Fog and rain cloaking Bear River as the tide reaches its peak
Low tide in Bear River exposing the stilts the town rests upon (photo taken by John McDonald. Used with permission)
A display painted by local artists on the outside of an abandoned building (by John McDonald, with permission)

Bear River Nova Scotia

The Floating Village

Katie McDonald


Waking up in the village came with an ominous fog covering the river and casing the town. As the sun broke through, the roads quickly filled with cars and people, nodding and saying hello as they passed.

The small village of Bear River is often overlooked by travelers heading to various destinations along the southwestern shore of Nova Scotia, locally renowned for being the Switzerland of Nova Scotia.

The village falls within a valley surrounded by multiple steep hills and winding scenic roads along the vast riverbed, only a few minutes from the Bay of Fundy and highway. The rural hub is home of a variety artisanal family businesses, wineries, and B&Bs, housed atop the river bed in decoratively dated buildings, on stilts.

A strong smell of coffee filled the air as Sissiboo Coffee Roaster begins the day. Inside the modern, rustic coffee shop, there is a continuously changing display of local art within the storefront and constant chatter from welcoming locals.

With a coffee in hand, I took to the street on foot to take in the crisp fresh morning air. The buildings were decorated with locally made paintings, which eventually appeared to be floating over the river as the tide rose.

Merely a few steps brought me to the edge of the river, where I patiently watched as the water gradually rose up wooden stilts to the floor of businesses with the Bay of Fundy tide.

I turned back as the sun began to break through the fog and found myself inside a small market called Grandma’s Store, where a tender elderly couple sells local produce, jams, and baked goods. I stood at the register within the store peering over the clerk’s shoulder at the water, it was as though the building was really a boat; a truly unexpected sight to see while passing through southwestern Nova Scotia.