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North America

A Lighthouse At The End Of The World

Jonathan van Bilsen



October 4, 2015

A Lighthouse At The End Of The World

What has great seafood, exceptional scenery and some of the friendliest people in Canada? A small point of land forty-five minutes outside of Halifax called Peggy’s Cove.

According to legend, Peggy’s' Cove was named after the only survivor of a schooner that ran aground and sank in 1800... a woman named Margaret. Local folk called her "Peggy" and her home came to be known as Peggy's Cove.

Most Canadians are familiar with the famous lighthouse at the edge of Nova Scotia’s eastern shore. Built in 1868, it is now a post office where visitors and residents mail letters which receive a special cancellation stamp.

I remember my first visit to Peggy’s Cove, back in 1982. Sitting at one of the five window tables in the Sou’Wester restaurant, enjoying a great lobster dinner, a fine glass of Pinot Gris and a piece of the world famous blueberry cake – all for only eight dollars. I have made about half a dozen visits there since and have watched the restaurant grow to 180 seats and a greater range of cuisine.

I was fortunate last week to again make the trek and was amazed at how the gift shop had expanded to two levels. I stared in awe at a huge paved parking lot, big enough for at least a hundred cars (with each space occupied). There were several tour buses and hundreds of people. I was stunned, as I expected mid September to be a quiet time for tourism. 

Watching the ruggedness of the Atlantic caused my mind to wander back to the Swiss Air disaster of 1998, which occurred directly off the coast where I was standing. A monument dedicated to those who perished has been constructed three kilometres from the lighthouse.

As a photographer, the challenge of finding the ‘perfect shot’ caused me to wander across the rocks for several hours. Every few metres offered a different view more breathtaking than the previous. The task became quite challenging, as the rocks were covered with people and to select one view from the many was next to impossible.

After hours of carefully scaling the weather-worn rocks it was time for a break. My mouth was watering for the blueberry cake that the Sou’Wester was so famous for. I made my way through the souvenir store and navigated past the dozens of tourists shopping for that perfect memento of the Cove. Once in the restaurant my favourite window position was occupied, which was all right as they were drawing the blinds to keep the sunlight out anyway. 

Then came the shock of my life: they no longer made the blueberry cake. I stared at the waiter in awe. I must have misunderstood so I asked again. No, indeed, it was no longer on the menu. I looked around for Mrs. Campbell (she started the restaurant in 1968). I saw her and asked what had happened. With a smile she explained it was no longer popular and took a long time to make. She kindly offered me a slice of blueberry cheesecake instead. Slightly frozen and accompanied by a coffee it coincidentally was also eight dollars.

I left the restaurant and walked along the road to visit the famous photo site of the harbour and fishing boats. Fortunately the small fishing buildings and picturesque houses were still in place and the quaintness of the area was still in tact. 

The famous wall carving that William deGarth created of 32 fisherman and their wives casting their nets in the sea was also still there, although signage and pavement have replaced trees and grass. I slowly returned to my car for my journey back to Halifax seeing one of Canada’s prettiest landmarks disappear in the rear view mirror.

If you have not been to Peggy’s Cove add it to your list sooner rather than later. The visit is worthwhile and the memories will last forever. If you have made the trek in the past, dig through your closet for the slides or photographs and remember how beautiful this country of ours is.

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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