If your image of Canada is one of candy-striped lighthouses, lobster rolls and spectacular sherbert coloured sunsets then it’s highly likely you’re thinking of Nova Scotia.
This corner of Canada is dominated by quaint fishing villages, rainbow-coloured clapboard houses and a wild and rugged coastline. It’s a beautiful and charming place where the locals are welcoming, the food is delicious and the living really is easy.
Nova Scotia, which is Latin for “New Scotland”, is one of the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. The province, along with New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, forms part of what is also called the Maritimes provinces, or simply the Maritimes for short.
It’s an easy destination to travel around and a great place to enjoy a road trip; distances are not excessive, driving is easy and, if you avoid the peak of summer, you will often have the roads to yourself. Your only issue will be trying to do too much, leaving you frazzled at the end of your holiday rather than relaxed!
Here’s how to start planning a road trip around Nova Scotia.
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Where is Nova Scotia?
Table of Contents
Nova Scotia is a province on Canada’s east coast. As well as the mainland territory, it includes over 3,800 coastal islands. It’s connected to the province of New Brunswick by a narrow strip of land and to Cape Breton Island by the Canso Causeway. To reach Prince Edward Island, one of the other Maritimes, you must travel by ferry.
It’s an easy to travel to; less than seven hours by plane from London into Halifax and two hours from Toronto. If travelling by car then most visitors arrive in Nova Scotia overland by car from New Brunswick, arriving into Canada from Maine.
The above map highlights the main towns and cities (in yellow) and the main sights not located in a town or city (in green).
Nova Scotia Road Trip Itinerary
There are various ways that you can enjoy this road trip. You can complete the entire loop stopping at every destination listed or you can pick and choose the destinations that appeal most to you.
If you don’t have enough time to visit everywhere, for example, then you may choose to just explore the south shore from Halifax stopping in at some of Nova Scotia’s most famous places including Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg.
Or you may choose to spend more time in the Great Outdoors, exploring the incredible Bay of Fundy followed by some hiking in Kejimkujik National Park.
The idea with this itinerary is to allow you to customise your trip according to how much time you have and your own interests.
In terms of how long to spend in each place, I would recommend the following:
- Halifax: 2 nights
- Bay of Fundy area: 2 nights
- Annapolis Royal: 2 – 4 nights depending on how much time you want to spend exploring Kejimkujik National Park
- White Point: 2 – 3 nights depending on how much time you want at the beach. You may also choose to base yourself here for longer and take day trips along the south shore.
- Lunenburg / Mahone Bay: 1 – 2 nights
Depending on what time you arrive, you may want to pick up your car rental straight away and head off, saving your time in Halifax for the end of your trip. This is what I did and it worked very well.
This itinerary is for anyone travelling to Nova Scotia whether you are a solo traveller, holidaying as a couple or have the kids in tow. If you are travelling with children then I’ve made a note below of places and activities that are family-friendly.
Use this road itinerary as a guide and start planning your trip to Nova Scotia.
The friendly, colourful capital of Nova Scotia is the cultural hub of the region and home to some excellent museums, delicious restaurants and and picture-perfect coastlines.
Start your visit at the Halifax Waterfront, popular with visitors and Haligonians (as the locals are called) alike. At 4km (2.5-miles) long, it’s one of the longest urban boardwalks in the world and home to snacks stalls, museums, artwork, shops and restaurants.
It’s also where you’ll find two of the city’s best museums; the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
If you only have time to visit one museum in Nova Scotia’s capital city make sure that it is the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Between the years of 1928 and 1971 almost one million people from around the world immigrated to Canada through Pier 21. The museum details the history of immigration in Canada.
The permanent exhibit is divided into two parts on the second floor and there is a third space on the ground floor used for temporary exhibits.
The Canadian Immigration Hall tells the story of 400 years of immigration to Canada and includes objects and stories collected from immigrants through the ages. It’s quite text heavy in parts – so younger children might find it a little hard going – but if you have the time to read and listen to some of the perusal stories, it is very moving.
There are interactive points along the way where visitors can record their families’ cultural traditions and see if the would pass the Canadian citizenship test.
The Pier 21 Story is more interactive and tells the story of immigration to Canada when Pier 21 was still active. You can dress up in historical costumes, read first-person accounts of immigrants, board a train car similar to the ones that newly landed immigrants would continue their journey in, see a replica dining room from a ship travelling to Canada, and step inside a recreation of the assembly hall where people would wait for immigration officials to clear them for entry.
