Sea Glass Heaven at Inverness Beach on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Lacking knowledge or significant input from others, part of our route planning into Canada was determined by where the internet suggested we might find some nice sea glass.  This may seem a frivolous way to pick destinations, but we figured it would certainly put is on the shore, which we like, probably on beaches, which we like, and possibly in interesting towns and terrain.  What’s not to like?

While we found little actual sea glass in New River Beach and not much more near Tatamagouche, our overall experience in both of those places was fantastic.  Buoyed by these two highly enjoyable selections using our soon to be copyrighted “where is the sea glass” route planning method, we made the somewhat painful drive to Inverness, on the island of Cape Breton, which makes up a significant portion of Nova Scoria’s territory in the northeast.  Canadians we talked to in Tatamagouche assured us that the place was fantastic regardless of any beach treasure.

I’m not gonna lie: by the time we got situated at Inverness Beach Village Campground, I was in a foul mood and regretting the choice.  First, the drive was ugly: For the last 90 minutes it was a twisty, uneven, pot hole ridden, poorly maintained, single lane in each direction road with frequently limited shoulders.  The cat got sick more than once, the cars piled up behind us with no easy pull offs to let them pass, and the concentration required by the drive eliminated any chance of enjoying the views.

Our site: a plane grass field, rather unlevel, but what a view.

Second: the campground seemed disorganized and half hazardly set up.  The check in process was slow, the front desk staff seemed to lack basic RV knowledge, they provided no information that was not specifically asked, and their facilities map is a crude, hand- drawn and deceptive affair.  It led me down a road that, per said child’s drawing, suggested it would loop back around to our site.  It did not, and I was forced into a multi-point turn around maneuver at a dead end.

Upon finally backing into our site I was reminded that this campground is limited to a 15 amp circuit!  Forgetting this fact between when I did my research and when we arrived is my fault.  But upon pulling out our 15 amp adapter, I found that the plug covers nearly prevented me from getting it inserted and required me to damage my adapter a bit.  Really now.  I get that the place is focused on their cabin revenue, but the RV park should not be just an afterthought.

This is from directly in front of our site.  Unobstructed sunset over the water.

Fortunately, things improved.  A beer helped.  And contrary to our usual arrival day pattern of setting up and relaxing, we decided to hit the beach.  Wow, what an eye opener, what an introduction to Inverness.  Upon scrambling down the resort’s packed dirt trail from the sandstone cliffs to the base, we found a beautiful beach extending for a couple of miles in either direction.  Choosing the road less traveled, we turned right, roughly northeast, and immediately spotted a plethora of white and green beach glass, with a piece easily found nearly every square meter.

First day’s haul.  Mostly green and white (brown is surprisingly rare) and some nice pottery/ceramic as well.

Our planned short visit to the beach before retiring for the evening turned into a multi hour march down the full length of the rightward section.  We slowly realized that we need not grab every piece in our path because the sheer volume of sea glass allowed us to become pickier the longer we explored.  By the time we ended that first day’s exploration, we were turning our nose up at anything white or green and smaller than a nickel.  We would get even more selective as the days wore on.

It was Jellyfish holocaust on the beach in places.  People were still swimming though, and one women suggested she didn’t think this type has long tentacles.

The rightward section of the beach passes in front of two (apparently famous) golf courses running along the low cliffs backing the beach.  This of course means that in addition to sea glass, golf balls are easily found.   And not the cheap ones, either.  These guys aren’t paying a couple a hundred a day in greens fees and a professional caddy to hit scuffed up, yellowed crap balls.  It’s brand new, top end, all the way.  I can’t imagine how many I would lose trying to navigate the fairways running directly alongside the cliffs, particularly since there are few options for getting to the beach from the links.

