Sable Island National Park Reserve is one of the furthest offshore islands in Canada. Sitting in the Atlantic Ocean near the edge of the Continental Shelf, 290km off the coast of Halifax, the island is still considered part of the city municipality.
For centuries Sable Island has spiked the interest of people from around the world. This 42km sand bar is home to a variety of wildlife ranging from grey seals and harbour seals to rare nesting arctic terns and Ipswich sparrows. You of course cannot forget about the 500 horses roaming the island freely.
I recently had the opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime, the ultimate Canada 150 adventure, to this magical place. Although it can be pricey, it’s worth every nickel. My visit to Sable Island is something I know I’ll never forget and I have no doubt it will always remain my greatest adventure.
You’re probably wondering how exactly one gets to such a remote destination like Sable Island. Well, in June 2013, the Island became a Parks Canada National Park Reserve, Canada’s 43rd National Park, making it more accessible for those interested in visiting. Though even after becoming a National Park Reserve, it’s still common for people to be confused or unsure of how to exactly visit Sable Island. That’s why I’ve put together a list of three ways to get to Sable Island:
1. Take an airplane, fly with Sable Aviation 44 60 Inc.
On my recent visit to Sable Island, I flew to the Island with Sable Aviation 44 60 Inc. on a small charter plane with a tour group of four other people for a day trip. The flight can be anywhere from an hour and an hour and a half depending on the wind and offers breathtaking aerial views of the Island before the airplane lands on a sandy beach runway and is welcomed by Parks Canada staff.
To book this method of transportation you need to either have four friends joining you or you can do what I did, find four people in the Sable Island Aircraft Charter Facebook Group to go with. This was easy to plan and no money had to be put down in advance to charter the plane, and we each paid our portions of the charter upon arrival at the airport.
Charters usually leave on Saturday mornings, but depending on the weather there can often be delays or changes in date. It’s important to remember that although the weather looks great here, it could very well be completely different on Sable Island. Fog is a huge factor when it comes to booking a charter to the Island, as the plane cannot see the runway to land. It’s recommended to visit in August to October when there’s a decreased chance of fog; although charters do run from June to October.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Sable Aviation, visit their Frequently Asked Questions page here.
It’s also important to note that you’ll need to register and receive permission with Parks Canada prior to your visit to Sable Island. As well, there is a Parks Canada aircraft landing fee and small down payment. These are both separate from booking a charter with Sable Aviation and will need to be arranged before your departure date.
2. Book a cruise ship tour with Adventure Canada
Adventure Canada is a great way to plan an extended (usually 8 days) exciting vacation discovering Sable Island, as well as St. John’s, NL and the French (France) island of Saint-Pierre situated off the coast of Newfoundland.
Cruises with Adventure Canada to Sable Island depart from St. John’s with a day at sea before arriving at Sable Island, where the ship docks offshore and around a hundred guests are dropped off on the island in small Zodiac-style boats for day trip excursions (three to four day trips) on the island before retiring back to the ship during the evenings.
People often underestimate just how big Sable Island really is—I know I did—if you want to see as much of the island as possible, an Adventure Canada cruise could be right for you. People often wonder if they can walk from one end of the island to the other, but to put it in perspective it’s like walking from Downtown Halifax to the Airport (and then some) in soft sand.
Sailing to Sable Island is also possible and makes for an authentic Sable Island experience as you cruise over the site of nearly 350-recorded shipwrecks. But don’t worry, there has only been one known ship have been lost to Sable Island since 1947, a small yacht the Merrimac sank on July 27, 1999. Wrecks have become unlikely with advancements in navigational equipment. Large fragments of the Merrimac yacht are still visible on the Island’s South Beach.
It’s important to note that there are no wharf facilities or mooring buoys on the Island, and vessels must anchor offshore and have a Zodiac-style boat or another small-sized boat suitable for landing on the beach.
If you’re considering sailing to Sable Island, be sure to read through Parks Canada’s guidelines. And remember you must register and request permission from Parks Canada before you set sail for your adventure!