Nova Scotia has long been known as ‘Canada’s Ocean Playground’ as it surrounded by the sea on all sides and only connected to the rest of Canada by the narrow Isthmus of Chignecto. Halifax, the largest city in Atlantic Canada by far, is the usual starting point for visitors arriving by air or increasingly in the last few years, by cruise ship and is definitely worth spending at least two or three days to explore. After that, the visitor has a choice of numerous scenic routes that start from Halifax.
Halifax Nova Scotia is the largest city in Canada’s four Atlantic provinces and has been the most important regional center in Eastern Canada since the British Navy selected the city as its base of North American operations more than 270 years ago. The city has grown up around the waterfront, its ice-free harbor one of the best in the world, with the Halifax Citadel guarding the entrance. The harbor has brought Halifax prosperity, as the staging grounds for convoys in two world wars, and despair, as the site of the world’s largest non-nuclear explosion which devastated the city in 1917. It is the home base of the Royal Canadian Navy and was the port through which hundreds of thousands of immigrants first touched Canadian soil.
While Halifax is steeped in history and has some of the most important historic attractions in the country, it is not mired in the past. With five universities it is a vibrant, youthful city with a thriving music scene. When it comes to restaurants, Halifax punches well above its weight and no matter what your tastes or budget, you’ll find it in Halifax. If you’re looking for a night on the town the pubs of Halifax are legendary for their camaraderie, great local beers and lively entertainment.
Most visitors to Halifax start with a tour of the waterfront which has one of the longest urban boardwalks in the world, making for easy access to the many attractions that line both the shoreline and the waterside. In tourist season the boardwalk takes on a festive atmosphere with buskers, food trucks and weekly festivals. Some of the must see attractions on the waterfront are the Canadian Museum of Immigration, the Maritime Museum and H.M.C.S. Sackville, the last remaining WWII corvette. The boardwalk is also the starting point for many types of nautical excursions that vary from whale watching to a sunset dinner cruise.
Once done exploring the waterfront, a visitor can easily put in a full day touring Halifax’ other historical highlights including Canada’s most visited National Historic Site, the Halifax Citadel. The Citadel, as everyone in Halifax calls it, is one of the most imposing military installations ever built in the British Empire. The firing of the ‘noon gun’ (actually an 18th century cannon) is a tradition that dates back centuries and is always a big draw, but make sure to plug your ears. Below the Citadel is Halifax’ iconic town clock, a gift to the city from Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, who once was an important figure in the colony. Other historical buildings to visit include the Nova Scotia Legislature which is the home of the oldest democratically elected government assembly in North America.
One annual event that provides lasting memories for all who attend is the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo which runs for a week in late June and early July. If you like pageantry, massed pipe bands and world class acrobatics combined with a military flare then it is worth planning your trip to Halifax Nova Scotia just around the tattoo.
There is perhaps no area of the province that epitomizes Nova Scotia’s relationship with the sea better than the South Shore the coastal land that juts into the Atlantic southwest of Halifax. The Lighthouse Route from Halifax to Yarmouth is characterized by crashing waves meeting the hard granite of the coastline (think Peggy’s Cove), by resorts on beautiful white sandy beaches (think White Point), by unspoiled small towns with unique architecture (think any one of Chester, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg or Shelburne) and by fabled legends and folklore (think Oak Island).
After completing the Lighthouse Route most tourists then take the Evangeline Trail which features the oldest permanent European settlement in Canada at Annapolis Royal, a ton of history including the story of the Acadians and their deportation to Louisiana and the agricultural splendour of the Annapolis Valley. If you are into fine dining with great local wines and beers then this may be the route for you. The town of Wolfville is the perfect place to indulge this passion while at the same time exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site Landscape of Grand Pre.
The Evangeline Trail blends seamlessly into the Glooscap Trail at the town of Windsor which is known as the birthplace of hockey. This trail follows the shoreline of the Bay of Fundy, one of the great natural wonders of the world. Here you can experience the world’s highest tides in action by rafting on a tidal bore (not boring I assure you), walk on beaches where some of the world’s oldest fossils have been found or hike the splendid if challenging trails of Cape Chignecto.
For those without the time to explore the Bay of Fundy from the New Brunswick side and highlights such as the city of Saint John, the Glooscap Trail is a great alternative.
Cape Breton Island is magnificent, particularly Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where hulking mountains rise out of the sea and where you’ll find some of Canada’s most beautiful beaches. It’s the centrepiece of the Cabot Trail, one of the world’s most famous scenic drives which also travels through settlements with an intriguing Acadian cultural heritage.
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Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in C$.
See & Do
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$ => Tickets less than $5 per person
$$ => Tickets $6-15 per person
$$$ => Tickets $16 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $101-200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $201 for a double
$ => $1-20 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $21-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-30 per person