The spirit of Nova Scotia revolves around the seaside, from bustling coastal urban centres and historic waterfront sites to beautiful hikes and scenic drives.
Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada
For about two centuries, the Halifax Citadel, on a large hill overlooking the city, served to protect the waterfront city and its inhabitants. It was this very hill that prompted the British to build a settlement in Halifax in 1749, knowing it would be easy to defend. Today, the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada doesn’t serve to protect the town, but rather to teach people about its history. Explore the star-shaped military fortification, tour the Army Museum, and imagine life as a soldier within the fort walls. Experience the changing of the sentry guarding the Citadel Gates and listen for the Royal Artillery’s traditional Noon Gun. Or take a guided tour and learn about the ghosts that are said to haunt the Citadel to this day.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic serves to capture and display Nova Scotia’s history in an immersive, entertaining way. Canada’s oldest and largest maritime museum covers all the bases when it comes to boats; from small crafts and sailboats to war convoys and cruise ships. Explore Halifax’s link to the Titanic, and learn about the catastrophic 1917 Halifax explosion that shaped the future of the city. Browse more than 30,000 artefacts and photographs, and step outside for a tour of the 100-year-old CSS Acadia floating outside the museum in the Halifax Harbour.
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
When you step inside the walls of the Fortress of Louisbourg, you’re stepping back into the 1700s. This National Historic Site was one of the busiest harbours on the continent in the 18th century, acting as a key French site for trade and defence. Today, you can rub shoulders with French soldiers, sailors, servants, and children — all in full costume. Watch food being cooked on an open fire and lace being hand-made, and drink rum alongside fishermen who’ll regale you with tales from the sea. Try not to jump when you hear the roar of the cannon — you can even learn to fire one yourself.
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
Peggy’s Cove is the most photographed lighthouse in Nova Scotia. In a province that boasts more than 160 lighthouses, this is quite a feat! Built in 1915, the lonely red-and-white lighthouse sits on a granite outcrop overlooking a large bay. It’s the stuff picture postcards are made of, and countless visitors trek to the site every year as they explore the lighthouse trail. Snap a selfie with this iconic landmark, and then head into the nearby fishing village for some fresh lobster and locally made art and jewellery.
The Cabot Trail
The Cabot Trail is one of the most famous drives in Canada. The 300-kilometre road takes you along the coast of Cape Breton, offering unrivaled views of the shoreline and bringing you to many of the island’s most popular attractions. Along the trail you’ll encounter opportunities to golf (at the equally famous Highlands Links), hike, bike, kayak, and whale watch, all in a dramatic East coast setting. But the real drawcard of the Cabot Trail is the drive itself, with its winding coastal roads and panoramic ocean views.
Old Town Lunenburg
Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving planned British colonial town in North America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Wander through the town, filled with colourful wooden homes set against the masts of tall ships moored along the waterfront. Get to know the local tradesman and artists making their wares in the shops and galleries. Take a seat in a horse-drawn carriage or take a guided tour and learn the history of the town and its residents, including the ghosts that legend says come back to haunt those who remain.
Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk
The capital of Nova Scotia, like most of the province’s popular destinations, sits right on the water. In Halifax, that waterfront is home to one of the world’s longest downtown boardwalks. The three-kilometre Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk is home to cultural and historical experiences, such as the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It’s also home to lots of little shops and boutiques, and to some of the best eats in Halifax (fresh fish and chips, anyone?). On a trip down the boardwalk you might see (and hear!) bagpipers and street performers or find a deep-sea fishing tour that piques your interest. Take part in a beach volleyball game then cool down with an ice cream cornet. Every day brings something new.
The Skyline Trail
Few places beat the Skyline Trail when it comes to seeing the sunset in all its glory. Located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the trail is a relatively easy eight-kilometre round-trip hike that takes you into the boreal forest, through meadows, and onto a cliff. Pause on the cliff’s edge and watch the sun set over the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. It’s a popular spot for marriage proposals and when you experience it yourself, you’ll see why! Keep your eyes peeled for eagles overhead, moose in the forest, and whales out in the water.
In 1921, a ship known as the Bluenose launched from the shores of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, set to become a racing champion. Bluenose remained undefeated for 17 years, cementing its place as a Canadian icon. The legend of the Bluenose is as important to the province as ever, and the history is carried on through the Bluenose II. The exact replica of the original ship has sailed around the world, but spends most of its time welcoming visitors to the waters of Nova Scotia and promoting its maritime heritage. Walk onto the deck of the 43-metre schooner, feel the wind blowing through your hair and its sails, and go for a ride you’ll never forget.
The Wolfville Magic Winery Bus
The Wolfville Magic Winery Bus is as fun as it sounds. Hop onto a big double-decker bus and ride it from beautiful vineyard to beautiful vineyard, tasting wines as you go. Wolfville is one of the big wine regions in Canada, and the bus tour will bring you to four different vineyards, where you’ll spend a relaxing hour tasting and learning about the region’s fascinating history. Once the tour ends, return to the town of Wolfville and visit the local pubs or restaurants for more local flavours.