Why Pictou, Nova Scotia Is Ideal For Startups

Pictou is a town in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. It is the seat of Pictou County and lies just northwest of New Glasgow, on Pictou Harbour facing the Northumberland Strait.


The town was originally a Mi'kmaq village and was settled in 1767 by a group of families from Maryland and Pennsylvania. They were later joined in 1773 by Scottish settlers, earning Pictou the nickname "The Birthplace of New Scotland." 


The name "Pictou" likely derives from the Mi'kmaq word "piktook," which means "bubbling water" or "explosion," possibly referring to the area's coal fields.


In the 19th century, Pictou's economy was driven by lumbering and coal mining, with other industries including foundries, canneries, tire factories, and biscuit production. During World War II, the town's shipyard built steel merchant ships. 


Today, Pictou has one of Nova Scotia's largest lobster fisheries, and a thriving tourism industry focused on its Scottish heritage.


History of Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pictou is a town in northern Nova Scotia, Canada, with a rich history dating back to the 18th century. The Mi'kmaq people originally inhabited the area and was later visited by French fur traders and missionaries. In 1762, the Philadelphia Company was granted land in the area.


The first major wave of settlement came in 1773, when nearly 200 Highland Scots arrived on the ship Hector, marking the beginning of Pictou's reputation as the "Birthplace of New Scotland." 


Over the following decades, Pictou grew into an active port town, with industries like sawmilling, foundry work, tanneries, biscuit making, and flour milling supporting a thriving export trade. Shipbuilding also brought prosperity to the town.


In the late 19th century, Pictou's growth shifted to focus on its role as a transportation hub, connecting northern Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island, the Magdalene Islands, and Cape Breton Island. 


However, the town's isolated location eventually led to its decline, as nearby towns were better positioned to develop the county's coal and iron ore resources. Railroads and highways also bypassed Pictou.


Today, Pictou maintains an administrative role and has some remaining marine industries, but its economy is now heavily reliant on tourism centred around its rich Scottish heritage. 


The town is home to many historic buildings, including the Scottish-styled stone houses and commercial buildings on Water Street and the historic Pictou Academy.


Geography of Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pictou is a town in northern Nova Scotia, Canada, on Pictou Harbour facing the Northumberland Strait. It is the seat of Pictou County, which has a total land area of 2,844.1 square kilometres and a population density of 15.4 people per square kilometre.


The town's location on the harbour and nearby rivers played a vital role in its early development. It served as a port of entry, a means of transport, and an exporter of resources like lumber and coal. 


The Northumberland Strait and Antigonish, Guysborough, and Colchester neighbouring counties bound Pictou County.


The town of Pictou lies just northwest of the larger city of New Glasgow. Nearby geographic features include Pictou Island, a 5-mile by 2-mile island located offshore, and the Wood Islands of Prince Edward Island, which are 14 miles across the strait. 


Pictou's strategic location on the water has allowed it to develop ferry services connecting it to these nearby islands and provinces.


Demographics of Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

According to the 2021 Census, the town of Pictou has a population of 3,107, a decrease of 2.5% from 2016. The median age is 52.1, significantly higher than the provincial average of 44.8.


Pictou has a male-to-female ratio 1:1, with males making up 46.8% of the population and females 53.2%. 61% of the population is married, lower than the provincial average of 67%.


The town has a population density of 402 people per square kilometre. As of 2021, there are 1,600 private dwellings in Pictou.


Ethnically, Pictou County's population is 38.8% Canadian, 26.8% English, 20.8% Irish, and 16.3% French. Pictou is known as the "Birthplace of New Scotland" due to the large influx of Scottish immigrants following the Highland Clearances in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Economy of Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pictou's economy has evolved, but it serves primarily as a local service center for surrounding communities in Pictou County. Key industries and economic drivers include:

