The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Shelter Cove, Nova Scotia—An Aptly-Named Anchorage


It seems that the weather gods are blessing our fall mini-cruise of the Nova Scotia Eastern Shore: brilliant sunshine, enough wind to keep us hopping—but not so much that the sailing becomes uncomfortable—and, so far, it’s blowing in the right direction for heading east—we’ll see what happens when we want to head back west, into the prevailing winds.

One of the nicest things about this cruise is that we are taking the time to explore a part of the coast that we have sailed along for over 20 years but usually when we are in a hurry to get north or in even more of a hurry to get south!

The first place we have chosen to explore in-depth on this cruise is Shelter Cove, an aptly named anchorage on a non-road-served Nova Scotia Nature Trust protected peninsula about 50 nautical miles east of Halifax.

We have used Shelter Cove as a way-stop on numerous occasions. In fact, the first time I visited back in 1998, it was so foggy I couldn’t even see the shore surrounding the cove, so I left as ignorant of the place as I arrived! Several other visits at least allowed me to see the surroundings, though we never went ashore.


To get here we had a glorious downwind, wing on wing sail. We could see the swells from the 25-knot southwest winds breaking on the rocks just outside the cove but once in the anchorage the swell died right out.

We tidied up the deck as the sun sank lower and lower, with pale pinks and powder blues reflected in the calm water of the cove. By the time dinner was over, the sky was a glittering palette of stars.

That night I woke up to hear offshore buoys groaning out their warning message to any mariners approaching this granite shore.


The next day we anchored the dinghy at the head of the cove using our new dinghy pullout system, which John will describe in a future post. A short scramble and we were across to the other side of the peninsula where we found a beautiful sand beach. A short walk over the dunes further along and we were on another beach. If sunbathing is your thing, there’s a beach here in the lee of whatever wind might be blowing!


The following day we anchored the dinghy in a little cove on the mainland side of the anchorage, sheltered from the brisk southwest sea breeze, and hiked along a woodland path to a low isthmus—at spring high tides, I expect that Shelter Cove is on an island for a few hours—where we ate our lunch.

A further walk through more woods and low scrub led us to a road and on to Cooper’s Point, a pocket-sized manmade harbour sheltering a small sailboat rocking in the gusty winds. A local dog followed closely at our heels, making sure we didn’t stray from the road and onto her territory.


On the way back to the boat I picked enough partridgeberries (lingonberries) to jazz up our after-dinner yoghurt. A perfect end to a wonderful stay at Shelter Cove.

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Ernie Godshalk

Phyllis, very nice descriptive writing and accompanying photos and charts. Simple pleasures, nothing heroic.

I look forward to learning about the dinghy pullout system.

Best regards,


Travis C

My wife and I had the opportunity to drive around the island this summer, and it warmed my heart to see a sailboat moored up in pretty much every cove we passed. It was absolutely beautiful then, and I can imagine in the fall it’s even better. Glad you are enjoying such a great cruise.

Richard Dykiel

A dinghy pullout system – darn! Why didn’t I think of that earlier instead of all that lugging up the beaches?? THANKS!


Thanks for reminding us what sailing and gunk holing is all about! Sometimes we get lost in the technical stuff and forget the freedom and sheer enjoyment of being on a sail boat.

ben garvey

Love that little cove – and those beaches are a huge hit with our kids. It can get relatively busy (by NS standards anyway: 4-5 boats) in there in August – it’s definitely on a few lists now. But there’s excellent holding and great explorations ashore. And most lovely of all, it’s nature trust protected and you can’t drive there.

We also enjoyed sober island (despite the name!), just off Sheet Harbor entrance. Bicycles ashore and had a great tour of the lagoon and fishing village there. And, we spent a magical weekend in the lagoon at Sutherland Island, about 5 miles further east. Tricky entrance (The charts show NO water in there – but there is!). it’s one of those classic NS ‘follow the ‘valley’ in between the two granite ridges’ – like Cross Island entrance. Once in it’s very secure, although not much swinging room – lines ashore. Deserted though, with wonderful wildlife and lovely views.

The Eastern Shore is, in my opinion, some of the finest cruising there is!

ps – Ever tried Louse Harbor further up the coast?


What a lovely post. And the pictures are wonderful.

I’m curious about the lingonberries…do you eat those straight off the bush or do those need to be cooked? The only time I have ever run across lingonberries are in jams so I’d love to know.

Thank you,
Sail Away Girl

Pete & Kareen Worrell

Phyllis & John:
Kareen and I love that cove and beach as well. Isn’t the town at the head of the bay (possibly Tangier??) where the Willy Krauch (sp?) Smokehouse is? Seems to me we took an exploration in the inflatable up there and departed with some great smoked seafood.

Would be great to hear what your dinghy haulout system is. Ours this time of year (to avoid too waist deep wading) is throw the dinghy anchor and chain as far as you can and haul the dinghy back into the beach using it’s stern line you anchored on the beach dragging the anchor!!!

Pete & Kareen Worrell
Portsmouth, NH