This has been copied (by invitation) from an article by Dave Dermott.
NOVA SCOTIA- SUNRISE TRAIL
The Sunrise Trail usually refers to just Rt 6 from Amherst to Pictou but a broader meaning includes the whole Northumberland Strait coast, also called the North Shore or the Gulf Shore. One of the main features is the beaches. The shallow waters of The Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland St are sheltered from the cold ocean currents and warm up quite quickly in summer. So swimming in the ocean is quite comfortable from early July to September. The only problem is the Jellyfish. They can give a painful sting but it is no more serious than most insect bites. They are usually gone by mid-August. Along the shore you will see great blue herons and ospreys.
There are also some nice inland roads in the area. After the Annapolis Valley this is the most settled farm area of the province. The
inland roads may lack the ocean character but they have charms of their own- there are lakes, waterfalls and some brilliant autumn foliage in October.
CANSO CAUSEWAY – ANTIGONISH Rt 4
This 50 km stretch basically follows Rt 4 which is less hilly and has much less traffic than Rt 104. Rt 4 is not extremely scenic but there are a few nice diversions from it.
The Canso Causeway is the scariest ride. It is quite narrow and has heavy traffic. There can be high winds.
2km, turn left on the much quieter Rt 4 . It climbs about 120 m in the next 2 km then descends to Havre Boucher. Then it’s less hilly to
Monastery and Tracadie.
25 km, Turn right on road to Bayfield. This is much more scenic and only adds a few km.
35 km, Right is road to a nice little beach at Bayfield Provincial Picnic Park. It’s only about 1 km out of the way.
40 km, Right on Rt 104. Although not very pleasant the highway has a paved shoulder . There is a big loop off to Pomquet Beach.
52 km, Right on Rt 4, the first Antigonish exit.
55 km, Antigonish is a pleasant college town with all the modern amenities. There is a campground just off Main St.
ANTIGONISH-CAPE GEORGE-NEW GLASGOW Rt 337 Rt 245
This route has samples of the best things one thinks of as Nova Scotia. There are fishing villages( better than Peggy’s Cove), bucolic farm lands, forests, and nice beaches ( with water warm enough for comfortable swimming). There’s also a mini version of the Cabot Trail.
This is a hilly ride, expect to climb 1000m in the 100 km. The MAP BOOK is ” A Map of the Province Of Nova Scotia” , 46 pages of bike size 250,000 scale topo maps available at better book stores for about $15. Most of this ride is conveniently located on page 29.
Although the loop of Cape George is nice in both directions, I prefer going Counter-clockwise, i.e. keeping the ocean on the right.
Leave Antigonish on Rt 337 which is the east end of Main St. It starts out a steep hill past the hospital. Then it’s up and down several drumlin type hills through farm land. The waters of Antigonish Harbour are seen sparkling to the right and ahead we can seen the barrier beach ( barachois) across the mouth of the harbour.
12 km, Right is road to Mahoneys Beach, the first of many beaches on this ride. Shortly after is a road down to Cribbons Point wharf. From
the crests of the rolling hills we get great views of St Georges Bay and the hills of Cape Breton Island beyond. Beyond Lakeville the hills get longer. But the views are worth it. It’s a great scene of Cape George rising above Ballantynes Cove.
33km, Right at bottom of fast hill to the wharf and beach at Ballantynes Cove. It’s a picture postcard fishing village. There is a nice little beach to the left of the wharf. There is a small takeout snack store . Back on the road we start up the steep hill, with several
switchbacks and a great view of the fishing village below. The climb is only about 150 meters . Actually the Cape has 2 summits with a little dip between. At the first summit there is a road off to the lighthouse. From the second crest there is a fantastic panoramic view of Northumberland Strait with Cape Breton Island to the east and Prince Edward Island to the west.
Now it’s a fun descent through fields to Livingston Cove although the highway doesn’t go all the way down to the water. Then it’s through the woods up to the big church at Georgeville, this is a Scottish Highland settlement. There are occasional views of the sea through the woods, then the road starts a nice long but gradual down hill and then breaks out of the woods to reveal a great view of a long beach and broad cove. The cove has the ominous appellation of Malignant Cove. In the winter of 1779 the HMS Malignant was caught in a wicked gale. The pilot spotted the cove and steered the ship into the inlet. Most of the crew made it to shore but many perished in the long hike to Pictou. There were several attempts to change the name but it has stuck. Now why was the ship called “Malignant”? For a good description of the area in the early 1800’s and of the shipwreck read Joseph Howe’s “Travels Sketches of Nova Scotia”
55 km, Straight at junction of Rt 245. Left would make a 70 km loop back to Antigonish. Just before the junction is a lane which is the first access to the beach. A short distance left on Rt 245 is a small waterfall with a pool below if you prefer a fresh water dip. Just past the junction is a general store. Rt 245 continues west for about 4 km
through open fields then there is another lane down the the beach just before the road enters wooded country again.
63 km, Arisaig. There is a paved road to the right leading down the wharf and a beach. A little farther is a Provincial Picnic Park with a
path down to the beach.
After Arisaig the road flattens out and it’s more open farmland.
There is really great view near the Pictou County line. The groves of large willow trees are especially attractive.
“On the right you have the broad bosom of the Gulf of St. Lawrence breaking, by its gentle motion, the bright beams of the noonday sun into a myriad of sparkling combinations . ” Joseph Howe Aug 18 1830.
On the left are the highest hills of the county. These hills were settled by Highland Scots in the early 1800s but are mostly abandoned
now. Some of the roads are still semi-rideable, even on a loaded touring bike, although an unloaded MTB would be better. The road down from Eigg Mtn towards Lismore is one lane dirt with switchbacks and no guard rails! There’s also good backcountry skiing here until April.
There is a small store at Lismore and a road down to the wharf.
81 km, Paved road to right leads to Big Merigomish Island which is connected to mainland by a 5 km long beach.
82 km, Road to Left leads through nice valley to Barney’s River Station on Rt 4. This could make for a 120 km loop back to Antigonish.
Rt 245 continues through bucolic country through Merigomish to Sutherland River.
100 km, Junction of Rt 245, Rt 104 and Rt 4. To finish a 150 km loop back to Antigonish, cross Rt 104 and bear left on Rt 4. Although not
unpleasant, the ride back on Rt 4 is anticlimatic.
To go to Thorburn or Park Falls, bear right after crossing Rt 104.
To go to New Glasgow turn right on Rt 104. It has heavy traffic but a wide shoulder. There is a little store and tourist bureau at the service station just across the bridge.
102, Right on Rt 4. There are a few hills including the 120 m Frasers Mtn. Rt. 104 also has some big hills. If you want to go to another
beach, turn right on the road to Melmerby Beach, then come back on Rt 289, which only adds 10 km.
112 Km, New Glasgow, Stellarton and Trenton form a small city, but it doesn’t take long to ride through. There is a campground in Trenton.
You could bypass the towns by taking Rt 104 for a few km . The shortest way to Pictou and the PEI ferry is to take Abercrombie Rd. and join Rt 106 just before crossing the Pictou Hbr causeway. It is about 12 km to Pictou and 15 km to the ferry.
Back to Sutherland River for a scenic diversion to Park Falls:
100 km, after crossing Rt 104 turn right on road to Thorburn.
102 Km, left on Park Falls Rd., right goes to downtown Thorburn. It is about 3 more km to the falls. A path to the right leads down to a
popular swimming hole below the falls.
105 km, Right on Rt 347 which skirts Thorburn and continues to New Glasgow ( 115 km). Alternately from the Cross Roads Market and Bakery
you can take a road to McLellans Brook and Stellarton.
From Stellarton there is a nice side trip up the Sunnybrae Valley on Rt 348 . You could continue to Caledonia on to Rt 7 and loop back to
Antigonish past the lovely Lochaber Lakes.
