Our Nova Scotia treasure

We’ve finally arrived at the last post in the Nova Scotia road trip series, a mere two weeks after the road trip itself concluded. (!)

A few days before we left for Nova Scotia, I mentioned Oak Island to Beloved. I remember learning about the Oak Island Money Pit in school when I was a kid — it’s a mysterious site just up the coast from Lunenburg where they have been trying more or less since the late 1700s to get to the bottom of a mysterious pit loaded with contraptions and booby traps that have thus far managed to foil any potential treasure-hunters. The treasure itself is unknown, but rumoured to be everything from spoils from Blackbeard and Captain Kidd to Marie Antoinette’s jewels to the Arc of the Covenant. (Not much hyperbole there, eh?)

We were intrigued. The site is currently closed to the public, and though we corresponded briefly with a lovely woman from the Oak Island Treasure site, what would have been a very cool private charter of a small boat that would take us around the island with someone who used to be a tour guide at Oak Island didn’t work out. Would have made a great blog post, eh?

But, on our first night in Lunenburg we discovered an entirely different kind of treasure from the sea, and we were instantly addicted to collecting it: sea glass.

Searching for sea glass

Sea glass, also known as beach glass, are small pieces of bottles and other glass items that have been buffed by the sea, sand and salt water until the edges are smooth and the surface is frosted. It takes a decade or more for the sea to wear the sharp edges down. The most common colours of sea glass are the green of wine bottles, the amber of beer bottles, and clear glass. Less common and more valuable are blues, yellows and reds.

When we went to Bar Harbor in 2007, I’d found a few tiny pieces of sea glass and was delighted with them. They’re each about half the size of a pea — just wee grains, really. When I saw in the description of the cottage we’d rented that “our” beach was renowned for sea glass, I figured we’d find something similar and come home with half a dozen or so shiny little bits.

Instead, we found the motherlode of sea glass. It was *everywhere*. The first night, we walked the beach in the briny fog just to explore and found mounds of the stuff. I was wearing cargo shorts and had to hold them up with one hand by the time we walked back to the house, so laden were my pockets with gorgeous chunks of sea glass. The next day, we filled a ziploc baggie. By the time we left, we were filling a small bucket AND baggies with each excursion. (Yes, we are the obsessive family.) And the wonder of it was that each high tide, one at 6 am and the other at 6 pm, replenished the supply.


Lucas showed his first differentiation of colour when he expressed a preference for the “green ones” and would walk up and down the beach with me picking up only green bits of sea glass and then dropping them ceremoniously into my bucket as he declared “another one green one” with pride.

In short order, we became sea glass experts. The amber and green ones are the most common (beer and wine bottles, mostly) with clear also common. Blues and pastels are more prized, and reds and oranges and blacks the most rare. We also found bits of pottery worn smooth and crackled.

Sea glass 1

I read online that it takes decades for the sand and surf to smooth and buff the sharp edges and to give the glass the characteristic frosted look. I’m fascinated by the idea that for some reason, the tides pull glass to this particular beach and not one just a few kilometers down the shore. So cool to inspect the pieces where you can still see some of the decoration and speculate from where it came.

Sea glass 2

We collected so much sea glass thatfrankly I’m not sure what to do with it all. I’ve put some in a glass vase in the living room to remind us of our trip, and given some to my mom. I put some in another glass container and put it in my window at work, and I have yet more still tucked away into a ziploc baggie upstairs. I could sell it — it fetches a pretty price on etsy for crafters. Or I could keep it and make sea glass jewellery myself. In, um, all my spare time.

Beloved and the boys and I were so enthralled with our daily beach combing in search of sea glass that we debated the merits of quitting our day jobs and simply living in the summer house, collecting and selling sea glass online. There’s that much of it!

Our trip to Nova Scotia was amazing in so many ways, but the sea glass was the most unexpected and the most delightful of all. And we’re already making plans to go back. I’m just not sure if we can wait until next year.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

20 thoughts on “Our Nova Scotia treasure”

  1. The blue is my favourite. When in VietNam at South China Sea, I collected a lot of pottery, mostly blue and white. These are remnants of broken pottery, dishes etc. thrown overboard by passing ships. Where does the black glass come from?

