Shobac Cottages

  • Location: Beach / Coast
    Hirtles beach: In walking distance
    Lunenburg, UNESCO World Heritage site: 15km (15 mins by car)
    LaHave Islands for the best sea-kayaking in Canada: 60km (1h by car)
  • Halifax Airport (YHZ): 130km (1h 30 mins by car)
    Car recommended
    Free parking
Contact the owner directly for the best rates
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An introduction to Shobac Cottages

How would you describe Shobac in a nutshell?

Shobac Cottages is a farm by the sea built on historic village ruins on Canada’s Nova Scotia south shore, offering vacation rentals of four unique cottages, several houses and an octagonal barn.

Please tell us a bit about the history of the farm.

My wife and I found this place 30 years ago on one of those Sunday drives. It was at the end of the end of the Earth, which turns out to be where Champlain made his first landfall in 1604. We found these ruins of French fishermen's houses probably from the 1500s and Swiss-German from the 1750s. They were all abandoned when we arrived. It was a farming and fishing village that had completely died, a ghost of a lost village at the end of the Earth, with just the bones left.

I began clearing the land with my own hands, which took me 20 years to do. It had a sense of inhabitation and was a wonderful revealing of what used to be a cultural landscape in the New World.

It’s a magical place. You can kind of taste that in the landscape through the stone walls, wells, and the ruins.

What was your inspiration to build those cottages there?

For an architect, building is a way of studying the land, by palpating, by proposing things. You study and understand it more that way. It started as a kind of international architecture laboratory. We built temporary buildings, recycling them, a little bit like Burning Man, and we’d have a huge community party with bagpipes, and as many as 1,000 people would come.

Then we thought about sustainability, so we thought to build some permanent buildings. We built the cottages, a tower, a studio and reconstructed a historic brown barn and other barns where we keep sheep and horses.

Like the historic extended family farm that was here, we now have barnyards and courtyards and microclimates made within the landscape.

What was your inspiration to rent it out to vacation guests?

It was a financial necessity. We rent to individuals, groups and the entire location for retreats. It’s absolutely protected. It feels like the end of the Earth because it’s the end of a peninsula surrounded by sea on all sides and rolling hills that wrap around it. It’s both a prospect and a refuge.

Sustainability also played an important role in the design of the vacation rentals?

Yes, we’re very eco-conscious. We have the sheep running freely and they eat the salt grass here and that’s all they eat. We have our own organic vegetable garden and trout ponds that make it a working farm. Kids love the farm aspect of the property. They love to feed the sheep and horses.

Everything here is run on passive solar. That’s like breathing, something everybody should do.

How is Halifax?

Halifax is just under half a million people. It’s a peninsula, so it's very walkable and has some density. It’s kind of a poor man’s San Francisco. They call it Seattle East. It was a garrison town, so there was a fortress and things like that.

A bit further is also Cape Breton, which is magnificent. It’s one of the great landscapes in the world. You can be on the river and hear Medieval French on one side and Gaelic on the other. It has a kind of music tradition, which is amazing.

We are also located close to Lunenburg, which is a historic UNESCO world heritage town — one of only two in North America — full of great restaurants and good festivals and beautiful wooden architecture. And there are yacht clubs nearby.

What has been your biggest reward about renting out the cottages?

It attracts interesting people like a Grammy award-winning trombonist, famous painters and architects, the founder of Cirque du Soleil. A lot of interesting people come here. They’re like kindred spirits, and they’re always nice. We’ve never had a complaint in the five years we’ve been open.

If you’re looking for Motel 6, you don’t come here. If you’re looking for nature and a physical relationship to nature — kayaking, swimming, surfing, fishing — you come here. If you want to be alone and write a book, you can do that as well.

Shobac cottages
Shobac
Shobac
Shobac cottages
Shobac cottages
Shobac cottages
Point House
Point House
Point House
Point House
Point House
Point House
Point House
Point House
Point House
Point House
The Schoolhouse
The Schoolhouse
The Schoolhouse
The Schoolhouse
The Schoolhouse
Gate House
Gate House
Gate House
Gate House
Gate House
Gate House
The studio
Shobac
Shobac

Shobac Cottages rooms & rates

When we built the cottages, we were trying to make a prototype for a modest dwelling in the landscape, touching the land lightly. Learning from the vernacular building traditions here, making microclimates and using the wood material culture that existed here from the ship building traditions, we came up with the idea of buildings like boats. If you’re in one of the cottages, you might get a sense that you’re on a fishing boat.

With our new buildings, we’ve tried to sidestep those ruins and not build on them, but build near them, so one can still get a sense of the magic.

  • Gaff Cottage for 4-5 people / 75 m²
    / night
    • 1 Twin bedroom
    • 1 Double bedroom
    • 1 Shower room (ensuite)
    • 1 Living room
    • 1 Kitchen
    • 1 Extra bed (on req.)

