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Big Cove YMCA Camp

YMCA Camps aren’t just something to do when school’s out – they provide an experience that lasts a lifetime

Canada’s oldest overnight camp

Big Cove YMCA Camp

Here at Big Cove YMCA Camp, we believe that the overnight camping experience is an important part of each child’s development. With our rich history as Canada’s oldest overnight camp and more than 130 years of tradition and growth, Big Cove YMCA Camp has a proud commitment of serving camper families in Nova Scotia. Our exciting programs truly are the pinnacle of the Big Cove YMCA Camp experience.


119 Big Cove Rd. Sutherlands River, NS, B0K 1W0

Contact Details

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (902) 301-5175

Hours of operation

Hours of operation may vary during Camp season

Registration for Big Cove Big Cove 2024 camp programs

Ready for an unforgettable summer at Big Cove YMCA Camp? Register your camper today and secure their spot for an adventure-filled 2024! Check out our detailed ‘Dates and Prices‘ and ‘Payments and Cancellations Policy‘ for informed planning.

Click below to start the journey and for more information on camp sessions and policies.

Big Cove Programs

We provide a wide variety of exciting, interactive programs and ensure that there is a little something for everyone. Campers and senior staff work together with our counsellors to design weekly schedules with a balance of cabin group activities and all camp programs.

Little Big Cove (6 to 11 years)

The perfect start for your first-time camper!

Every year, parents have children that are just a bit too young for our 6 or 13-day camp programs. But we have sessions at Big Cove YMCA Camp which are especially suited for your younger and first-time campers! Our three-night Little Big Cove programs have been specifically designed to give younger children a taste of the camp experience.

Little Big Cove offers your little camper:

  • A shorter stay, geared towards first-time campers
  • An incredible 3:1 camper to counselor ratio
  • Specialized programming that focuses on elementary-school aged campers aged 6 to 11

Senior Program (12 - 16 years)

Big Cove YMCA Camp’s Senior program is designed to provide campers with challenging opportunities in a safe and accepting environment. Senior campers will be allowed to develop new skills, enhance their self-esteem, and foster cooperation among their peers.

Each week Seniors will participate in:

  • An action-packed one to three-night canoeing or hiking trip
  • High ropes course and ziplining
  • Camping under the stars
  • Games

Campers in the Senior Section can stay at camp for one or two weeks. Location

Leadership II (16+ years)

Leadership II is the second phase of the Leadership Development Program. Leadership 2 is a 27-day leadership training program designed for successful graduates of the Leadership 1 program, or those with prior leadership experience. Like the Leadership 1 program, Leadership 2 is offered for the months of July and August each summer.

Participants will have the opportunity to work directly with groups of campers under the supervision of experienced camp staff, and experience a 10 days of canoe tripping. Traditionally the L2’s have paddled to Prince Edward Island. Leadership 2 campers will be sleeping in one of four tipis while they are on Camp grounds.

The Leadership 2 program focuses on the development of:

  • Camp-counselling
  • Teaching
  • Programming
  • Communication skills

Many of our Leadership 2 graduates are able to use skills learned during Leadership 2 to become Big Cove YMCA Camp staff.

Junior Program (7 to 11 years)

A place to learn new skills, make friends, and discover what Big Cove YMCA Camp is really all about – developing self-confidence and a deep appreciation for nature. For many of our Juniors, this will be their first time away from home, and special care will be given to each child to ensure that they are in a supportive environment.

There is always something exciting happening at Camp! Each week, Junior campers will participate in a:

  • One-night camping trip at a nearby campsite
  • Outdoor-based activities ranging from our low ropes course to climbing our climbing tree
  • Archery
  • Canoeing
  • Arts and crafts

Campers in the Junior Section can stay at camp for one or two weeks. Location

Leadership I (15 to 16 years) 

Leadership I is the first phase of the Leadership Development Program. This program is an exciting and intensive 27-day experience that is offered twice each summer in July and August. Leadership 1 campers split their time between sleeping in a tipi up on leadership hill and 10 days of overnight canoe tripping. Traditionally this trip has taken them to Cape Breton Island.

Leadership 1 is designed to teach campers new skills, enhance their self-confidence, and promote teamwork between campers.

Leadership 1 campers focus on:

  • Building new outdoor living skills and expanding upon existing skills
  • Enhancing their self-confidence
  • Promoting teamwork
  • Canoeing
  • Orienteering
  • High ropes
  • A challenging and rewarding canoe outtrip along the shores of the Northumberland Strait
  • The option of doing the second phase – Leadership 2 – the following summer

It’s perfect for those seeking new challenges, adventure, and fun!

