[Full photo gallery at the bottom of this article]
Ah, Nova Scotia…Canada’s Ocean Playground. With over 7,600 kms of coastline, a plethora of attractions and absolutely delightful dining, this history-rich province makes for a memorable tourist spot whether it’s your first or hundredth visit.
I spent six remarkable days in Nova Scotia researching this story for you (you’re welcome!) and as I toured the province via road trip, fell in love with our east coast gem again.
Here are your must-see-spots when you go, covering attractions, food and lodging!
The Halifax waterfront is absolutely breathtaking and is constantly bustling with excitement and things to see and do. With a working port on the horizon, hammocks on the dock, activities for folks of all ages, the launch point for city-tours (I recommend the 2.5 hour Deluxe Halifax City Tour) and a charming array of local shops and restaurants, Halifax’s famed waterfront is your focal point for fun.
Hit up the Halifax Seaport Market (North America’s oldest Farmer’s Market!) the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site to get good eats and learn about just how deep Halifax’s historic roots run in Canada.
My visit to Pier 21 really stood out as I’m a child of immigrant parents. My girlfriends mother and grandparents came to Canada via Pier 21 and walked that gangplank, along with thousands of others. Standing in the spot where they likely entered Canada for the first time was something I won’t forget. While it can be a sombering visit, it’s gives strong perspective to how our country was shaped and a further testament to how richly steeped Nova Scotia is in history.
After all that sightseeing, head to the renowned Five Fishermen for fresh, delicious food, an upscale yet approachable atmosphere and…well…ghost stories. Famously the former morgue for Titanic victims, the stories of it being haunted flow freely from the staff.
There’s plenty of fresh, local seafood and mouthwatering Angus beef on the menu, along with several other high quality items that’ll suit nearly everyone. They’ve certainly earned their reputation as one of the best dining options in Halifax.
So you’ve been entertained and fed; now it’s time to rest your head, and what better place to do that than The Haliburton, a quaint, charming boutique hotel that offers an unmistakable cozy feel.
Consisting of a trio of heritage townhouses joined together, my stay here was quite enjoyable and the room and service will certainly bring me back soon.
Next up on my mammoth road trip, I headed northeast towards picturesque Pictou. Along the way, I made a stop in Truro to experience the 400 acre Victoria Park. The trails and waterfalls are breathtaking and after a couple of hours of walking and over 100 pictures later, I got back in the car in search of lunch. The famous Truro’s Pizza House on Willow St. was in my GPS and upon arrival, the owner Nada and our first Donair experience was oh-so-great!
The short, scenic jaunt from Truro to Pictou saw me land at the gorgeous Pictou Lodge Resort, where the customer service was top-shelf. My cabin had a clear view of the water, was inviting, clean and created a wonderful atmosphere for a comfortable stay.
Dining wise, I enjoyed the fresh seafood that was offered at the on-site Dining Room where again, the customer service and friendliness was typical east coast; friendly, conversational and warm.
Carrying on with my east coast adventure saw me stop into the Caldera Distillery, where they produce premium rum and whiskey with locally grown ingredients for a smooth taste. If you’re into lavender, the Seafoam Lavender Farm is a good choice to pop in to and enjoy all sorts of lavender-based products.
After a quick stop in Tatamagouche to experience their informative Road Train tour, where you’ll learn about the history of this 600-ish person village (which really is quite interesting) I continued west and ended up at Sugar Moon Farm, an award-winning, year round maple syrup farm. The staff walked me through the various types and flavours of our beloved maple syrup and yes, many samples were had.
I checked into the Old Orchard Inn in Wolfville for a cozy stay and dined at the onsite restaurant for yet another meal full of fresh, mouthwatering seafood plus a beautiful view of the lush landscape that seems to be endless.
Drive 20 minutes north and you’ll end up in one of my favourite spots, Hall’s Harbour. This quaint fishing town is gorgeous during the day with a coastal view that goes on for miles. At night, there’s a hauntingly beautiful essence that’s exuded by the fog and boats that’s simply unmatched and must be experienced.
Next up was the enchanting Annapolis Valley, where not only did I soak in the elegant views of their agricultural regions from a high vantage point (and got another 100 + pictures!) but I also spent over an hour watching and filming the famous Bay of Fundy tides come in (one of the highlights of my trip!)
I swung by the Annapolis Cider Company afterward and was given a tour of the facility plus a few samples. I’ve always liked cider and this place is a must-see for both the tastes and cozy atmosphere.
As I left Wolfville for the Western Shore, I came across a lawn full of life-sized Charles Schultz’s Peanuts characters in Chester. I pulled over and the family was kind enough to let me take pictures and video of this one-in-a-million find. Affectionately, the man behind this simply did it for his wife’s love of the cool cartoon characters.
Finally making it to the Atlantica Oak Island Resort for lodging and food (both of which were magnificent with fresh seafood and a vivacious view of the water), I made fast friends with Guy Paul Thibault, an extremely talented, terrific, local musician who was performing that night. After his set, we chatted extensively about music and life and I’m happy to say we still keep in touch.
Historic and charismatic Lunenberg was calling and of course, I quickly answered. It was there that I met a truly wonderful lady, Shelah Allen from Lunenberg Walking Tours, who was the tour guide for the group I found myself with. She’s a lifelong Lunenberg resident and the hour long morning tour was so comprehensive yet fun and enjoyable without the information overload. I spent the next few hours with her experiencing the 18th century architecture, getting plenty of tidbits of history, restaurants, attractions and hidden gems that the area has to offer. The highlight was the small yet stunning Blue Rocks village, named for its blue slate rocks that kiss the ocean...if I had more time, I would’ve gone kayaking in the ocean…just another reason to return! The colourful houses, the beauty of a small town and the kindness and generosity of Shelah to give me a true behind the scenes look and true appreciation of this gem of a town made my stop here unforgettable.
As my week-long adventure was wrapping up, I spent some time at iconic Peggy’s Cove. While not my first experience there, this one was different as I wasn’t on a set schedule and spent two hours roaming the area, walking and climbing the smooth granite rocks, elegantly touched for hundreds of thousands of years by the ocean waves, producing the smooth scenery enjoyed today.
The abundance of places to sit, stand, climb, walk and gaze into the ocean are, to me, the biggest draw here. Yes, the actual lighthouse is lovely but there’s so much more to this fishing village to appreciate.
The drive from Peggy’s Cove back to Halifax is in my top 5 for “best drives ever.” Seeing as I’ve driven over a million miles in my lifetime, the 44 km drive east on Hwy 333 is full of twists and turns was something you see in sports car commercials. The graceful angles, sweeping curves and picturesque scenery surrounding you is something that I’ll always remember.
Before I headed home, I spent a night in Halifax at the Westin Nova Scotian in a gorgeous room overlooking the harbor and dined yet again (and happily) on fresh seafood at their onsite restaurant, Elements.
I strolled the boardwalk leisurely as the sun descended into the horizon, recalling the past weeks’ worth of adventures, new experiences, new friends and a stronger appreciation for Nova Scotia. I’m thankful and fortunate to have engaged in numerous pockets of the province during my time there.
While this visit to Canada’s Ocean Playground wasn’t my first, this experience solidified that there will be many more excursions to Nova Scotia in the coming years.