Nova Scotia MAY be the perfect summer vacation destination! Miles upon miles of scenic hiking and driving just begging to be explored! Canada’s most relaxing and uncrowded beaches imploring you to grab a towel and a good book. Award-winning craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries that appeal to sippers and swiggers of all nationalities. An abundance of the best specialty food shops – and an emerging restaurant scene for those wishing to leave the cooking to the experts. Nova Scotia has it all – and with The Cat high-speed ferry whisking you from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in well under four hours, there is NO excuse not to plan a trip this summer! Now that you have decided to visit (see, that was easy), here are nine spots you NEED to explore!
1. Lunenburg – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Town of Lunenburg is one of the most picturesque locales in all of eastern Canada – and sits just an hour from Halifax on the southwest shores of Nova Scotia. It’s distinct waterfront, narrow thoroughfares, colorfully painted homes and shops add to the charm – and a visit to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is a must. One visit to Lunenburg will make it clear why the town has been awarded Canada’s Most Beautiful Small Town and one of the Prettiest Painted Places in Canada – and why the entire destination is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
2. Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk
With nine distinct districts to choose from, the entirety of Halifax will remind some of Downeast Maine. From the Peggy’s Cove Coastal Region (see #5 below) to the Eastern Shore and it’s 100 Wild Islands there is something for everyone! However, a visit to the Downtown Region and it’s world-class restaurants, boutique shops, and an endless list of summer festivals and events make it the go-to spot for visitors to Halifax. The waterfront stretches for nearly two miles and includes popular attractions such as the Canadian Museum of Immigration and the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market, and is bolstered at its northern end by the bustling Casino Nova Scotia.
3. Halifax Citadel
Become a soldier for a day at this imposing fort, overlooking the prominent waterfront of Nova Scotia’s capital city. Originally founded in 1749 as one of Great Britain’s four principal overseas naval stations, the Halifax Citadelwas reconstructed in 1856. Today its distinctive Clock Tower stands tall as a reminder of a time and place where the boom of rifle-fire and the skirl of bagpipes were commonplace. Day or night tours of the Citadel remind visitors of the rich history of Halifax, and can easily be incorporated into a visit to the bustling waterfront and a stay at the historic Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites!
4. Cabot Trail – Cape Breton Island
Rated by Travel & Leisure Magazine as the #1 island to visit in continental North America, Cape Breton Island is home to one of the most scenic drives in the world, the 186-mile Cabot Trail! Along the journey, you’ll experience breweries and vineyards, miles of hiking trails, 10 fantastic golf courses, whale-watching and canoeing, and dozens of other outdoor and indoor activities. Don’t forget to stop into the historic town of Louisbourg for a few hours with the period actors at the Louisbourg Fortress (see #6 below) – or the quaint village of Baddeck, the starting point of the Trail and location of Alexander Graham Bell’s Cape Breton home!
5. Peggy’s Cove
As home to perhaps Canada’s most famous lighthouse and one of the world’s most picturesque fishing villages, Peggy’s Cove is a must-visit for everyone spending time in Nova Scotia this summer! Situated just 25 miles from downtown Halifax, it’s an easy day trip and offers miles of hiking trails in and around the Cove, as well as souvenir shopping and waterfront dining options. Don’t forget to drop a postcard in the Peggy’s Cove Post Office as a reminder of your visit!
6. Fortress of Louisbourg
Looking to be transported back to the mid-1700’s, complete with costumed actors playing the part of settlers? If you answered yes, then the reconstructed Fortress of Louisbourg should be on your list of must-visit destinations! Located just outside the modern town of Louisbourg on the island of Cape Breton in northeastern Nova Scotia, the Fortress will remind some of Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts. A visit of a few hours is recommended, and period restaurants, a bakery, a coffee shop, and two gift boutiques help visitors will come to understand, appreciate and enjoy the largest reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town in North America.
7. Bay of Fundy
Separating the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy is one of the 7 Wonders of North America, and famous for having the highest tidal range in the world. Between low and high-tide, the ocean rises nearly 60 feet in some spots, which allows visitors to actually walk (and even dine!) on the ocean floor. Enjoy a front-row seat to the tidal show with a lobster dinner in Hall’s Harbour. Search for dinosaur fossils at the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Joggins Fossil Cliffs. Get adventurous as you raft the 12-foot whitecaps of the initial tidal bore. The Bay of Fundy offers so much to see and do – all under the backdrop of one of natures greatest spectacles!
8. The Good Cheer Trail
Love the idea of experiencing some of Canada’s finest “liquid craftsmanship”? If so, the unique Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail is a must-visit for you this summer! Running the length of the province from Yarmouth in the south to Sydney in the north, Canada’s first winery, craft brewery, cidery and distillery trail is a toast to the creativity of local producers. With 50 stops to experience along the way, it is meant to be discovered over multiple days. Sample locally produced wines, beers, ciders, and spirits – and develop your very own new Nova Scotian favorites!
9. Landscape of Grand Pré
Dedicated to the Acadian culture and people of the 17th and 18th centuries, Grand Pre is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Canadian National Historic Site. Located along the Bay of Fundy in the Annapolis Valley about an hour from Halifax and three hours from Yarmouth, one visit will help you understand how the Grand Pre – meaning “great meadow” got its name. The statue of Evangeline – the heroine of an epic Longfellow poem – and Memorial church are symbols of the deportation of the Acadian people that started in 1755 – and the area is still considered by descendants of these people to be the heart of their ancestral homeland. Guided tours are offered in the summer, and provide a quiet respite from the busier cities to the south.
With LOTS to see and experience this summer, it’s time to plan your visit to Nova Scotia now!