Spectacular coastline — that’s why people flock to Antigonish County in northeastern Nova Scotia. A place of green, rolling hills, cliffside drives, and rocky shores overlooking the Atlantic, you’ll find sandy beaches with long boardwalks and shell-dotted shores, quaint coves, and historic lighthouses. Then there’s Antigonish itself: a small town with a big university, the prestigious Saint Francis Xavier, that comes to life each fall when students begin flocking back to campus. The town even has a cutting-edge wind farm and two active theatre groups. If a seaside holiday is what you’ve got in mind, Antigonish is your place. Here’s why.
It's made for R&R
Antigonish is just a two-hour drive from Halifax. Take your time with a leisurely paced road trip in and around town or in the area, where you'll find the world-renowned Cabot Trail or a day jaunt. Relax on one of the pristine beaches and swim, build a campfire, go for stroll, dig for clams, or bird watch. Favourites are Mahoney’s Beach, Livingstone’s Cove, Arisaig, Balantyne’s Cove in Cape George, and Pomquet Provincial Park Beach.
It's home to Scottish culture
The July Antigonish Highland Games have been going since 1863 — the oldest continuous Highland games outside of Scotland. It’s a huge event with dancing, lots of music — pipers, fiddlers, singers, an outdoor Tattoo (drum and marching performance), a concert under the stars — plus heritage workshops, cycling and running races, and traditional competitions, such as tug of war, the “Farmer’s Walk," and centuries-old Scottish Heavy Events.
It's a town with a view
Surrounded by farms and scenic shoreline, views around Antigonish are gorgeous. Head to Cape George Lighthouse, perched on a high cliff, for panoramas of St. George’s Bay, nearby Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton Island. Picnic, savour the vistas, or hike one of many trails through hills and forest from three main trailheads.
Its downtown is a mixture of fun and historic
Pride is big in friendly downtown Antigonish, winner of the Great Places in Canada “People’s Choice Award” for the strong community spirit that has created such a lively gathering place. There are colourful 1800s-era buildings, bright flowers in hanging baskets, imaginative murals, busy outdoor patios, festivals for film, music, art, and even zucchini, and a celebrated annual Christmas parade. The town also hosts a year-round farmers’ market.
It's packed with outdoor adventures
Play 18 holes at the picturesque golf club, known for its annual kilted tourney. Cycling, hiking, and cross-country are a joy, as is wildlife watching in the Landing, a salt-marsh wildlife sanctuary. Platforms along the 4-kilometre Antigonish Landing Trail give you a bird’s eye view of eagles, osprey, heron, sand pipers, beaver, and muskrats. Another top trekking spot is Beaver Mountain Provincial Park. Mountain bike as well at Brown’s Mountain with pretty James River Falls and Lochaber Lake, ideal for a picnic and swim.
It's flush with dining options
You’ll like dining in Antigonish, which boasts a scene much bigger than its size thanks to the university crowd. Sample the lobster chowder and small-batch beer at community-supported Townhouse Brewpub & Eatery, lunch at cozy Brownstone Café, and pick up picnic goodies at Dream Catcher’s Deli and Treats. For date night, reserve a table at Gabrieau’s Bistro and order Chef Mark’s miso-seared scallops, crab cakes, and bruschetta.