Plan your visit
Canso Islands National Historic Site is located the waterfront of Canso—a 3.5-hour drive from Sydney or a 4-hour drive from Halifax, Nova Scotia. A free, 15-minute ride on a fishing boat shuttles guests from the mainland to Grassy Island.
Plan to spend two hours exploring both the visitor centre and Grassy Island.
1465 Union Street
Canso, Nova Scotia
Canso Islands National Historic Site lies in the Atlantic Ocean 0.5 km (0.3 mi) off the Canso waterfront. The visitor reception centre is located in the town of Canso, Nova Scotia, on the waterfront off Union Street.
If you're driving from Antigonish, take TransCanada Highway 104 to exit 37 (Monastery). Follow Route 16 along Chedabucto Bay to Canso. Driving time is 90 minutes. Or take TransCanada Highway 104 to exit 40 (Aulds Cove) and follow scenic Route 344 past the Strait of Canso to Route 16. Driving time is two hours.
From Sherbrooke, take Route 211 to coastal Route 316, then follow Route 16 to Canso. Driving time is two hours.
Hours of operation
July 1 to September 6, 2021
The visitor centre is open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Recommended visiting time:
Allow 30 minutes to explore the visitor centre. Plan slightly more than one hour to visit Grassy Island. It takes about 15 minutes each way by boat and about half an hour to walk the self-guiding trail.
The boat is available on demand, but the last departure time from the visitor centre is 3 p.m.
Facilities and services
Ample free parking is available in front of the visitor centre.
Public washrooms and a public telephone are available in the visitor centre. Washrooms are wheelchair accessible. A pit privy is available on Grassy Island.
Dogs are not permitted on the boat to Grassy Island.
Services for visitors with disabilities
The visitor centre is wheelchair accessible. The video presentation is captioned. The interpretive trail on Grassy Island is wheelchair accessible under most conditions, but assistance is necessary.
Canso is a traditional Nova Scotia fishing community. As you enter the community, stop by the Seamen's Memorial. Framed by the ribs of a boat, it is dedicated to all local residents lost at sea. A memorial service is held each year in August.
Visit the Canso Museum: Whitman House, which also contains a seasonal tourist information centre. Ask for information about the town's services and visitor resources. Then get a bird's-eye view from the widow's walk, see period furniture and photographs, and enjoy panoramas by Canso folk artist Mel Schrader.
Visit the commemorative cairn and tablet on School Street.
- On the mainland, a Visitor Centre illuminates daily life in the 18th century with full-size dioramas of the Officer’s Study, Tavern and Merchant’s Parlour.
- The turbulent history of the region is illustrated via a nine-minute video—“Grassy Island: The Forgotten Settlement.”
- A scenic hiking trail guides guests around Grassy Island, connecting the intriguing remnants of 1700s-era homes, churches, merchant shops and Fort William Augustus.