Take an ice cream bicycle tour of St. Margaret’s Bay this summer | Hot Summer Guide | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
If ice cream is what you're after, you'll find plenty along the St. Margaret's Bay Trail.

Take an ice cream bicycle tour of St. Margaret’s Bay this summer

Here's how to stay cool on the 33-kilometre rails-to-trails network.

Of Nova Scotia’s many charms, my favourite might well be the province’s fondness for ice cream. I’m not talking about the Instagram-worthy waffle cones you’ll find for $8 on Spring Garden Road and Halifax’s waterfront—no, my heart holds a special place for the other kind. I’m talking about the side-of-the-road convenience stores you’ll find from Shelburne to Chéticamp, scooping Scotsburn tubs by the gallon. I’m talking Moon Mist. Tiger Tail. Paper napkins covered in sugary streaks of pink and orange and blue.

Take a drive along the South Shore or the Cabot Trail, and you’ll find them: Diners, dairy bars and drive-ins; shake shacks selling scoops for a toonie. They never fail to deliver—even when the ice cream’s begun to melt before it reaches your lips. But you don’t need to travel far for that classic Bluenoser ice cream experience.

At the head of St. Margaret’s Bay, you can make an afternoon of cycling, rolling or strolling the coastline from ice cream shack to minibus—and even end with a dip in the ocean. Let The Coast plan your next summer outing.

Getting started

Say this about getting around Nova Scotia: Sure, we don’t have commuter rail, but the trail system that replaced all those tracks is pretty damn good. If you’re adventurous enough—and your body won’t howl at you too much in protest—you can ride, walk or wheelchair all the way to St. Margaret’s Bay and beyond from Fairview, linking up with the Chain of Lakes Trail and the Beechville Lakeside Timberlea Trail. (You could, in fact, ride or run as far as Lunenburg on the 119-kilometre Rum Runners Trail, but that would defeat the purpose of this outing, which is about simple pleasures—see: ice cream—and not personal suffering.)

The trail is an offspring of the former Halifax and South Western Railway line, which—under the control of Canadian National Railways—went out of regular service between 1993 and 2009. Through St. Margaret’s Bay, the 33-kilometre segment of the seaside and forested trail network is known—fittingly—as the St. Margaret’s Bay Area Rails to Trails (or simply the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail). Picture tall pines, hidden lakes and expansive ocean views. It runs all the way from Hubley to Hubbards and connects with multi-use trails on either end.

click to enlarge Take an ice cream bicycle tour of St. Margaret’s Bay this summer
Bike & Bean / Facebook
The Bike & Bean Cafe is a convenient starting point if you're looking to explore the St. Margaret's Bay Trail by foot, bicycle or wheelchair.

If you’re looking for a shorter outing than starting all the way in Halifax, a handy starting point is the Bike & Bean Cafe (5401 St. Margaret’s Bay Road, Upper Tantallon). Built out of the former French Village Train Station, the cafe rents bikes for as short as two hours ($30) to a week or longer ($170+). It also backs onto the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail, making it an easy rendezvous. (The coffee and scones are good, too.) But arrive early: The parking lot tends to be busy.

If you’re looking to rent a bike in Halifax, try I Heart Bikes (1507 Lower Water Street) or Halifax Cycles Inc. (3600 Kempt Road). Dal or King’s student? Check out the Dal & King’s Bike Centre (6185 South Street), where you can rent a bike for free.

First stop: Cavicchi’s Meats
5411 St. Margaret’s Bay Road, Upper Tantallon

Tucked alongside the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail, the family-run Cavicchi’s Meats has been serving ice cream to Upper Tantallon since 2017. You can’t miss the converted white clapboard house: You’ll see the patio tables and picnic umbrellas as you’re approaching from the tree-lined trail, or spot the curving driveway off the side of St. Margaret’s Bay Road. (If you’re at the Bike & Bean, it’s also impossible to miss: Just look next door.) There’s a little bit of everything on the menu, from breakfast wraps to loaded nachos and a rotating list of local beer and cider.

click to enlarge Take an ice cream bicycle tour of St. Margaret’s Bay this summer
Martin Bauman / The Coast
Orange creamsicle ice cream is on offer at Cavicchi's Meats.

Ask co-owner Vanessa Cavicchi-Downing, however, and she’ll tell you ice cream has long been the family favourite. It’s part of what prompted her family to open the business out of her grandparents’ old home—the same place where her grandfather gave her daughter, Isla, her taste of ice cream. The photo still hangs from the wall. (“He said he was giving her a banana,” she tells The Coast, with a laugh.)

The plan, at first, was to sell pepperoni and ice cream—“now it’s turned into a grocery store and restaurant,” Cavicchi-Downing marvels. And while the sundae offerings might not rival Baskin Robbins in their variety—there are eight ice cream flavours, she says, because it’s all they have room for—the scoops are hearty and the service is friendly. Plus, there are ice cream floats and milkshakes to boot.

Second stop: Cool Bus Treats
6991 St. Margaret’s Bay Road, Boutiliers Point

Wheel or walk another 9.5 kilometres down the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail from Cavicchi’s, and you’ll come across a blue school bus kitted out with block yellow letters boasting of ice cream and hot dogs for sale. The brainchild of Darrell Smith, Cool Bus Treats has been serving frozen goodies out of the St. James Church parking lot in Boutiliers Point since 2019. You’ll find waffle nachos, homemade ice cream sandwiches and banana splits. Speaking with CUA, Smith calls it an “amazing and scary” experience running a food truck:

“You always hear entrepreneurs say they work twice as much—and I don’t disagree with that. But I’m doing something that I want to do, so it doesn't feel like work. I love seeing the smiles customers have when they see how big their ice cream is or visit for the first time.”

click to enlarge Take an ice cream bicycle tour of St. Margaret’s Bay this summer
Cool Bus Treats / Facebook
Now that's how you do ice cream.

Take note: Cool Bus Treats is only open Saturdays and Sundays at its usual location. On Fridays, you’ll find it at B.A.D. Dog Cycles (1823 St. Margaret’s Bay Road, Timberlea).

Third stop: The Little Ice Cream Shop
8230 St. Margaret’s Bay Road, Ingramport

With its giant soft-serve cone, you can’t miss The Little Ice Cream Shop on St. Margaret’s Bay Road. Opened in 2021, the shop started as a retirement project for married couple Wendy and Graham Bowker. It was, admittedly, a new venture: The two had moved to Nova Scotia after running an alpaca farm in Cambridge, Ont. Wendy had spent the bulk of her career as a school principal. The Bowkers had fallen in love with their Ingramport home from afar in 2020, Wendy tells The Coast, which came with a “very small” storefront opening onto the road.

“I said to my husband, ‘Well, why don’t we open an ice cream shop?’”

The rest is history.

click to enlarge Take an ice cream bicycle tour of St. Margaret’s Bay this summer
The Little Ice Cream Shop / Facebook
You'll know you've arrived at The Little Ice Cream Shop when you spot the pink and white swirled ice cream cone in the parking lot.

Vegan ice cream rules at The Little Ice Cream shop. The Bowkers carry nine flavours of vegan soft-serve and also offer vegan milkshakes, in addition to their standard dairy fare. That’s a touch of Wendy’s influence: She follows a vegan diet herself.

“I say to people, it tastes just as good as dairy. But it means more people can eat it,” she tells The Coast.

If you arrive by way of the trail, you’ll need a slight detour to reach the shop. Carry on for a kilometre past the Ingramport roundabout on the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail, and keep your eyes peeled for a red house on the waterfront, sandwiched between two blue houses—that’s where you’ll want to leave the trail and join the road for another kilometre. (There’s a driveway connecting the trail and road to take you there.) Fair warning: There’s a gravel shoulder on St. Margaret’s Bay Road, which is decent enough for biking (and a little less so for walking), but falls short of anything you’d want to do in a wheelchair. If you do make it there, though, you’re in for a treat.

Try a “Little Blender,” which is the shop’s spin on a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

Final stop: Queensland Beach

All that ice cream merits a bit of time in the sun, no? Head another seven kilometres down the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail from The Little Ice Cream Shop, and you’ll reach soft sand, lapping waves and the wide expanse of Queensland Beach. It’s a narrower beach than some you’ll find around the HRM—Conrad’s and Lawrencetown are longer and wider—but the added shelter of St. Margaret’s Bay makes the water just a little warmer.

click to enlarge Take an ice cream bicycle tour of St. Margaret’s Bay this summer
NSPaul (CC BY 2.0)
Queensland Beach is the perfect place to cool off after a day in the sun.

Bring a book and a blanket, and you can relax the hours away after all that hard work of eating ice cream. And then, when you’re hungry enough, you can do it all again on the return leg.

About The Author

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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