You can bypass New Glasgow by riding on Rt 104 ( not so nice) for about 10 km, then turning off at Alma and going to Durham (quite
nice). Either go up the steep 180m Green Hill to the picnic ground and look-out or ride around the hill via Sylvester. Near Durham you will probably see osprey nests on power poles. At Durham you can go to Pictou via Rt 376 or to Scotsburn on Rt 256.
SUNRISE TRAIL PART 2 PICTOU TO NEW BRUNSWICK.
MAP BOOK pages 18,22,26.
PICTOU TO NEW BRUNSWICK VIA COAST ( Rt 6, Rt 366)
There’s not much to say about this route except that it is very flat, has lots of beaches and is generally very pleasant. Traffic on Rt 6 may be a little heavy at times since this becoming a popular tourist route.
Starting at Pictou Rotary on Rt 106, take to exit to downtown Pictou. An alternate is to go on Rt 106 directly to the PEI ferry.
The town of Pictou is one of the oldest towns in Nova Scotia and has preserved its character. The first Highland Scots landed here in 1773.
10 km, Caribou Provincial Park. There is a camping area, picnic area and beach. There is another privately owned campground in the area.
13 km, The ferry to Prince Edward Island is just to the right. There are usually long lineups for cars here. Cyclists don’t have that
problem. It is about a 90 minute crossing to PEI. On the Island one of the best cycling areas is the east- Murray River, Panmure Island,
Montague, Souris, East Point, St Peters. On the south coast I recommend Rt 19 and 10, don’t miss Victoria ( has a chocolate factory).
17 km, Right at Three Brooks on road to Waterside and Caribou Island.
22 km, Waterside Beach Picnic area. This is a nice quiet beach.
28 km, Right on Rt 6 which has moderate traffic. This is becoming a popular tourist route so expect to see some big tourist motorhomes.
33 km, Toney River is a typical North Shore fishing village. There is a little beach to the west of the breakwater.
48 km, River John is a small town with grocery stores. To the right is a road to Cape John (8 km), another fishing village, another beach.
52 km, Rushton Beach Picnic Grounds. A very nice beach but a little more crowded. It is best to time your beach stops near high tide since at low tide it is often a long way to the water.
58 km, At Brule Rt 326 joins. This is one route to Balmoral Mills and Truro.
68 km, Junction of Rt 311 at edge of Tatamagouche. This road also goes to Balmoral Mills and crosses Rt 256.
70 km, Rt 246 left goes to Wentworth. You can do some nice loops via Rt 326, 256, 311, 246 and 307. There are waterfalls and a working grist mill.
Tatamagouche is another nice town with grocery stores, motels and campgrounds. West of the town you may be surprised to see a large paved
airstrip. This serves the Tim Horton Youth Camp.
84 km, At Bayhead right goes around the Malagash Peninsula. It’s about 25 km around this scenic point. There are also 2 roads cutting it shorter. On the first shortcut is one of the largest wineries in Nova Scotia. They
have public tours.
87 km, Malagash loop joins Rt 6 again after the latter crosses the only significant hill (70 m) on the whole route.
91 km, Wallace. Rt 307 leads to Wentworth where you can connect to Rt 246 again. Wallace has grocery stores.
92 km, Right and cross bridge to Gulf Shore Road. This is slightly longer but nicer than Rt 6. There are campgrounds, beaches and a golf
course along here. On one weekend in the summer you may run into the Gulf Shore Triathlon.
112 km, Right in Pugwash. The street signs here are in Gaelic!
West of Pugwash we cross the mouth of River Philip. There is a paved road on each side of the river to Oxford (20 km)
122 km, Right on Rt 366. This a popular cottage area. There are Provincial Picnic areas at Heather Beach, Northport, Amherst Shore and
Tidnish. Amherst Shore Park also has a campgrounds. The area is mostly gently rolling farm country. Out across the water you should be able to see ferries going to Borden PEI.
149 km, Right on loop to Tidnish Dock Provincial Picnic Park where we see the end of the Chignecto Ship Railway which was to hall ships across to Amherst but was never completed.
152 Right, at Tidnish Bridge and we are in New Brunswick. It is about 40 km to Cape Tormentine and the other ferry to PEI. So this could be part of a loop to PEI. There may someday be a bridge which will not be a good cycling route!
The bridge was opened in 1997 and is a COMPLETE WASTE for cyclists!
Even if bikes were allowed, it would be a horrible ride- 15 km with a VIEW OF A CEMENT WALL! There is a shuttle van running every 2 hours that will take a limited number of bikes and people across. There are no services, waiting areas, etc. on the New Brunswick side, so if you must cross the bridge, do it from the PEI side.
It is about 20 km to Amherst where you make a loop back on the “Glooscap Trail” or on the inland route described below.
PICTOU TO AMHERST VIA INLAND ROUTE (Rt 256)
This quiet route follows the north base of the Cobequid Mountains but doesn’t climb much except around Wentworth and Springhill. There aren’t many stores along here except at Scotsburn, Wentworth and Springhill.
From Pictou Rotary Take Rt 376. The first bit follows the West River. You may see ospreys along here.
6 km, Right at Lyons Brook on Rt 256. This road is still fairly flat.
13 km, Scotsburn is the Dairy Capital of Northern Nova Scotia. There is a grocery and hardware store in town. There may not be any more stores on this road.
The road is moderately rolling through farm land but off to the left are the Cobequid Mountains, some of the highest hills on the mainland. A county map from the 1800’s shows that there were many farms in the hills then, mostly Highland Scots. They are abandoned now. There are some old cemeteries back in the woods. There are some low bush blueberry fields on the lower slopes. The woods on the hills are mostly maple so are quite colorful in October.
35 km, Right on Rt 326 at East Earltown ( McBains Corner). The highway map shows Rt 256 going straight through but there is a jog in the road. Truro is to the south and Brule to the north on Rt 326.
36 km, Left on Rt 256 again.
42 km, Left to Balmoral Mills on either of the 2 roads, the first goes directly to the mill , the second , just across the bridge, goes to
the picnic area where a path leads across the dam. The mill is a provincial museum where grain is milled into flour or oat meal by old
millstones powered by a waterwheel. The museum sells flour and baked goods made from it.
44 km, Jog right on Rt 311, then left. Just before the corner a bridge crosses a deep gorge where a river has carved out pools in the rock with small waterfalls. It’s a tough climb down to the water but it is possible to go swimming in the lower pool.
Rt 311, Right goes to Tatamagouche (10 km) To the left it climbs a big hill to Truro.
About 2 km down Rt 256 there is the very nice Drysdale Falls which has gone through good and bad times. It used to be a nice swimming hole but then it became a hangout for less desirable elements (yahoos, hosers or other names).
The road continues along the base of the hills, again very scenic in fall. Some of the streams coming in from the left have waterfalls but
are hard to find.
56 km, Left on Rt 246 at Bayers Corner. At this corner there is a blacksmith shop with a few bicycle sculptures in front of it. Right
goes to Tatamagouche. There are many loops you can ride around here. After the Annapolis Valley this area has the most nice paved roads.
Even some of the unpaved roads are good.
The road rolls along through more fields. The junction with the Trans Canada Highway comes up suddenly.
73 km, TCH (Rt 104) at Wentworth. There is a grocery store just right of the corner. Although it currently has very high traffic the TCH has a very wide shoulder. There are plans to reroute the main highway so
this road may become a quiet road.
To the right it is only a 5 km ride to where you get off on quiet Rt 307 to Wallace.
Left on TCH then right on Valley Rd . The picnic area of Wentworth Provincial Park is at the corner, the camping area is down the road a
75 km, Station Road (gravel) goes (1 km) to the Wentworth Youth Hostel, a century old farmhouse with hiking trails (skiing in winter) and blueberries and blackberries in fields.
The pavement ends at this corner (1993) but the gravel section is usually pretty smooth.
