Explore nautical history and natural beauty by taking the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Route.
Nova Scotia has long been eulogized for its relationship with the sea, and no region does this better than its South Shore. This runs along the Atlantic coast from Halifax to Yarmouth and is characterized by waves crashing on a hard granite coastline; by resorts on beautiful white sandy beaches; by brightly-painted small towns with unique architecture; and by legends and folklore. All this makes a trip here the quintessential introduction to the region.
You can drive from Halifax to Yarmouth in three hours on Highway 103, but there is a much better way to go. Slow down, relax and take at least two days to travel Highway-3, the Lighthouse Route. It’s a perfect long weekend getaway.
Pick up Hwy-3 from exit 5 on Hwy-103, 15km south of Halifax, then follow the Lighthouse Route signs all the way to Yarmouth.
The Lighthouse Route famously follows the coastline of the Atlantic for much of its length and that’s quickly apparent as soon as you reach the ocean at St.Margarets Bay and follow its contours to the resort village of Hubbards. After that the Aspotogan Peninsula beckons, with its picture perfect fishing hamlets of North-West Cove and Aspotogan and the inviting, but cool waters of Bayswater Beach.
The first large community is Chester, which has been a playground for the rich and famous for more than 100 years. It’s the yachting center of the south shore. Get out and walk the historic streets and check out the size of the houses and the sheer number of sailboats.
Not far beyond Chester is Mahone Bay, which many call the prettiest town in all of Canada. The view of the three church steeples reflected on the calm waters of the bay is worth the drive alone. Make sure to check out the shops offering artisanal products of all kinds.
From Mahone Bay it is another short, but lovely drive alongside the ocean to Lunenburg, a unique spot that is has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a great place to stop for the day at one of the many inns in town. Take the time to walk this historic town and visit the excellent Fisheries Museum or take a cruise on Canada’s iconic boat, the Bluenose. If you’re looking for great seafood, then you’re in the right place as Lunenburg has many quality restaurants.
The next day get ready for hiking at the Kejikkujik Seaside Adjunct, a national park whose trails epitomize the beauty of the south shore. You can take the long way or a short cut to magnificent St. Catherine’s River Beach, but either way you’ll never forget this place.
Then it’s history that comes alive at the town of Shelburne, which was built almost overnight in 1783 by Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. The historic waterfront has changed very little since then and visitors really feel that they are stepping back in time. Also in nearby Birchtown is the must-visit Black Loyalist Museum.
The last portion of the Lighthouse Route then passes through small Acadian villages that have been here for almost three centuries. The way of life is preserved at LeVillage Historique Acadien in Pubnico.
All too soon the roads rambles into the historic port of Yarmouth with its many Victorian sea captain’s houses and excellent museums that house treasures brought home from around the world.
Then there’s no better way to round off the Lighthouse Route than with a visit to the unusual Cape Forchu Lighthouse.