Have you ever been so close to something but you just can’t touch it? It’s almost within reach. You hear rumours. Secret tunnels? An island full of snakes?? Ghosts???
That’s how most of Halifax feels about Georges Island National Historic Site.
This small island sits mere meters off one of the busiest port cities on the eastern sea-board, yet until recently it was off-limits. Thanks to Parks Canada and some strategic partners, all that has changed. You can now visit the island via tour boat and guided tours!
The island has been many things since it emerged from the last ice age some 10,000 years ago. The Mi’kmaw called this island Mniku or “small island” and it was an important staging ground for fishing, once a quarantine station (how very 2020…), a prison, and an important fort within the defence complex of the harbour. Because of all that it’s now a national historic site protected by Parks Canada.
The island, however, needed some love. Centuries of building on a very small island led to many of the WWII-era forts being in disrepair. Even the wharf needed some much needed upkeep. Parks Canada took on the job of lovingly restoring these buildings and ensuring that the remaining infrastructure was safe for public viewing. Flash forward to August 2020, and George’s Island welcomed visitors for the first time in many years. People were excited.
A national historic site is a living piece of history and Parks Canada and their partners sprinkle the magic to bring these places alive. The tours through Georges Island are amazing. Guides, with their strict commitment to performing as period actors (costumes and all!), lead you through the maze of old forts and tunnels. They bring them to life by regaling you with stories and legends of the island. Tragic heroes, forgotten villains and yes, the odd ghost story too makes the experience rich for the imagination.
Standing on top of Georges Island is like looking back in time and toward the future all at once. You can envision our first peoples fishing these sacred waters, British galleons, Grand Banks schooners, and parades of war ships. At the same time, you can see the bustling cities of Halifax and Dartmouth. It might have taken a while but George’s Island wanted to be ready for the party. Halifax is poised to continue its rise as a world class place to live. The people here already know. It’s places like George’s Island that offer adventure on our literal doorstep that make Halifax such a captivating place to be.
Oh, and as far as we know, there're not more snakes on Georges Island than you’d expect on any island in Atlantic Canada. Which is to say, not very many. But don’t let them frighten you off, I’m sure they’d love to see you too. (although Chris has seen a few).
You can get there by kayak, chartered boat, your own boat, swim?? For more information on visiting Georges Island in 2021 please visit https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ns/georges/visit
To find out more about tours check out https://www.ambassatours.com/visit-georges-island