It’s an excellent museum that covers an emotive topic in a sensitive and thought-provoking way.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the oldest and largest Maritime Museum in Canada and tells the story of the people and events that have shaped the province as well as its relationship with the sea.
Highlights include the exhibition dedicated to the tragic Halifax explosion that occurred on 6 December 1917. The steamship Mont-Blanc, inbound from the Atlantic carrying 2600 tons of high explosives bound for France, collided with the Norwegian ship Imo in The Narrows, a channel leading to Bedford Basin. The resulting explosion killed 1,782 people and injured an estimated 9,000 more.
The museum exhibition explores the events leading up to the disaster and the aftermath.
The other exhibition well worth seeing is the one dedicated to the Titanic. When the unsinkable ship did sink, the survivors went to New York and all those who perished were transported to Halifax. The exhibition explores how the cable ship crews braved challenging conditions to recover the bodies and invented an ingenious system for identifying many of the victims.
Many of the crew kept pieces of ship wreckage and much of these are on display including pieces of wrecked woodwork that were carved into picture frames or paperweights. One of the most moving displays is that of a pair of leather children’s shoes.
Other Halifax Highlights
- If you’re visiting Halifax with kids then the Halifax Harbour Hopper tour is a must. This fun tour in an amphibious vehicle takes in the main city sights by land and by water.
- Built on the large hill overlooking the harbour was the Citadel, a fortress constructed to protect the city from attack. Today the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site is a national site and museum. Join a tour with a guide dressed in historical costume and learn all about the history of the city from the first settlers to today.
- Take a ride on the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry, the oldest saltwater ferry in North America, and the second oldest in the world. Visit Dartmouth on a weekend and you can explore the Alderney Landing Market. The Dartmouth Harbourwalk Trail is fun for a short cycle or longer walk.
- Learn about the tragic history of Africville, one of the 52 separate historic black settlements in Nova Scotia. The Africville Museum, housed in a replica of the church that was destroyed when the community residents were forced to leave their homes – is definitely worth a visit.
- Give the kids some green space to run around in the Halifax Public Gardens, a 16 acre Victoria city garden in the heart of downtown Halifax.
- The Halifax Seaport Market is a favourite with locals and visitors alike, it takes place on Saturdays from 8am and Sunday from 2pm at Pavilion 23 along the boardwalk. Another fun weekend market is the Brewery Market held on a Saturday morning.
Where to stay in Halifax
I stayed in Halifax the night before leaving Nova Scotia and had a very comfortable – and convenient – night’s stay at the ALT Hotel at the airport. This is a good choice if you are departing the city the next day and have an early start.
If you’re looking to stay in Halifax itself then take a look at these recommended properties.
The above map indicates both hotel and holiday rental options in Halifax.
Where to eat in Halifax
One of the best meals I had in Nova Scotia was at the Bicycle Thief, along the boardwalk in Halifax. The Italian-inspired menu makes the most of the region’s abundance of fresh seafood – order the seafood stew when you go!
Other restaurants that come recommended by locals include:
- Sea Smoke
- Drift (although this might be better suited for dining without the kids)
- Blue Nose II
- Five Fishermen before becoming a restaurant in the 1970s, the building was a morgue and took in bodies from both the Titanic in 1912 and the Halifax Explosion in 1916 and ghostly sightings are not uncommon!
The Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy lies between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and is famous for its tidal variations, the largest in the world. At the Bay of Fundy you can see two high and two low tides every day; the average time between a high and low tide is six hours and 13 minutes. There are myriad places to base yourself to explore this area and unique phenomenon.
Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre
There are various places you can stop as you drive north from Halifax. One of the best places to learn about the famous Fundy tides and tidal bore (the strong tide that pushes up against the river and current) is at the Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre in South Maitland.
The displays explain how the “reversing river” works and, if you’re lucky, you can witness the tidal phenomenon yourself while there. There is a tidal observation deck where the tide bore passes by, changing direction and rise 10 feet in a short amount of time.
Tidal bores take place in just a few locations around the world so don’t miss the opportunity to see this while you are in Nova Scotia. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous then you can even try tidal bore rafting.
The centre is open from mid-May to mid-October and has details on when high tide and low tide will take place.
