Written by Kristine, one of our very resourceful Library staff members
I moved to Halifax from Toronto almost twenty years ago, during a period in my life I like to call 'BK' (before kids). While I didn’t know it at the time, my new hometown was about to become a fantastic place to live during the following 'WK' (with kids) period of my life. The many ways to enjoy nature within and near the city are still delighting all of us.
Fostering an early connection between our children and the natural world is one of the best things we can do for the future of our planet. While our city is lucky to have the amazing Point Pleasant Park and Halifax Public Gardens on the peninsula, there are many other places in the Halifax region that make for great outdoor adventures with young children.
The Frog Pond Trail (Top Pick)
This is my top pick for nature loving city dwellers of any age, but especially for little people. I didn’t even know about the Frog Pond until my youngest child was about two years old when a friend brought us to check it out. Since that time this has been one of our family’s favourite walking spots.
The trail goes around the pond and is mostly flat and easy to navigate. There are lots of places where you can stop and explore the natural rock formations or watch the ducks. Or, if you're my kids, to have a zealous stick battle. We have occasionally spotted turtles, wood ducks (we call them the fancy ducks), fish, and other wildlife. We once even saw a frog sitting on a lily pad – just like a frog in a picture book!
About half way on the trail, there is a small bridge over a little stream that is the perfect spot for playing 'Pooh sticks,' a game from the Winnie the Pooh books. You each drop a stick in the water on one side of the bridge, run to the other side, and wait to see which stick makes it out first. Simple fun.
Near the stream are paths that lead down to Sir Sandford Fleming Park and the Loop trail. These are great additions to the main walk when your children’s legs grow longer and you're able to expand your hike with more options. Make sure to check out the excellent school-age and beyond programming at Halifax Recreation’s Adventure Earth Centre, opens a new window, also located at Sir Sandford Fleming Park.
The Frog Pond trail is a perfect length for 2-3 year olds to make it around in 45 min-1 hour, while for a teen or adult it’s more like a 20 min walk. The Frog Pond can also be accessed by Metro Transit bus, making it a perfect Earth Day getaway for you and your child.
When the weather is hot, the Hemlock Ravine is a great place to cool off and watch some ducks. The park is home to many mature trees providing a lot of shade and you'll find plenty of ducks at the famous Heart Shaped Pond, which was constructed by Prince Edward for his love, Madame Julie de St. Laurent. This ravine is located off the Bedford Highway near its beginning and is a short uphill walk from the #8 bus route. It has wide gravel paths that are easy to navigate and there are options for shorter or longer loops among its trails. Keep an eye out for deer too!
This little hidden gem can be found off of Purcell’s Cove Road. The path to the park is nestled between houses and leads down to Deadman’s Island, which is not really an island, but is home to the unmarked graves of prisoners who died while imprisoned at the nearby Melville Island prison between 1793-1819. The 'island' is a little tree covered hill you can walk around, and there is also a small rock beach when you may find crabs and starfish. Check under some rocks and you may also find interesting insects and salamanders.
This spot is loved by cyclists, dog walkers, and families for its easy trails and variety of scenery. The park runs along both sides of the Shubenacadie Canal between Lake Micmac and Lake Charles. There is a little beach for swimming at the Lake Charles end of the trails, and many opportunities to see turtles, waterfowl, and other creatures. This park is also the site of more Adventure Earth programs, and can be accessed by Metro Transit.
The Cole Harbour Farm Museum
Off of the busy Portland Street, there is a magical spot where children get to see what life was like when our connection to nature was a matter of survival. The farm has a garden and heritage buildings to explore, and from May 15 to October 15 a selection of traditional farm animals call it home, and can be visited from Wednesday to Sunday. Cole Harbour Heritage Farm is a wonderful adventure with small children, right in the city, and completely free.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my family’s favourite nature spots. In honour of Earth Day, I’ve tried to focus suggested outings on places accessible by bus, but some include a fair bit of walking for your little persons. You might want to bring a stroller to make the extra walk from bus stop to path easier.
If you have any great nature adventures to share please let us know in the comments. Happy exploring!