Nova Scotia is a beautiful and friendly province steeped with culture and history along with incredible natural landscapes. There are UNESCO sites, Acadian culture and the Scotland of North America. Getting to Nova Scotia can be a bit challenging depending upon how you wish to travel.
One of the most popular ways to travel to Nova Scotia features The CAT Ferry service between Maine and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The ferry for the past few years had departed from Portland, Maine but the ferry operator decided to move the ferry to Bar Harbor, Maine, home of Acadia National Park. There is good news and bad news with this move. The good news is that the ferry is now located in Bar Harbor and the bad news is that the ferry is located in Bar Harbor. But this shift can truly be turned into a positive experience.
The distance between Bar Harbor and Boston is about 5.5 hours drive with no or limited stops. A long drive if one wants to board the ferry by 2:00PM. It also makes for a very long day. The Amtrak Downeaster train will take travelers as far north as Brunswick before having to travel another 3 hours to Bar Harbor.
The good news is that travelers will be able to take in Bar Harbor and Acadia before heading over to Nova Scotia. For many who have never been, this is an added bonus to a Nova Scotia Vacation. Bar Harbor is very popular July through almost all of September with visitors arriving by land and by sea. We highly suggest booking early to secure accomodations in Bar Harbor. The ferry from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth is 2 hours shorter than it was from Portland, which allows for a later departure from both Yarmouth and Bar Harbor.
Once in Nova Scotia, you need to decide how to get around. Do you want to drive yourself or do you wish to be driven? Downeaster Travel Packages offers complete car-free travel packages where one does not have to think about where to go, what to see and who is driving. If you are the more adventurous traveler, you can pick up a rental car in Yarmouth and follow the suggested itinerary. Many folks wish to experience Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital. Yarmouth to Halifax is 3.5 hours drive in each direction and there are many sites in between. The day in most cases is 6 hours between Yarmouth and Halifax so that stops can be made in places like Historic Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Digby and Grand Pre along the Annapolis Valley.
Further along and deeper into Nova Scotia you will travel up towards Cape Breton Island home of Bras d’Or Lake, Sydney, Nova Scotia and the Cabot Trail, considered one of the prettiest drives in the entire world. Don’t let a quick look at a map give you the idea that Nova Scotia can be driven in 45 minutes! It takes time to get around and one should always factor in more days if possible so that you don’t experience the “Clark Griswald” tour of Nova Scotia. Great destinations are best savored not swallowed……
Although Nova Scotia can present some logistical challenges, it is absolutely worth the effort to visit and experience. Old school is a good way of describing Nova Scotia, everything is at a slower pace, people are friendly and proud of their province, the pretentiousness of big city life is non-existent and the costs to visit are quite attractive. Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada for that matter are definitely bucket list destinations that should be enjoyed by all.
How you plan your visit and how you get there is a big question. Working with a tour operator who can thoughtfully plan your visit is a great way to start.
About the writer: Steven Grasso has over 25 years experience developing travel programs for destinations throughout the USA and Canada. Steven believes that knowing how to get there and how to connect the dots while traveling is the most important aspect of travel planning. He also believes that the best value in travel is when you let others do the touring and driving while the traveler can soak in all the sites and sounds of a destination.