Nova Scotia is known for it's scenic coastal lighthouses, fishing villages and fresh seafood. Also, if you're a fan of Alexander Keith's Beer, Sidney Crosby and the Christmas Tree for Boston, then you have Nova Scotia to thank.
You might have seen some of the sites I visited if you follow me on Instagram, and here I'll list my top ten things to do and see. Although Nova Scotia appears small on a map, we barely scratched the surface of this beautiful Canadian province.
So, here's a look at my top 10 (closer to 20).
1. Peggy's Cove
One of the most visited lighthouses in Nova Scotia is Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, which once housed a post office, which you can see on the side.
Once in Peggy's Cove, definitely stop into one of the many quaint shops along the road and chat with the locals. We met owner, Roger Crooks of the Buoy Shack, where you can purchase one of his many artistic buoy creations.
From Peggy's Cove, head back on the 103 W to Lunenburg, and on the way, you may notice a hidden road which leads to Oak Island, where it's believed for over 200 years, to be the spot of hidden treasure and the basis of the History Channel's The Curse of Oak Island. We had the opportunity to meet Jack Begley, Craig Tester and Charles Barkhouse who play themselves in the reality series.
Lunenburg is a gorgeous sea-side village, which is home to the Bluenose II built in 1963 (a replica of the Bluenose schooner that appears on the Canadian dime).
Some of the best seafood can be enjoyed in Lunenburg, at restaurants such as The Old Fish Factory (where the sea scallops come fresh from neighboring Adams and Knickle).
Enjoy a gorgeous sunset view with delicious Nova Scotia craft beers and local wines. The "Nova Scotia Craft beer sampler" includes North Brewing's Summer Saison Belgian Ale, Garrison's Tall Ship Amber Ale, Tatamagouche Hippie Dippie Pale Ale, Hell Bay Dark Cream Ale, Propeller IPA India Pale Ale and Boxing Rock's Vicar's Cross Double IPA.
The "Nova Scotia Sampler" comes with three glasses of local wines: Jost TIdal Bay white, Jost 4 Skins Red (cheeky little word play), and Gaspereau Rose. Jost Tidal Bay White is meant to capture the essence of Nova Scotia in a sip! Of them all, the Jost 4 Skins brought out the best in the seafood flavors. A shout out to the calamari appetizer, which is not fried, not raw but just perfectly seasoned and cooked.
Where to stay: Lunenburg Arms, where there's every Instagrammer's dream: wi-fi along with every traveler's dream: continental breakfast.
If you're in Lunenburg even for a day, it would be worth your while to go on the "Essential Lunenburg" walking tour with Shelah Allen, co-owner of Lunenburg Walking Tours. It covers history of the Old Town, and more than a few tidbits and folklore. There are no fancy period costumes on this tour, just authentic stories told by a real residents of Lunenburg (there's also a haunted tour).
Another must-see in Lunenburg, is the Ironworks DIstillery, housed in a charming 19th century building which used to be a blacksmith's shop that had produced hardware for both Bluenose schooners. Ironworks Distillery uses a wood-burning still, distilling liquors from local fruits such as apples, pears, berries. Owners Pierre Guevremont and Lynne MacKay also offer distillery tours and tastings.
5. Blue Rocks
Good thing Shelah Allen told us to stop by Blue Rocks (only a few minutes drive from Lunenburg). Not to be missed, Blue Rocks is a quiet and peaceful sea-side village (also the location of the best sea kayaking).
Back on the road, in South Maitland, you'll come across a reddish-brown colored river, the Shubenacadie River and the location of the Fundy Tidal Interpretive Center. Tidal changes on the Bay of Fundy (world's highest tide) affect the flow of the river causing a tidal bore. Alongside the highway bridge are the remnants of an old railway bridge, part of which is now an observation deck overlooking the river and for viewing the tidal bore, if you time it right.
Other suggested stops:
- Avondale Winery
**** TIP **** Rather than visit the UNESCO Grand Pre National Historic Site, take an earlier turn (onto Old Post Road) to the viewing area of the Grand Pre National Site - from here you get a much better view of Grand Pre (below) as well as the surrounding landscape (and in the distance Blomidon cliffs)
- Wolfville Market (live music, local vendors)
Another fun stop is the Masstown Market, stop by the Catch of the Bay Fresh Fish Market (and take in the view from the top of the lighthouse) . Be sure to say hi to Victoria Lewis and Stephanie Baker who shared some lobster secrets (like how to tell if it's male or female) and also showed us that within the lobster, there's a bone that looks very much like the Virgin Mary (thank you for allowing me to keep this piece!).