    Each of the four cottages offers an open second level loft with a queen bed and a bedroom with two twin beds on the main floor. Two additional overflow sleeping places exist on the living room raised plinth. Each unit has one bathroom with shower. The kitchen is fully equipped. The loft bedroom has a private deck with views of the land and sea. In addition, every cottage has a large deck off the living area facing the sea to the southwest.

  • Mosher Cottage for 4-5 people / 75 m²
    / night
    • 1 Twin bedroom
    • 1 Double bedroom
    • 1 Shower room (ensuite)
    • 1 Living room
    • 1 Kitchen

    Each of the four cottages offers an open second level loft with a queen bed and a bedroom with two twin beds on the main floor. Two additional overflow sleeping places exist on the living room raised plinth. Each unit has one bathroom with shower. The kitchen is fully equipped. The loft bedroom has a private deck with views of the land and sea. In addition, every cottage has a large deck off the living area facing the sea to the southwest.

  • LaHave Cottage for 4-5 people / 75 m²
    / night
    • 1 Twin bedroom
    • 1 Double bedroom
    • 1 Shower room (ensuite)
    • 1 Living room
    • 1 Kitchen

    Each of the four cottages offers an open second level loft with a queen bed and a bedroom with two twin beds on the main floor. Two additional overflow sleeping places exist on the living room raised plinth. Each unit has one bathroom with shower. The kitchen is fully equipped. The loft bedroom has a private deck with views of the land and sea. In addition, every cottage has a large deck off the living area facing the sea to the southwest. LaHave Cottage is the only cottage that is wheelchair-accessible.

  • Hirtles Cottage for 4-5 people / 75 m²
    / night
    • 1 Twin bedroom
    • 1 Double bedroom
    • 1 Bathroom (ensuite)
    • 1 Shower room (ensuite)
    • 1 Living room
    • 1 Kitchen
    • 1 Sofabed (on req.)

    Hirtles cottage offers an open second level loft with a queen bed and a bedroom with two twin beds on the main floor. Two additional overflow sleeping places exist on the living room raised plinth. Hirtles has been recently upgraded to include a second bathroom in the loft which has a jacuzzi bathtub with a dramatic view of Hirtles Beach and out to sea. This fully insulated cottage is available for rental year-round. The whole interior is also exquisitely finished in natural cedar.

    The kitchen is fully equipped. The loft bedroom has a private deck with views of the land and sea. In addition, every cottage has a large deck off the living area facing the sea to the southwest. Hirtles has been upgraded to include a 2nd bathroom in the loft which has a bathtub offering dramatic views of Hirtles beach. Interior exquisitely finished in natural cedar.

  • The Schoolhouse for 2-5 people / 105 m²
    / night
    • 1 Double bedroom
    • 1 Bunk room
    • 1 Shower room
    • 1 Living room
    • 1 Kitchen

    From the main level, one can enjoy the pastoral and ocean views surrounding the building. The ‘great room’, containing a kitchen, dining and living areas, maintains the feeling of the original open plan schoolhouse. Original restored wooden benches add authenticity. Ground level amenities include a half bath, state of the art kitchen with European appliances and a large terrace. The second floor has two bedrooms including a bunk room and a luxurious master bedroom. There is also a washer and dryer on the second floor. The master bathroom has windows throughout the room offering vistas over the LaHave Islands.

  • Point House for 2-3 people / 75 m²
    / night
    • 1 Double bedroom
    • 1 Shower room (ensuite)
    • 1 Living room
    • 1 Kitchen
    • 1 Extra bed (on req.)

    The Point House is surrounded by water on three sides, on a 45’ wide lot, on a point of land that was historically a small inshore fishing port. It is a proto-urban project which suggests the making of a village which dialogues with Shobac up the road.

    Half of the architectural experience is getting there. One approaches along a dirt road between two, mute, shingled ‘fish shacks’ (cottage and boathouse). Then right up a pretentious timber stair onto a raised terrace; then right again under an illuminated entry ‘bite’; then past a black kitchen box and into a double height great room; then ones view is drawn out through the south corner window to the sea. The wood shingles and gabled roof forms present a traditional north face to the public, whereas the more private south face presents a modern curtain wall glass pavilion. The floating, iconic forms are raised on concrete fin-foundations which reach out to embrace courtyards; one for parking and one for sitting out.

    On the interior, a set of black, steel totemic elements anchor ones experience of dwelling in the landscape: a monumental truss, and a hearth which sits on a 28’ plinth which then becomes a folded steel stair ribbon leading to the sleeping loft.

  • Gate House for 4-5 people / 75 m²
    / night
    • 2 Double bedroom
    • 1 Bathroom
    • 1 Living room
    • 1 Kitchen
    • 1 Extra bed (on req.)

