McNabs Island Beach Cleanup! ( Add your name to the waitlist on Eventbrite as this event fills up very quickly!)

Celebrate Environment Week and Oceans Week by helping the Friends of McNabs Island Society clean up McNabs Island Provincial Park on Sunday June 9th, 2024 (rain date June 16th).

To Register for Tickets follow the link to Eventbrite:

For more information: or

Departure Location is from the HALIFAX waterfront!

Meet at Ambassatours (formerly Murphy's on the Water), Cable Wharf, 1751 Lower Water St on the Halifax Waterfront by 9:15 am for the 9:30 departure. Space is limited so
everyone MUST pre-register to guarantee your spot.

Dress for the weather and island environment. Wear sturdy sneakers or hiking books. Bring sunscreen, sunhats, insect repellent, work gloves, drinking water, a lunch and ENTHUSIASM.
We will supply the garbage bags and FREE transportation to the island for volunteers willing to clean up the beaches. Sorry no bicycles on this trip and service dogs only, please. Note: the
cleanup is not suitable for very young children (under 5 years) as there could be hazards found lying on the beaches.

Over the past 34 years, volunteers have collected more than 16,750 bags of garbage and recyclables from the beaches of McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park.
Note that we do NOT have funding for this expensive cleanup. If you can make a donation to the Friends of McNabs Island to help cover our costs, we would really appreciate it!

To register: follow the link to Eventbrite:

Add your name to the waitlist on Eventbrite as this event fills up very quickly!

For more information: or use the “contact us” link on our website.


McNabs Island Guided Tours will be held on Sundays in July and August in 2024.

Tours begin with a 30-minute boat ride aboard A&M Sea Charters’ Captain’s Pride out of Fisherman’s Cove

Eastern Passage and docking at Garrison Pier on McNabs Island.

Tickets go on sale via Eventbrite April 15, 2024.

Hike through Canadian history on a McNabs Island Heritage Tour!

  • Learn why the Island was important to the Mi’kmaw First Nations, the early French settlers,
    and the British, who built several forts on the island to protect the Port of Halifax.
  • Admire the panoramic view from Fort McNab National Historic Site and learn more about
    the endangered barn swallows that live in the fort.
  • Discover where Midway King, Bill Lynch, got his start in the fairground business.
  • Learn the tragic story of the SS England, quarantined with cholera off McNabs Island in
  • Visit the English Gardens, the ruins of the A. J. Davis Bottling Plant, and stop by the
    Teahouse Outdoor Education Centre to learn more about McNabs Island.
  • At the end of the day, stroll along Maughers Beach and watch the tide roll in.

Hike along the changing coastline of McNabs Island on a Shoreline Tour!

  • Visit the newly restored Teahouse Outdoor Education Centre for an island orientation.
  • Learn about the changing shape of the island as beaches and coves come and go.
  • As sea levels rise, and more storms batter the coastline, more changes to the island are in
  • Stroll along sandy Maughers Beach, which didn’t exist 80 years ago.
  • Walk around peaceful McNabs Pond, which has changed from a cove to a tidal inlet, then
    to a freshwater pond and now back to a tidal inlet again.
  • Visit Fort McNab and learn how this historic hilltop with its panoramic view was created.
  • Turn to the south and the Atlantic Ocean and see if you can spot disappearing Little
  • At the end of the day, dip your toes in the cool waters of Halifax Harbour.

Guided Tours are scheduled for July 7, 14, 21, 28, and August 11, 18 and 25.

Departure for our Summer Tours is with A&M Sea Charters, 87 Government Wharf Rd in
Fisherman's Cove, Eastern Passage.

Space is limited to 26 people per trip. Get your tickets early!

Times: 9:30-3:30

Note: an additional tour from 10:30 -4:30 will be added if there is a demand.

Cost of Tickets:
$40 per Adult (non-members),
$30 per Adult for Friends of McNabs Island Society members,
$20 for children/youth 16 and under,
Babies and toddlers 3 years old and younger are Free courtesy of the Friends of McNabs Island
but still need a ticket.

