Pictou, birthplace of Nova Scotia

Travelling between the Canadian mainland and Prince Edward Island, you have two options: you can either travel cross the 13-km long construction marvel that is Confederation Bridge, or take the ferry from Caribou in Nova Scotia. We tried both.

Luckily for us, we had time to kill whilst waiting for the ferry, and decided to have a look at the nearest town, Pictou. This is the first sight that met us:


I love old sail ships and was pleased to discover this beauty in Pictou harbour. This is a replica of the ship Hector. On 15 September 1773, 200 highlanders reached the shores of New Scotland (Nova Scotia) as the first Scottish immigrants in Canada. It had been a long and arduous journey – 11 weeks in inclement weather. Among the passengers, 18 children died on the way, of dysentrey and smallpox.

However, much like today, highlanders weren’t easily deterred. Over the coming years, thousands of Scots followed in their wake.

The Scottish influence is still obvious, especially on Pictou’s lamp posts:

At Hector Heritage Quay, you can wander around the outbuildings…

… and of course, go aboard and have a look around the ship.



Pictou practicals

Pictou is about 150 km from Halifax, an easy drive along Trans-Canada Highway 104. Hector Heritage Quay is open between late May and late October.
Sail ship Hector in Pictor, Nova Scotia, the riggings

Do you like old sail ships? Have you perhaps visited Pictou?

Want to see more travel photos? Have a look at this week’s Travel Photo Thursday.



44 Responses to “Pictou, birthplace of Nova Scotia”

  1. Ana O 23 May 2013 0145 #

    I’d love to visit Nova Scotia one day.
    I have visited historic sailing ships, like the Golden Hinde, the Cutty Sark, The HMS Victory and the HMS Warrior, and Fragata Sarmiento in Buenos Aires.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1234 #

      You know, I haven’t been in Ushuaia yet, but my first thought when seeing Halifax was that it must be similar. Must be that end-of-the-world feeling…

  2. Johanna 23 May 2013 0950 #

    Ahh, I love old ships too. Some great photos that make me want to write stories about ships and wrecks and high seas! I’ve also visited the Golden Hind and the Endeavour.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1258 #

      I’d love to see the Endeavour. Had fun finding traces of Captain Cook when we lived in New Zealand.

  3. Muza-chan 23 May 2013 1027 #

    Great article, I love to visit someday…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1258 #


  4. budget jan 23 May 2013 1119 #

    We will definitely be visiting Novia Scotia. I have it pencilled in for 3 years time. I guess the weather was much the same in New Scotland as Old Scotland 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1259 #

      Lots of rain – and very green.

      • Vi 4 June 2013 1346 #

        Even in summer it rains a lot there?

        • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 June 2013 1514 #

          I was there in September and October and the weather was very pleasant. Think summer is pleasant, too; a bit of rain, and moderate temperatures.

  5. Marisol 23 May 2013 1621 #

    Hi Sophie,
    Yes, I like old ships and I love the old world feel of Pictour Harbor. I haven’t been to Nova Scotia but I have heard so many beautiful things about it and hope to visit it sometime soon. I didn’t know it was named after Scotland! It’s amazing the lenght of time and the difficulties entailed in traveling back then.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1259 #

      Yes, today’s travellers certainly have it easy.

  6. Jackie Smith 23 May 2013 1622 #

    Oh, this one stirs the wanderlust! Someday . . .we keep saying of Nova Scotia. . .

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1301 #

      We did an autumn road trip of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and a bit of New Brunswick. Loved it.

  7. Life Images by Jill 23 May 2013 1624 #

    isn’t so amazing the early explorers sailed all around the world in sailing ships like this. My son went on a sail training ship for a week one summer and really loved it. I would love for a trip on one of these myself! Of course the “romance” of the idea is far removed from the “reality”.
    Thanks for taking us along,and for stopping by my blog today.
    Have a wonderful weekend ahead.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1306 #

      Must have been adventures in every sense of the word, travelling back then.

  8. Tim H 23 May 2013 1655 #

    Sometimes you need articles like this to remind you to appreciate things. I’m from NS and left to seek bigger and better things. Reading the comments makes me think I should plan a vacation home soon.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1308 #

      Surprising what we can find in our own back garden, if we only look. You’re from a lovely province.