In between our daily, or in the case of Rosemarie, twice daily, beach excursions, we explored the town of Inverness and nearby regions.  It’s a cute, quaint town with handful of restaurants and shops.  Before arriving in Canada, I had researched and made a list of Canadian specific food and chain restaurants we should try, and Inverness provided us the opportunity to taste our first donair, sort of a Turkish/Greek shaved beef pita sandwich

The donair was forgettable, so here is our grilled cheese with mac and cheese, shallots, and garlic pickle slice.  

It was… disappointing.  Though the sweet onions were great, the meat was dry, and the whole thing was rather forgettable.  Honestly, my expectations were too high, the food is particularly craved by the post night out drinking crowd rather than as early bird dinner people, and I think we chose the wrong venue.  I didn’t see any sign of the traditional beef spit from which the meat is supposed to be shaved.  It was like they just substituted dry “Steak-umms.”  Ah well, another time.

We also hit the local whiskey distillery, Glenora, which produces a distinctly Scottish style.  This should be expected given the enormous Scottish influence in Nova Scotia (i.e, “New Scotland”) based upon their European settler history.  It was good, but I felt the price for a 1/2 ounce taste was extreme, and we left having tried but one option. 

But the beach glass!  Did I mention it?  It was amazing.  Honestly, I think this place has more than Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California, but spread out along several miles of beaches rather than concentrated in a limited set of coves.  Day two we turned left from our beach access point, partly for diversity, partly from the recommendation of a regular to the area we had met on our first evening.

We didn’t find as much, but we did meet Charlie, whom I shall refer to as a local “character.”  He showed us the amazing pieces he had found “that day” (I think they were his best from perhaps the week or month but he carried them to show them off, and they were spectacular) who walked a mile with us, regaling us with stories of his life, his glass beach finds, and local gossip and politics.  He gave us a bit of an education on what we were seeing and what we needed to keep an eye out for.  So thanks, Charlie, you’re a gem.

Day three it was back to the beach, and back to the right, with distrust in the air, skeptical of woman who had sent us to the left, perhaps just trying to keep us from the good spots.  We let that thought go though, because we can’t go on together, with suspicious minds.  Boy did we load up.  A huge pocket full for me, a good sized plastic baggy for Rosemarie, and my other pocket filled with golf balls.  We ended the day with a dip in the Broad Cove River, which empties right at Inverness Beach.

The evening before our departure we noted that the next day’s weather forecast involved rain most of the day.  Awakening the next morning, with Rosemarie loathe to leave the place, and me not feeling like driving in the drizzle, we extended a day, making a foray during reasonable weather down to the beach, but otherwise hunckered down in th RV watching movies and whatnot.  Rose made one more early evening run for beach glass.  After nearly two hours and with the rain picking up, I drove down to the beach access and collected her soaked to the bone self right as she was making her way up the cliff path. 

We needed that extra day.  It put us in the right state of mind for our two part journey to Prince Edward Island starting the next morning.  This far into our Canadian journey, Tatamagouche has stood out as a great little town we would enjoy visiting again, and Inverness Beach as a fantastic coastal location to pursue Rose’s beach glass jewelry hobby and business.  In an ideal world, we would combine those two, merging Tata’s growing culture with Inverness’ location, but if that were to happen I’m sure all you mere tourists would ruin the place. 😉

Continuing our Canadian Lessons Learned:

  • I think we have broken the code with regard to the Eastern Provinces’ Harmonized Sales Tax:  The 15% HST is included in the advertised price at all provincially controlled liquor stores and at provincial parks, but rarely any place else.
  • Holy crap, Scotch is cheaper than Canadian whiskey!  At least, sometimes.  The tax, tariffs, production issues, and minimum charge structure here is a mystery to me, but the end result is a sort of absolute minimum on the price of any kind of standard 80 proof liquor.  This pushes local, bottom shelf Canadian whiskey up to a price equal to, and in some cases more expensive than, acceptable imports.  I fond Famous Grouse in the 1.14 liter option for two bucks less than the cheapest Canadian option.

8 thoughts on “Sea Glass Heaven at Inverness Beach on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

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