Photos by Gerry Farrell

This year winter is different for everyone, especially the snowbirds who usually travel south. Due to Covid-19, many are staying home which means they will face the cold temperatures and snowy days they’d typically avoid. But there’s no need for travellers or those who don’t trek beyond the border, to avoid the beach. Even though one can’t wiggle bare toes in the warm sand or splash in the waves, the seaside is a great place to be during the coldest months of the year.
The decision to change flip flops and bathing suits into boots, toques, and layers of sweaters, or jackets is simple. The choice of which beach to enjoy is not so easy. Pomquet, Melmberby, Rushton’s, Northport, Tidnish, or any of the spots in between? The north shore offers a coast lined with possibilities. This is the winter to explore them all.
A morning stroll by yourself along the Northumberland Strait is soothing and peaceful. It’s a chance to enjoy your first cup of coffee, uninterrupted. A time to relax and reflect on your blessings. Most people are elsewhere, so it’s quiet. Solitude and stillness ensue. Whether it’s footprints in the sand or boot prints in the snow, the evidence of your walk provides comfort.

Susan Farrell branches out her winter walks with a trip to the beaches and shore lines of Pictou.

Take the time to slow down and breathe in the salty air. Admire the view. Notice the extra seaweed on the beach, and the ice along the shoreline left behind by the tide only to be added to during the next ebb and flow. The blue of the ocean is darker, almost black. The gulls are gone but New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are still there, tiny blips of land in the distance.
Afternoons are ideal for heading out to the beach with the family and the dog. Pack a picnic. Yes, a picnic in the middle of winter. Skip the cool watermelon and crunchy cucumbers. Bring a thermos of rich creamy tomato soup and spicy muffins infused with warming ginger and cinnamon. It’s an opportunity for the children to run and play, building castles of snow instead of sand. Regardless of the season, the shore is always a great place for treasure hunting for shiny shells, pretty rocks, driftwood creatures, and sea glass. During the winter, it can be the perfect spot for a snowball fight. Bright-coloured hats and mitts contrast the pale blue sky and the clear white of freshly fallen snow. Rosy cheeks and thermoses filled with hot chocolate spread good cheer.

Retired physican and avid photogragher Gerry Farrell, with daughter Susan and her husband Fahim Rajabali, on the beach near Pictou Lodge last winter.

Invite neighbours and friends for a beach party and bonfire. There’s plenty of room for social distancing while singing and sharing stories. Tell a joke, then listen as laughter begins and spreads through the crowd like a wave. Watch puffs of frosty breath float upward to dance with the golden flickering flames and salty air. Outdoor gatherings are safe, fun, and the shorter days mean one can be home, warm and cozy, well before bedtime.
The warmth of the fire and good company push thoughts of thermometer dips and poor weather away. Right here, right now, home is on the beach in the middle of the winter. The benefits of exercise, fresh air, and outdoor social time make it the perfect place to be.

Twelve Choices for a Winter Beachcomber’s Thermos

  1. Favourite herbal tea mix
  2. Hot buttered rum
  3. Hot chocolate
  4. Spicy chai tea
  5. Coffee
  6. Hot lemonade
  7. Consommé
  8. Blended soup
  9. Warm apple cider
  10. Mulled wine
  11. Hot toddy
  12. Latte