Finding a lighthouse in Nova Scotia should be pretty straightforward — after all, lighthouses are MADE to be seen. But for a while, the Victoria Beach lighthouse kept us in the dark.
After packing to move, driving to Nova Scotia and being confined in quarantine, and getting key things set up in our new home province, getting out to visit a lighthouse seemed like a good idea. Between Peggy’s Cove and watching Davey and Sky’s videos on YouTube, lighthouses were at the top of our list!
Victoria Beach is only around 30 minutes from where we are staying and it seemed like a good choice for a Sunday afternoon visit. So off we went, driving south through Granville Ferry’s twisty main street and past colourful houses and kilometres of winter-bare trees standing tall on a fading crusty carpet of snow.
As we got closer to Victoria beach the road got narrow and twisty. We could see, down a slope at the side of the road, a harbour next to the Digby Gut channel.
The access road to the location of the lighthouse was covered in snow and very steep, so we decided not to press our luck and looked for an alternate way to access the grounds. The road behind the harbour looked promising and we rolled slowly along gaping at some very large fishing boats.
In the end, the Victoria Beach lighthouse proved to be an elusive quarry and we spent more than just this Sunday looking for it. Join our search in this video and learn along with us how NOT to look for a lighthouse…
On our first visit, we couldn’t figure out what had happened to our lighthouse. Had it been demolished and we didn’t know? Was it actually the lighted scaffold out on the pier and not a real lighthouse at all? Or was it the lighthouse under construction/renovation we saw on the way here?
It was time for some more homework… Here’s how we found the lighthouse and how YOU can find any lighthouse in Nova Scotia (or on the continent for that matter!).
Finding a lighthouse in Nova Scotia
This experience taught us that a bit of homework before you go (beyond just looking at a map) makes a big difference. Here’s some online info to plan with; Lighthousefriends.com is a good place to start:
It was warmer on our second trip so there was no need to hurry around the area… we could take our time to look. The tide was much further in that it had been a week ago and I realized, quite sheepishly, that last week the fishing boats had been out of the water because it had been low tide! My merchant marine grandfather would have been rolling his eyes…
Click on pictures to see larger versions and to scroll through the photos.
So with the tide in, there was no searching for sea glass this time and after a quick walk around the harbour (which we now know is called Battery Point Harbour — not …”the pier”) we found the road up to the lighthouse and went to have a look.
The lighthouse had been declared a heritage site just before it was decommissioned in 2015 and the signal light WAS, in fact, now perched on the scaffold at the far end of the harbour pier as Jackie had speculated. The poor old lighthouse was looking a little worse for wear — but, to be fair, it had just endured the better part of the Nova Scotia winter.
That’s the story of our first lighthouse (mis)adventure in Nova Scotia. We’re currently deciding what the next adventure will be!
About Victoria Beach Lighthouse and Battery Harbour
Victoria Beach lighthouse
The lighthouse at Victoria Beach was built in 1901. Three other structures preceded it (the first in 1804) to help sailors navigate through Digby Gut, the channel that flows between the Annapolis Basin and the Bay of Fundy.
The current version was built by John Roney at a cost of $497. It’s an eight-metre-tall, square-tapered, wooden tower with a square wooden lantern. It’s 100 feet back from the water’s edge and 30 feet above the high-tide water mark. The light is normally visible for 12 miles. James Hinds was the first lighthouse keeper between 1901 and 1912 — he was paid $100 annually for the job. The lighthouse was declared a heritage lighthouse in 2015, just before it was decommissioned.
A lighted tower was erected at the exit of the harbour to continue to provide navigational help.
Pointe Battery Harbour
The harbour we photographed and picked up sea glass in is called Battery Point Harbour or Pointe Battery Harbour (not to be confused with the Battery Point Breakwater Lighthouse in Lunenburg).
Many years ago Victoria Beach was the stopping point for Nova Scotia’s pony express. In 1849, mail would arrive in Halifax from Europe and a horse and rider would rush the messages across the 230 km to Victoria Beach. Then a steamer would take the dispatches to Saint John, where the news was telegraphed to New York through Bangor, Maine, and Boston. The service was short lived — just nine months after it started, Halifax opened a telegraph office and technology buried the pony express.
Looking at photographs of the Harbour (including the one below from around 2006) you can see a number of buildings that vanished sometime after 2017: the large complex to the immediate left of the pier, the small building at the front of the pier, the blue house against the trees behind the pier, and the left third of the Casey’s Fisheries building.