  2. What about a little in the boys’ rooms as a memory for them too?
    And hey, if you have THAT much of it, sell it and go back for more next year! 🙂

  3. I would gladly pay for a 5lb bag of sea glass! I would use it for mosiacs! It also makes very pretty jewlery as you mentioned. When I was a teenager I wore a purple colored piece that I found and my dad drilled a hole into as a necklace!

  4. I was hoping to hear where you stayed in Rivière-du-loup that was so bad, we are on our way out east in a couple weeks…also I have never seen sea glass before, I will keep my eye out!

  5. Searching for sea glass is one of our favourite pasttimes during our annual trip back home to PEI. Althogh we don’t find as much as you did! we certainly come up with a couple of handfuls. You guys found a lot of blue! I only had one small piece of blue – our most covetted sea glass – this summer. If you go into the little shops they sell earrings and necklaces of seaglass with wire wrapped around them – it’s gorgeus!

  6. Wonderful! Two weekends ago our family went sailing on Lake Laberge (yes, THAT Lake Laberge, although Robert Service took a little creative license with the spelling) and also found beach glass — we haven’t, so far, found beach glass on any other beach on the lake, but there was quite a bit of it at this one. Not so sure it would be replenished at the same rate as your Nova Scota beach, though! 🙂

    When my hubby blogged about it, one of our readers from New York exclaimed how hard it was to find beach glass — she makes jewellery out of it. 🙂

    I once saw someone make a neat beach-themed tray by putting sand and shells in the bottom of a deep serving tray and then filling it with… epoxy? Something that dried clear, anyway. It was really a beautiful tray… I imagine something like that with beach glass would also be gorgeous. You could do something similar putting a few shards at the bottom of a cheap vase and sealing them in — that would make a beautiful hostess gift! If only you can figure out what the clear stuff is, it wouldn’t be a time-consuming craft. 🙂

  7. Thanks all! Coco, I have no idea where the black glass comes from but it seems to be the rarest and most valuable.

    Rae, if I can bring myself to part with any, I’ll definitely let you know!

    Karen, I may have been a little hard on the place we stayed at in R du L — it was nice enough, just not up to the high standard of amazing other places we stayed earlier on the trip! It was called Cabins on the Fleuve d’Argent.

    Fawn, that’s so cool — history come to life! I memorized The Cremation of Sam McGee in Grade 10 and still remember large chunks of it. I’ll have the first few stanzas rattling around in my head all night now!! Poetic, patriotic ear worms!!

  8. We just got back from PEI and was only lucky enough to find 1 piece of sea glass…..I am not sure if I missed that post but did you ever mention the name of your beach or the cottage you stayed at?

    Karen if heading east we can recommend the Best Western in Grand Falls and on your way back the Best Western Aristocrat in Quebec city – in QC they were very helpful for the little things……maybe I was more impressed as we used air miles gift cards but I found the room nice (the free continental breakfast in Grand Falls was not very good but for free i guess you can not complain too much).

  9. love love it – so pretty. could you ‘glue’ (I can’t think of the right term, basically like someone would do with a counter top) them to a frame, maybe surrounding a mirror?

  10. I second Rebecca’s suggestion. Buy an inexpensive wooden picture frame that’s totally flat and hotglue a mosaic of the tiles to it. Use it to frame your fave pic from this trip. It’ll look great.

  11. Hey Dani,
    There’s lots of kids books based on the Oak Island treasure. If you like I can dig up the titles for you and you can see if you can track them down for the boys. In fact, there’s likely all manner of great pirate books that would make for great Christmas presents.

  12. Loved your 7/22/10 post about hunting for sea glass in Lunenburg. What a memorable adventure for your family! We are headed that way in July and I was wondering at which beach you found the glass? We love beachcombing and it would be so much fun to look for some of these beautiful treasures while we’re there. Thanks, Pam in Louisiana.

  13. Thanks so much for the map. We found so much sea glass yesterday 🙂

  14. Hi Melanie, the link to the map is in the blog post itself, at the very end where it says “happy hunting”. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *