s Island are situated on the south side of Halifax on the city’s Northwest Arm, about a 10-minute drive from the downtown core. Historically linked, these islands are positioned on either side of a small cove known as Deadman’s Cove.
The importance of the islands’ history lies in their role as a wartime prison, medical facility, immigration quarantine centre and a place of rest of nearly 400 individuals, the islands offer a rare glimpse into the history of the province.
Melville Island entered Canadian military history when prisoners of war were detained there in the late 1790s. It continued in this capacity throughout the War of 1812, and again from 1909 until 1939. As a result of Britain’s international agreements with respect to treatment of prisoners, Melville Island also became a medical facility for enemy detainees. The island later played a role in early immigration into Canada as a quarantine centre, and served as a British military prison for soldiers charged with military offenses.
Today, a plaque can be found on Deadman’s Island which commemorates 195 American servicemen who died in captivity in the former prison on Melville Island during the War of 1812.
7 – Tancook Island
Tancook Island is a unique community located 6 miles off the coast of Chester, under an hours drive from downtown Halifax. Tancook Island is full of vibrant artistry, pristine natural beauty, and a deep-rooted history in Nova Scotia’s fishing industry. Leave your cares on the mainland and take a relaxing hour-long ferry ride for an authentic Maritime experience.
Feel the ocean breeze, and take in the sea salt air as you discover the wonders of Tancook Island. Enjoy hiking, biking, or beach combing for sea glass and shells. And you’ll find plenty of accommodations, restaurants, shops, and galleries on the island, as well.
Tancook Island is a Nova Scotian treasure just waiting for you to discover. Curious about the island? Take a look at this live web cam footage of Tancook Island wharf.
Discover more of Canada’s island beauty with a trip to Cape Breton Island or learn about Canadian history on Prince Edward Island with this Enchanting Islands Tour.
Originally published October 2016 – updated January 2018