In 1970, as 16 year-old boys just having received driver’s licenses, a friend and I drove from Porcupine (Timmins) Ontario to Hantsport, Nova Scotia to visit a favored high school history teacher. On a sight-seeing journey to the ocean, near Lunenburg, this teacher queried a ferry captain on where he would be traveling. At the time the fare was 25¢ – assuming that couldn’t take us very far, five of us, including the teacher, his wife and one-month old son climbed on board.
Not long after departure, it was discovered we were headed to Big Tancook Island and the ferry would not be returning to the mainland until the following morning. Most of the passengers were school children returning home. Too late for the captain to turn back then. We had some supplies for the baby, but not many.
Landing at the docks at Big Tancook, after explaining the situation, the teacher queried a fisherman working on his boat, asking if he knew of anyone that might be returning to the mainland that afternoon.
He did not, however, without hesitation, he said that we could go to his home and his wife would have food for the baby and a change if that was required. We boys crawled into the back of his old, rusty pickup truck while the teacher, his wife and baby rode up front. We shared a fantastic dinner with this family and afterwards the fisherman returned to the docks to see if there was a possibility for a ride back to the mainland. If not, we could spend the night with them.
He came back in short order advising that he talked to the captain of a very nice large yacht and he would be heading, in short order, back to the mainland. We were able to take that ride – that captain even toured us a round some of the sites including the famed Oak Island.
I do not remember the names of the couple that were so kind to us on Big Tancook, and I have felt remiss for years in not sending them a note of substantial appreciation and gratitude. I’m not sure if this couple would still be with us, but surely if the citizens of Big Tancook have hearts like these two, it must be an absolutely wonderful place.
About Tancook Come and explore Tancook Island – a true Nova Scotian treasure just waiting to be discovered.
We are a unique community located approximately 6 miles off Chester, Nova Scotia – where vibrant artistry, a pristine natural environment, and a history rooted deeply in strong fishing traditions intertwine.
We invite you to leave your cares on the mainland and take a relaxing hour long ferry ride to visit us across beautiful Mahone Bay – or feel welcome to sail into our protected cove and stay awhile.
Come breathe in the sea salt air. Explore by hiking, biking, or beach combing for sea glass and shells. Enjoy a snack or meal at one of our eating establishments. Take a walk or rent a bike and ride to our museum where you will discover stories of days gone by.
Make Big Tancook your destination of choice to explore Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Chester and Peggy’s Cove. There is no place better to allow the pace of life to slow than Big Tancook Island.
You may find this map helpful when planning your visit to Tancook.
(Click on image to view full size.)
Rec Centre The Rec Centre is now closed for the season.
Beaches The pepper sand of Southeast Cove Beach is warmed by the tides rising over the sand bars that extend 200 meters from shore into the ocean. The water temperature can reach up to 18 C. This is our largest and most popular beach.
Just past Southeast Cove is an interesting rocky beach called “Gravel Cove” where the rounded stones pop and gurgle as the waves wash in and out. On the way to Gravel Cove, check out the intriguing tubular and bubble-like formations in the flat, rocky outcrops that stretch into the ocean.
Additionally, a fossil beach is located very close to the wharf where the ferry docks. On this beach you may be lucky enough to find a treasure from long ago. There is also a quiet, secluded shingle beach on the other side of the island at Little Kaffel, which offers a lovely spot to have a picnic lunch, fly a kite or just spread a blanket and enjoy the sounds of the sea.
In shoreline tidal pools you’ll find crabs, eels, minnows, starfish and other small sea creatures. The beaches are also home to numerous shore and wading birds, such as herons, gulls and sandpipers. While walking the beaches you’ll also find many treasures including shells, drift wood and various colors of beach glass. Keep in mind that the most common colours of glass found on our shores are brown, green and white – if you’re lucky you may also find rare colours like blue, purple and red, which you should consider very special – as we do.
Hiking and Biking Tancook offers an interesting and scenic eco-environment in which to hike and bike. Because our ferry is for foot passengers only, most visitors tour our island by foot or bike. This will allow you to take in all the richness of this tranquil setting, as well as experience the slower pace which exists on Tancook.
We are home to only dirt roads, which offer smooth walking or wheeling. Around each winding corner you’ll find scenic surprises and panoramic places to rest. Our relatively untouched natural environment offers beautiful oceanscapes, big skies and green spaces to enjoy. Bike rentals are available through Carolyn’s Restaurant.
