Paddle Lunenburg/Queens

Ocean Route 11: Tancook Islands

Record #: LQR0017
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2019
Last Full Update: 28 Mar 2014


Public Bulletin
Neither South Shore nor the Lunenburg-Queens Recreational Coordinators/Directors Association own or control the canoe routes, portages or campsites listed in this guide, and assume no responsibility or liability for the safety of those using the canoe routes, walking the portages, or using the campsites. 
lt is recommended that users approach all canoe routes, portages and campsites in a safe and responsible manner. Conditions can change through fluctuating water levels, natural debris, and logging activity. Arrangements must be made directly with the owners of the portages and campsites. 
South Shore and Lunenburg-Queens Recreational Coordinators/Directors Association are not liable for any errors or omissions in this guide.


Located In South Shore Region
Where To Find Us
Tancook Island, NS
Areas Served Lunenburg County ; Queens County (NS)


Phone 902-275-3490
Contact Chad Haughn, President, LQRCDA

Description & Services

Information These two islands are the largest in Mahone Bay. They are still inhabited and provide a glimpse into island life of the past and present. 
Where: South of Chester at the entrance to Mahone Bay 
Skill Level: Intermediate 
Time: Day or overnight 
Distance: 12 km round trip from Blandford to the Government Wharf on Big Tancook. 
Click map to enlarge 
The busy government wharf on Big Tancook Island is a sure sign that this is still a vibrant community. Tourists who take the ferry from Chester can spend the day hiking past multi-coloured homes and well-cared-for gardens on the 8 km of road. The island is a mix of forest, overgrown fields, marshlands and a network of trails. 
The islands were settled by German and French settlers in 1829. Today the population is about 200 and fishing is the main industry. Islanders are famous for the Tancook schooner, a small schooner once used for fishing, and their cabbages and sauerkraut. Big Tancook also has the only one-room school house still open in Nova Scotia today.  
The islands are at the mouth of Mahone Bay and the name Tancook means “facing the open sea”. Much of the shoreline is rugged and cliffy though there are some sandy and rocky beaches for landing. 
Water Safety Notes (see also Ocean Notes
Wind and swells - Choose a calm day or paddle out in the morning before the wind comes up. You may need to wait until evening for the wind to settle down for your return. Expect swells in the passage between the islands and Blandford. 
Intermediate skills are recommended for a trip around Big Tancook as you may have to spend most of your time in the boat. Landing may be difficult and impossible around the south end. Fog may also be a concern when paddling the islands. 
Points of Interest 
1 Fossils - Brachiopod fossils can be found along the shore north of the Government Wharf. Samples are also on display in the general store in Southeast Cove. 
2 Museum 
3 Swimming beach 
4 Bake Ovens - Numerous sea caves can be seen along the cliffs here 
The only place to stay is the Levy House B&B, very near the ferry. Phone (902) 228-2120. For camping possibilities, call Carolyn Cross at Carolyn’s Cafe and Tourist Information 902-228-2749. The camping is for those who like to rough it since there are no facilities provided. The cafe is also near the ferry and has a craft shop. 
How to get there 
For Access Point One: Take Exit 7 off Highway 103 and turn left to East River. From here take Route 329 to Blandford. For Access Point Two: Take Exit 7off Highway 103 and turn right toward Chester. Follow the signs for the Tancook ferry in Chester. 
Access Point One - Blandford Government Wharf 
The wharf is visible from the main road. Turn right toward the wharf just past the harbour. Just before the wharf on the harbour side is a small beach suitable for launching. Parking is available close by. 
Access Point Two - Chester 
A suitable and fun trip for beginners is to take your boat on the ferry to Big Tancook and paddle on the lee side of the islands. The Tancook Island Ferry (see schedule) is a 40 minute (10 km) ride from Chester and stops at Big Tancook and Little Tancook. Parking is available near the dock in Chester. It is a passenger ferry only and costs $5 return. The crew are good-natured about taking boats on board. Next to the wharf on Big Tancook is a good beach for launching. There is also a little beach at the head of the Little Tancook wharf. 
Flat Island - A 3 km exposed paddle from Southeast Cove. Good camping and an old homestead at Sheep Pound Cove. 
Ocean Route 6: Mahone Bay - From the outer most island on the Mahone Bay route (Rafuse) to the wharf on Big Tancook is about 5 km across open exposed waters and is rated expert. 
For more information 
Click here for more info on Tancook Island 
Click here to see the Ferry Schedule 
Note that the Special Trip for the doctor cost more than the Special Trip for the undertaker! To learn more about the Tancook schooners and island way of life, read Tancook Schooners: An Island and Its Boats by Wayne M. O’Leary 
Topographic map: Lunenburg 21 A/8
Eligibility Ages: 16 year(s) and up 
Children under 16 with adults - please use own discretion depending on skill level

Special Information