Burntcoat Head Park
It’s roughly a 30 minute drive from the Fundy Tidal Interpretive Centre to Burntcoat Head Park, home to the world’s highest recorded tides.
Before arriving at Burntcoat Head Park, you’ll pass through the small village of Maitland, home to Canada’s oldest general store, Frieze & Roy. Pop in if you can but don’t worry if you don’t have much time, it’s very much a general store with little to acknowledge it’s claim to fame.
Burntcoat Head, however, is much more impressive. The park is one of the best places to see the incredibly fast moving tidal waters of the Bay of Fundy in action.
Visit at low tide and you can walk along the ocean floor and around the sea stacks caused by tidal erosion. Nicknamed ‘flower pots’ for the trees growing out of the brown stacks, they’re highly popular with photographers – amateur and professional alike!
When the tide comes in, watch the ocean floor disappear as the waters rise by up to 16m (53ft). You can check for tide times on the park’s website.
A fun option for kids is to join an Ocean Floor Adventure and learn all about life under the bay when the tide is out.
Burntcoat Head Park is closed during the winter, so the best time to visit Burntcoat Head is from mid-May to mid-October.
It’s a short drive from Burntcoat Head to Walton Lighthouse, which was built in 1873 and was once the brightest lighthouse on the upper Bay of Fundy, guiding ships to the port of Walton. Climb the two steep stairs to the top for uninterrupted views of the basin as well as a chance to see the original ‘methane’ lighthouse lamp, powered by a wind-up clock mechanism.
Where to stay to explore the Bay of Fundy
I stayed at the excellent Flying Apron Inn & Cookery, run by extraordinary convivial hosts Chris and Melissa. They have five double bedrooms and it’s a great place to stay if you are travelling with older children.
As well as being a B&B, they offer cooking lessons run by professional chef Chris (these are either hands-on or the type of lesson where you sit, watch and drink wine while Chris demonstrates how to prepare a three-course meal). Even if you don’t stay here, however, do stop in for a meal as their restaurant is excellent.
Other options for families looking to base themselves in this area include Shangri-La Cottages in Burntcoat have three cottages including one that sleeps 4 people and another that sleeps 6.
Travel to Annapolis Royal via Grande-Pre, the Annapolis Valley and Hall’s Harbour
The Evangeline Trail runs along the Bay of Fundy coastline and is scenic drive that winds its way through the quaint villages, bountiful orchards and verdant vineyards of the Annapolis Valley. The trail is named after the fictional character Evangeline brought to life by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1847 poem Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, which tells the plight of the Acadian people.
The Annapolis Valley is beautiful, a patchwork of fields in varying shades of green. This is the richest agricultural region in Atlantic Canada and was once known as the breadbasket of Colonial Canada. Still today the region grows an abundance of fruit and vegetables, much of which can be found in the local cafes, restaurants and farmers markets.
This region is also becoming known for its wine (grapes have been cultivated here for wine since the 1600s but the modern wine industry only started in 1978).
Tidal Bay is the region’s signature white wine as we’ll as its first and only appellation wine. Myriad regional winemakers each produce their own version; vineyards submit their wannabe wines for judging and, if they pass the test, are allowed to use the name Tidal Bay.
I stopped in at Planter’s Ridge, a lovely winery with a small tasting room overlooking their vineyards. I had tried their excellent L’Acadie white wine (red wine lovers take note, the region is much more well known for its white wines than its reds) at the Flying Apron and loved it.
Their tasting room also has a small menu with small plates such as oysters, beef carpaccio and Newfoundland shrimp salad on the menu. More kid-friendly are the locally sourced chefs and charcuterie plates.
These delightful gardens are the perfect place to explore with children. The fairtytale-like gardens were started by Beverly McClare some thirty years ago when the plot of land was little more than a rundown house with five trees.
Today the Tangled Garden is a whimsical destination packed full of trees, plants, ferns and herbs that is a joy to explore. Visitors are handed a map to help navigate the gardens, which include the Reflection Room (a small pond with a fountain), the Tossed Salad Garden (where herbs are grown) and the Labyrinth.
Award-winning jams and jellies made using herbs for the garden are for sale in the garden shop.
Next door to the Tangled Garden is the Just Us! Coffee Roasters, Canada’s first fair trade and organic coffee roaster, who also make very good pastries.
