Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, built in 1915 and one of Canada's most-photographed spots, is the main attraction of the area.
Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, built in 1915 and one of Canada's most-photographed spots, is the main attraction of the area. pchoui

Canadian fishing community Peggy's Cove lives up to hype

No one alive today really knows who Peggy was. But one thing is certain, she must have been beautiful.

That's obvious to anyone visiting the tiny part of Canada's Maritime Provinces named in her honour.

If ever a place could lure someone across the other side of the globe as a must-see town to visit, this is it.

Images of the quintessential Canadian fishing community known as Peggy's Cove burst with colour and charm on the internet and from the pages of travel books. And for once, the reality lives up to the hype.

That's why hordes of summer daytrippers come in their cars and tour coaches to get to know "Peggy" better - to meet the locals, to rock-hop the massive granite boulders left by the last ice age, or capture her lighthouse image in perfect light with a pink and purple sky after sunset.

On the walk from the Nova Scotia Visitor Information Centre carpark, the story of Peggy's Cove unfolds.

Red, blue and green vessels - big and small with names such as Harbour Mist, Hunger and Thirst, Providence I, Miss Peggy's Cove and Reverence - lie at anchor, mirrored in the calm waters they sit in.

Gabled-roof homes appear with exteriors ranging from bright burgundy, teal, and maroon to more reserved lemon, beige and cornflour blue.

Weathered grey boatsheds by the small docks contrast with masses of wildflowers and greenery growing around granite boulders that seem to have popped up like mushrooms out of the earth.

Visitors eat lobster rolls while sitting in vibrantly painted settlers' chairs, looking out over the narrow inlet to the pounding waves.

Yellow and blue lobster crates are piled high on docks scattered with nets and fishing line. An old wooden boat, left out in the elements, has the paintwork of the name Freedom '55 peeling away.

And from afar, the tourist "ants" scamper around the lighthouse and rocky shoulder.

Six German fishermen and their families established the town in the early 1800s.

It's changed little since that time.

An information board explains to visitors that in the early days, these families caught haddock, cod and pollock, which they brought to shore and cleaned, split and salted to preserve for shipment around the world.

The mouth of the cove was made easier to navigate in the early 1900s by blasting with dynamite to clear the area of large rocks. The large chunks were wrapped in chains and towed by two boats to shore as the tide came in.

As fish populations began to decline towards the end of the 20th century, several families banded together to sustain the village's livelihood and the way of life that had been existing for generations.

 

An old fishing shack near Peggy's Cove, a common scene on the eastern coast of Canada .
An old fishing shack near Peggy's Cove, a common scene on the eastern coast of Canada . ImagineGolf

While they operate independently, they work together where possible to continue the tradition and protect their livelihoods.

Mackerel, bluefin tuna and lobster make up the bulk of catches these days.

The Cape Island boats are now made from fibreglass rather than wood, and powered by engines instead of sails and oars.

And chasing and finding their catch is made easier with state-of-the-art navigational aids.

Tourism began to overtake fishing in economic importance to Peggy's Cove after World War II.

The main attraction is Peggy's Point Lighthouse, built in 1915 and one of Canada's most-photographed.

Hours peel away here while being entertained by the power of the sea at the natural amphitheatre of granite, worn smooth by the pounding waves, and in exploring the shoals or shallow waters around the cove. But there's plenty more to amuse and delight even seasoned travellers today at this village frozen in time.

Perhaps admire a painter at work at the easel on the side of a hill overlooking the village.

Walk past the neat and tidy backyards of houseproud residents living the good life and take in the red steeple and roof of St John's Anglican Church - the only church in Peggy's Cove, and a municipally designated heritage site.

Relax over coffee or a meal and a drink at The Sou'Wester Cafe, which has been serving visitors for five decades in a prime position for views of the lighthouse and ocean.

And you can't miss the Fishermen's Monument work by artist and sculptor William deGarthe who took a 30m outcrop of granite in his backyard and transformed it into a masterpiece.

