They’re works of art that have turned this pier at Bishop’s Landing into one of the most famous locations on the East Coast. They’re also my favourite place to begin a weekender in Canada’s largest city east of Quebec. Somehow, these three pale blue posts pull together the history of this centuries-old port where sailors serve and carouse, the depth and strength of Halifax’s artistic community, the famous East Coast sense of humour and the reputation of the waterfront as the place for nightlife.
One of two lamps is slumped onto the wooden deck of the pier while the other leans over it as if in concern for its fallen friend. Together, they’re known as “Got Drunk, Fell Down.” The third called “Fountain” stands at the edge of the pier, a small stream of water spurting from it into the harbour. As I stand before them, the words and melody of Nova Scotia’s most beloved sea shanty troubadour, Stan Rogers, drifts into my head. “Now I’m a broken man on a Halifax pier, the last of Barrett’s Privateers.”
Adults are drawn to this pier, but even kids too young to understand the grown-up references enjoy the lampposts. To children, they are a highlight of a day on the waterfront where public art is a big part of the fun. Walking northwest, following the boardwalks and piers, I pass some of the city’s best restaurants like The Bicycle Thief and shops like Bishop’s Cellar wine store until I find the hammocks. As they often are, the bright orange resting spots made of nets – they remind me of a sailor’s sleeping quarters and have a grand view of George’s Island – are all occupied by kids enjoying this interactive art installation.
Continuing on, I arrive at what has become Halifax’s best-known sculpture, a 3.6 metre-tall grey-blue wave. It always attracts a crowd, often of kids just emerging from the adjacent Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and on their way to explore the HMCS Sackville docked next to it. The Wave stands on one side of the Visitor Information Centre. On the other is another family favourite, the whale fluke and mackerel benches. The silhouette of a full-sized whale is painted in black on the dock. From one end a metal tail emerges as if from beneath the water. Across the silhouette stand ten benches of different sizes and heights, all resembling mackerel. I take a seat, looking across the harbour to Dartmouth and think ahead to my Halifax weekend.
It’s time to end my tour of Halifax’s outdoor waterfront art gallery and check into my accommodations.