Grand-Pré National Historic Site
To truly understand the history of Nova Scotia you really need to visit the Grand-Pré National Historic Site. This was one of the most moving and informative stops on my Nova Scotia itinerary.
Located north of the town of Wolfville, the Grand-Pré National Historic Site is a park dedicated to the Acadians who settled here from 1682 to 1755.
The Acadians originally came from France, primarily from the rural areas of the Vendee region of western France. They arrived in what is now known as Nova Scotia and settled, working the land, building dykes and living and working peacefully with the local Miꞌkmaq people. The site today is located at the former Acadian village of Grand-Pré and the area is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Between 1605 to 1713, ownership of the land occupied by the Acadians changed hands seven times between the British and the French. Despite these tumultuous times, however, the Acadians maintained a position of neutrality.
In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht handed over the territory permanently to the British. However, fighting between the two sides resumed in 1744 at which point the British decided to expel anyone not loyal to the crown. The result was Le Grand Dérangement, the forcible explosion of the Acadians from their homeland.
Between 1755 and 1763 more than 10,000 Acadians were removed from their homes in present day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Grand-Pré is the area most closely associated with the deportations and the National Historic Site explores this historical event in detail.
There are three main parts to the site; a museum that details the Acadians lives in the region, a very good film that explains Le Grand Dérangement, and a memorial church that represents the church of the Acadian village.
The church is where in 1755, 418 men and boys aged 10 and older were held summoned before being held hostage and then deported. Today, the church has a series of paintings showing Acadian life before, during and after deportation
It’s a small but worthwhile detour to stop in at Hall’s Harbour before you continue along the coast.
Hall’s Harbour is a petit, perfectly-formed fishing village positioned along the Bay of Fundy. The fishing village dates back to 1779 when it was used by Captain Hall and his privateers as a base. At one point the port was filled with clipper ships that would arrive with spices and other goods to trade with the locals who would arrive from the valley by horse and buggy ready to barter.
Today Halls’ Harbour is most famous for the Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound, a working lobster pound the buildings of which dates back to the 1820s; pop in for Lobster Poutine, Lobster Nachos or a Lobster Roll and watch the world famous tides roll in.
At low tide the wharf is dry with fishing boats resting on the seabed until the sea rises as much as an inch a minute.
My favourite stop in Hall’s Harbour was Parker’s General Store, which has been owned by the same family for 120 years and is one of the oldest stores in Canada. Today the shop stocks works by some 30 local artists and items range from jewellery and paintings to woolly gloves made from discarded jumpers and hand-carved wooden spoons. Each artist has a small bio featured alongside their work.
The highlight, however, was the shop’s manager, Madonna who is an absolute delight. Having lived in Hall’s Harbour for 40 odd years she is a wealth of local knowledge.
Parker’s General Store is open from early May until the week after Canadian Thanksgiving and again for a brief Christmas shopping period.
It’s well worth spending a couple of days exploring Annapolis Royal and its surrounds. Originally called Port Royal, this area was home to some of North America’s earliest European settlers. Today it’s a small but lively waterfront community where colourful clapboard buildings house excellent restaurants, cafes, independent stores and even a theatre.
Fort Anne National Historic Site
A short walk form the heart of town is the Fort Anne National Historic Site, once the most contested piece of land on the continent.
A settlement was first established here in 1629 by Scottish settlers but was abandoned to the French just a few. years later. Conflicts didn’t end there, however, Fort Anne was the site of thirteen attacks, seven changes of hands, and the ratification of the Treaty of Boston.
The remains of the fortification that you see today was designed by French military architect Vauban (he was responsible for many a French citadel including this one in Blaye and this in Arras). Today you can walk along the bulwarks and battlements that are today mostly grassed over and visit the old officer’s quarters which now holds a museum.
It’s an interesting lesson in Canadian history but if you’re visiting with kids then the Port Royal National Historic Site is much more interesting.
Port Royal National Historic Site
On the other side of the Annapolis River, a 15 minute drive from Annapolis Royal, is the Port Royal National Historic Site.
Founded by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons and Samuel de Champlain in 1605, the settlement was the first permanent European settlement north of St. Augustine, Florida. Between 25 and 45 men lived here until 1613 when the British arrived and torched the settlement to the ground.
The 17th century French colony was rebuilt in 1939 using the techniques and tools that were originally used during the construction. It opened for visitors in 1941 and is today the best way to get a feel for what life was like for early European settlers.
