- Catherine Ewer
- Follow the wide-planked road to the ocean kingdom.
Although there are a few options within city limits, they come with a risk of superhero-like mutation so the preference is always a weekend getaway---with this (nowhere near exhaustive) list in your pocket of some of Nova Scotia's best camping and beach options, you'll be itching to pack up your tent or bathing suit (in some cases, both) and get your s'mores and sandcastle on as soon as weather permits.
Rainbow Haven Beach Provincial Park (30 minutes)
This white-sand beach is a double-edged sword. The awesome sand, snack bar, bathrooms and sheer proximity are super convenient but tend to attract a crowd. On sunny days, you'll want to get there early to stake out a spot and don't forget the sunscreen---you'll probably be here awhile. Rainbow Haven is also a popular spot for teenage beach bonfires at night, so either join in or take off well before the party starts. 2248 Cow Bay Road, Cole Harbour
Lawrencetown Beach (35 minutes)
Pretty rocky, but rockin' the best surf around, you'll find more water sports than sun bathers, so bring along a board of some kind or sign up for lessons. Hungry beach-goers should stop by the MacDonald House Tea Room (434-7895) on the top of the hill for some homemade soups, sandwiches and fantastic desserts and then pick up a kite to fly outside at the craft store below. The beachside cliffs are also a popular---if unlawful---secret camping site, so hike up and stay at your own (super fun) risk. West Lawrencetown Road, Lawrencetown
Conrad's Beach (30 minutes)
With little to no parking, you best be carpooling, son. Head over the picturesque (and rickety) bridge and up the boardwalk to find a nice spot shielded in the dunes. If you're swimming, you might have to fight through some seaweed, but the less popular of Lawrencetown's beaches makes for a more quiet and relaxing experience. You'll want to bring a cooler filled with drinks and snacks because it's a long trek back to the car and there's nowhere nearby to grab a bite. Conrad Road, Lawrencetown
Dollar Lake Provincial Park (55 minutes)
Love camping and the beach equally? Dollar Lake doesn't make you choose like a jilted lover, instead it offers up both equally in a polyamorous marriage of lakeside fun. People who like to avoid the salt-water-sunscreen eye-blinding sting this summer will be happy to dive (don't really dive---that's unsafe) into the clear lake water and get their leech-free swim on either at the bigger beach or the unsupervised "campers" beach nearby. It's quiet and a perfect spot for canoeing, fishing or just enjoying the great outdoors. Like all the provincial parks, they have a schedule of events to take part in, so your days will be packed to the gills, whatever your plan is. 5265 Old Guysborough Road, Wyse Corner near Musquodoboit Valley
Ovens Natural ParkFamily Campground(1 hour, 40 minutes)
The only private campground on the list, because as a rule, private camping can't compete with a national or provincial park experience---but the Ovens' fantastic cliff views, seaside caves, hiking and kayaking opportunities, grassy areas, hot showers, bathrooms and outdoor pool (if you don't have the cajones for real water), is worth a mention for those looking to sleep in a tent without really having to rough it. 326 Ovens Road, Riverport, ovenspark.com
Beach Meadows Beach (1 hour 50 minutes)
One of Nova Scotia's best-kept secrets, this redundantly named beach is a white-sand and virtually seaweed-free swimming paradise. With a host of small smooth rock hills to explore---and if thrill-seeking, jump off of---a nice warm wading pool to splash around in at low tide and for the most part, sparsely populated sunbathing areas, it's worth the long drive. If you plan to spend the night in Liverpool (try Lane's Privateer's Inn---you'll have a great sleep and a delicious breakfast) you can drop by at night and kick up some sand---you'll be rewarded in the late-summer with the glowing steps of phosphorescence, a blue-green light show from microscopic organisms like phytoplankton in the ocean. Beach Meadows, Liverpool
Kejimkujik National Park (2 hours, 30 minutes)
This national park is a mecca for outdoorsy types---boasting some of the best canoeing and kayaking around, tidy camp spots, bathrooms, playgrounds and other amenities, you can find the perfect balance of nature and comfort a mere two-and-a-half hours from the city. Stop by M & W Variety Store and Restaurant (682-2189) if you get tired of beans and weenies and want a taste of homemade cooking or if you forgot any camping necessities. During the day you can take advantage of the multitude of hiking trails that let you get up close and personal with endangered wildlife and at night get social with family-friendly events arranged by park staff.Maitland Bridge, Annapolis County
Urban guerilla camping
Environmentalists, stranded city folk and those with a rebel attitude and sense of adventure can still pitch a tent this summer. Urban camping is a rising trend in bigger cities and you can bring it to Halifax simply by spending the night outdoors. Look for rooftops, backyards, hidden areas in parks, bushes, alleyways between buildings, basically anywhere that you can foreseeably set up for a night without being arrested, mugged or disturbed while still being able to see the stars. Pack lightly---for a quick getaway---with safety necessities (cell phone, flashlight, nothing worth stealing) and don't forget the premade s'mores pack. The focus is on camping, not living, on the streets so give yourself a good smell every day---if you seem a little ripe, it's probably time to pack it in and bring your urban camping adventure to a close.
Lindsay Rainingbird camps out on Twitter daily at @birdykins.