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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Additional reporting by Emma Gibbins