Arguably one of the most diverse and riveting provinces in Canada, Nova Scotia encompasses everything from a rich cultural heritage to an enviable coastline, all of which are complemented by some of the friendliest locals I’ve ever met. While there are several options as far as Nova Scotia road trips are concerned, I was recently given the opportunity to cover about 700 kilometres looping the southwestern portion of Nova Scotia.
Obviously, lobster was a daily occurrence. Just in case you wondered.
As the main purpose of this trip was to weave in and out of Nova Scotian coastal villages, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the capital city but what I did manage to see was quite appealing. It truly is steeped in maritime heritage as the second
My favourite bit, however, was indulging in two Titanic-related attractions; yes, I still have the Titanic VHS cassettes and have watched it countless times, making me a bit of a geek of all things Titanic. The former is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which, in addition to showcasing artefacts from the ship, explains the backstory of the greatest marine disaster in recorded history and why it is still today so closely linked to Halifax. Our guide Bob Price was instrumental in making this portion of the trip remarkably memorable as he seemed to have infinite knowledge about the “unsinkable’s” anecdotes and annals (ask him about the story of the Unknown Child and the Strauss’). Did you know, for instance, that the Titanic sank because it was well on its way to beat a speed record? Indeed, it was going full speed despite icebergs having been sighted in the area by other ships; but officers on board wouldn’t have known, as they had turned off the radio emitter after being annoyed at receiving too many “Rest For The Night” messages. Unfortunately, it would later on lead them to use the very first ever SOS signal.
The latter attraction is Fairview Cemetery, where several of the wreck’s victims and crew members —including a Jack Dawson, I kid you not— are buried. While the Titanic’s survivors went to New York, 358 of those who perished came to Halifax after being recovered by the Canadian Navy on orders of the White Star Line. The grim task was completed in May and the majority of the bodies were unloaded at the Coal or Flagship Wharf on the Halifax waterfront and horse-drawn hearses brought them to their final resting places. Victims were dispatched in three distinct cemeteries, depending on whether they were Jewish, Catholic or Protestant.
Where I stayed: The Halliburton
Peggy’s Cove – Lighthouse Route
The Lighthouse Route is undoubtedly one of Nova Scotia’s most scenic attractions. The Instagram-friendly whitewashed structures sit high upon the smooth wave-worn granite boulders of the Atlantic coast, have been dutifully guarding seafaring visitors and hard-working fishermen for centuries. Very few of them are actually visible from the main coastal road (being slightly out of sight makes them all the more special if you ask me!) so you’ll have to keep an eye out for signs along the way.
But when you inevitably stop at Peggy’s Cove —it is, after all, one of the most photographed spots in Canada; it still has a working post office in the lower level— don’t forget to spend a little time in the village itself. The textbook definition of quaint and photogenic, this fishing hamlet is dotted with colourful and rugged sheds perched along a narrow inlet.
The seafaring town of Lunenburg is also one of Nova Scotia’s hottest destinations and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. It has virtually not been touched since its completion in the 18th century —a veritable living postcard!— and is considered to be the best surviving planned British colonial town in North America. The tranquil port is still, to this day, bristled with tall ships including the Bluenose II replica, Nova Scotia’s emblematic sailing ambassador.
Lunenburg’s harbour-side streets are lined with charming rainbow-coloured wooden houses which can be anything from heavily-photographed private residences, coffee shops filled with locals, gourmet restaurants (I recommend Salt Shaker Deli, especially on a sunny day) or even a former blacksmith shop turned boutique distillery.
I highly recommend the walking tour with local encyclopaedia Ralph Getson.
Where I stayed: Lunenburg Arms Hotel & Spa
As one of Nova Scotia’s oldest and most popular oceanfront beach vacation destinations for almost a century, it was definitely unthinkable to overlook Whitepoint. Situated along a unique 1-kilometre white sand beach on the Atlantic Ocean, it offers stunning sunrises and sunsets as well as a plethora of water sports with very strong “that lodge in Dirty Dancing” vibes. The resort is also famous for its healthy community of rabbits, which you are welcome to feed and pet as much as you like. As Whitepoint is also located on the Lighthouse Route, there are quite a few to be seen in the vicinity, like Fort Point Lighthouse, Port Medway Lighthouse and Western Head Lighthouse.