79 km, Pavement resumes (1993) in Westchester Station. The road now climbs some bigger hills, which are mostly blueberry fields. This is the main low bush blueberry growing area in NS. There is a packing plant in Oxford. In fall you also may see lots of carrots along roads in the area. There is also a carrot canning plant in Oxford.
To the left you will see the fire tower on Sugarloaf Hill. The road up to it is semi-rideable (but steep) From the tower you can see PEI.
There is also a fish hatchery on the right.
104 km, Right at Collingwood on Rt 301. This goes to Oxford, a small town, then to Port Philip near Pugwash. There are 2 paved roads off this to the left going to Springhill.
106 km, First Left on Windham Hill Rd. This is a long hill (150m in 5 km)
It is really fun coming down this the other way. It is about 15 km to
Springhill, via some more rolling hills.
112 km, Second left is Rt 321. The first part of this is relatively flat but then you find that Spring-HILL is at the top of a very steep
hill, about 100m in 1 km from this approach.
125 km, Springhill, like Stellarton, is a coal mining town with many tragic accidents. The last disaster closed the mines. There is a museum that gives visitors a tour of some of the tunnels.
Rt 2 to the left goes to Parrsboro (50 km) Right goes directly to Amherst (25km) but here we shall take a more quiet road turning off Rt 2
near Springhill Junction. The first part out of town is back down the steep hill. If you didn’t want to come into town you could have
bypassed this hill from Rt 321 (Now he tells us!)
137 km, Left on Little Forks Road. There is a U-fish pond along here.
144 km, Right on Rt 302 at Athol. We are now following the tidal Maccan River. The tide often comes up in a big wave called a “bore”.
You really have to time things right to see it. Tourist bureaus in the area will have a list of bore times.
149 km, Maccan Bridge. Left Rt 242 goes to River Hebert, Joggins and eventually Apple River. This is the start of the Glooscap Trail which
we may ride later. Just up this road is Harrison Lake which has swimming possibilities by the old power station.
The Nappan Experimental Farm is along the road here.
154 km, Left at Nappan Bridge for nice ride around the Amherst Point Bird Sanctuary. There is a picnic area and hiking trail.
161 km, Amherst is a big town with all modern amenities. It is only about 5 km from the New Brunswick border.
The best source of general info is:
Nova Scotia Dept of Tourism and Culture
Box 130, Halifax NS, B3J 2M7
1-800-565-0000 FREE Canada
1-800-492-0643 FREE Maine
1-800-341-6096 FREE rest of USA
Their Nova Scotia Travel Guide contains lots of info on campgrounds, motels,points of interest etc. They also supply free highway map.
Topo Maps($8 each) and the Map Book of Nova Scotia (ISBN0-88871-074-7) (about $15) can be ordered from:
Nova Scotia Book Store
Box 637, Halifax NS B3J 2T3
A PLUG FOR A RIVAL PUBLICATION
Gary Conrod, of ATLANTIC CANADA CYCLING FESTIVAL, has written the The Cyclist’s Guide to “Canada’s Ocean Playground” (Nova Scotia Bicycle Book), a collection of 30 or so tours in looseleaf format, with lots of interesting info. I’ve tried not to steal any ideas from him. We’ve cycled together many times over the past 20 years. The book is about $20. ACCF also runs a few bicycle tours, including the Cabot Trail. Address is
P.O. Box 1555,
Station M., Halifax, NS
If you like these articles please save them, copy them and pass them on to friends. The real proof of how good they are will be if lots of
people bike these roads and enjoy them as much as I have. Nova Scotia Touring Index.
Wolfville Ridge , Nova Scotia, Canada
I like your scenic route. We will be traveling from Moncton to Antigonish and plan on traveling the Sunrise Trail from Amherst to Antigonish. We will be traveling not cycling but it seems your map as the best scenic views and stops. How can I purchase your map?
Hi Christina, the map is not for sale, but novascotia.com has free maps for cyclists.