  9. Vera Marie Badertscher 23 May 2013 1939 #

    Sophie: Thanks so much for reminding me of a delightful visit to Pictou and the Hector. I have a tile with a drawing of the ship on my dining room table, though, so I won’t soon forget. This is a particularly meaningful place for Scotch immigrants to the U.S. It was fascinating that they decided to leave the rocky fields of Scotland for the equally tough and rock fields of Nova Scotia.
    Yes, my sister and I visited Hector. We found the story of how the community pitched in to build it was as fascinating as the sailing of the ship itself. But what terrible circumstances those early ocean crossers were in. The museum makes it clear how far this was from a cruise ship.

    Jackie: You’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t do it sooner when you finally get there.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1315 #

      Such a nice – and surprising – little place, Pictou.

  10. Marcia 24 May 2013 0504 #

    What a lovely old ship! I’ve had NS on my list and was hoping to get there after TBEX. Hopefully, I’ll get another chance later this summer and I’ll definitely check out Picou. Thanks!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1316 #

      Hope you do, Marcia 🙂

  11. I love old ships and seaside towns like these. I’ve never heard of Pictou but have always wanted to visit the maritime provinces. Beautiful shots, Sophie!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1317 #

      Love the Maritimes.

  12. Leigh 24 May 2013 1602 #

    I went through Pictou a few years ago on the way to Cape Breton Island but didn’t get off the highway. Looks like I should have . In a few weeks I’m heading back to Nova Scotia and hope to explore much of the province I’ve never see before.
    I like the fact you could get on the ship. Hard to imagine living below deck.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 25 May 2013 1319 #

      Many surprising spots in Nova Scotia, Leigh 🙂

  13. Mette - Italian Notes 25 May 2013 1500 #

    I love wooden ships and this one seems to give you an impression of what life onboard was actually like.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 June 2013 1018 #

      We did get an idea. Cramped and difficult living conditions – but must have been a bit exciting, too.

  14. Lisa Goodmurphy 26 May 2013 0230 #

    We almost always take the Confederation Bridge but we did take the ferry once and didn’t think to stop in Pictou – I had no idea that this ship was there. We did see the Bluenose in Lunenburg a few years ago though and another tall ship in Halifax last summer – they are magnificent ships!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 June 2013 1019 #

      We saw the Bluenose in Lunenburg, too 🙂

  15. Cathy Sweeney 27 May 2013 0138 #

    I haven’t been to Pictou, but I visited Nova Scotia when I was about 13 yrs. old. I thought it was so mysterious and fascinating at the time. Pretty sure I’d feel the same way now.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 June 2013 1020 #

      I do like Nova Scotia 🙂

  16. Salika Jay 27 May 2013 1235 #

    I’m yet to visit Nova Scotia. I guess the rainy weather makes me not want to go there but I love to see old sail ships.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 June 2013 1020 #

      Can’t let a bit of rain stop you, Salika 🙂

  17. For a little bit, I thought you were going to tell me that it was a photo of the ferry. I like visiting old ships (replica or original), and this one looks like a good one. I’d love to visit Nova Scotia someday.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 June 2013 1021 #

      I would have loved that as a ferry.

  18. Mindy and Ligeia 29 May 2013 1043 #

    Great post! As my father’s side of the family is from Maine, I grew up hearing about how nice Nova Scotia is but it wasn’t until we moved to Toronto that I learned more about PEI. We haven’t made it to either yet unfortunately but when we do this info will come in handy. We’ll most definitely check out Pictou.
    Gorgeous pics by the way!
    Ligeia and Mindy :):)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 June 2013 1021 #

      Thanks 🙂

  19. Nancie 2 June 2013 0510 #

    Well you know I’m from Nova Scotia :), and with Scottish roots! I did many a business trip to PEI before the bridge was built. Now it is just so quick and easy to get to. Pictou is a great little town for exploring, and the Hector is definitely worth a look. I’m hoping there might be some tall ships around when I’m in NS next month.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 June 2013 1022 #

      Nova Scotia must be especially lovely this time of year, Nancie. Have fun at home 🙂

  20. Andrew Graeme Gould 16 June 2013 1916 #

    Lovely photo of that old boat, Sophie. Yet another destination to add to a very long list, so thanks!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 May 2016 1220 #


  21. Linda March 3 May 2016 1158 #

    I am curious, no monument for the Halifax disaster in 1917 ? (the Halifax Explosion).

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 May 2016 1219 #

      Apparently, there is a memorial bell tower – but I wasn’t aware of it. Need more time next time we’re in Nova Scotia.

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