This rock beach on the Northumberland Shore is a significant Nova Scotia geological site and offers a glimpse into life on Earth 450 million years ago. The cliffs at Arisaig are rich in the fossils of ancient sea creatures, shells, and plants.
Inside the park entrance you will find vehicle parking, a picnic area and toilet facilities. A kiosk overlooking the cliffs offers seating and a peaceful view of Arisaig Harbour, where you can see a charming replica of the original 1898 lighthouse. Interpretive panels within the kiosk detail the geological history of the site and identify the diverse fossils you might find on the beach. A one-mile loop trail winds through the wooded park.
Fossils can most easily be found to the west of Arisaig Provincial Park. Hike the trails to the cliff edge, and climb down the path to the beach. Along the shore, you’ll find a waterfall and stream. Depending on the water levels, you may need boots or bare feet to cross the stream, but it is well worth the effort. The sedimentary layers here are thinner and contain abundant fossils. It is important to be aware that all fossils are the protected property of the Province of Nova Scotia, and cannot be removed from the site without a permit. However, in this age of mobile technology, a photo is easier to take, and much lighter to carry.
Strongly folded stone layers lie exposed along the shoreline and cliff face. Geologically, the area is particularly interesting as it contains rocks from the late Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian periods, a historic time span of 448-401 million years. The rocks are also a mix of volcanic types, as well as sedimentary siltstone and sandstone, including some beautiful granites and multicoloured conglomerates.
These are actively eroding cliffs, so exercise caution. You will hear loose stones tumbling down as you walk by. Stay back from cliffs and overhangs. Watch your tide times, and do not get caught against a cliff at rising tide. There are some interesting eroded cliffs and caves to look at, and a wonderful long beach to explore. Be careful, and enjoy this unique and beautiful area.
Our children have grown up on this beach, discovering shells, coloured sea glass, stones and fossils. In fact, we have never had a visit to Arisaig without finding fossils of some description. It is also an excellent spot for skipping stones. The waves are gentle, and the sedimentary rock separates into flat shapes perfect for hours of skimming over the blue water.

Geologist Mick O’Neill enjoys the view of Arisaig Wharf and Lighthouse.