Staff are on hand dressed in costumes and characters including the blacksmith, carpenter and governor who would have once lived here.
Visitors are welcome to wander around and, unlike many museums, you can touch and handle items, sit on chairs and even wear the governor’s hat for a photo. It’s one of the best things to do in Annapolis Royal and a wonderful way to really experience an important part of Canada’s history.
Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
The Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens have only been open since 1981 but they look as if they’ve been here much longer. The grounds showcase the methods, designs, materials and plants used to create local gardens tracing the history of the town.
The grounds are divided into various sections and include a Rose Garden, home to more than 1800 species, a Victorian Garden and a Butterfly Garden. There’s also an example of an Acadian dyke and a replica Acadian house designed using evidence from local archaeological excavations.
For kids there’s a fun scavenger hunt to follow.
Where to stay in Annapolis Royal
I stayed in A Seafaring Maiden, a charming bed and breakfast located in Granville Ferry, across the river from Annapolis Royal.
The heritage property dates back to 1881 was once home to Captain Joseph Hall. Today it’s run by Bill and Ann Marie Monk who are very welcoming hosts. The property has three double bedrooms so it’s a good option if you are travelling with older kids or teens.
If visiting during the summer months then the Raven Haven Beachside Family Park is a 4-acre campground and family park with swimming, outdoor activities, boat launch, washrooms and more.
Where to eat in Annapolis Royal
Several people recommended The Whiskey Teller before I even arrived in Annapolis Royal and I’m very glad they did, this is a really fun place to eat with very good food. Their speciality is roasted chicken, cooked over a custom-built wood fired rotisserie that is fed with apple and birch wood. Fried Brussel sprouts are another speciality and they are delicious! At weekends they have live music upstairs.
Sissiboo Coffee Roaster is a very good coffee shop and the Germany Bakery serves German baked goods as well as breakfasts, lunches and dinners. You can find more dining recommendations here.
Kejimkujik National Park
South of Annapolis Royal is Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, or Keji for short. This striking wilderness area is the perfect place to explore some of Nova Scotia’s natural beauty.
The park is actually divided into two sections; there is the main park, located 18km from the village of Caledonia, and then there’s Kejimkujik Seaside, which lies almost 100km southeast of the main park. Don’t get confused between the two!
The main park offers lots of ways to get out and about in nature including 15 day-hiking trails ranging in length and difficulty. If you’re short on time then the Mills Falls Bridge is less than a 5km return walk across easy terrain. The trails are open throughout the year.
The area was used by the Mi’kmaq for thousands of years who travelled between the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Coast via the many waterways in the area. As they traversed the canoe routes, the Mi’kmaq left stone carvings, or petroglyphs, of their day to day lives on slate outcroppings. You can see these today on guided tours.
Other ways to explore the park include by bike and by canoe or kayak. Check the official website for details.
Kejimkujik National Park can be visited as a day trip from Annapolis Royal, en route to the South Shore or you may choose to spend a night or two in the park.
Accommodation in Kejimkujik National Park
There are campsites throughout the park as well if you want to stay overnight – or longer. Some are serviced and others are more rustic. Camping is not allowed from November to April.
Keji also offers a number of accommodation options if you’re up for adventure but not so keen unsleeping under canvas.
The park is home to one yurt, that is perfect for a couple of a small family; a handful of rustic cabins that have bunk beds but no plumbing, running water or electricity; and oTENTik tents, a cross between a tent and a rustic cabin that comes with beds and furniture.
The newest accommodation type in the park are the five Ôasis pods; tear drop-shaped pods that can sleep two adults and up to two children.
All of these accommodations can be booked online.
Budding astronomers will be pleased to hear that Keji was designated a Dark-sky Preserve in 2010, meaning its clear nights offer unobstructed, spellbinding views of the stars, planets and moon.
The South Shore
Nova Scotia’s beautiful South Shore is known for its white sandy beaches, its picturesque fishing villages and its 40-plus lighthouses, It’s most famous for the colourful town of Lunenburg and the charming fishing village of Peggy’s Cove but really there are so many lovely places to stop along this route that you really are spoiled for choice.
White Point Beach Resort
If driving from Kejimkujik National Park then White Point Beach Resort is a good place to stop for a couple of days or more.