Where I stayed: White Point Beach Resort
Acadie – Evangeline Route
Come learn about the French heritage of Nova Scotia in the Acadie region, where you’ll find countless reminders of the intrepid French settlers who first claimed Nova Scotia as their home in the 17th-century. Visit Fort Point Museum, see the impressive Acadian-built dykes at Grand-Pré National Historic Site and admire the largest wooden church in North America, Église Sainte-Marie at Church Point.
I also recommend stopping at La Cuisine Robicheau in Saulnierville, a seaside restaurant entirely dedicated to hearty authentic Acadian cuisine with specialities like the traditional Rappie Pie, an odd-looking dish of grated potatoes with chicken and the infinitely more appealing Gratin Robicheau, which basically is creamed lobster and scallops covered in grated cheese. Yep. It was GREAT. Desserts should not be overlooked, either.
Stroll around the historic town of Annapolis Royal where you’ll find yourself transported back in time on one of the oldest and best preserved 16th-century streets this side of the pond, flanked by stately manors on either side; in fact, Annapolis Royal was home to some of North America’s earliest European settlers. Samuel de Champlain himself named this hamlet Port-Royal upon his arrival. Annapolis Royal served as Nova Scotia’s capital until the founding of Halifax in 1749 and was eventually renamed in honour of Queen Anne. It remains one of the most fought over lands in North America, having changed hands seven times in total; it is, therefore, awash with history, especially so as Canada’s oldest national historic site, Fort Anne, is located right on its waterfront.
On thisNova Scotia road trip I particularly enjoyed the Candlelight Graveyard Tour which, I assure you, has nothing to do with silly ghost stories. Led by internationally-acclaimed heritage interpreter Alan Melanson, this compact tour tells the fascinating stories of those who rest six feet under and helped shape not only Annapolis Royal but Nova Scotia and even Canada.
Where I stayed: Hillsdale House Inn
Aside from the sweeping vistas of the Bay of Fundy‘s world-famous high tides (as fast as an inch a minute), Hall’s Harbour’s main claim to fame is its “Lobster in the Rough” experience, a rustic 1820 shack where visitors can pick their own lobster for lunch and attempt not to make too much of a mess while indulging the fresh crustacean on the sun-drenched, waterfront terrace.
Those interested in learning more about the iconic marine crustacean can book a tour of the lobster pound, where local expert Lowell will explain the differences between a male and a female, how they interact with each other, and the history of lobster fishing in Nova Scotia — a few lucky ones will even get to hold a live specimen!
Wolfville – Grand Pré
After driving through the patchwork quilt of fields, dykes, orchards and vineyards that is the fertile Annapolis Valley (interesting stops along the way: Foxhill Cheese House / Planters Ridge Winery / Willowbank U-pick Farm / Barrelling Tide Distillery / Noggins Corner Farmer’s Market) you will find yourself in lively and thriving university town of Wolfville, whose main street is filled with independently owned cafés, restaurants, and shops, including the noteworthy Annapolis Cider Company, where everything is made local. Their tasting board, at just $5, are a veritable steal!
Where I stayed: Blomidon Inn
Nova Scotia Road Trip: Good to Know
- Although fresh lobster is always readily available in Nova Scotia (thank God), seasons do vary across the province in order to ensure sustainable fishing. Menus will change accordingly.
- Nova Scotia road trips circling the Bay of Fundy, the Annapolis Valley, the Acadian Shore and the South Shore takes about five days at a decent pace and covers roughly 800 kilometres. Driving in these parts is fairly straightforward with very little traffic and plenty of amenities along the way.
- If you particularly enjoy themed routes, look into the Good Cheer Trail and the Seafood Trail. Get the trail passports and collect stamps throughout your journey!
* I was a guest of Tourism Nova Scotia on this trip. All opinions are my own.