With the mainland of Nova Scotia hosting an incredible 7400km of coastline, the beach is never far away when visiting this beautiful province.
And when it comes to the best beaches in Nova Scotia, I can assure you that the standards are high. Think golden sand, cerulean ocean (yes, really!) and endless sand dunes.
On a hot day in summer, it can honestly feel like paradise. I will admit, however, that the water can be absolutely freezing!
We have personally visited more than 60 beaches in Nova Scotia, but that is honestly just a mere drop in the ocean.
Honestly, you can’t really go wrong in Nova Scotia. But for us, a few do stand out from the others.
Without further adieu, let me introduce 27+ of the best beaches in Nova Scotia. The first 16 listed are my absolute favourites and I have explained why these particular Nova Scotia beaches are so special, along with the details you need to visit yourself.
Here’s what to expect:
- Crystal Crescent
- Terence Bay Beach
- Summerville Beach
- Carter’s Beach
- Rissers Beach
- Roseway Beach
- Hawk Beach
- Mavillette Beach
- Pond Cove Beach
- Burntcoat Head Beach
- Seal Bay
- Borgles Island sandbar
- Martinique Beach
- Mahoneys Beach
- Pomquet Beach
- Inverness Beach
- Fishing Cove Beach
- Other amazing beaches in Nova Scotia
If your favourite Nova Scotia beach isn’t on this list, feel free to share in the comments so I can put it on our list for next time! The below map features all the featured beaches.
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Nova Scotia is located on Megumaagee, land of the Mi’kmaq. This post was first published January 2019, most recently updated in November 2022.
Crystal Crescent Beach
Crystal Crescent Beach is a little off the beaten path but all the better for it. It is only 30km from Halifax yet on a sunny day, there is usually still room on the sand. This sheltered cove offers a surprisingly sheltered place to swim and sunbathe, plus sweeping views of the ocean.
There are actually three crescent beaches here, with the first also being the largest. The third has gained popularity as a nude beach.
After admiring the beauty of the first beach, we headed on to the third and then continued on to the Pennant Point Trail. From the headland rocks, we saw minke whales feeding in the ocean.
How to find this beach: Follow Highway 306 south out of Halifax, towards the small fishing community of Sambro. Continue onto Highway 349 and then keep an eye out for the green Crystal Crescent Beach signs. There are two parking lots at Crystal Crescent. If you change your mind about which beach to visit, there is a trail leading between all three.
Terence Bay Beach
Bordered by purple wild roses, this golden sand beach isn’t large but it remains one of our favourites in Nova Scotia. The water was the clearest and calmest we saw anywhere near the Atlantic Coast.
A short walk from the beach is Terence Bay Lighthouse, something of a doppelganger for the one further west at Peggy’s Cove. The granite rocks may not be quite as high, but the view is just as scenic. We spotted minke whales from here, who then headed towards the beach!
There is no doubt the water was absolutely freezing on our visit in early July, but swimming at Terence Bay was the perfect way to cool down from 30c heat.
How to find this beach: Terence Bay is a small fishing community about 30 minutes drive from Halifax. The turnoff is about two-thirds of the way to Peggy’s Cove. The beach can be found at the end of Sandy Cove Road, past the SS Heritage Park Society Visitor Centre (also worth a stop). Parking is limited.
Summerville Beach is one of those places that is hidden in plain sight. It is located right off the main highway and yet you could so easily miss it when travelling past.
Protected as a Provincial Park, Summerville Beach features a wide, kilometre long swath of light sand. The water is fantastically clear and turquoise on a sunny day. The beach is backed by low sand dunes, with parking lots and outhouses behind.
We reached Summerville Beach just in time for our first really nice (25c+) day in Nova Scotia and it was the perfect place to enjoy the heat.
How to find this beach: Summerville Beach is located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, about 40 minutes (52km) north of the town of Shelburne on Highway 3. From the north, Summerville Beach is just 15 minutes (15km) from Liverpool. The Provincial Park is well signed from the highway.
Stay close to Summerville Beach at Ocean Surf Cottage, just a few minutes drive away
Backed by forest and with few houses in sight, Carter’s Beach feels like a world away from busy Highway 103, just a stone’s throw west. The impossibly azure waters here would look like something more suited to the Caribbean rather than Nova Scotia!
There are three gorgeous stretches of soft, light golden sand here, separated by two forested peninsulas. There isn’t a lot of parking in the small lot, so get here early on hot summer days.
