By Brad Donaldson
WHERE TO GO:
From Halifax, jump onto the 102 and head northeast. When you have the option between going towards Amherst or Cape Breton, choose Amherst. That highway is the 104, and, once on it, you will want to take exit 10 (Great Village). After that, head west until you hit the Glooscap Trail (Trunk 2). This road will take you through Portapique, Bass River, Economy, and finally to Five Islands where you will take a left on Bentley Branch Road that brings you to the park’s gates.
WHERE TO STAY:
Five Islands Provincial Park offers group and individual campsites with over ninety spots available all together. Almost all of these sites are set up as “drive-in”, with a handful requiring you to walk from a nearby parking area.
We stayed at #90 (walk-in required) and had an amazing view of the beach area and the long rusty coastline across East River to Sandy Point. But, while driving through the park, it was obvious that unless you wanted a shaded site, it would be hard to find one without a good view.
Something else that was noticeable: Despite being in a park with other campers, the sites themselves felt rather rustic. The foliage was so abundant it had the feel of somewhere hidden away in a backcountry setting.
WHAT TO DO:
There are three different hiking trails in the park: Estuary Trail (3.3 km), Economy Mountain (3.4 km), and Red Head Trail (1.8 km). Carole at the front desk let us know about a smaller trail (about a kilometre long, round trip), although you won’t find it on the map, that takes you to a point overlooking The Old Wife and Moose Island.
Time being limited, we hiked Red Head Trail and the short walk out to The Old Wife look-out while there as the Read Head trail is known for its expansive views of the coastline and I would highly recommend it.
I also suggest taking a drive down to the Five Islands Lighthouse Park. It not only gives you a chance to see the five islands, but also learn a little bit of history about them and the town.