This beach resort has been welcoming guests since 1928 with many families returning year upon year. I loved this resort; it felt like an old school summer camp, the kind usually seen in movies. In fact, the small cottages and main lodge felt very Dirty Dancing at times, the movie made famous by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray.
The resort has a wide variety of accommodation options, a host of activities on offer and is right on the coast making it a great spot for families looking for time by the beach.
It’s a popular spot for surfing, despite the chilly Atlantic waters, but you can also borrow kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards to use on the resort’s lake. The resort also has a golf course.
This is a great option for families looking for a beach holiday and you can easily base yourself here and then take day trips to explore places along the south shore.
Easy day trips from White Point Beach Resort include the town of Liverpool, a coastal town famous for privateering and the artistic community of LaHave by the water. There’s a great bakery here, LaHave Bakery, good for picking up a coffee and lunch. You’ll find a number of craft and art shops here too. Near Petit Riviere is Green Bay beach.
It takes about an hour via the main highway to reach the UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Lunenburg. For a more scenic route, however, take the #103 road, which will take you via LaHave. A free car ferry runs every half hour (check during low season) across LaHave river.
The former rum running and ship building port town of Lunenburg is undoubtedly one of the province’s most picturesque and you can easily spend a full day here. Clapboard houses painted a rainbow of colours stand proudly along the hilly streets, facing towards the bay. There are some lovely shops, lots of delicious seafood restaurants and a distillery or two.
One word of warning, if you visit Lunenburg during the height of summer it will be busy. Time your visit for early autumn, however, and the streets (and restaurants, and shops) will be much calmer.
Lunenburg Walking Tour
Lunenburg was first established in 1753 and remains today the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America.
The best way to learn more about the Old Town is on a walking tour with Lunenburg Walking Tours. These hour-long tours (they can run a bit longer) are a great introduction to the town, filled with stories about how Lunenburg was settled.
Old Town Lunenburg has retained its original layout and there are even houses still inhabited by descendants of the first founding families. Along the way you’ll learn why the window on top of the pink ‘wedding cake’ house was called the ‘widow’s watch’ and what exactly the ‘Lunenburg bump’ is.
The group also offer other walking tours including a Haunted Lunenburg tour, including one that is family-friendly.
Lunenburg was home to the most famous ship in Canadian history, the Bluenose.
The fishing and racing ship was launched in March 21 and quickly became one of the fastest ships to have ever set sail. For 18 years she won every race she entered and came to symbolise Nova Scotia’s prominence in the fishing and shipbuilding industries. In 1937 her imaged was added to the Canadian dime and has stayed there ever since.
In 1946, however, the Bluenose struck a reef off of Haiti and sank. In 1963 the Bluenose II was launched, built by many of the same people who had worked on the original ship at the shipyard in Lunenburg. You can see her today, proudly docked in the town, and even go out for a sail on her. Two hour cruises are available twice daily in season. See the website for details.
Stop by the Ironworks while you are in Lunenburg, a micro-distillery located in an old marine blacksmith’s shop that made the ironwork for both the original Bluenose and Bluenose II.
Today the distillery produces a range of small batch spirits including vodka made from apples grown in the Annapolis Valley and various liqueurs made from local berries. They offer tastings as well as behind the scenes tours.
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is great way for kids – and their parents – to learn more about the life of fishermen. Housed within an old fish processing plant, the museum invites visitors to explore retired fishing schooners, including Theresa E. Conner, the last of its kind to be built in 1937 before after trawlers were introduced.
Just a few minutes away from Lunenburg by car is the village of Blue Rocks, a perfectly formed fishing village with blue slate rocks on the edge of the ocean. Apparently the fish shack sitting in the middle of the water (you can’t miss it!) is one of the most photographed buildings in the county!
Where to stay in Lunenburg
River Ridge Lodge is a B&B just outside of Mahone Bay and a great option for exploring Lunenburg and beyond. They have rooms that sleep four people.
The Lunenburg Inn is a beautiful home and the oldest inn in town – they’ve been welcoming guests for almost 100 years. Rooms are double so it’s a good option if you are travelling with an infant or have older children who can have their own room.
Smuggler’s Cove Inn & Suites has a range of bedrooms including rooms with two double beds. The property is located in the heart of town, across from Lunenburg’s famous docks.
The Salt Shaker Deli & Inn receives fantastic reviews and has a number of bedrooms that would work well for families including a Superior King Suite that sleeps up to four people. Downstairs is the Salt Shaker Deli that serves delicious fresh seafood overlooking the waterfront.
