Nova Scotia

Annapolis Valley cartographer builds sightseeing map of Nova Scotia

On Jan. 1, Paul Illsley launched a one-stop shop for sightseers — an online map of all the places to check out in our own backyard.

Interactive map features 650 locations with background information and went online Jan. 1

Cartographer Paul Illsley, who works at the Centre for Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown, compiled information and GPS coordinates for 650 sightseeing locations in Nova Scotia. (Paul Illsley/

A cartographer who lives in Lawrencetown in the Annapolis Valley has taken it upon himself to create a one-stop shop for sightseers to check out the best of what's in our own backyard. 

On Jan. 1, Paul Illsley unveiled a comprehensive online map he built by himself after compiling information on 650 locations in Nova Scotia. 

He said he did it all in his spare time, in between episodes of Jeopardy, in only five months. 

Illsley has been an instructor and associate professor, and has worked with NASA, National Geographic and the Nova Scotia government. (Paul Illsley/Facebook)

"There's lots of stuff that's tucked away in plain sight, really. It's always there, but you just sort of drive by it," he said. 

After years of extensive travelling, Illsley started the project in July 2015. He verified GPS coordinates and background information.

He then labelled beaches, lighthouses, provincial parks, hiking trails and museums on an interactive map. 

"The whole idea of it is not just to show that they exist but actually, when you zoom in, and click on it, it will actually take you to either a photograph of it or the actual website."  

In three days, more than 1,300 people have visited the map, he said. 

"I've got a lot of comments back saying, next time we come to Nova Scotia, we'll use this to plan our trip. That's nice to hear." 

'I'm happy that people find it useful'

Illsley works at the Centre for Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown. 

He said he got the idea for the project after seeing a similar map of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, but he didn't want to use Google Maps or resort to crowdsourcing.

"I went with another program, a company called ESRI out of California. It's a professional-end software for making analytical maps," he said. "They offer a tool that allows you to make a web-access map." 

He compiled 650 locations on an Excel spreadsheet, which was uploaded into the software. At that point, Illsley said he felt there was enough information to upload.

But, it's not done yet. He's now open to crowdsourcing for new locations and photos of any spots he missed.

"It sounds like there's a few people that are interested in seeing it," he said. "I'm happy that people find it useful. 

His next step is to make the map more smartphone friendly.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.