2-Week Leadership

Two week leadership, or LTP, is the newest addition to Big Cove’s roster of programs, this condensed Leadership program is perfect for a busy teen who still want to make Big Cove a part of their summer, or a new camper who wants a brand new camping experience but isn’t sure if a whole month is right for them. This busy program strives to provide as much of the traditional Leadership experience as possible in a shorter time, building up to a 5 day overnight canoe trip.
This program includes:

  • Opportunities to build new outdoors skills
  • A focus on teamwork and togetherness with 7 other youth in your group
  • A focus on communication and supporting younger children through their time at camp
  • A 5 day canoe trip in Merigomish Harbour

LTP participants stay in the newly refinished tent platforms behind the camp dining hall, with the best view of Merigomish Harbour at camp. LTP is offered twice per summer, in July and August.

Big Cove High Ropes

Big Cove YMCA Camp

At Camp, we ensure each camper receives supervision, support and 
the attention they need. In addition to offering low camper-to-counsellor ratios, we also ensure all staff are:

  • Strong leadership skills
  • Ready to be friends, teachers, and role models for all
  • Trained and certified in First Aid, CPR, and Lifesaving practices


Explore our 2024 Parent Handbook for detailed insights into your child’s upcoming camp experience.

Our Mobile Apps

Download BUNK1 App

Be the first to know what’s happening this summer at Big Cove YMCA Camp. We offer private photo gallery, you can also send messages using Bunk Notes. No need to wait for snail mail; Bunk1 makes it easy to communicate with your child.

Big Cove YMCA Camp Life

At Big Cove, we know the importance of providing youth with a small group experience to ensure that every camper receives individual time and attention while at camp. To facilitate this, all campers are divided into four main groups: Little Big Cove, Juniors, Seniors, and Leadership. These four sections ensure that our programs are designed specifically for their appropriate age group.

Once campers are divided into their sections, they will be placed in a cabin with eight children, and are supervised by two counsellors who live and work with the group. All counsellors are supported by a number of program area specialists who will help lead and supervise camp activities.

Family Camps

Big Cove offers a variety of family camp weekends in both the spring and fall seasons. Book one of our cabins for you and your family and enjoy all that Big Cove has to offer. Meals, program and accommodations are all included! You can choose to take part in specific programs for both children and adults or you can take the family for a hike, have a family campfire, or take a field trip to Melmerby Beach.

For more information on Family Camp programs, please contact the camp office. To register for Family Camp Programs visit our Registration Page.

Rentals & Retreats

Big Cove YMCA Camp is not only open during our Summer Camp Season, we also offer programs in our shoulder seasons of May, June, September and October. We offer a variety of programs that are customizable for your group’s needs. Whether you are looking for an Outdoor Education experience for your class, a year-end field trip, a place to host your next family event or reunion, or other rentals, we have a variety of options to meet your needs.

Our 120 acres of ocean shoreline, forests, fields and salt marshes provide a unique setting for your group to come together and explore new ideas. Whether you are looking for a curriculum based program, team building, or simply celebrating the end of the year or event with your family, we have programs to meet your needs.

Outdoor Education experiences, private functions, corporate retreats and event rentals offer comfortable accommodation, meals and an environment that encourages reflection and active team building. Ditch the traffic and noise of the city and dive into the lush nature of Big Cove YMCA Camp for your next function or event.

To learn more, check availability, or to book, please contact Ben Chisholm, Camp Director, at [email protected].

Join Our Team at Big Cove YMCA Camp!

Big Cove operates thanks to the hard work of a dedicated and enthusiastic staff team. Each year we hire Camp Counsellors, Kitchen and Support Staff, Program Staff and more for the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons.

Why work at Big Cove?

  • Provide “The Experience that Lasts a Lifetime” for youth from all over Nova Scotia
  • Spend your days outdoors and on the water in the beautiful Merigomish Harbour.
  • Build lasting relationships and join a community that traces its roots back to 1889 as a member of our small and tight-knit staff team
  • Opportunities to help make a change at camp by working with a team that is constantly looking to improve upon what they know and to keep learning.
  • Opportunities for development and new roles as you return to camp year over year, and future employment opportunities in other YMCA of Halifax department, notably, in the Child and Youth Department
  • Big Cove is committed to maintaining competitive wages in a field where employees are traditionally underpaid.

Please direct any questions to [email protected]

Empower Young Dreams at Big Cove Camp!

Your donation sparks joy and adventure for kids at Big Cove YMCA Camp! Help us create unforgettable memories and learning experiences in a safe and fun-filled environment. Every dollar brings a child closer to nature, friendship, and self-discovery.

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