Lockeport is a traditional Nova Scotian fishing community which has experienced a rise and fall similar to many other smaller coastal towns. Located in the Southwestern part of the province, Lockeport was founded as the Township of Locke’s Island in 1764. Its strategic location midway between New England and the rich fishing grounds of the Grand Banks caught the attention of two fishing families from Massachusetts, the Lockes and the Churchills.
The 1800s were the golden age for many of the towns in this part of the province as they served as a trading base between the rich fishing grounds of Atlantic Canada and the West Indies. Salt cod and lumber were carried on large sailing vessels to the Caribbean, returning laden with molasses, salt and other goods.
Other towns such as Yarmouth, Shelburne, and Liverpool thrived during this period and several passenger steamers ran between the area and New England. Small fortunes were amassed and rum-running later flourished during prohibition in the United States.
Lockeport’s economy grew steadily resulting in the construction of hotels, warehouses, and several fish plants. However, with a downturn in the fisheries and several fires, the town faced serious problems in the late 1890s. In 1907 the Township of Locke’s Island incorporated as the Town of Lockeport and was able to receive Provincial funding. The town recovered to a certain extent throughout the early years of the last century but today it remains a greatly reduced version of its former self.
Tim’s mother (Helen) was born in Lockeport, and the family connection has brought us to Lockeport on several occasions. Every summer she rents a cottage and enjoys relaxing by the beach and getting caught up on the changes to the town. We also spent time there with Erik when he was young. This strong family connection drew Anne, her Mom, and Erik to scatter her Dad’s ashes in the surf.
Its picturesque seaside location, lack of commercialization and friendly atmosphere makes it a great place to visit. The town’s website declares “Come for a visit, stay for a lifetime” and this has indeed been the case for many people looking for a relaxed lifestyle.
While there are far fewer services than in the past, most of the core services remain including schools, a bank, post office, small supermarket, volunteer fire department, pharmacy, liquor store, and restaurant. Year round accommodations are available at beach front cottages and a bed and breakfast in town.
For such a small community (population of 531 in 2016) there are some surprisingly popular and well attended events. The Canada Day celebrations are known throughout the region as one of the best and feature the ever popular dory races and greasepole. Canadian actress Ellen Page, whose father is from Lockeport, mentioned it on The Letterman Show which garnered huge interest in the town. Other annual events include a Sea Derby, Lobster Festival and the popular Harmony Bazar, a festival of women and song.
One of the main draws today for tourists and visitors is the world renowned Crescent Beach. Featured on the Canadian $50 bill from 1954 to 1975, this golden sand beach stretches for 2 kms on the seaward side of Lockeport.
While the water is refreshingly cold, the beach is beautiful and usually practically empty. When walking along you will seldom encounter more than a handful of people, even in the middle of July.
We spent three days in July enjoying the sights and people of Lockeport. A cozy cottage at Ocean Mist Cottages for a night and then in the downtown bed and breakfast.
We talked with Helen of growing up in Lockeport and the many changes she has seen over the years. She expresses sadness at the downturn in the town’s infrastructure, but very clearly a strong attachment to the town and its people, and a great fondness for growing up in this special place.
The setting is classic Nova Scotia, including the often fog shrouded lighthouses on the offshore ledges, the small strips of sand, the algae and periwinkle encrusted wharves, and the magnificent sea captains’ homes of the late 1800s.
Significant changes have occurred over the past two centuries but yet much remains the same and we’re sure that the next generations of residents and visitors will continue to enjoy the simple but profound beauty and sense of place of this beautiful coastal community.