Why do people travel hundreds of miles to look at beautiful scenery? And why does one particular place attract many more visitors than similar places not far away? Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia, Canada, is one of those special spots that draws people from all over the world. It is hard to explain its special charm, but any one who has been there will know what I am talking about. The southern-eastern shore of Nova Scotia possesses many picturesque fishing villages and many beautiful seascapes. But one doesn’t have to go very far from the capital city of Halifax to see this special spot. There are no trees around Peggy’s Cove. The dominant feature are huge round granite rocks, many of them the size of houses.
They seem to be pushing up and out of the land and sea. Nestled inside the circle of these rocks is a group of fishing huts. Now and then a fishing boat leaves by the little bay or cove, in order to travel out into the great Atlantic Ocean. For nearly two hundred years, there have been fishermen at Peggy’s Cove. All around the little harbour there are huts or “fish stores” where the fishermen do their work. Here they bring in the fish, and clean them, wash them and salt them. The salted fish are then stored in barrels. Nowadays, however, more fish are sold fresh than salted. Visiting as a tourist, I wandered into one of these huts while the fisherman was busy at his work. He explained to me that, although Peggy’s Cove is a tourist destination, it is also a working fishing village. The fishermen get no money from the tourists, but have to take the time to talk to them and explain their work.
There are, however, some tourist shops and tea rooms in the vicinity. Part of the charm of Peggy’s Cove is that it is so small. The population has been well under 100 people for most of its history. The buildings are mostly small dwellings, with the lighthouse being the most prominent structure. A good variety of fish are caught in the area, including mackerel, herring, haddock, cod and halibut. Lobsters are also trapped nearby. However, because of over-fishing, catches have declined in recent decades. The plants and animals of the area are also of interest. Showy purple lupins grow close to the ocean. They thrive on salty ground, and the closer they grow to the spray of the ocean the better. One of the world’s few carnivorous plants – the common pitcher plant – also grows around Peggy’s Cove. Its leaves trap insects, which are digested to nourish the plant. Common birds are the stately blue heron, which likes to fish in the marshy pools. The heron stands several feet high and spear fish and frogs with its sharp beak. Another bird is the osprey, or fish hawk.
The osprey’s keen eyes can spot a fish moving beneath the surface of the water. It can dive swiftly, hitting the water with great speed, catch the fish in its claws, and then fly away with its catch. I have also seen pools close to the ocean full of large tadpoles. These tadpoles spend several years in the water before they develop into bullfrogs. Bullfrogs, the largest Canadian frog, have been know to eat baby ducks and small fish. Looking over the little harbour and out toward the great ocean, one notices the contrast between the very small and the very large. If Peggy’s Cove were larger, it would be more ordinary. As it is, it represents all the little fishing villages, where men have gone forth in little boats to fish on the wide ocean.