Small but mighty Nova Scotia might be my favourite province in Atlantic Canada, although it's a tight competition with Prince Edward Island. The small community feel is everywhere, even in the capital city, Halifax. The history is fascinating, the landscape is breathtaking, the food is tasty, and the people are warm and welcoming.
Halifax is a very walkable city with some steep hills. The harbour area, The Salt Yard, buzzes with activities in the summer. The guns at the Citadel sound at regular intervals. There's a great walking tour that tells the historic stories with a particular focus on the Great Explosion,
A great time to visit in the summer is during the annual Tall Ships Festival, returning in 2022, when the harbour is filled with magnificent ships. Tours are offered (some for free, some for a fee) and are absolutely entertaining as some crews go above and beyond to entertain their visitors. There is a big race and battle demonstrations. One magnificent evening, after doing the Haunted Evening Walk, we were treated to a fabulous firework display and the sound of the CBC orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, with cannons!
Nova Scotia's tourism website is a great place to start figuring out what you want to do. I suggest renting a car and taking several of the self-drive tours. The South Shore drive that includes Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg is probably the most popular. If you don't want to rent a car, day trips are available from Halifax. Other self-drive itineraries will take you around different sections of the coast. They offer longer multi-day itineraries, too.
Do not miss Cape Breton. The famous Cabot Trail is an incredible drive with stunning views. Hire a driver, so you can appreciate the views. The truly adventurous might choose a motorcycle or to bicycle the route but it has a lot of steep grades, so make sure you can handle it.
The town of Baddeck will invite you to join kitchen parties, you can visit Alexander Graham Bell Museum and learn about his close connection to this area, take a sailboat cruise, kayak and/or explore the trails. This little town sits on the edge of the large central lake/sea in Cape Breton known as Bras D'or. There are numerous ski and golf resorts and choices for everyone from the budget traveller to those with thicker wallets. The annual fall festival, Celtic Colours, attracts excellent celtic musicians to perform in the midst of celebrating the intense colours of the fall foliage and celtic traditions.
While in Cape Breton, spend a full day to explore Louisbourg Fortress, originally occupied by the French until turned over to the British. It's a large site with costumed interpreters, many buildings and gardens to explore, activities for kids and adults, as well as choices for food. On one visit, a children's group invited me to dance along with them, I couldn't resist but I was sad that I didn't get to dress up, too.
To get a real understanding of the struggles of workers in the coal mining industry, visit Glace Bay. The museum is outstanding and uses voice recordings of some of the seniors who lived through the often violent fights for safe working conditions and union representation. You can take a little train ride into the mines below the surface of the bay.
Another great side trip in Cape Breton is the Highland Village Museum located in Iona. This impressive reconstructed village that offers a living cultural history of the Gaelic arrival and settlement in Cape Breton. Costumed interpreters and activities help create an authentic atmosphere as visitors wander through time from the earliest mud huts to the early 20th Century.
Along with all this fun, you must eat lobster. Traditional lobster dinners are available almost everywhere with varying options and price points. Be prepared to crack the shells and get your fingers in your food. Put on that bib, and dig in. It will be a treat you won't forget!
A special treat for me is anytime I can see wildlife. I was absolutely thrilled and quickly pulled the car over to photograph this beautiful fox along the road. He was completely unconcerned with me as I took photos from every angle.
I hope I've inspired you to put Nova Scotia on your travel short list. Whether you stick to Halifax or take the time to explore from north to south, it will leave you wanting more. If there was a province that could lure me from BC, it would definitely be an Atlantic province... however, if I'm absolutely honest, I'd be out of there in the harsh winters.
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