While we loved Summerville, we were blown away by the solitude and natural surroundings of Carter’s Beach. This would definitely be in our top three best beaches of Nova Scotia.
How to find this beach: Carter’s Beach is located just south of Summerville Beach (above) on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. The beach is most easily accessible via Carter’s Beach Road, a cul-de-sac branching from Central Port Mouton Road and Highway 3 before it.
A family holiday favourite, Rissers Beach makes this best beaches in Nova Scotia list for its lovely kilometre long stretch of golden sand, beautiful boardwalk and waterfront campground.
The convenient location just off the main highway is also a major plus, especially for those visiting Nova Scotia with limited time. Part of a Provincial Park of the same name, Rissers Beach has almost one hundred campsites.
Some are hidden in the trees bordering the beach while others have incredible unobstructed views of the coastline.
If you’d like to stay at Rissers Beach during July and August, early reservations are recommended to secure a spot. Even in mid-June, most of the oceanfront campsites were taken by the time we arrived.
How to find this beach: Found on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, Rissers Beach is easily accessible via coastal Highway 331. Rissers Beach Provincial Park is just ten minutes drive south of LaHave and twenty-five minutes away from Bridgewater. If you like coffee and home baked cakes and pastries, you must make a stop at the LaHave Bakery before heading to Rissers Beach!
If you’re looking for a low key beach adventure, Roseway Beach may be the one. A long stretch of golden sand awaits just beyond the parking lot. It’s often deserted, so it’s just you, the beach and the ocean.
There is a river on the southwest side of this beach (popular for swimming), separating Roseway from Round Bay. The Nature Conservancy of Canada owns property on the Round Bay side. Both beaches change appearance with the ever changing tides and currents.
There are very few facilities here, with only a portable toilet in the parking lot. Bring everything you need and pack it out with you when leaving.
How to find this beach: Roseway Beach is a 25km drive from Shelburne on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. The fastest route is via Highway 3 and then Shore Road, which winds along the coast. The final turn is aptly named Beach Road. This stretch is gravel and narrow in places.
Hawk Beach on Cape Sable Island
Located on Nova Scotia’s most southerly tip, Hawk Beach may look like ‘just another’ beautiful white sand beach but there is much more to it than that. At low tide, a peculiar view appears.
Hundreds of petrified tree stumps appear from the sea bed appear; a 1500-year-old drowned forest. Clearly birds find it fascinating too, with the area being one of the best in Nova Scotia for birdwatching.
Keeping watch over it all is Nova Scotia’s tallest lighthouse (30m). Hawk Beach is an atmospheric kind of place, quite different from any other beach we visited in the province.
Cape Sable Island was a bit of an accidental find for us. We were fishing off the dock in Shag Harbour when we got talking to a local lobster fisherman. He advised that before leaving the area, we simply must visit Cape Sable Island first. Thanks Maurice!
How to find this beach: Hawk Beach can be found right at the southern end of Cape Sable Island on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. The Island is accessible via a causeway from the mainland. From Shag Harbour, Hawk Beach is about a twenty-minute drive.
Visiting the Baie Sainte-Marie area of Nova Scotia? Do yourself a favour and make sure Mavillette Beach is on your ‘must see’ list. This sweeping 1.5km long beach feels even more expansive at low tide, when sand flats appear.
Part of a provincial park of the same name, this beach has supervised swimming on weekends in July and August. This makes Maviellete a great destination for families, who will also appreciate the facilities (change houses, outhouses, interpretive panels, bird watching platforms).
Mavillette Beach is accessible from a number of small parking lots located on John Doucette Road. Boardwalks lead visitors over the delicate sand dunes to the sand.
How to find this beach: Mavillette Beach is situated on the Baie Saint-Marie, about 30 minutes drive north of Yarmouth. John Doucette Road is a detour from Highway 1. Cape Saint Mary Lighthouse Park is a worthwhile side trip after visiting the the beach.
Pond Cove Beach, Brier Island
Whether you’re a full-blown rock hound, have a casual interest in geology or just like to search for pretty stones from time to time, Pond Cove is the place for you. The beach almost entirely consists of unusually shaped pebbles, agates and glittering rocks.
Beyond the rock hunting possibilities, Pond Cove is a pretty place in its own right. The wildflowers bordering the beach are particularly wonderful to look at. Brier Island is popular for migrating birds, so birdwatchers will also be in their element.
