With or without a bathing suit, the water at the third of Crystal Crescent's three beaches can still be awfully cold.
With or without a bathing suit, the water at the third of Crystal Crescent's three beaches can still be awfully cold.

Crystal Crescent is the non-judgemental nude beach you were made for

“Looking around at all these people and all their different bodies, nobody gave a shit,” says a first-time nudist at Halifax’s top skinny dipping spot, “it was honestly really cool.”

Skinny dipping. Washing your birthday suit. Taking a midnight swim. Going for a strip ‘n’ dip. Bathing in the buff. Swimming naked has many names, and many meanings. People consider it an exhibitionist endeavour, fringe fad or impulsive action to challenge societal norms. But the practice is all of those things and more.

Since at least ancient Rome, civilizations around the world have used bathhouses. Once you were inside, the clothes came off. And up until the invention of the swimsuit around the 18th century, most people were swimming naked in rivers, lakes and oceans.

There are nudists and naturists in Halifax, of course. And people who are curious about going nude, or taking their top off at the beach. Maybe they’re just interested in having more even tan lines, or using sand to exfoliate those hard-to-reach places.

Whatever the reason, people in Nova Scotia have been swimming in the buff for decades.

Crystal Crescent Beach has longstanding lore of being the number one place for nude swimmers to congregate. Over 20 years ago, in 2001, Nova Scotia RCMP actually arrested five people at the beach for public nudity, but in the end, no charges were laid.

Technically, “public indecency” is illegal and can come with a $5,000 fine. The Criminal Code of Canada sections 173 and 174 define it as committing “an indecent act in a public place in the presence of one or more persons, or in any place with intent to insult or offend any person.” But in most jurisdictions, it’s rarely enforced.

NUDE BEACH HOT TIPS

Bring sunscreen. Make sure to put it where the sun (usually) doesn’t shine.

Bring a plastic bag to put your swimsuit in so you don’t have to leave it on your towel.

Make sure everyone in your group knows what the plan is and is comfortable with it. They don’t have to get naked, but they shouldn’t be weird if you want to get naked!

If you do get told to cover up, especially by the authorities, just comply with them. It’s not worth the potential $5,000 ticket.

Keep in mind that there are no lifeguards at this part of Crystal Crescent, so swim at your own risk.

A 2009 Coast article inspired some Haligonians to disrobe at Crystal Crescent for the first time. “It took me a long time before I could get the nerve to even walk onto the beach,” says one reader in the comments. “Then even more time to strip down.”

It can take a lot of confidence to bare it all on the beach. But many people who’ve done it say it’s a unique experience.

“It was super freeing,” says Emily, 27. On a trip she took to Crystal Crescent with coworkers a few years ago, someone mentioned the nude part of the beach. “We kind of played around and like, ‘Should we go? That would be funny.’”

Before she knew it, they were walking down the gravel path towards the third of Crystal Crescent’s three beaches.

“If you’re just on the regular walking path it’s not visible or anything, I feel like it would be kind of difficult to stumble upon it,” she says. When they arrived, the group set up their towels on the sand, which wasn’t as busy as the main beach, but still busy.

“I was just going to observe,” says Emily. But then, “my boss was like, ‘I think I’m going to take my top off,’” she says. Emily followed suit, and soon the rest of the women in the group did as well.

“One girl was wearing a one-piece, and she was like, ‘Screw it, I’m just going to take my swimsuit off and be naked,’” says Emily. “And I was like ‘Why don’t I do that?’ And that’s how it happened, suddenly I didn’t have any clothes on.”

She discovered that the most unexpected thing about going nude at the beach wasn’t anything to do with awkward stares or unwanted sunburns. “I felt like I would be super self-conscious because I always have a lot of body image issues,” says Emily. “But looking around at all these people and all their different bodies, nobody gave a shit. They all looked different, every different body type, all different ages, it was honestly really cool.”

These days police are usually at Crystal Crescent more to deal with parking lot overcrowding than to scout out sunbathers who might be stripping down. And for people who come across the third beach without knowing its notoriety, the easygoing spirit goes both ways.

“I was on a hike with a friend and was halfway to the water before realizing that we were the only ones clothed,” says Izzy Clarke. “People smiled politely at us and were welcoming and at ease. We didn't stick around but it was genuinely sweet to see a space full of non-judgmental, non-sexualized nudity.”

So next time you’re at Crystal Crescent Beach (220 Sambro Creek Road), think about going to the third crescent. You might learn something about yourself, or at the very least, you won’t have to rinse salt water out of your bathing suit.

About The Author

Victoria Walton

Victoria was a full-time reporter with The Coast from April 2020 until mid-2022, when the CBC lured her away. During her Coast tenure, she covering everything from COVID-19 to small business to politics and social justice. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, she graduated from the University of King’s College...

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