McNabs Island Quick Facts
- McNabs Island is about 5 km long and up to 1.5
km wide, its 400 ha (1000 acres) present a combination of historical,
natural resources and outstanding recreational and educational
opportunities. It is about 25 minutes by tour boat from downtown
Halifax, or 5 minutes from Eastern Passage.
- Shell middens from about 1600 years ago are evidence
of pre-European Mi'kmaq use of the islands.
- Around 1700 the French were using the island
as a fishing center. They planned to build "Louisbourg' here
but in 1713 ceded mainland Nova Scotia to the British.
- With the founding of Halifax in 1749 the senior
British officer granted most of Cornwallis' Island to his nephews.
In 1782 it was purchased by Peter McNab for o1000, and parts stayed
in the family for 150 years. Tenant farmers cleared the land and
assisted in the raising of sheep. The land was divided among Peter's
heirs, and over the years parcels were sold.
- By 1860 the range of artillery had increased.
To better defend Halifax the Admiralty bought the southern end
of the island and the Fort Ives site and began a series of fortifications,
the remains of which are part of the attraction of McNabs.
- Most of the northern end remained in private
hands. From about 1870 through 1930 the island was a popular recreational
destination for the people of Halifax as thousands visited the
two pleasure grounds' for picnics, dinner, dancing, sports, and
later, amusement rides.
- The island was off limits during the Great War.
After the war, as more people acquired automobiles and the province's
roads improved, fewer people visited McNabs Island.
- The island was again under military control
during WWII, and the period following saw a slow decline in full-time
- The idea of the islands as a park resurfaced
in the 1960s to compete with several industrial schemes. In the
1970s a regional parks plan for metro emphasized the islands,
and in 1983 the province assumed responsibility for assembling
- Acquisitions of private lands by the province
over the past 20 years have left less than 3% in private hands.
Most of the Department of National Defense's (DND) former land
has been passed to Parks Canada for park purposes. In 1985, and
again in 1993, Parks Canada confirmed that its interest was limited
to Fort McNab, with the rest to become a provincial park.