Nova Scotia may be Canada’s second-smallest province, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in attractions. Scenic hiking trails, colourful fishing towns and lengthy coastlines bringing in some of the highest tides in the world are just a few of the things you can expect from this pretty and peaceful peninsula.
You’ll understand why Nova Scotia is known as ‘Canada’s Ocean Playground’ after a trip to Peggy’s Cove, which is located around 43km from Halifax. This tiny town is home to Canada’s oldest and most photographed lighthouse, Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, built in 1914. Watch as surging waves crash against granite bluffs surrounding this iconic attraction, or enjoy a delicious lobster roll while admiring the fishing wharves and boathouses lining its shores. The region is also a popular hiking spot, home to the 1,000 acre Peggy’s Cove Preservation Area.
Considered to be the best surviving British colonial town in North America, Lunenburg is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nova Scotia. This picture-perfect coastal destination is best-known for its brightly colourful heritage buildings — many of which are the original structures from the 18th and 19th centuries. Browse the port town’s quaint shops and restaurants lining its narrow harbourside streets, before wandering its distinctive waterfront, where you might just catch a glimpse of the Bluenose II, a replica of the famous fishing and racing schooner.
Stroll Along the Halifax Waterfront
A trip to Halifax isn’t complete without a stroll along its famous wooden boardwalk, stretching approximately 3km from the Pier 21 Museum and the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Soak up its bustling harbour activity as you pass the city’s picturesque dock, historic buildings, and abundance of shops and restaurants. Among its popular dining spots is The Bicycle Thief, offering North American food with an Italian soul, and Garrison Brewing Company, the award-winning independent microbrewery with a Titanic connection.
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site
The next spot on our list is the only place in Canada that is both a National Park and National Historic Site. Over 80% of Kejimkujik is accessible by canoe or hiking only, allowing you to get back to nature and fully immerse yourself in its tranquil wilderness. Kejimkujik National Park is also a great spot for camping, with over 46 backcountry campsites — each equipped with tent pads, a firebox, picnic table, pit privy and firewood — scattered along its hiking trails and canoe routes. It’s recommended you book in advance.
Considered one of Canada’s most important fruit-growing regions, the Annapolis Valley is known for its lush orchards and award-winning wineries — for which it has gained worldwide recognition. Set in Nova Scotia’s charming countryside, the valley spans northward from Digby and runs parallel to the coastline of the Bay of Fundy, where you can see world-record waves and walk along the seafloor at low tide. The area’s top-notch restaurants are also highly rated for their fresh produce, thanks to the numerous farms in the area.
The Bay of Fundy
As well as being home to the highest recorded tides in the world, the 12 whale species you’ll find here, in addition to the abundance of outdoor activities on offer, makes a visit to the Bay of Fundy a must while in Nova Scotia. Golfing, biking, camping and boating are just some of the activities on offer. Adventure seekers can also witness a range of unique coastal rock formations from one of the area’s many hiking trails, such as Cape Split, which stretches 16km through the forest and out to the ocean.
Halifax’s North End
Characterised by its trendy ‘Brooklyn’ vibes, up-and-coming restaurant scene, cool thrift stores and hipster cafes, Halifax’s North End is one of the city’s most visited neighbourhoods. Browse its one-of-a-kind stores, before stopping off for a refreshing pint at one of the area’s many microbreweries, or checking out its bustling nightlife. Despite its contemporary feel, the North End is also a neighbourhood filled with history. Much of this part of Halifax was destroyed during the city’s famous 1917 explosion — a historical event marked by the Memorial Bell Tower.
Wander the Province’s Beaches
With over 13,300km of coastline, Nova Scotia is known for its long stretches of sandy beach — Rissers, Crystal Crescent, Carter’s, and Martinique being some of the most popular. Relax at one of the spots with a good book, or take in the rolling waves of Lawrencetown Beach, an internationally recognised surfing destination located about 40 minutes from Halifax. Never been surfing before? Lessons are offered at multiple locations across the province, as are lessons and rentals for other water activities like kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding.
Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail
Running from one end of the province to the other, the Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail is Canada’s first and only winery, brewery, cidery, distillery and meandery trail. The route links more than 50 producers between Yarmouth and Sydney where you can discover new favourites, tour a distillery and sample award-winning wines while admiring sights like the Bay of Fundy. Pick up or download a Good Cheer Trail passport and wander the trail at your own pace, collecting stamps as you go, or explore as part of a tour, such as the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus.
Citadel National Historic Site
One of the most recognised attractions in Halifax, distinguishable by its iconic clock tower, Citadel provides a fun and fascinating look at Halifax’s past. Learn about its 18th-century origins at this historic hilltop fortress — the highest point in the city — where you can become a soldier for the day. You’ll be fitted with a military uniform, and have the chance to march in line, practice drills, and learn to fire a rifle. After your visit to the site, enjoy a picnic on Citadel Hill and take in views of the city.
Discover the Province’s Museums
Museums are a great way to discover more about Nova Scotia’s rich culture and history — and there are plenty to discover. Among the most popular is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which is located in the heart of Halifax’s historic waterfront. Here, you can learn about everything from small craft boatbuilding to the Titanic (visitors are invited to take a seat in a replica Titanic deck chair or step aboard CSS Acadia and have a front-row seat to history). Other favourites include the Museum of Natural History and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park
With 26 hiking and walking trails, six beaches, eight campgrounds, and waterfalls aplenty, the Cape Breton Highlands National Park should be on your Nova Scotia itinerary. It’s home to some of the highest peaks in the province, covering over 950sqkm at the northern tip of Cape Breton Island. This makes it a great spot for hiking, with scenic routes like the Skyline Trail overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where you may be lucky enough to spot whales. Other wildlife sightings include moose, beavers and eagles.