If you like off the beaten path places, Brier Island should definitely be on your Nova Scotia bucket list. The island may be small (7.5km by 2.5km) but it punches well above its weight when it comes to things to do and see.
How to find this beach: Pond Cove Beach is at the southern end of Brier Island, a place reached by two ferries and a 70km drive from Digby. Due to the small size of Brier Island, Pond Cove is just a very short trip from the main settlement of Westport. It is also possible to walk there (about 3-4km).
Burntcoat Head Beach
Burnt Coat is a little different to the others named on this list of the best beaches in Nova Scotia. It is not known for its soft sand, aquamarine water or excellent swimming. Burnt Coat is the home to the world’s highest recorded tides.
On this beach, you can explore the muddy ocean floor at low tide and search for fossils in the red rocks. Just a few hours later, the tide will rush back in and surround the ‘flower pot’ rock formations. It’s a place like no other in Nova Scotia!
As well the beautiful beach, there is also an interesting little lighthouse museum (free entry) at Burntcoat Head to visit. Tidal tours are also offered. If interested, check the available times on the website first.
How to find this beach: Burntcoat Head Park is located on the Minas Basin (Bay of Fundy), almost exactly halfway between Truro and Wolfville. It is signed from Highway 215. For beach walking at Burntcoat, prepare to go barefoot or bring some old shoes. The red mud can stain. There is a water tap by the beach for visitors to use for clean-up.
Seal Bay, Cape Chignecto
Another beach that takes a little effort to reach, Seal Bay is only accessible via boat, kayak or the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail. The latter is a 51km circular hike, with the majority of the route closely bordering the ever-changing Bay of Fundy.
Seal Bay is a small rock and pebble beach. It has a slight pink hue, common to other beaches in this area. The reason it is one of the best beaches in Nova Scotia is simple – isolation and its unspoiled nature. The fantastic sunsets are a bonus.
On the headland above Seal Bay Beach, there is a designated campground for hikers. This was our first overnight stop the first time we backpacked the Cape Chignecto Trail. Visiting kayakers are able to camp directly on the beach.
How to find this beach: Seal Bay Beach is located on Nova Scotia’s northern Bay of Fundy coastline and accessible via water as well as the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail. The nearest town is Advocate Harbour, approximately 4km to the east of Cape Chignecto Provincial Park.
Borgles Island sandbar, 100 Wild islands
At the southern tip of Borgles Island, a spit of golden sand reaches to connect with nearby Middle Island, creating a picture-perfect sandbar. On either side, the clear cerulean ocean gently laps onto the sand.
The Borgles Island sandbar is just one example of the beautiful beaches in the 100 Wild Islands protected area on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. Those who make the effort to reach Borgles Island are likely to have this idyllic sandbar all to themselves.
Reaching the Borgles Island sandbar was the highlight of our five-day kayak trip in the 100 Wild Islands. The area was so stunning that we decided to camp just around the corner.
How to find this beach: Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore is about an hour’s drive north-east from Halifax. The sandbar is located between Borgles Island and Middle Island, around five kilometres from the mainland (as the crow flies) Accessible only via water, you’ll either need your own boat or kayak to reach this amazing beach.
Another of our favourites along the Eastern Shore, Martinique Beach features the longest beach in Nova Scotia. With 5km of white sand, this beach looks and sounds like it belongs in much more exotic locale!
Not only loved by beach bums like me, Martinique Beach is also very popular with surfers. The exposed location makes the surf pretty consistent, though summer apparently offers the best conditions.
Surfing lessons and rentals are available at Martinique Beach. There is also lifeguard supervision during the summer months.
How to find this beach: The journey to Martinique Beach is an easy cruise east along Highway 107. At Musquodoboit Harbour, head south and follow the signs to Martinique Beach Provincial Park. It will take about an hour in total from downtown Halifax to reach this stunning Nova Scotia beach.
Mahoneys Beach, near Antigonish, is the perfect spot for sunrise. It’s also the first of many lovely sand beaches on this stretch of the Cape George Drive.
The golden spit of sand at Mahoneys Beach offers views out to Cape Breton Island. Although there are houses nearby, they are separated from the beach by a calm lagoon.
The recent hurricane (September 2022) has reshaped the beach somewhat, so if you haven’t visited for a while, you may notice Mahoneys Beach looking a little different than you remembered.
Other wonderful beaches in this area include Cribbons Beach, Jimtown Beach and Ballatyne’s Cove.