    The Gate House offers prospect through an expansive 24-foot wide corner window overlooking the pastoral valley to the north and a 12-foot wide south-facing window presenting dramatic views of the cupola of the Troop Barn nearby and Hirtle’s Beach in the distance. Simultaneously, it provides refuge for guests by cleverly turning its back to the road at grade level.

    The Gate House sleeps 5 with two queen beds in the upstairs bedroom and a single bed on the downstairs plinth. A small courtyard on the south face is great for basking in the morning rays and the larger courtyard on the north face is just the spot to enjoy the breathtaking sunsets or snuggle up beside the open fire pit. A full bathroom is situated upstairs and a well-equipped kitchen with European appliances (including a dishwasher) is located on the ground floor. Interior steel elements connect with the exterior cladding to create a seamless inside-out transition and the furnishings are an eclectic mix of new and old to reflect the modern and traditional dual personality of the Gate House.

    The Gate House will be available to rent during the months of June, July, August, and September.

Included in the rates
Rates are per week and are subject to a 15% HST tax.
Children & Extra beds
Children are welcome. There is no space for extra beds.
Minimum stay
7 nights
Check in time
after 15:00
Check out time
before 10:00

Facilities & services

  • Children welcome
  • WiFi
  • Concierge service
  • TV
  • Fireplace
  • Garden
  • Washing machine
  • Courtyard
  • Business facilities
  • Movies/DVDs
  • BBQ area
  • Pets welcome
  • Hair dryer

We have the courtyard made by the buildings, together with the ruins, and then a bigger circle takes you to where you can kayak or go to town. The cottages are pretty rustic and basic. I would call it frugal chic — rustic exposed framing that’s relaxing. You don’t feel you need shirt and tie; you can relax and be yourself. The cottages are like a bunch of fishing shacks. For someone who has everything, it’s kind of refreshing. It reminds me of yurts and basic architecture like that, but without roughing it. It’s monumentally modest.

In the studio, there’s a 40-foot long solid maple table. From it you can see the hills, the islands, the ruins, everything. You can have 50 people for dinner, offering both intimacy and generosity.

Things to do in Nova Scotia & Riverport

  • Wildlife / Animals
  • Hiking
  • Horseback riding
  • Boat trips
  • Fishing

Depending on what the vacation guests want to see and how much time they have, I direct them to areas where they can get good clams, or a bed & breakfast in Cape Breton. I’m like a tour guide but only if people want it.

My daughter offers horseback riding lessons in the summer. There are folk art festivals and local music festivals in the nearby village. There is kayaking nearby and salmon fishing. Here is where you get relaxation in nature. We had a musician here once who had brought his trombone. He would sit on the rocks by the water and play his trombone. That's the kind of place this is. You don’t have to worry about what anybody thinks.

There’s a nice little town called Mahone Bay, which is also a bay with something like 460 islands. There are little towns called Chester, Bridgewater, and lots of smaller fishing villages like my favorite called Bluerocks. Another one is Stonehurst. Across from us are the LaHave Islands that we can kayak to from our beach. These places are classic fishing villages that offer some of the best protected sea kayaking in Canada. A little farther out is Peggy’s Cove on the coast. There's Annapolis Valley, Grand Pré, which is a fruit growing region where they make wine. Halifax is an hour and 15 mins away.

Shobac Cottages reviews

5 of 5 stars
Verfied Welcome Beyond stay
Our stay at Shobac was a 5+! It is an exceptionally beautiful spot. The connection between architecture and the natural landscape is inspiring. To be surrounded by both farm and ocean is an added bonus. Would return!
Lorraine T. (Canada)
stayed at Shobac Cottages in September 2016

The location of Shobac Cottages

It’s absolutely isolated yet connected to some beautiful amenities that are more urban. It’s very much like a microcosm. When you’re here, you feel like you don't want to leave the valley because you can see everything from here — wild nature, cultivated landscape, the ocean, islands, beaches, topography. It feels like the center of the universe. You can be just here and if you want a different experience, all you need to do is turn your head.

I would say it's quintessentially Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is the oldest part of Canada for a European settlement. There's a cultural history here that makes Europeans feel comfortable, as well as an ancient history which is aboriginal. It’s a mix of Native American and European history, a combination of cultivated and wild. It’s man and nature — cultural landscape and natural landscape.

When is the best time to visit Nova Scotia?

A few properties are winterized, so we can offer year-round availability, but the cottages are open around the first of May to the 31st of October. Off season tends to be the best, though. Those seasons are more solitary, and we have the mildest climate on the south shore of Nova Scotia east of Vancouver. We had no snow this winter. All of the seasons are magnificent here, but I would say fall is the best season. You can create a fire at night in the cottages, and we have the most blue sky at that time of year. It's like a champagne sky, sparkling.