This is the place—the place where you’ll discover an ocean of things to see and do. In Nova Scotia you can savour the bounty of land and sea, submerge yourself in history, revel in the outdoors and be immersed in different cultures. Imagine visiting a place where your biggest challenge is deciding what to see and do first. So, pack lightly and breathe deeply. Oh yes—and expect the unexpected!
“CANADA’S OCEAN PLAYGROUND”
This moniker has been around for decades—and no wonder. Nova Scotia—Latin for New Scotland—is almost completely surrounded by the sea. Located just about halfway between the equator and the North Pole, the province has 7,600 km (4,722 mi.) of coastline and you are never more than 67 km (42 mi.) from the ocean. One side of the province borders the Bay of Fundy—home to the highest tides in the world.
One of the especially charming features of this province is that, regardless of where you are, within minutes you can enjoy great shops and galleries, fabulous food, world-class theatre productions, unique festivals, historical sites or be in a remote and secluded campsite. It is no wonder that tourists find this province irresistible.
Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting a place to hunker down for the night (or several nights). Want to experience the wild but not bother with setting up a tent? Many campgrounds have everything from yurts to tree houses and Parks Canada features oTENTiks (a cross between a tent and cabin). Of course there are hundreds of motels, hotels, lodges and inns, ranging from modest to 5-star.
Food lovers will relish the culinary scene; options in this realm are mind-boggling. Look for Taste of Nova Scotia
featured in restaurants throughout the province where you’ll find down-home goodness everywhere from mom-and-pop operations and food trucks to exquisite fine dining establishments. Wineries, the craft beer industry and specialty distilleries have grown by leaps and bounds; excursions from cooking classes to culinary tours get rave reviews. Weekly farmers’ markets are hugely popular in villages, towns and urban centres where great food, unique crafts and local music round off a rich and satisfying experience.
Acadian Skies and Mi’kmaq Lands in southwestern Nova Scotia (Argyle, Clare and Yarmouth) is the first certified UNESCO-Starlight Tourist Destination in North America. Aside from encompassing huge tracks of easily accessible pristine wilderness areas that showcase spectacular star-gazing opportunities, guided walks in various locations and a Startlight Festival in the fall are also popular.
Nova Scotia is also home to three designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Joggins Fossil Cliffs with its beautifully preserved 300-million-year-old fossils dating back to the coal age; the landscape of Grand Pré and Acadian history; and Old Town Lunenburg, a British colonial settlement. Each site is unique, replete with plenty to see and do.
Nova Scotians love to party! There are festivals galore celebrating everything from Celtic music and craft beers to fantastical folk art. Imagine taking part in a motorcycle rally with thousands of bikers, or landing a 272-kg (600-lb.) tuna fish. It matters not if you are passionate about music, sea kayaking, comedy, films, busking—you name it—with over 500 festivals and events on the go, you’ll find something to tickle your fancy.
World-champion log-roller, Darren Hudson, offers Lumberjack AXEperience in Barrington with log-rolling, tree climbing, competitive sawing and other outdoor activities (www.wildaxe.com/lumberjack
Cobequid Segway provides Segway tours in Victoria Park in Truro, on theTrans Canada Trail in Northern Nova Scotia and in the Cobequid Bay area (www.cobequidsegway.ca
The Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash, a national historic site and home to the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, is now accessible and provides tours (www.thinkerslodge.org
Acadia First Nation Sipuke’l Gallery in Liverpool showcases First Nation artists, artefacts from the Mersey River and other collections (www.novascotia.com/see-do/fine-arts/sipukel-gallery/6482
The Good Cheer Trail, the first winery, craft brewery and distillery trail of its kind in Canada, allows you to sample locally produced wine, beer and spirits from over 35 passionate producers across the province (www.goodcheertrail.com
Halifax rocks. It not only has the greatest number of trade schools, colleges and universities per capita in Altantic Canada, it also has the most pubs. Being cosmopolitan, hip and savvy, the city also offers everything from A to Z.
For a unique way to get around the city, consider taking a boat tour in the harbour—tall ships to tug boats—or hop on a bicycle with I Heart Bikes and tour the city (www.destinationhalifax.com
Nightlife hot spots in the downtown core include: Durty Nelly’s (traditional Irish bar with live music and both local and imported beer); The Carleton Music Bar & Grill (mix of folk, rock, indie); Stayner’s Wharf Pub & Grill (jazz, folk, blues); The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse (Celtic music); and The Seahorse Tavern (indie, rock, punk, R&B and jazz). In Dartmouth, Celtic Corner is the place to go for traditional Maritime music.
Art lovers are always amazed with the city’s art scene which ranges from small private galleries to the province’s pride and joy, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca
Shopping is exceptional in this port city; unique one-of-a-kind items can be found throughout the downtown core. Start your journey at the oceanside boardwalk anchored on the north end by the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market (www.halifaxfarmersmarket.com
Looking for performing arts and music? Check out the Neptune Theatre (www.neptunetheatre.com
), Shakespeare by the Sea (www.shakespearebythesea.ca
) and the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium (www.dal.ca/dept/arts-centre.html
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
By land, by air or by water, think of Nova Scotia as one giant theme park. For example, consider whale watching on the Bay of Fundy. Best locations? The west side of Cape Breton or Digby Neck. Another thrill is to experience the rush of the tidal bore while rafting the Shubenacadie River as the incoming ocean reverses the flow of the river in a flurry of eight-foot waves. Surfers looking for big waves will find them at White Point, Lawrencetown and Martinique Beach.