Pomquet Beach is the most recent addition to our best beaches in Nova Scotia list. We visited it for the first time during an October road trip through the Antigonish area.
And wow, what a beach! The spectacular stretch of golden sand is backed by dunes and looks out towards Cape Breton Island. A number of boardwalks provide access to the sand from the large parking lot.
The 3km long beach is supervised by lifeguards in July and August, making it an ideal choice for families. It is also wheelchair accessible with the help of the boardwalks (wide width) plus dedicated parking and beach access mat.
How to find this beach: Pomquet Beach Provincial Park is a short 15 minute detour from Highway 104, the road leading to Cape Breton Island. It is located just east of the small town of Antigonish (which is also worth a stop). The drive from Halifax is about 2 hours 30 minutes. Please note that the last couple of kilometres of the road are unpaved but well maintained.
Offering all you could need in a municipal beach, Inverness Beach is family friendly and super easy to access. Located on the edge of the Gulf of St Lawrence, the water is much warmer here than on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coastline.
Inverness Beach is a good solid choice for a beach stop when heading to (or from) the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island. There are lifeguards on duty in summer on this beach.
Another of our favourite beaches on Cape Breton Island is Pleasant Bay Beach. We spent a wonderful afternoon eating ice-cream and swimming in the ocean after an overnight hike on the Fishing Cove Trail (below).
How to find this beach: The small town of Inverness is located on the western coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. It takes around two hours to drive from Sydney, Cape Breton’s largest town, to Inverness. From Halifax, the total journey time is around four hours.
Fishing Cove beach, Cape Breton
Driving the Cabot Trail may be one of the most popular things to do in Nova Scotia but there are still plenty of places to find some peace and quiet. One of these spots is Fishing Cove. A relatively easy 6km trail leads down from the highway to what was once a tiny Scottish fishing community.
At the end of the hike, you’ll find a welcoming pebble beach with what must be some of the best sunset views in Nova Scotia. It is an ideal place to swim and cool off after a hot hike! There’s great backcountry camping here too, the only designated area in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
How to find this beach: Fishing Cove Beach is only accessible via boat or a 12km return hike. The trailhead (and parking lot) is located right on the Cabot Trail, about fifteen minutes drive south of Pleasant Bay on Cape Breton Island. To hike to Fishing Cove, you must have a Cape Breton Highlands National Park Pass.
Other amazing beaches in Nova Scotia
There are so many more beaches I could name on this beaches in Nova Scotia list.
I’m sure any native Nova Scotians reading will have plenty of suggestions for places I have missed!
Here are a couple more of my nominations for best beaches in Nova Scotia.
- Five Islands – Experience the Bay of Fundy tides from the other side of the Minas Basin
- Kejimkujik Seaside – The coastal section of Nova Scotia’s fun-to-pronounce National Park
- Joggins Beach – The best place to hunt for fossils!
- Thomas Raddall – A great beach camping alternative to Rissers Beach
- Taylor’s Point – Another wonderfully quiet, sandy Eastern Shore beach
The following Nova Scotia beaches have been suggested by readers in the comments (thank you!):
- Port Maitland Beach – 1km sand and cobble beach, also on the Baie Sainte-Marie
- Crescent Beach – Mile long stretch in Lockeport
- Louis Head – Golden crescent of sand located in community of same name
- Johnston’s Pond – Near Sable River, named for the freshwater pond next to the beach
- Cherry Hill Beach – Fine grey sand, not far from Risser’s Beach
- Hirtle’s Beach – Wonderfully long 3km beach near LaHave
- Beach Meadows Beach – Sheltered white sand beach near Liverpool
Best Beaches in Nova Scotia: visiting tips
Please keep the following in mind when visiting any of these amazing beaches in Nova Scotia:
- Unless specifically mentioned above, none of the mentioned beaches have lifeguard stations
- Always pack-out what you bring to the beach. Not only does this keep the beach beautiful for other visitors, but it helps the environment and animals too
- Rip currents (also known as rip-tides) are possible. Make sure you know what to do if caught in a rip-tide
- Some of the beaches noted above are habitats for the endangered piping plover shorebirds. Keep off sand dunes and walk along the tide line to avoid disturbing these birds.
- Keep dogs on leash. This is especially beneficial for the piping plovers – their eggs are often crushed by off-leash dogs.
Where do you think are the best beaches in Nova Scotia?
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada