Are you a fan of The Curse Of Oak Island? You can actually visit Oak Island, Nova Scotia, home of the world's longest running treasure hunt. But you have to prepare.
What’s the most exclusive island in the world? Is it a flashy resort in the Maldives or a spectacular nature retreat in Fiji? Not even close! There’s no island quite so desirable as Nova Scotia’s Oak Island. Think I’m kidding? The annual allotment of 10,000 tour tickets sells out in less than three minutes.
Oak Island isn’t your typical island paradise. Located just 45 minutes from Halifax, there are no gentle turquoise waves here. But maybe – just maybe! – Oak Island has riches all its own.
For hundreds of years, Oak Island has been the site of rumours, wild speculation, and – depending on who you believe – treasure, spectacular treasure, the kind of treasure that would make a pirate proud or drive the Knights Templar to create an elaborate hiding spot. The type of treasure that has fueled a top television show, The Curse Of Oak Island, for 11 seasons. In short, Oak Island is home to the world’s longest-running treasure hunt.
So, is there really a literal king’s ransom of gold and jewels on Oak Island? Go see for yourself. Here’s how to visit Oak Island, home of the world’s longest running treasure hunt.
History lovers, Oak Island is YOUR kind of place!
I was fortunate to hear Tony Sampson, a local resident, dive master, and recurring guest on The Curse Of Oak Island, speak when I was last in Nova Scotia. He said: “Something strange happened on this island before 1795”. He’s referencing that 1795 three men discovered oak platforms descending every ten feet into the soil. However, exhaustive investigations were impossible thanks to built-in booby traps designed to flood the shaft. Such a setup was highly unusual, and there were more mysteries, including using foreign coconut fibre in the design. What exactly was going on? Who would be motivated to construct such a structure? As Sampson says “For every theory, there is a counter theory”.
Come for the mystery, not the gold
Oak Island and the surrounding area are gorgeous, but I have to say that the ground isn’t precisely glittering with treasure. This is the exact situation that has driven 11 seasons of The Curse Of Oak Island and motivated centuries of treasure hunters. Clearly, someone went through a lot of trouble to conceal something here. But where is it? What did they hide? Why did they go through so much trouble to do so?
Oak Island’s artefact haul has been relatively scant. There’s a lead cross, some coins, and many wooden scraps but no giant chest filled with pilfered gems. Whatever secrets Oak Island holds, they’re not being given up soon. You come here because you love folklore and mysteries, not because you’ll stumble over gemstones.
How to get legit Oak Island tour tickets
Believe it or not, people have shown up in southern Nova Scotia expecting to start a dig. Sorry to say you can’t just show up and start shovelling! Oak Island’s 140 acres are privately owned. You can neither dig here nor visit without a tour ticket and tour tickets are sparse. In some years, they’re not even offered and when they are available, they tend to sell out within minutes (yes, for the entire year! We're talking 10,000 tickets selling in three minutes)
Your best bet is to keep an eye on their website for when ticket sales reopen.
Can't get an Oak Island tour ticket? You will love this alternative.
If you can’t secure a tour spot (and, to be clear, you probably won’t – demand is sky-high) there is a way to enjoy Oak Island and the surrounding area from the sea. Tony Sampson runs Salty Dog Sea Tours, boat tours which allow you to appreciate the area by sea.
Hiking on and around Oak Island
Oak Island fanatics, I'm sorry to report that you can't go hiking ON the island. Even if you manage to nab one of the highly elusive tour tickets, you're not allowed to just wander and walk on your own.
My personal activity of choice to get a sense of Oak Island is to grab my hiking shoes and observe from the shore. This is a beautiful area for hiking, and eagles, puffins, and herons are often spotted. Plus, walking the shores gives you an excellent sense of the place. Why this island? Who chose this area and why?
As far as I’m concerned, these are questions best pondered on a full stomach, and the nearby communities of Mahone Bay and Chester are filled with delightful cafes that will happily pack some tasty sandwiches, salads, and desserts for your “research trip.”
Don’t Miss Out On The Oak Island Interpretive Centre
When most people think about the Oak Island Interpretive Centre, they’re imagining the one you can only visit through the official tours (which, for now, seems to have been repurposed to provide space for the show’s archeology team.) However, there is an excellent alternative.
The Explore Oak Island Display at the Old Train Station in the nearby community of Chester is a beautiful place to learn more about the legends and folklore of the area. The Station 20 craft shop next door is an excellent spot to pick up nautical and Oak Island-themed souvenirs. The staff at both are lovely and helpful.
You Don’t Have To Sleep Like A Pirate: Oak Island Motels and Hotels
Sure, pirates might have a lot of gold, but have you seen their living quarters? The worst! There are so many messy parrots!
The Oak Island Resort and Conference Centre (located on mainland Nova Scotia and overlooking Oak Island) gives would-be treasure hunters a chance to enjoy a more luxurious environment. In addition to gorgeous rooms, the hotel offers easy access to a spa, golf course, bike trails, kayaking, and more.
If you don’t mind staying a little bit down the road, the Mecklenburgh Inn is a homey bed and breakfast in Chester that’s a good base for exploring the area.
How to find Oak Island's treasure, guaranteed.
Is there a golden cache tucked away under Oak Island? Maybe. Is there an unbelievably rich travel experience awaiting you all around Oak Island? YES! This area is home to some of Nova Scotia’s best seafood and scenery, and you don’t need to travel here for very long before you learn the true secret of Oak Island. The real treasure is the community, not whatever lies underneath.
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