There are common themes emerging with my Operation Hometown Travel adventures: discovery, a leisurely pace, and food. Last week, I was able to take a trip combining all of these elements, finally getting to eat at a restaurant I’ve wanted to go to for months, and having a fantastic evening stroll along the Dartmouth Waterfront.
Harbour Cruise on the Woodside Ferry
An earlier epic trek demonstrated I am quite willing to travel long distances in the name of food. For my money, there is no cheaper way to take in the Halifax Harbour, in ten to fifteen minute doses, than by taking one of the ferries between Halifax and Dartmouth. For a cool $2.25 cash (or $1.80 ticket), riders get a short, breezy ride across the harbour. There are two ferry routes between Halifax and Dartmouth, for this adventure, I traveled on both routes, taking the rush hour-only Woodside Ferry (1.8 km from the Halifax Ferry terminal) and returning on the Dartmouth Ferry (1.6 km from the Halifax ferry terminal)
The Woodside Ferry takes you close(ish) to Georges Island, a lonely drumlin in middle of the harbour, closed to the public and rumoured to be infested with garter snakes. Most people who live here have only seen it at a distance. I’ve had the opportunity to visit to the island, but didn’t see any snakes.
By the by, a drumlin is a glacial land formation with a dip in the top, like a spoon. Thanks, internet! [Update: I've since been told the Internet and I are wrong about this. I take it back - thanks for nothing, internet!]
Watch this space, I’ve got a post coming up about my earlier visit to Georges Island, and soon, I’ll return to the island, like they did on Lost. Though I’m very confident things will turn out better for me than the Losties.
Cheese Curds and a return trip to Cheese Curds
The Woodside Ferry docks a short walk away from my first destination: Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers and Poutinerie. The restaurant opened to raves a few months back, and I’m gutted it took me as long as it did to get over.
Cheese Curds is not kidding around. They are very serious about burgers, poutine, hand-cut french fries, and life-changing onion rings. The toppings are fresh and plentiful (50 different burger toppings), the burgers are top quality meats. The staff are glad to help out with suggestions, and are happy to suggest inventive topping combinations if you’re overwhelmed with options.
For my first visit, I chose a burger I had been thinking about since I first looked at the menu online: the BBQ Triple Bacon Burger. It has three kinds of bacon. Three kinds. Per my server’s excellent suggestion, I kept the toppings simple, going with bruschetta mix, the tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and garlic a mouth-watering complement to the sweet bacon and tasty hamburger. The hand-cut fries are cooked in small batches and served up hot.
I talked about this burger so much in the days that followed that a friend asked if we could go for there dinner on the weekend. As if she had to ask. For my second trip, I went with the burger special of the week, the Tex-Mex burger with spicy sauce and sautéed onions. My friend had the Honolulu burger with bacon, carmelized pineapple, and cheese curds. We both had the onion rings and they are life-changing. I’m picky about onion rings, but these are winners. They are cooked in a tasty batter to a crispy finish, then topped with a swipe of honey right before serving.
They are the onion rings by which all future onion rings will be measured.
Need another reason to visit? The folks behind Cheese Curds are putting the finishing touches on a new taco joint, Habaneros, which will give me a great reason for a return visit in July.
Dartmouth Harbourfront Trail
After such a delicious burger, I decided to take a leisurely digestive walk along the Dartmouth Harbourfront Trail. At a little more than 3 kilometres, the trail is a lovely walk through a small urban forest and along the harbour. Not to mention the spectacular view of Halifax, which runs the entire length of the trail.
The trail is wide and used by commuting cyclists, runners, families, and dogs (with their humans) out for a nice evening walk. Travelers’ tip: the Waterfront Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College (pictured below) can be accessed from the trail, and has washrooms available to the public when the campus is open for business.
The trail is clean and well-maintained by the Dartmouth Harbourfront Trails Association. I don’t know if it’s intended as art or graffiti, but there are a couple of nice little paintings on one of the rock walls along the trail.
There’s a bit of confusing signage along the way, indicating a detour around Cuisack and Arthur Streets that predate the trail’s current state. Instead, use the more current and accurate trail map, which correctly indicates the trail continues along the water.
The only part of the trail that is not (technically) complete is the piece between Tupper Street and Old Ferry Road. However, judging by the amount of through-traffic I saw when I was walking, no seems to notice and continues through.
When the trail picks up again at Old Ferry Road, it runs at grade next to the freight rail line, though it is well separated and safe for trail users. I went through in the early evening and, after a hot day, the fields of clover along the trail smelled sweet and pungent, taking me right back to my childhood summers playing in the fields and forests of my rural community.
As the trail reaches Dartmouth Cove, toward downtown Dartmouth, the surroundings become more industrial, but just as interesting.
Just before reaching the end of the trail, trekkers pass by the entry point of the Shubenacadie Canal, an historic waterway which cuts through Nova Scotia. From Halifax Harbour to the Bay of Fundy, it’s an intricate system of lakes, rivers, and man-made locks, which served as a vital conduit to commerce for the province before cars were king. Today, it’s used as a recreational corridor (approximately 120 kilometres long for any intrepid canoers and kayakers out there) and has internationally-recognized significance as a waterway.
Far too soon, my walk came to end at Ferry Terminal Park, a nice green space located next to the Dartmouth Ferry terminal at Alderney Landing. Honestly, Dartmouth doesn’t always get the credit it deserves – just check out this view. Last year, my friends and I ventured over to this wharf to watch the Canada Day fireworks over Halifax Harbour. On this trek, I found an even better spot for this year. No, I’m not going to divulge it.
If it’s Wednesday and you’re in Dartmouth, join in on Walking Wednesdays, for a nice lunchtime jaunt around around the downtown area. The walk sounds like a fun one, I’m going to try and make it over on a nice, sunny Wednesday this summer.
Ferry Terminal Park
I made it to the ferry terminal just in time to watch the ferry leave Halifax, so I took some time to sit in the sun, then explore the park.
There’s a nice playground, complete with ship and imposing figurehead, ready to brave the elements.
World Peace Pavilion
Located inside of the park is an unusual attraction, the World Peace Pavilion. Opened during the 1995 G7 Summit in Halifax, it is a recognition of the global community’s ongoing quest for a peaceful world.
The display contains rocks and bricks from every corner of the world, from Tunisia to Fiji and everything in between. Germany’s contribution was a few chunks of the Berlin Wall, which means I’m now two-thirds of the way through finding all of the pieces which now reside in Nova Scotia.
Dartmouth Ferry and home again
As the sun started to set, it was time for me to find my way home again. I’m a big fan of boats in general, and ferries in particular. A second nautical adventure was a fun finish to my evening of adventure.
Taking the ferry make it a much shorter trip, mileage-wise, than previous treks, but more than makes up for it in nautical fun. Clocking in just under 7.5 kilometres, 3.4 km of which was on the water, the journey was shorter, but no less epic.
Are you up for a trek that is epic in fun, but not necessarily epic distance? The Dartmouth burger trek should be right up your alley. Get the bacon burger.
See for yourself:
Metro Transit ferry schedules: Dartmouth and Woodside ferries
Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers and Poutinerie 380 Pleasant St, Dartmouth
Dartmouth Harbourfront Walk: 3km trail along the Dartmouth waterfront
Downtown Dartmouth: more to see and do at the end of the Dartmouth Harbourfront Walk