History-Infused Day Hiking: McNabs Island

After living in Halifax for over 7 years, my husband and I finally got out to McNab’s Island in the Halifax Harbour. This was a fantastic family day hike and also would have made a fantastic primitive camping trip!
We arranged a ferry ride to the island though Sailor Mike who runs McNabs Island Ferry. His service was exceptional, and we trusted him completely ferrying our baby to and from the island. We brought H’s own life vest, but Mike also had a toddler PFD to offer us. (He also provided a map and a suggested route based on how long you had allowed yourself to hike the island.) Two-year-old H was excited to get in a boat and to go to something called an ‘island’ that made Mama & Daddy excited. She was quiet and observant on the ride.
We planned our trip for an entire day, which I’m glad we did because there is lots to see, and hiking with a wee one, we barely fit it all in! We were dropped off in Wreck Cove, which according to friends of McNabs, has become the final resting place for several scuttled ships.

We went to the Teahouse and gardens next. “The Teahouse was built in the 1980s by John and Glenna Jenkins, and is now closed. The Teahouse was built on the site of the former Hugonin-Perrin Estate, and features many introduced plants and trees.” Sailor Mike told us that the gardens were so extravagant at one point that they would have rivalled the Public Gardens. There were some beautiful trees, and we saw lots of butterflies, a frog, and an adorable shrew who ran back and forth underfoot.

One of the introduced species. 

Next we hiked by where once stood A.J. Davis Soda Pop Factory which operated during Prohibition producing soda as well as a special concoction called ‘Pure McNab’. We picnicked looking over the Harbour and carried on to Fort Ives.
Fort Ives is maintained somewhat by The Friends of McNabs, but was clearly not given the sort of federal dollars that Fort McNab—as a National Histoirc site—receives. It didn’t even have a sign! Not hard to find it though… there is one main road on the whole island and a map will tell you that Ives is at the north end of the island.

Much hiking later and we visited Fort McNabs itself before departing. It was really neat. Such a fascinating part of our history as Haligonians. It had the longest canon I have ever seen as well as a really menacing view of the harbour through the watch tower.

It was eery standing here thinking how many had stood here looking out 
this window defending the Halifax Harbour.
Overall, I would say this is a great family day hike. There are several outhouses, and we had great success with our potty-training kiddo! I would recommend wearing small immobile babies. The stroller ride was quite bumpy in parts (NOTE: we did have to stroller portage a bit near Garrisons Pier because the road was reinforced with large round gravel), but we were very glad we brought it for our 2-year-old as we were able to hike faster with her in it and also hike through her nap! 

Beautifully overgrown roads (tended to by Friends of McNabs to allow for hiking!)

This is about the extent of a 2-year-old’s comprehension of WW1 & WW2 weapons in 2013!


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