  • Tourism—In recent years, Tourism has become an increasingly important part of Pictou's economy. The town's Scottish heritage, historic waterfront, and attractions like the Hector Heritage Quay draw many visitors, especially during summer. 2006, tourism employed 1,200 people and brought $45 million to the local economy.
  • Manufacturing - Pictou is home to several major manufacturers, including Michelin Tire, Advocate Printing and Publishing, and Aecon Fabco. The town's central location, access to transportation, and business-friendly policies help attract these large employers.
  • Small business - Pictou has a thriving entrepreneurial spirit, with many small businesses and family-owned enterprises. The town provides support and incentives to foster business growth and retention. Grohmann Knives, a family business over 50 years old, is one example of a successful small manufacturer in Pictou.
  • Services—As a local service center, Pictou offers legal, professional, financial, government, and healthcare services to the surrounding region. The town's walkable downtown area is home to many small shops and retail stores.
  • Fishing - Pictou has one of Nova Scotia's largest lobster fisheries, taking advantage of its strategic location on the Northumberland Strait.


While Pictou's economy has shifted away from its historical reliance on industries like coal mining and lumber, the town continues to evolve and attract new businesses. Its entrepreneurial spirit, tourism assets, and support for small businesses make it an attractive place to invest and do business in Nova Scotia.


Education in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pictou has a robust education system that includes both public schools and post-secondary institutions:


Pictou Academy High School: Pictou Academy was founded in 1815 and is one of the oldest secondary schools in Nova Scotia. It serves students from grades 7-12 and is part of the Chignecto Central Regional School Board. 


McCulloch Education Centre: This is another secondary school in Pictou serving grades 7-12. It was named after Pictou Academy's founder, Dr. Thomas McCulloch. 


Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Pictou Campus: The NSCC Pictou Campus is a post-secondary institution that offers training and education programs, particularly in business, technology, and trades. It has an enrollment of over 1,300 students and strong partnerships with local industries like Michelin Tire. 


For university-level education, residents of Pictou County have access to several institutions within reasonable commuting distance, including St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish and universities in Halifax, such as Dalhousie, Saint Mary's, and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. 


Pictou also has adult education options through the Pictou County Continuous Learning Association, which offers upgrading, GED preparation, and other programs to support adult learners in the region. 


Pictou has a diverse and well-established education system that serves the needs of students from primary to post-secondary levels, drawing on local institutions and those in the broader region of northern Nova Scotia. 


Transport System in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pictou has a public transit system called Pictou County Transit, which launched in 2022 as a three-year pilot project operated by the Towns of Stellarton and New Glasgow. The bus makes a one-hour loop through Stellarton and New Glasgow, with fixed stops and flag areas.


Key features of Pictou County Transit include:

  • Free WiFi hotspot on the bus
  • $3 single fare, $7.50 full day pass, monthly passes available
  • Debit, Visa and Mastercard accepted
  • 20-passenger low-floor bus with a fast ramp for accessibility
  • Ridership will determine if the service continues past the pilot phase


Pictou is also centrally located on the Northumberland Shore in northern Nova Scotia, with direct connections to the Trans-Canada Highway via Highways 106 and 104. 


The town has a commercial shipping port and is approximately an hour from Halifax's major transportation hubs, including the airport and train linkages.


The Pictou waterfront redevelopment features a marina and connects to the Trans-Canada Trail via the historic Intercolonial Railway station. 


Tourism has played an increasingly important role in Pictou's economy in recent years, with visitors drawn to attractions like the Hector Heritage Quay and Northumberland Fisheries Museum on the waterfront.


Living in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Living in Pictou, Nova Scotia, offers a mix of small-town charm, Scottish heritage, and natural beauty. Here are some key aspects of life in Pictou:


Cost of Living

Pictou has a lower cost of living compared to larger cities in Canada. Housing prices are more affordable, with the average home price around $200,000 as of 2021. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment averages $800-$1000 per month.



Pictou has an aging population, with a median age of 52.1 compared to the provincial average of 44.8. The town has a male-to-female ratio of 1:1 and a population density of 402 people per square kilometer. Ethnically, the population is predominantly of Scottish, English, Irish, and French descent.


Economy and Employment

Pictou's economy is driven by tourism, manufacturing, small business, services, and fishing. Major employers include Michelin Tire, Advocate Printing, and Aecon Fabco. The town provides support and incentives to foster business growth. Unemployment is higher than the provincial average.


Amenities and Recreation

Pictou offers amenities like shopping, dining, healthcare, and education. The town has a public transit system and is well-connected by highways. Outdoor recreation includes beaches, hiking trails, and boating on the harbour. The town hosts festivals celebrating its Scottish heritage.


Culture and Heritage

Pictou is known as the "Birthplace of New Scotland" due to its history of Scottish immigration, which started in 1773. The town has many historic buildings and museums showcasing its Scottish roots, including the Hector Heritage Quay and McCulloch House Museum. The annual Pictou Lobster Carnival is a popular summer event.


Pictou provides a relaxed, small-town lifestyle with a strong sense of community and Scottish heritage. Its natural setting and affordable cost of living make it an attractive place to live in Nova Scotia.


Healthcare in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pictou, Nova Scotia, has a robust healthcare system that serves the local community and surrounding region:

  • Healthcare Providers: Pictou is home to the Pictou Community Health Centre, which provides primary care, emergency services, and other medical services to residents. The town also has several private medical clinics and practices.
  • Healthy Pictou County: This organization supports new and existing healthcare providers in Pictou County, helping to attract and retain medical professionals in the region. They work to make Pictou an attractive place for healthcare workers to practice.
  • Medical Education: The Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Pictou Campus offers healthcare-related training programs to prepare students for careers in the medical field. These programs help supply Pictou and the surrounding area with qualified healthcare workers.
  • Partnerships: Pictou's healthcare system has strong partnerships with larger medical centers in the province, allowing for collaboration and access to specialized care when needed.


Pictou has prioritized healthcare, working to recruit and retain medical professionals while also providing quality care to residents through its community health center, private practices, and partnerships. The town's focus on supporting the healthcare sector is an important part of its economy and community.


Tourist Places in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Here are the key tourist places and attractions in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada:

  1. Hector Heritage Quay: This is the top attraction in Pictou. It features a replica of the ship Hector, which brought the first Scottish immigrants to the area in 1773. The interpretive center has exhibits on the town's Scottish heritage.
  2. Northumberland Fisheries Museum: Located next to the Hector Heritage Quay, this museum showcases the region's fishing industry and features a lobster hatchery.
  3. Caribou Lighthouse: This historic lighthouse offers scenic views of the Northumberland Strait, Prince Edward Island ferry, and Pictou Island. It's a popular spot for wildlife viewing.
  4. Waterside Beach Provincial Park: This peaceful provincial park has boardwalks leading to the red sandy beaches along the Northumberland Strait. It's a great spot for relaxing and swimming.
  5. Jitney Walking Trail: This 3km waterfront trail connects the town center to where the Hector ship landed in 1773 and offers scenic views.
  6. McCulloch House Museum: This 19th-century historic home glimpses Pictou's past and features an archives and research center.
  7. Grohmann Knives Factory: This knife manufacturing facility, the only one of its kind in Canada, offers free tours.


Pictou's Scottish heritage, coastal scenery, and maritime history make it a popular tourist destination on Nova Scotia's Northumberland Shore. The town's walkable waterfront and various museums and attractions cater well to visitors.


Local Food in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pictou is known for its fresh, local seafood and produce from the surrounding Pictou County region. Some highlights include:

  • Seafood: Pictou has one of Nova Scotia's largest lobster fisheries, providing an abundance of fresh lobster, as well as other local seafood like haddock, scallops, and crab.
  • Produce: The area is home to farms producing apples, berries, and other produce featured in local restaurants and shops.
  • Dining Options:
    • Waterfront restaurants like the Marina Bar & Grill and The Nook & Cranny offer scenic views and feature local seafood and ingredients.
    • Specialty food shops like Mrs. MacGregor's Shortbreads sell homemade baked goods and local products.
    • Food trucks like Mama Red's Canteen provide casual dining options with regional flavours.
    • Craft breweries like Harbour House Ales & Spirits showcase local beers.
  • Culinary Events: The annual Pictou Lobster Carnival celebrates the town's fishing heritage and local cuisine.


Pictou's coastal location and agricultural surroundings offer an abundance of fresh, locally sourced food and beverages that highlight the flavours of Nova Scotia's Northumberland Shore region. The town's dining scene caters to visitors and locals seeking authentic regional cuisine.


You can also check the information regarding Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Promote your business for Free

Comments 0

Leave a Reply