If you’d rather explore Nova Scotia by land, check out the Skyline Trail, Balancing Rock Trail, Cape Chignecto Provincial Park or Taylor Head Provincial Park for spectacular seaside hiking. Bikers love the 119-km (74-mi.) Rum Runners Trail that connects Halifax and Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (www.rumrunnerstrail.ca
). Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie is Nova Scotia’s first Gran Fondo cycling experience and features three different rides along the panoramic French Acadian Shore—September 24-25 (www.granfondobaiesaintemarie.ca
There’s birding galore at Cape Sable Island, Wallace Bay National Wildlife Area Trail and Brier Island. Or, if golf is on your wish list, world-class and award-winning courses span the entire province (www.golfnovascotia.com
). For an adrenaline rush, take to the air for a hot air balloon ride with East Coast Balloon Adventures (www.eastcoastballoonadventures.com
HERITAGE AND CULTURE
Roots run deep here. Each region has a multitude of places where you can immerse yourself in the various cultures and take part in some authentic experiences.
The new Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, located in Birchtown, commemorates the history and contributions of the Black Loyalists who were some of Canada’s first settlers (www.blackloyalist.com
Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos features a program called Bijou de l’Acadie Cultural Immersion Experience, along with many other offerings focused on Acadian lifestyle (www.museeacadien.ca ); further along the road in Pubnico, you can step back in time at le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse and discover what life was like for the Acadians living here during the 1900’s (levillage.novascotia.ca
In the northwest region of Cape Breton, Le Centre de la Mi-Carême in Grand Étang offers a great visual experience of old Acadian tradition and workshops in mask making (www.micareme.com
Enjoy exhibits and special programs related to Aboriginal culture at the Glooscap Heritage Centre and Mi’kmaw Museum in Millbrook (www.glooscapheritagecentre.com
MUST SEE, MUST DO
Take a wine tour of the Annapolis Valley aboard the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus—a hop-on, hop-off, British double-decker bus tour that visits four local wineries in the Wolfville/Grand Pré areas (www.wolfvillemagicwinerybus.ca
Learn about the Great War at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site by exploring the full-sized simulated western front trench. Enter No Man’s Land through the eyes of a nurse or soldier. Several special events are planned for 2016 (www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/halifax/index.aspx
Visit Peggy’s Cove Village and Lighthouse and marvel at the scenery as you breathe in the sights and fragrance of the Atlantic (www.peggyscoveregion.com
Take a boat tour of the Tusket Islands, an archipelago of over 300 islands off the coast of Wedgeport. Stories, songs and fish chowder on Big Tusket Island are included (www.tusketislandtours.com
Visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and experience the genius and compassion of this world-famous inventor (www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/grahambell/index.aspx
Yarmouth & Acadian Shores has a unique lifestyle, several Acadian communities and a multitude of festivals (www.yarmouthandacadianshores.com
South Shore is noted for its iconic lighthouses, historic waterfronts and cultural exhibits (www.novascotia.com/about-nova-scotia/regions/south-shore
Eastern Shore, with its surfing and the 100 Wild Islands, is also home to Sherbrooke Village, which depicts life from 1860 to 1914 (www.novascotiaseacoast.com
Cape Breton Island has a thriving Gaelic culture where music reigns, plus the breathtaking beauty of the Cabot Trail (www.cbisland.com
Northumberland Shore is known as the blueberry capital of the world and for its warm beaches. It is also home to Tatamagouche, a charming village with unique attractions and events (www.centralnovascotia.com
The Bay of Fundy & Annapolis Valley, loaded with historical sites, tops the list for whales and wineries (www.novascotia.com/about-nova-scotia/regions/bay-fundy-annapolis
In Halifax, check out the Discovery Centre where kids always head for the Bubble Room or the Building Centre which features thousands of Lego and Duplo bricks (www.discoverycentre.ns.ca
). Hatfield Farm offers everything from wagon rides to a petting zoo (www.hatfieldfarm.com
). Upper Clements Park in Annapolis Valley features theme park rides and adventure programs (www.upperclementspark.com
) and the Oaklawn Farm Zoo in Aylesford is always a hit (www.oaklawnfarmzoo.ca
PARK PICK: KEJIMKUJIK NAITONAL PARK
Referred to by staff and locals as “Keji,” Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site teems with wildlife and boasts the greatest diversity of reptiles and amphibians in Atlantic Canada. The 403-sq.-km (156-sq.-mi.) park is also home to ancient petroglyphs as the Mi’kmaq cultural landscape here dates back centuries. Another highlight is the Dark Sky Preserve which displays the science and stories of the stars. Enjoy a variety of organized tours, including the youth Xplorers program, or head off on your own into the backcountry. The park also operates the Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct, a 22-sq.-km (8-sq.-mi.) area on the east coast replete with a lagoon system and an abundance of beaches, bogs, wildflowers, and coastal wildlife (www.pc/gc.ca/pn-np/ns/kejimkujik/index.aspx
More info on National Parks and Historic Sites: www.pc.gc.ca