Inspired by his adopted community and the legend of "Peggy", deGarthe, at age 70, picked with his chisels and power tools in 1977 to "release the figures sleeping in the rock for over 10 million years".

In a tribute to the hard-working fishermen of Peggy's Cove, he created 30 figures out of the hard-as-steel granite.

The result is three sections of images: Work (fishermen hard at work hauling in nets), Bounty (showing the harvest of the sea including a young woman carrying a basket - the famous "Peggy") and Grace (a guardian angel watching over a fisherman and his family).

DeGarthe died in 1983 before he could complete his monument. His wife, Mrs P Agnes deGarthe, donated the work to the community a year later in accordance with his wishes.

ART BY THE SEASIDE

Peggy's Cove's big attraction might be its lighthouse but the seaside hamlet's creative scene is equally exciting.

Check out handmade arts and crafts and the work of artists and photographers.

Head to William deGarthe Art Gallery on Peggy's Point Rd to see one man's talents on show and to view the carved monument in the front yard.

Jo Beale Gallery on Peggy's Cove Rd, Glen Margaret, exhibits fine art by Canadian artists who make Nova Scotia their home.

In July, dozens of local artists and from several communities around Peggy's Cove descend on the village for the Peggy's Cove Area Festival of the Arts that has run since 2011. This year's festival will open on July 3 and run till July 15.

Highlights include the Studio Tour (July 5-7) where more than 60 creatives (painters, potters, sculptors, wood and glass workers and jewellery artists), galleries and art groups will welcome visitors through their doors.

The three-day plein air painting event July 13-15 will see 40 artists participating in Peggy's Cove, with artworks offered for sale in a large Mongolian yurt a short walk from the lighthouse.

Visit peggyscoveareafestivalofthearts.com

 

WHO WAS PEGGY?

 

The Peggy of Peggy's Cove is entrenched in Nova Scotian folklore.

The story goes that she was the sole survivor of a shipwreck at nearby Halibut Rock.

While some say she was a young woman, others are adamant she was a girl too young to remember her name, so was adopted by

one of the families of the cove and given the name Peggy.

Her survival story attracted visitors from around the bay, and the village became nicknamed Peggy's Cove as a result of the interest.

She eventually married an early settler of the cove.

But that story doesn't wash with everyone.

It is also thought the village was simply named after St Margaret's Bay (Peggy is a nickname for Margaret).

St Margaret's Bay was named by explorer and cartographer Samuel de Champlain for his mother Marguerite.

 

GETTING THERE

Peggy's Cove is on the eastern shore of St Margaret's Bay, Nova Scotia, 44km west of Halifax.

Take Route 333 or Highway 103 from Halifax to Exit 5 and then Route 333.

 

STAY

Accommodation in the area includes oceanfront campgrounds, cosy cottages and friendly bed and breakfasts and inns, catering for a variety of budgets.

Several B&Bs are available in or near Peggy's Cove but book ahead for summer trips.

Try the light lemon-coloured Peggy's Cove B&B, originally owned by artist William deGarthe, on Church Rd (peggyscovebb.com).

If basing yourself in Halifax, the quaint old-world charm of Garden South Park Inn (www.gardensouthparkinn.com) is ideal.

 

EAT

While Peggy's Cove is known for its lobster, try indulging in mussels and St Margaret's Bay haddock.

The Sou'Wester has great coffee before driving back to Halifax or stay a little longer and enjoy its fresh and cooked seafood including lobster, plus homemade gingerbread before browsing the large souvenir shop.

U Cook Lobster mobile lobster vendor on Peggy's Point Rd is great for freshly made Atlantic lobster rolls and just-steamed lobsters, harvested wild in the North Atlantic.

You can become a lobster chef in 12 minutes.

Staff can explain the best cooking techniques to cook the lobsters at home or you can eat in, with your bounty served with lemon and melted butter.

Dee Dee's on Peggy's Point Rd is the place for homemade ice cream.

 

 



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