25 Oct Escaping to Nature at Nova Scotia’s Liscombe Lodge
Nova Scotia‘s eastern shore is a place of nature at its most raw and beautiful. Still remote, the region is best experienced via a trip to a destination hotel, like the Liscombe Lodge, on the shores of the Liscombe River. Here the focus is on nature, making it the perfect spot for activities like canoeing and kayaking, and my personal favorite, hiking.
The lodge has about 10 miles of hiking trails on its property, and these can be done without a guide, but signing up for a guided hike lets you learn about the region as you climb and descend. I meet up with my guide, Lori, for a challenging hike along the Liscombe River Trail. The 6-mile loop trail follows the Liscombe River, passing thru a lush landscape with old man’s beard, evergreen canopies moss and fir. Pops of color are added with mayflowers and bunchberries. Along the way, we pass different fishing pools, like Long Lake, Hemlock and Watergate. The trail is rated difficult, not for steepness, but for ruggedness. The hiking surface is over rocks, though mud and narrow areas where you have to step over tree stumps and roots. At the half waypoint, you will reach a suspension bridge that overlooks a waterfall and a fish ladder that was once used to help restock Atlantic salmon. Lori tells me the ladder replaced a hydro dam to help restock Atlantic salmon but the numbers are still down because of the effect of acid rain.
Another favorite trail I did at the lodge was the Mayflower Trail which is just under 2 miles . It was also a rugged coastal hike winding along the mouth of the Liscombe River and through a thick forest. At certain points, my shoes became completely submerged in mud and during others I had to step over large roots and rocks. Along the way I kept my eye out for the colorful ties lodge employees hung along trees to mark the trail. My favorite part was the loop leading back to the lodge, which followed along the water where I could see boats cruising along the glassy water and birds soaring along the water looking for their next meal.
Hiking is far from the only excursion I tried out here. I also highly recommend booking a 1-hour pontoon boat ride with Chester, who has been steering cruises for the lodge for the last 42-years. But his family history reaches even longer- his father helped build the chalets at the lodge more than half a century ago in the 1960’s. The cruise follows the Liscombe River towards the Harbor, which eventually meets up with the Atlantic Ocean. During the 5-mile journey, Chester talks about the history of the area and shares folklore, which we enjoy along with our picnic lunch and between sips of a beer from Shelburne, NS called Hunky Dory, made with green tea, honey, orange and lemon zest. There are four tour options daily starting in the afternoon running to the evening.
After a long day playing in the great outdoors, you will likely be quite hungry! For dinner, head to the lodge’s Riverside Dining Room, which features floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the river and is a prime spot for bird watching. Here, the star of the show is the Planked Salmon, a tradition from the Native Mi‘kmaq. The fish is cooked on wooden planks at the edge of an outdoor fireplace, where it’s basted with hot butter and maple syrup. Other fish like mussels, a seafood chowder and lobster can be ordered as well as chicken, ribs and steak and vegetarian options for non-seafood eaters.
If you want a bespoke dining experience ask about the Cook’m Crack’m and Eat’m Lobster Dinner when you book. Ryan, the dining room supervisor, works as a lobster fisherman during the season and takes us through the whole process- from boil to cracking. We start by twisting off the tail, then move on to the claws before using different tools to crack and another to pry all the meat out. The dinner is served on silver platters with coleslaw, potato salad and a Nova Scotia wine. For dessert, order the strawberry shortcake made by the in house baker.
One of my favorite aspects of staying at Liscombe Lodge is sleeping in one of the river facing chalets. They match the quiet and seclusion found on the hiking trail perfectly (along with the 17 chalets, there are also hotel style guide rooms). Wood is stocked daily for the indoor fireplaces and have decks- the perfect place to have a specialty coffee (hint: made with booze). Try with Liscombe After Eight, made with crème de cacao and amaretto. Or, grab a s’mores kit to go and roast a golden brown mallow overlooking the tiered stream that is most beautiful when rays of sun cast a glowing light on the water. Either way, you’ll fall asleep after to the sound of the river and tired from a day playing outside, but after a good night’s rest, ready to explore when the sun rises again.