Water taxi idea being floated for McNabs Island from Halifax waterfront

Published on March 11, 2014
A fisherman checks his traps near the McNabs Island Lighthouse last year.
Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper

HALIFAX - Gordon Stevens is hoping to land a new water taxi in Halifax after floating the idea of the Kipper Bus online.

Stevens, president of The Uncommon Group, would like to see a water taxi that helps people explore McNabs’ beaches, trails, and historic forts more easily.

“It doesn’t make sense that we can’t get out there … regularly and make better use of this unbelievable resource staring us right in the face.”

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The island is mostly a provincial park with a few private properties, about five kilometers long and one and a half wide with lots of deer, birds and other wildlife.

Stevens said the spot has long been used as a recreational area for Haligonians, and from 1870 through 1930 there were two pleasure grounds featuring games, dancing and eventually amusement rides.

A couple guides take people from Eastern Passage, and groups can book on Murphy’s Waterfront Taxi in Halifax, but there’s no way for one or two people to go out quickly.

A ferry ran out to the island in the 1980s, but Stevens said no one has likely tried to start another because the harbour was too dirty until recent years.

Stevens started the @KipperBusHFX Twitter account to start a dialogue around how to make the ferry a reality, and said he’s been “really shocked” by the positive reception from the Friends of McNabs Island Society, the province and other stakeholders.

“There’s been no barriers put up in the least,” Stevens said, adding they still need to work out an affordable price so families could afford to go a few times a year.

It would also be great to open the door for someone else to take over the project, Stevens said.

“If not, then we’ll keep looking and we’ll figure out a way to buy a boat,” he said with a laugh.

McNabs offers history, wildlife environment: society

Having an affordable way to bring people back and forth to McNabs to “stumble upon history” would be a good idea, said the Friends of McNabs Island Society president Cathy McCarthy.

McCarthy said the island is full of potential although the province lists it as a non-operational park. There aren’t many facilities there, so the society has fundraised for a composting toilet, benches and trail upkeep but anyone can book a campsite through Natural Resources as well.

There are several old British forts and canons from the early days of Halifax, like the Fort McNab national historic site and Fort Ives, McCarth said, plus abandoned Victorian gardens.

“It has all these historic buildings and artifacts and forts and canons and so on, but it’s reverted back to wildlife,” McCarthy said.

“It’s like a wild, natural environment park but you just stumble upon history everywhere you walk.”

Sandy spots like Maugers Beach are also popular, McCarthy said, and the society is hoping to eventually turn an old teahouse into an information centre.