This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.
I’ve learned over the years that chocolate can be a great motivator to push my limits to explore a new outdoor adventure, and the promise of a stop for a special chocolate treat at the halfway point was what convinced me to get out for a 24 kilometre round trip family bike ride on the Salt Marsh and Atlantic View Trails on a day that I was feeling less than energetic.
This route is one of the prettiest trails in the HRM, in my opinion, boasting stunning ocean views, shady treed areas and even a farm at one point. It’s the eastern shore rolled up into one gorgeous package with a saltwater bow on top.
We began the trail in a parking lot off Bissett Road in Dartmouth. The adults biked and the children took it easy in a bike trailer being towed by my husband. The trail is an old railway route so it’s flat and smooth for most of it, though there are a couple sections where the gravel is quite chunky. Staying within the worn down tracks makes it more manageable to bike on than it was a few years ago.
Only a few moments into the Salt Marsh Trail we came to the causeway part of the trail. It’s a freshwater area, however saltwater from the ocean flows into it a couple times a day with the tides, creating the aforenamed salt marsh. There were plenty of happy ducks and fat seagulls hanging out and at one point I spotted a blue heron flying from grassy patch to grassy patch, checking out the fishy snacks.
Distance markers and informational signs are scattered along the trail giving some insight into the area and the history of the trail. Several bridges, gazebos and benches add to the interest and beauty of the route.
At the end of the Salt Marsh Trail we crossed the road into a welcome area for the Atlantic View Trail with signage, picnic areas, washrooms and, just overhead, there was a person gliding slowly across the sky hanging from what appeared to be a parachute.
When we reached Lawrencetown Beach we stopped for a picnic on the steps to the beach where the sights continued to entertain us. The surfers were playing in the water and families were walking along the sand. Our children ran to the rocks on the beach and created rock towers and their versions of Inukshuks. We had to drag them away finally with a promise to return soon.
We pedaled about another kilometre down the trail, and then ducked down a rugged footpath on the side of a steep hill, bouncing the bikes and trailer along the ruts. Around a bend and up a hill and the promised reward was in sight - the Atlantic Dutch Shop.
This little gem is filled with collectible trinkets, Dutch grocery items, loads of amazing cheeses, unique candies and, yes, imported chocolate. We let the children choose one treat each to eat on the ride back and we picked out, well, more than one treat each for ourselves for the 12 kilometre bike ride back to the car, though we knew the views would be plenty satisfying on their own.