Where to eat in Lunenburg
Many of the local Lunenburg restaurants form part of the province’s ‘Chowder Trail’, a collection of restaurants around Nova Scotia that serve up rich, creamy homemade chowders packed full of fresh local seafood. Your can collect stamps in a booklet along the way and when you collect 10 stamps you win a free t-shirt and entry for the Chowder Enthusiast Draw.
If chowder is not your thing, however, don’t worry as Lunenburg has plenty more to offer. I had a delicious lunch at the Salt Shaker Deli & Inn. I couldn’t resist the chowder but there are lots of other delicious things on the menu. Not surprisingly the menu is very seafood-heavy.
Other recommendations include The South Shore Fish Shack, home to reputedly the best fish and chips in town. Half Shell Oysters and Seafood is the place to go for raw oysters from both Nova Scotia and around the maritimes. They also offer other dishes such as tacos. For breakfast head to the Savvy Sailor Cafe and for a really, really good coffee No. 9 Coffee Bar, who also bake outstanding cinnamon rolls.
It’s a quick 15-minute drive from Lunenburg to Mahone Bay, a pretty town originally settled by German and French farmers and today bursting with Nova Scotian charm. It’s named after a mahonne, a type of French barge once favoured by the privateers who navigated the local waters.
It’s particularly famous for its three churches that stand shoulder to shoulder along the waterfront. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is the oldest, dating back to 1869. It was followed by St. James’ Anglican Church in 1887 and then Trinity United Church in 1923.
Visit Mahone Bay in October and you may catch the town’s annual Scarecrow Festival when the streets come to life with over 250 hand-made life-size scarecrows. Sure, it may sound a little odd but it is also incredibly charming.
The Barn is a fantastic place for good strong coffee and deliciously indulgent homemade cakes.
I stayed at the Kitch’Inn, which has three very comfortable double rooms and is next door to Betty’s, a friendly restaurant that does a mean trade in wood fired pizzas at the weekend.
The tiny rural fishing village is one of the jewels in Nova Scotia’s crown, largely owing to its majestic lighthouse. There are over 160 historic lighthouses in Nova Scotia but this one is definitely the most photographed.
Set on a headland overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, waves crashing against mighty granite boulders, this tall, lonely lighthouse is the Nova Scotia that you see on postcards. It’s not surprising, therefore, that during peak season coach loads of visitors arrive eager to snap a shot.
Visit off season however and while you won’t have the town to yourself, there will certainly be far fewer people on the characterful streets (look out for the characterful names such as Lobster Lane).
Things to do in Peggy’s Cove
Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is undoubtedly the main attraction. Once you’ve captured that iconic shot on film (or, rather, smartphone) then take a closer look and you’ll discover the Post Office inside the lower level of the lighthouse. Remember to bring your letters or postcards to send home!
Other sights include the sculpture carved by William Edward de Garthe, a Finnish-born Canadian painter who lived and worked in Peggy’s Cove, documenting the lives of the local fishermen as well as the wild and woolly landscape.
Perhaps his most impressive work – and the one that you can see in Peggy’s Cove today – is the sculpture dedicated to the town’s fishermen. Carved on a 30-metre long granite rock it features 32 fishermen, their wives and children, and even his pet seagull. You’ll find it behind his house almost directly opposite the tourist office.
From here walk along towards the lighthouse and you’ll pass The Buoy Shack housed within a building once used to salt fish. It’s run by an ex-fisherman is packed full of marine-related souvenirs and knick-knacks, many of them handmade from old fishing equipment.
Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, however, it’s worth having a look inside to see the ancient whale jaw bone and ribs that are on display.
Continue wandering and you’ll see that a handful of the traditional clapboard fishermen houses have been turned into shops but this is still very much an active fishing community (which is why you will also see signs asking visitors not to enter certain areas).
If you want to get out on the water then you can organise a boat ride from near the small harbour.
Where to eat in Peggy’s Cove
Opposite the lighthouse is the Sou’Wester, a large restaurant favoured with tour groups. If you prefer something a little more low-key then order a delicious lobster roll from Tom’s Lobster Shack.
Peggy’s Cove to Halifax
From Peggy’s Cove it’s a speedy 16 minute drive back to the capital and the end of your Nova Scotia road trip (and possibly the start of your next adventure).