If you asked the locals, they’d tell you the stars align over southwestern Nova Scotia, and, in a way, they’re kind of right. The Milky Way stretches across the Acadian Skies & Mi’kmaq Lands, bathed by meteor showers and shooting stars. Argyle, Clare, and Yarmouth have been celebrated for their dark skies and rich heritage for years, but thanks to its recent designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, visitors have been coming to enjoy a front row seat to some of the prettiest light shows on Earth.
Flanked on either side by the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and Indian Fields Provincial Park, the Acadian Skies and Mi’kmaq Lands is the first designated Starlight Tourism Destination and Reserve in North America. It’s a concept that’s similar to International Dark Sky Parks except this part of Nova Scotia is protected in partnership with UNESCO World Heritage organizations and its Starlight Initiative. In either case, the parks were created to keep remote areas free from urban development and far away from light pollution so visitors are guaranteed prime stargazing opportunities 365 days a year.
Locals around these parts have a soft spot for astronomy that dates back to the 17th century around the time French explorer Samuel de Champlain traveled across the ocean using only the stars as his guide. What he called New France we now know as southwestern Nova Scotia and Quebec. Thanks to conservation efforts through the Starlight Initiative, modern-day explorers are able to see a landscape and night sky incredibly similar to the one Champlain and his men traced more than 400 years ago.
The Main Event
For the past four years, the area has hosted the Annual Starlight Festival in late September, early October. While the multi-day event shifts based on the moon’s cycle, participants’ enthusiasm for the expansive sky certainly hasn’t. Festivalgoers can participate in a number of guided hikes and canoe trips, enjoy time on the specially made stargazing deck, and sign up for classes to learn about the galaxy and constellations. All you have to do is pack a flashlight and a sleeping bag. By the end, you may very well feel like you’re ready to begin working for NASA.
A Starry Night
If you can’t make it to the festival in the fall, there are still plenty of opportunities to take in the sights. While you’re busy enjoying North America’s premiere starlight destination, you can spend the night at the world’s first Starlight Hotel. Trout Point Lodge is located in the heart of the Nova Scotian wilderness and caters specifically to avid stargazers and outdoor enthusiasts. The hotel offers guided night trips with a certified astronomer, high-tech telescopes, and plenty of outdoor hot tubs and saunas so guests are guaranteed the best views while soaking their cares away.