Halifax: a Titanic and seascape destination

Visitors might head to Halifax for its historic place in Titanic history – we did.

At 11:40 p.m., April 14, 1912, the RNS Titanic struck an iceberg. At 2:20 a.m. April 15, the unthinkable happened. The supposedly unsinkable vessel went down. Of its 2208 passengers and crew, 1518 died.

Of the bodies recovered, 128 were buried at sea and 209 victims were taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was the nearest city that had direct rail and steamship connections.

Some victims were identified and sent to homes in North America and Europe. Most bodies that were identified but didn’t have families who could pay shipping, were buried in Halifax with unidentified bodies that were numbered. Most of them, 150, were buried in three Halifax cemeteries.

Nearly a century later, Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the largest Titanic burial site, still draws busloads of visitors. Even though the 1997 James Cameron movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet arguably comes to mind with its fictionalized and real life stories, bus tour guides add another dimension with the background they know about some of the victims and headstones. Not all markers merely have numbers.

The place to go before heading out to the cemetery is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic at Halifax’s harbor. The museum  has wooden and other Titanic artifacts, pieces of wreckage and details about recovery efforts.

Aside from the Titanic, shipwreck stories and models attract visitors to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax

Aside from the Titanic, shipwreck stories and models attract visitors to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax

Said to be Canada’s oldest and largest maritime museum, the place is worth a visit if only to explore “Shipwreck Treasures of Nova Scotia” and see some of the museum’s model ships and full-sized boats.

But we also found out that the town has a fun waterfront with cafes and shops such as Nova Scotian Crystal where people can watch glass blowing.

The city's Old Town Clock at Brunswick and George Streets at the base of Citadel Hill was erected in 1803

The city's Old Town Clock at Brunswick and George Streets at the base of Citadel Hill was erected in 1803

We hopped on an Ambassatours “hop-on ho-off pink bus outside the Maritime Museum to see the rest of downtown Halifax.

The only problem was seeing several places we would liked to have investigated such as Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery with its costumed servers and the 1856 Citadel National Historic Site where we could hear pipers. Time was something we didn’t have enough of on this trip.

We looked forward to a tour we booked out to Peggy’s Cove, a windswept fishing village atop an outcropping of glacial rocks. However, we wanted to do everything in the short time we had in port – town and countryside.

The contrast is startling going from the capital of Nova Scotia with its tall office buildings and hotels to the tiny fishing villages and coves that stretch south and west from Halifax along its South Shore.

Fishing boats and other craft ply the waters along the coast and bay on the way to Peggy's Cove

Fishing boats and other craft ply the waters along the coast and bay on the way to Peggy's Cove

Peggy’s Cove, a mere 30 minutes southwest of Halifax, was a chance to see some of the countryside and a fishing village.

Aside from a community, Peggy’s Cove is also preservation area known its tiny sea life that is visible when the tides recede.

The area is also known for its sparse but hardy vegetation that can thrive is salty, windy conditions on almost no soil.

The Peggy Cove Lighthouse at the entrance to Margaret's Bay is often photographed but its windswept rocks and salt water coating can make them dangerous to explore

The Peggy Cove Lighthouse at the entrance to Margaret's Bay is often photographed but its windswept rocks and salt water coating can make them dangerous to explore

Out on the crosshatched rocks, slippery with salty water, is the much photographed Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse.

It stands guard at the entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay and warns boats of rocks jutting below the water.

Peggy’s Cove was the only fishing village on our timetable but many more dot the coast for us to visit, someday.

Maybe there is a fountain around where we can drop a Canadian coin to ensure we return here also to our other maritime stops of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Photographs by Jodie Jacobs

 

 

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