One of the favourite summer activities of the homo sapiens nova scotians is to pack up the vehicle with food, family, and as many friends as you can gather to make a break for the cottage.
Taking part in this time-honoured tradition (often preceded by a mad dash to pack everything into the car) will galvanize your Nova Scotian-ness, and usually makes for an entertaining weekend.
The North and South shores of Nova Scotia are dotted with cottages, and cottage rentals. I recommend the North Shore. The body of water there is called the Northumberland Strait, a little horseshoe of water between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It’s much warmer than the unbridled Atlantic Ocean you’ll find on the south coast.
1: Enjoy the Journey There
Most cottages are at least an hour’s drive away from the city (and by ‘the city’, I mean Halifax). There are lots of spots of interest along the highways of Nova Scotia. You can play mini golf at Mastodon Ridge, that funny little place that pops up on the highway when you reach Stewiacke and inevitably draws your attention. Don’t forget to get a picture with the mastodon.
Rural Nova Scotia is a weird and wonderful place. You may come across antique dealers, microbreweries, old barns that need exploring, and any other manner of interesting things along the way.
There are tons of abandoned properties in rural Nova Scotia, and they’re always fun to explore. Use your own legal discretion when exploring other properties. Remember to be cautious when going into places with unstable roofs and floorboards.
You never know, you might find a 100-year-old taxidermied bald eagle.
2: Set Up the Cottage
Be prepared when you arrive to spend about 20-30 minutes preparing the cottage for habitation, especially if this is your first visit of the season. Some cottages need to have their electricity or water turn on manually after the winter (or every visit).
Chances are you’ll probably want to open the windows and air the place out a bit. A lot of cottages can get musty pretty quickly.
You’ll also use this time to call dibs on whatever beds are available. Do not be lazy about dibs. Get the best surface you can. Give me liberty or give me…. the couch is fine, really. I’ll take the couch.
3: Get Your Beers Cold and Stock The Fridge
I recommend doing all groceries before you leave, or on your way to the cottage. When you get to the cottage you can just throw it all into the fridge and start enjoying yourselves right away.
A cooler of beer (or your beverage of choice) must never be more than five feet away. Be sure to designate your favourite cooler for this important job.
4: Play with the Ocean!
There’s all kinds of weird stuff here. Swim! Pick stuff up! Gather hermit crabs! Pet the jellyfish! Go fishing! Dip your toes in the seaweed! Go collect some beach glass! Make sand castles and fill them with jellyfish royalty!
5: Play Games!
Cottages are prime game-creating spots. Such as the noble pursuit of soccerisbee, seen below:
Bring some balls to knock around, try creating your own game, or enjoy one of the classics like soccer, football, badminton, etc.
In case of inclement weather, there are always cards (crib is a personal favourite), Scrabble, Monopoly, or other relationship-testing board games.
You don’t really know someone until you’re four hours into a particularly long round of Monopoly.
6: Lay Around in the Sun
Going for a swim and then lounging on the beach while you dry is a great feeling. So is reading at the beach. Please don’t forget your sunscreen though!
A cheap beach umbrella can also save you a lot of sunburn hassle.
7: Be Lazy
You know, it’s okay if you don’t read those seven novels you brought with you. Stop judging yourself and just fall asleep on the couch in the middle of the afternoon. It is goddamn luxurious.
But for laziness, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
8: Thou Shalt Barbecue
Cottages are basically made for barbecues. Some of my favourite things to put on the barbecue are:
- Meat: Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Steak, Pork
- Not-Meat: Tofu, Portobello Mushrooms, Apples, Red Peppers, Corn, Onions
All these things work great directly on the grill, or placed in packs of tinfoil with butter for extra-tender, caramelized deliciousness.
9: Build a Campfire
But wait! First, decide who is going to be firemaster.
[red_box] The firemaster is the person amongst your group of friends who is in charge of building the fire and deciding what to do with it.
Appointing the firemaster is to prevent backseat firebuilders from nagging whoever is working on the fire. Much like the backseat driver, they say “Do it like this!”, and “No, do it like this!”, and “You’re out of control!”
If you can agree on one firemaster to begin with, everyone can agree to surrender control of the fire to them, and it creates a much more harmonious campfire building atmosphere (especially if you have a lot of friends who are used to being the boss). [/red_box]
So yeah, build that campfire.
This might also be an opportune moment for someone in your party to grab a guitar/ukulele and start a sing-along, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Once you’ve had one campfire, your next goal is to build a bigger campfire.
On the beach.
While you could for sure haul your own wood out to the beach, what’s more fun to do is to have all your friends trawl the beach for driftwood and then build a campfire out of that. If there are any felled trees on the beach, you can also chop those up to use for wood.
While it is legal to use driftwood and already fallen trees, it is not legal to chop down living trees from the area near the beach to use for firewood (unless it’s on your own private property). This is to prevent desertification of the coastlines. Actually, while we’re here, Nova Scotia’s Beaches Regulations is not a long read and I recommend taking a quick look over it just as an FYI before you head down to the cottage.
Also, yes. If anyone from the tropics is reading this, Nova Scotia’s beaches are often hedged with forest, often (but not exclusively) these tend to be softwood (spruce, cedar, douglas fir, pine).
Any time you build a fire, please follow with the obligatory s’mores and weiners on sticks.
The number one mistake I see people make is that they don’t wait for a good bed of embers to form before they try to roast their treats. Wait until the fire has burned for a good little while and you’ve got a good, glowing base of coals.
10: Let Your Phone Battery Die
How often do you get to just be with friends nowadays? If anyone asks, reception tends to be iffy around cottage country anyway.