Fishing activities

Nova Scotia Canada Travel Guide: Best Places, Restaurants, Tours, Activities

The landscape opens onto a sun-drenched valley of vineyards that blend into a horizon of shimmering blue seas and skies. Sipping on a local bubbly topped with blueberry liqueur from Tangled Garden, it’s hard to remember this is Canada.

The eastern province of Nova Scotia is the country’s best kept secret. Award-winning wines, world-class seafood, untouched nature and dramatic history await those who travel to this Atlantic outpost. Combined with Canadian hospitality, quaint towns and stories of buried gold piracy, Nova Scotia is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.

The dramatic coastline of Peggy's Cove is one of the most photographed places in Canada

What to see and do

Halifax

The heart and regional capital of Nova Scotia is Halifax, a bustling port city of old wooden boardwalks and modern glass buildings. A stroll along its historic waterfront will introduce you to street art, 18th-century architecture and bustling food stalls. The waterfront culminates in Queen’s Marque, an exciting new cultural district of art installations, galleries, shops and restaurants.

Halifax’s story is half of its draw. The closest port to the sinking of the Titanic, Halifax welcomed its survivors and buried its dead. Today, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of the best in the world for Titanic artifacts. In 1917, Halifax experienced its own disaster when two ships carrying explosives collided in the harbour. Learn about Halifax’s tumultuous history on a Harbor Hopper tour, which drives the city before cruising its sparkling waters.

National historic sites

Nova Scotia’s history is a tussle between Britain and France in the struggle for North American dominance. The first French settlers in 1605 were the Acadians, an isolated but resourceful agricultural people who were eventually deported by the British for refusing an oath of allegiance. Learn about Acadian settlements and stories at Grand-Pré, their reconstructed settlement at Port-Royal, and visit Canada’s oldest national historic site, Fort Anne – one of the most contested grounds in American history.

Oak Island and Peggy’s Cove

Nova Scotia recently made a name for itself on the History Channel show The Curse of Oak Island. This sandy islet off the south coast has long been said to contain buried gold, and centuries of treasure seekers have come to uncover its mysteries. Salty Dog Sea Tours skipper Tony Sampson helps produce the TV show and will take you to shark-infested waters with stories, humor and real-life treasures.

To the east of the island is Peggy’s Cove, a small harbor with rough seas, a weather-beaten lighthouse, and a handful of shacks and boathouses. Painted in abundant color, these buildings have made this stark and dramatic coastline one of the most photographed spots in Canada.

Salty Dog Sea Tours is located in Oak Island
fishing villages

Stunning Lunenburg is the best preserved British colonial town in the world, its stunning streets with colorful wooden architecture, numerous shops and bustling cafes have been inscribed on the Unesco list. Lunenburg’s brilliant walking tour takes you through the shipbuilding, rum mining, and Germanic immigration that shaped the city’s unique character. Also the richest fishing ground in the world, the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg provides a fascinating look into the industry’s history, future, and deadly dangers.

Further west, picturesque Shelburne is a stunningly pretty fishing and boatbuilding community. Greet the morning overlooking the peaceful bay with a coffee in hand, before learning about the town’s unspoilt architecture and filming on a tour of the Shelburne Museum by the sea.

Kejimkujik National Park

The western interior forms a 381 km2 expanse of dense forest, vast lakes and winding rivers. Interspersed with biking and hiking trails and teeming with wildlife, famous Kejimkujik showcases the best of Nova Scotia outdoors. The national park is also home to the Mi’kmaq, the indigenous peoples who have lived, fished and farmed the area for millennia. At Merrymakedge, you can explore their culture through petroglyphs: images carved into the soft stone shoreline of Lake Kejimkujik.

Restaurant Le Caveau in Grand Pré Wines

Eat and drink

Restaurants

Nova Scotia has some of the best seafood in the world, including succulent Bay of Fundy lobster. Head to Hall’s Harbor Lobster Pound on the North Shore to rub shoulders with the locals, savor the freshest catch and take a tour of the pound before lunch. Further west is Digby, the “Scallop Capital of the World”. A five-course seafood dinner at Churchill’s Restaurant & Lounge in Digby Pine features seasonal seafood with lobster vol-au-vent dishes and a Sea’Cuterie platter with fresh scallop sashimi.

Lunenburg’s Half Shell Oyster Bar is the place to be for local oysters. There’s also sensationally creamy seafood chowder and cocktails, all served in the cool sea breeze. In Halifax, the Waterfront Warehouse does a brilliantly sweet lobster roll and bacon-wrapped scallops.

Drift, part of the new Muir Halifax Hotel, is a beautiful late-night spot dedicated to modern Nova Scotia dishes. The sweet Maryann brown bread with honey butter and the hearty hodgepodge are a must, as are the cocktails.

At Grand Pré Wines restaurant, Le Caveau, the focus is on local, seasonal ingredients. Extraordinary local meat and fish are served with fresh pastas, Canadian cheeses and homemade pâtés, accompanied by Grand Pré wines. Be sure to stop by Charlotte Lane Café in Shelburne, where you’ll find a subdued atmosphere, soft chatter and a carefully curated menu of international favourites.

Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg
Wine and spirits

The Annapolis Valley is the heart of Nova Scotia wine, introduced by French settlers in the 1600s. Crisp and citrusy, Tidal Bay is the regional white appellation and the crown jewel of Nova Scotia. Pairing perfectly with seafood, you’ll find 14 Tidal Bay wines on the menus of area restaurants — but tasting tours are a must. Discover Benjamin Bridge, home of the award-winning, all-too-drinkable Nova 7 sparkling, and Domaine de Grand Pré, the oldest winery in the province and one of the few to create Nova Scotian red wines.

Annapolis also hides the remarkable Tangled Garden, a roadside paradise that creates sensational liqueurs, jellies, syrups and ice cream from its homegrown herbs and flowers. Owner Beverly also hosts beautiful afternoon teas in a breathtaking maze of trailing leaves, flowers and foliage.

Where better to make spirits than a town of rum? Lunenburg’s Ironworks Distillery, housed in a charming mishmash heritage building, is making waves and wonderful spirits including rums, gins, whiskeys, berry liqueurs and apple vodkas. With a floating rum warehouse just offshore, limited edition rum that has traveled the world, and a fantastic maple version, tours here give you a taste of Lunenburg’s history and future.

Muir Hotel Halifax

Hotels: where to sleep

There are a multitude of excellent hotels across Nova Scotia to choose from, but the most notable are in Grand Pré, Shelburne and Halifax. The Evangeline de Grand Pré is an unsuspecting star with laid-back exteriors hiding plush, beautifully appointed rooms. Within walking distance of the Winery and Le Caveau, end an evening’s culinary excesses by Evangeline’s fireplace with S’mores and a glass of Tidal Bay.

The Cooper’s Inn in Shelburne is a fabulous historic property on the bay whose young owner Amanda Sutherland has brought attention to detail to every aspect of your stay. The rooms reflect the quaint, old-world atmosphere of the city, creating a comfortable home away from home.

Halifax’s top spot is tied between the recently renovated and long-running Westin and the brilliant newcomer and architecturally stunning Muir, both offering luxury downtown accommodations.

Lunenburg is the best preserved British colonial town in the world

How to get there and plan your trip

In the summer of 2022, Air Canada resumed direct flights from London Heathrow to Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The seven-hour flights use smaller 169-seat planes and operate up to once a day all year round, with fares starting at £540. Plan your trip with Explore Canada and learn more about the province on the Nova Scotia Tourism website.

See more at aircanada.com; explore-canada.co.uk; and novascotia.com