Whale watching in Nova Scotia is a trip highlight for many. There are numerous spots around the province to spot whales, but we recommend heading to the Bay of Fundy and Cape Breton Island for the best experiences. Whales generally start to appear in the spring and stay until late autumn, with humpbacks typically arriving by mid-June. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, porpoises and sea birds which also frequent the waters here. Tour guides provide insightful commentary and local tales about the area.
Tidal Bore Rafting
The surging power of the Bay of Fundy’s high tides causes 160 billion tons of water to flow through it twice a day, which feeds into the Shubenacadie River. Take a ride through its white-capped waves on a tidal bore rafting trip for a fun-filled adventure, named a Canadian Signature Experience. River Runners, Shubenacadie River Adventures and Fundy Tidal Bore Adventures are among the most popular companies for tidal bore rafting, each offering trips of varying lengths.
Tour the Halifax Public Gardens
This free to visit National Historic Site also happens to be the oldest Victorian gardens in North America. Created in 1867, the Halifax Public Gardens comprise an entire block of the downtown core, stretching over 17 acres. Take a leisurely stroll and see its many floral displays, including exotic and semi-tropical ornamental species, trees, and shrubs, or enjoy an hour-long tour where you can learn more about their historic significance. You can also spend time admiring the gardens’ statues, fountains, wrought iron gates and bandstand — each of which honours a milestone in Queen Victoria’s reign.
The Fortress of Louisbourg
Discover Nova Scotia’s rich history at the largest historical reconstruction in North America, The Fortress of Louisbourg, where a quarter of the walls and a fifth of the town has been restored back to its original state. Providing visitors with an insight into French colonial life between 1713 and 1758, this living history museum houses over 40 historic buildings, as well as costumed interpreters and immersive experiences, including the chance to spend the night in a reproduction tent or period home.
Take a Candlelight Graveyard Tour in Annapolis Royal
Those who are brave enough can take a spooky tour through the oldest English graveyard in Canada by candlelight. The Garrison Cemetery, located on the grounds of Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, comes alive at night as guides tell you stories of the people who lay there, dating back to the 1700s. As well as being entertaining (and a little bit creepy) knowledgeable guides make this tour extremely informative. Lanterns are provided and it’s recommended you wear comfortable shoes.
Eat the Famous Digby Scallops in Digby
The tiny town of Digby may be home to a mere 2,000 residents, but this active fishing community also has the world’s largest inshore scallop fleet. As well as enjoying these delectable delicacies at a range of restaurants, you can also attend the famous Scallop Days Festival during August, offering a variety of activities for all ages, including scallop shucking contests and a parade. Digby, which overlooks both the Annapolis Basin and Digby Gut, is located approximately 235km from Halifax and 100km from Yarmouth.
Beginning at Memory Lane Heritage Village – a living history village depicting life in rural 1940s Nova Scotia – you’ll meet a fourth-generation clam digger before embarking on your own dig on the shores of Clam Harbour. As well as hearing more about clams and their habitat, you’ll learn about harvesting techniques and how to use a clam fork to find your prize mollusk. Later, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work with a ‘feed’ of fresh steamed clams and a traditional cookhouse meal, complete with soup, bread, baked beans and gingerbread.
Spot the Face in the Window at St. Paul’s Church
After the 1917 explosion of a munitions ship in Halifax — said to be the largest man-made explosion of all time before the atomic bomb — folklore stories began to emerge, such as babies surviving flight through the air by landing in trees. But one occurrence is too much of a coincidence to deny. Legend has it that at the moment of the explosion, one victim inside the historic St. Paul’s Church was standing parallel to a window and that the explosion’s sheer heat permanently etched his silhouette on the glass.
Explore the Province’s Craft Breweries
You might not know it, but Nova Scotia is a popular beer destination, drawing in enthusiasts from all over the world. Granite Brewery, in Halifax, is the province’s longest-running brewery and focuses on traditional English ales, while Alexander Keith’s, one of North America’s oldest commercial breweries, is another popular choice. When weather permits, take advantage of the many beer gardens on offer and sample creatively named brews, like the Cats Rule Everything Around Me C.R.E.A.M Ale and Tom Waits For No One American Stout from Good Robot Brewing.
Indulge on Nova Scotia Lobster
With some of the most fertile lobster fishing grounds on the planet, the lobster in Nova Scotia is world-famous. As well as enjoying satisfying seafood dishes (a stop at Baddeck Lobster Suppers is the perfect end to the Cabot Trail route) there are plenty of opportunities to discover more about the lobster industry here — from lobster festivals and lobster boat tours to lobster pounds, where you can pick your live lobster from a tank and watch it be prepared to perfection at the cookhouse.
Watch Maple Syrup Being Made
Maple Syrup is a Canadian staple, and during spring, you can see it being made in Nova Scotia. The province is home to many sugar shacks, offering tours that take you through the process. Sugar Moon Maple Farm stretches over 200 acres and has over 2,500 tapped trees. Here, you can take an immersive experience called ‘Maple Magic’, where you’ll enjoy a hearty brunch of maple syrup-topped pancakes, served with maple cream, maple-laced, slow-cooked beans, and sausages. You’ll also have a guided tour and the chance to try syrup in the snow.
Wild horses roam free on this uninhabited sandy island in the middle of the ocean. Believed to be descended from Acadian horses that were on their way to Boston from Nova Scotia, ponies are bred on the shores here without any human interference. Due to its isolated placement and rough seas, Sable Island also has a long legacy of shipwrecks, giving it the nickname Graveyard of the Atlantic. Visitors are welcome between June and October, but as one of Canada’s furthest offshore islands, this destination is only accessible by air and by sea.
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