Bird Watching Seventy-seven species of resident, seasonal and migratory birds can be found on Big Tancook Island. Some of the rare and exciting birds occasionally seen here include the Indigo Bunting, the House Wren, Tanagers and the Northern Parula. Other, more commonly seen birds include Crossbills and Blue Jays, Chickadees and Nuthatches, Warblers and Kinglets, Pheasants, Mourning Doves, and Robins. There are also Hummingbirds and Swallows in summer.
The history of Tancook can be understood in a very real way by visiting our cemetery. Many families make journeys to the island to research their family genealogy, or find long-lost family members. With headstones dating back to 1855 there is certainly lots to learn about our unique past. Reading the stones and following the family lines provide family historians with exciting and valuable information.
There have been geocaches on Tancook Island since 2006. Since then, many geocachers have made the day trek to seek out the caches. Our first geocaching event was hosted in 2012 and we have had several since then.
There are currently 40 caches on the island, many offering more unique challenges to test the most seasoned of geocachers. We have many kid-friendly caches and caches to get you hooked! You’ll learn about the history of Tancook while visiting some of our cache listings. Our caches will help you discover areas of our island that the regular visitor may not get experience.
To find our listings, go to geocaching.com, enter our postal code “B0J 3G0″ to search our listings. Cache listing pages are also available at the Tourism Centre.
Look for fossils at the beach below the gravel parking lot at the land-end of the Tancook Ferry wharf. Here you will find fossilized corals and shells, some of which contain glittering bits of “fools gold”, also known as pyrite.
Due to the increase in traffic, it is harder than ever to social distance onboard. On the advice of public health, we are recommending passengers wear facemasks while onboard. This recommendation does not apply to kids under two and those who cannot wear one due to health issues
We also ask passengers to please respect the crew while they are carrying out their duties by giving them 6 ft of clearance. Don’t crowd the after deck and stairs while waiting to get to the upper deck, clear a path when the crew needs to get by and wear a mask if you can.
These are difficult times for all of us. We are doing our best to abide by the rules and expectations as outlined by Dr. Strang. We do feel fortunate that there are no places/opportunities for gatherings of more than 5 on the island during the Covid-19 pandemic, unlike city life where large stores are open.
We have noticed visitors arriving to spend some time on the island. It is understandable that people wish to get away for a day. For everyone’s safety, we do wish to point out some important things to bear in mind:
The ferry capacity currently is 50.
The rule of social distancing (6 ft or 2 meters) applies here.
71% of island households include seniors.
Several homes have signs on their doors requesting “No Visitors”.
There are 2 outhouses but no publicly accessible running water on the island. (You would have to bring your own hand sanitizer.)
Our Medical First Responders (MFRS) have been instructed that they cannot assist in any emergency (other than vehicle collisions and difficult extractions) during the pandemic. If there is a 911 medical call out, Paramedics will attend from the mainland by either ferry or Lifeflight. BTIERA will provide transport locally for the paramedics.
A ban on open fires is in effect throughout all of Nova Scotia. The fire ban will remain in effect until at least 15 May 2020.
We all hope that before long, the current restrictions will ease, making it easier for all of us to visit friends and family and enjoy this beautiful place in which we live. In the meantime, it is the responsibility of each of us to be safe and sensible.
This is a meeting concerning the current and future ferry service – not the condition of the roads. The TIR staff who will be meeting with us are from the ferry service – not road works.
To help TIR staff prepare for the meeting, we would like to send them questions in advance. (Deadline for questions is Dec 13.)
If you wish to submit a question(s) in advance, you have two options:
1. You can leave question(s) in the comments below, or
2. You can leave (question)s anonymously at the Post Office.
A quote by Maya Angelou says “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
Three years ago, we had the pleasure and privilege of catering a lobster dinner to Andriy Shevchenko, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada, as well as his wife and friends. Last week, his friend Phil Hunt shared these words with me: “Just had lunch in Ottawa with my friend, Tom. He invited a surprise guest: the Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada. He told us that after 3 ½ years in Canada, the visit that they made to Tancook has been far and away their most memorable experience while visiting Canada. He says he has told the story hundreds of times at gatherings both here and in the Ukraine. Only a few weeks ago, he was at an international military security conference in Halifax. At a fancy dinner, someone tried to show him how to crack his lobster. He said, ‘I already know; they taught me how to do this on Tancook’.”