In his new book "Beaches of Nova Scotia," biologist Allan Billard profiles 27 stretches of sand, some of which receive surprisingly few visitors.

Lawrencetown, for example, about 40 minutes east of Halifax, boasts almost two kilometres of clean, hard sand but "can be a lonely beach, even on a hot summer day," Billard writes.

Taylor Head, a rugged spot on the Eastern Shore, and South Side Beach, "a stretch of paradise" 80 kilometres from Yarmouth, are similarly underappreciated.

"We've got very wild, natural beaches that nobody really goes to," Billard, 66, said in a telephone interview from his home in Fall River, N.S.

Q: How do Nova Scotia beaches compare with great beaches elsewhere?

A: Our shoreline is beautiful and our oceans are clean and our beaches are some of the finest in the world. People think of Hawaii and Florida because they've got a 12-month beach season and we don't, but in August and September our beaches can rival anything like that.

Q: Which beaches are best for families?

A: I really like Sand Hills (on the South Shore) because it's so gentle. The tide goes out forever, and then when it comes back in it's warmed up over the sun-warmed sand. And there are no crashing waves, so it's a great place for toddlers to poke around in ankle-deep water. Rissers Beach near Bridgewater is also really popular -- and LaHave Bakery, a Nova Scotia icon, is just around the corner.

Q: What kinds of treasures can beachcombers pick up, and where?

A: There are an awful lot of living rooms in Nova Scotia that have two or three sand dollars on the coffee table. Lots of people have sharks' teeth and whale vertebrae. Blomidon Beach is kind of cool for amethyst and agate. Martinique is particularly good for sand dollars, and Mavillette on the Bay of Fundy is good for clam shells.

Q: What is it about ripple patterns in sand that fascinates you?

A: When the tide goes out -- way out in some cases in Nova Scotia -- you can walk for 500, 600, 700 metres and it's almost hard on your feet because you're walking on what is like a corrugated roof. The ripple pattern on one beach will be very different from that on another beach. Sometimes the ripples are horizontal to the water line. And sometimes you get cusps that look like big fans.

Q: What is your favourite Nova Scotia beach and why?

A: I was just blown away by Aspy Bay. It's way up in northern Cape Breton. The sand is golden, the beach is eight kilometres long, and when the wind is off the land it's really warm and gorgeous. You can hardly see any houses or people. It's so wild and so natural. John Cabot landed there in 1497.

Q: Any tips for visitors looking to explore beaches in the province this summer?

A: Don't expect to be visited by someone selling beer, ice cream or T-shirts -- ain't gonna happen. If you're going to the beach, take what you need and bring it all back because there's nothin' there. Don't be afraid that you'll find a do-not-enter sign -- the beaches are all public. And for my money, August and September make a lot more sense than June and July because of our weather.