For Tickets link to Eventbrite:
For more information: or
Private Guided Tours for schools, conferences, businesses and networking groups:
If your school, group, business or organization is interested in a Guided Heritage or Nature or
Shoreline Tour our island interpreters and guides are available to assist you in planning your
guided tour of McNabs Island.
Learn more about the early history of Canada and our Maritime coastal environment on a field
trip to McNabs Island. Your group will cover the cost of transportation for your group and our
guides. A donation to the Friends of McNabs Island to help with our island projects would be
greatly appreciated.
Contact us for more details.

‘Halifax Harbour Pilotage, Then and Now’ – A special presentation at the Friends of McNabs Island Society’s Annual Meeting Monday, April 8 2024

HALIFAX--The marine pilot profession has evolved greatly since the early days of sailing ships in Halifax
Harbour. Piloting has become regulated and certified, and its pilots now undergo apprenticeships with
rigorous training and qualifications.

Captain Gary O’Donnell will give a historical overview of marine piloting in Halifax Harbour at the
society’s 34 th Annual General Meeting on Monday, April 8 th . The meeting will be held at the Nova
Scotia Museum of Natural History, 1748 Summer Street in Halifax. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the
meeting starting at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Museum. All are welcome.

“The main responsibility we have as pilots today is to ensure the safety of the public for marine
shipping in and out of our harbour,” says Capt. O’Donnell, a graduate of the Canadian Coast Guard
College and a veteran of more than 10 trips in the polar waters of Canada’s North.

Capt. O’Donnell, a retired master mariner whose decades-long career includes more than 20 years of
piloting vessels in Halifax Harbour, will outline key events in piloting history. His talk will describe
measures aimed at safeguarding navigation for ship traffic in Halifax Harbour. He will discuss the
history of his field, illustrated with a few archival photographs. The pictures show how piloting has
modernized itself from a time when schooner-based pilots used rowboats to board incoming vessels.
Most recently employed by the Atlantic Pilotage Authority, Capt. O’Donnell says the local pilotage
system has been “incident-free” for 99.9 per cent of vessels. The impressive safety record, he adds, has
been sustained even with the increasing number of larger-sized vessels.

Halifax has a naturally deep, wide, ice-free harbour with minimal tides. The harbour was called
Kjipuktuk by the Mi’kmaq. They were the original inhabitants of the land and the first navigators of the
seaway and the connecting river waterways. Halifax is one of a few eastern seaboard ports able to
accommodate the very largest container ships. Annually, the port handles over 1,500 vessels, ranking it
among Canada's top four ports by container volume.

It was the 1917 Halifax Explosion that, over time, brought system-wide piloting changes. The disaster
of December 6 was caused by the collision of the munitions ship, Mont Blanc, and the relief supplies
ship, Imo. It devastated the north end of the city, killed almost 2,000 residents and left 9,000 more
maimed or blinded.

The tragedy also created controversy, still debated and disputed, of the role of pilot Frances Mackey.
Until the collision, Mackey had a spotless twenty-four-year service record as a harbour pilot. But after
the collision, Mackey was vilified in press coverage and arguably made the scapegoat in court
Capt. O’Donnell offers his professional perspective. “Seven years ago, we observed the 100 th
anniversary of the Halifax Explosion and the role the pilots played and endured after this terrible
occurrence. It could be said that this event was a defining moment on the role of how pilotage evolved
and changed, not only in Halifax, but across the country.”

Although there had been changes in the industry before the explosion, more substantial changes ever
since are transforming the industry. Among the significant milestones was the 1968 Royal Commission
on Pilotage. This resulted in the Pilotage Act and the 1972 establishment of the Atlantic Pilotage

Nowadays, Capt. O’Donnell explains, becoming a fully licensed pilot only takes place after a rigorous
program. Newly hired apprentice pilots undergo three years of training, completing hundreds of
assignments under the supervision of a senior pilot.

While candidates tend to be younger, in their mid-30s, they also have a sophisticated level of expertise,
Capt. O’Donnell says. Education for pilots places a high priority on an intimate knowledge of local
waters, and specialized training on the most up-to-date ship equipment and simulation facilities.

O’Donnell himself has a Class A piloting license that qualifies him to pilot vessels of any size, and any
tonnage, in and out of Halifax Harbour. He says: “Pilot apprentices bring with them a more technically
oriented background. Many of them were previously employed in highly technical backgrounds, for
example the oil patch, or the chemical and product carrier industry.”