5. Luckett Vineyard, Wolfville
We heard it from the friendly table beside us at the Old Fish Factory, and again at the Old Orchard Inn where we stayed. "You must visit Luckett's". The charm of the Luckett Vineyard is that there's a working phone booth in the middle of the vineyard. I even called my Mom from it!
6. Five Islands
A scenic stop along the way to Parrsboro.
7. Gillespie House, Parrsboro
In the town of Parrsboro, plan to stay at the Gillespie House, it's a wonderful bed and breakfast with seven rooms, all with ensuite 4-piece baths. The home itself is gorgeous and cosy, but it's the warm hospitality of the owners David and Lynn that make you wish you could stay forever. Breakfast in the morning is DIVINE.
If you're lucky enough to be in Parrsboro for dinner, be sure to dine at BlackRock Bistro, the food is divine (both the chicken supreme and blackened haddock are incredible). Also, anytime there are scallops on the menu, order them!
8. Advocate Tours
A truly memorable way to see the Bay of Fundy and get a closer look at Cape Split is to step aboard Advocate Boat Tours. Operated by Else Marie and Werner Ostermann, the zodiac rib fits up to five guests comfortably and one could not be in better hands than with the Ostermanns.
*** TIP *** Wear sporty clothes made of quick drying material, like a fleece or wind-breaker, as it's cooler on the water. Advocate Boat Tours provide floater suits for safety and each person's belongings are deposited into a waterproof bag which is then harnessed to the boat.
Due to the weather and the pure nature of the Bay of Fundy, which is known for having the highest tidal range in the world, Advocate Boat Tours can depart from beaches and not harbors, as was the case for us that day, due to the foggy weather. Instead of Advocate Harbor, we launched from Spencer's Island Beach a bit earlier than planned. In order to depart from a beach, Advocate Boat Tours has created a portable dock (inclined ramp) which Werner attaches to the boat (by climbing into the water) in order for passengers to board and disembark. How clever and convenient (for us).
Once aboard, hang on to the rope and enjoy the ride of a lifetime. Werner expertly maneuvers the boat over the water and as Cape Split appears through the fog, it literally is breath-taking. To make things even more memorable, Else Marie breaks out the tea and cookies, in the middle of the Bay of Fundy. Quite the treat.
9. Joggins Fossil Cliffs
Whatever you do, do not miss the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. If you don't know anything about Joggins, cliffs or fossils, or especially if you do, this is the place to go. Dana Brown (interpreter at Joggins for five years) and Sally Faulkner were both excellent guides. Walking along the exposed layers of rock, Sally pointed out many embedded fossils from life in the "Coal Age" (fossilized plants, tree trunks, even giant insect tracks - see below) dating back to 300 million years ago. As the tide recedes, it's possible to stroll along the "bottom of the Bay of Fundy" and explore on your own, but be sure to head back before the tide comes back in!
No trip to Nova Scotia is complete without a visit to it's capital: Halifax. If you're only in Halifax for a day, consider taking a tour with Ambassatours for a solid overview of Halifax's history as well as interesting anecdotes. I can't recommend David enough; he was entertaining and shared the most captivating stories about the Halifax Explosion and the Titanic at the Fairview Cemetery where many of the victims are buried. Other highlights are the Alexander Keith's brewery, Maritime Museum and the Citadel.
And of course, don't leave Nova Scotia without trying the lobster. The Grill at the Five Fishermen does it well, and also has a lobster poutine!
At the airport, there's a cute little art gallery gift shop, the Artport Gallery, and it's worth the stop. It was lovely to meet artist Pat Stewart and purchas a couple of her beautiful prints of Blue Rocks to take home with me.
Thank you to Tourism Nova Scotia and Destination Canada for inviting me to share Nova Scotia with you!
If you're looking for more information or assistance in planning a trip to Nova Scotia, check out Lookup.ca.