andrew burke





A Quick Road Trip to Lunenburg and Blue Rocks

Posted on: 2023-10-17

Last Friday evening a friend of ours had an event happening at St. Barnabas’ church in Blue Rocks. Since leaving Halifax around rush hour on a Friday can be fraught with delays, we decided to leave extra early and spend some extra time visiting that scenic part of the coast.

It had been a weird day, with bright sunlight punctuated by dark stormclouds and sudden bursts of rain, wind, and (rare for Nova Scotia) lightning and even hail. By the time we hit the road, the weather had mostly cleared, but it made for spectacular late-afternoon clouds on our drive:

Dramatic clouds above a forested highway in Nova Scotia

Our original plan had been to pass through scenic Mahone Bay on the way down to Lunenburg and then Blue Rocks, but we took the wrong exit and ended up going to Lunenburg directly inland. There was plenty to see just in Lunenburg anyhow.

Lunenburg is a very pretty town, with a core of old wooden buildings in a distinctive architectural style - it's a National Historic Site of Canada and even a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of the town is built on a steep ridge that parallels the shoreline, making for a lovely terraced view from on the water or across the harbour - or even just on the wharfs and piers themselves:

View of Lunenburg Nova Scotia from the waterfront

Lunenburg is famous for its shipbuilding industry, and some of that is still going on - we saw a wooden mast in its scaffolding:

Angled view of a mast in Lunenburg Nova Scotia

We even saw, hiding behind some buildings, Lunenburg's most famous production: the Bluenose II.

View of Lunenburg harbour in dramatic lighting with the Bluenose II in the left foreground

I wasn't entirely sure it was actually the Bluenose II, but I was able to confirm by comparing with my Starships Start Here picture of it - I could match the bow decorations and some of the mast details. No warp nacelles though.

The Bluenose II docked in Halifax with Star Trek warp nacelles

The Lunenburg waterfront already had the traditional Nova Scotian lobster trap Christmas tree - though in a nod to the current season, it was decorated with pumpkins:

A Christmas tree made from lobster traps in Lunenburg

We walked around the main streets of Lunenburg, searching for a place to get some dinner. Lunenburg has a wealth of seafood restaurants and pubs of all kinds, as well as some very fine dining too. I find making these kinds of dining decisions stressful, and we were on a bit of a schedule, so while we considered "The Grand Banker Bar & Grill", "The Old Fish Factory", "The Savvy Sailor", and "The Half Shell", we ended up going with the low-stress option: J3 Pizza and Mediterranean Cuisine, a friendly neighbourhood pizza and shawarma place.

We had an extremely Nova Scotia dinner: fish & chips and a classic donair, in a Lebanese pizza place with a view of the Bluenose.

A Nova Scotian donair and fish and chips with Pepsi and Perrier

We then walked around town, even more scenic and evocative than usual with the dramatic early evening light. So many old buildings, and so many textures!

A hillside in Lunenburg Nova Scotia with a textured old building with a sign saying 'Lunenburg Heritage Homes' on it, under a dramatic sky

With its narrow steep streets and sometimes rickety old houses, Lunenburg is a perfect town for autumn and Halloween moods. While many houses are cheerfully colourful, others have gone with darker themes. This one had a sign out front saying "GOTHEL" - which is probably a family name (many Germans settled in this area), but I like to think it's a mash-up of "GOTH" and "HOTEL". I'd stay there!

Old Lunenburg house painted dark grey

It's great to see they have their pumpkins out already–very appropriate. Also this house has a good example of the "Lunenburg Bump".

It turns out Lunenburg is notable for being especially haunted, even for Nova Scotia.

We climbed up a very steep (San Francisco steep!) hill to see the famous Lunenburg Academy. It's brightly painted in red and white, and when it was built it was in the latest Queen Anne and Second Empire styles from Europe, well lit and ventilated with large windows and spacious rooms - but now it seems so perfect for some kind of tale of lost orphans and/or ghosts.

Lunenburg Academy

It's lovingly maintained and now hosts musical events and the like - but it's next to a graveyard on the edge of town and literally on "Gallows Hill". It should be a dark decrepit ruin, looming over the town like an ancient curse. We actually went back a bit later after the sun had gone down to see if it looked any spookier - and it certainly did! Especially if you notice the silhouettes looming in the top windows (from audience members for the evening's opera performance - but still!)

Lunenburg Academy at night, looking ominous

Anyhow, back in sunnier times, we walked back down the hill and passed the very pretty restored St. John's Anglican Church in the heart of town, with the classic black-on-white colour scheme so many churches in this area have. It's the second oldest Anglican Church in Canada, dating from 1753 (the oldest being Saint Paul's in Downtown Halifax, from 1749). It was looking especially lovely in the warm sunset.

St John's Church in Lunenburg, at sunset

This would not be our last church of the day. It was time for us to head to Blue Rocks. It turned out to only be about ten minutes down the road, so we got there ahead of schedule and had just enough time to see the tail end of the sunset over the water:

Sunset over the water in Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

It was even lovely in the other direction, darkening but with the sunset reflected in windows (I really love the low-light photographs I can get now with more recent smartphones):

A house on the shore of Blue Rocks Nova Scotia at dusk with sunset reflected in the windows

Finally it was time to get to the church. Saint Barnabas' is an appropriately small church for a small town, also keeping the black-on-white colour scheme of the area:

St Barnabas Anglican Church in Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

The inside of the church, though, is delightful:

Interior of St Barnabas Church in Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

The fishing nets and orange leaf decorations are only up for the Thanksgiving season, but they make an already charming space even more so.

The charm and thematic associations for a fishing village continued outside afterwards, as we could now more clearly see the stained glass windows: they each have different images of Jesus' ministry with the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee:

Stained glass window at St Barnabas' in Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

Stained glass window at St Barnabas' in Blue Rocks Nova Scotia

My partner said this second window reminded her of Leo DiCaprio in Titanic shouting "I'm the king of the world!" - which many would say is actually true in this case.

We finished our lovely evening with a somewhat harrowing drive home with occasional bursts of heavy rain, but we were very happy with how everything had turned out.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and not get out to appreciate the lovely scenery so close to our home. We keep having to remind ourselves that lots of people visit Nova Scotia every year specifically to see many of the things that we take for granted.

Previous: NeuroBlast CyberPunk HyperCard DiskZine
Next: The Moderna XBB.1.5.0 Shot Kicked My Ass - But That's Okay