Nova Scotia Travel Guide

Nova Scotia is a popular fishing area that is just off the east coast of Canada, steeped in history & tradition, it’s easy to understand why Nova Scotia has become a popular tourist destination. Nova Scotia has lots of natural beauty to explore, with places like Highlands National Park, Peggy’s Cove, Glooscap Trail, and the Fortress of Louisbourg are all a big hit with visiting tourists.

Explore Nova Scotia’s Backyard, where new and exciting adventures are waiting for you. Dramatically different landscapes with breathtakingly beautiful seacoasts and lush farmlands offer spectacular natural wonders, fascinating history steeped in Acadian, English, and Micmaq settlements and uniquely entertaining cultural activities. Relish a rich combination of sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes that delivers an unforgettable range of satisfying experiences in Nova Scotia.

nova scotia travel guide

Southwest Nova Scotia encompasses the Fundy Shore & Annapolis Valley, Yarmouth & Acadian Shores, and South Shore. These historic lands wind through the Annapolis Valley along the phenomenal Bay of Fundy and the Acadian Shore, passing lush rolling fields and wilderness backcountry to the picturesque seaport of Yarmouth. Then travel onward to the vast sandy beaches, secluded coves, fishing ports and lighthouses of the South Shore.

Here the surf of the Atlantic crashes over the world’s highest tides; rolling hills share historic mysteries and islands’ bountiful secrets. Where culture began, folklore flourishes, and every season offers a whole new adventure. Come experience your best vacation ever!

Exploring Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia lies on the extreme east coast of mainland Canada, a narrow spike of land surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and is Canada’s second-smallest province. Nova Scotia is divided into two distinct geographic locations.

Nova Scotia peninsula

The first is the Nova Scotia peninsula which sits attached to the rest of Canada, the peninsula acts as home to Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax and hosts a variety of different terrains ripe for exploring, from the rolling highlands of the Cobequid Hills in the north to the rocky forested lands of the Atlantic Interior in the south, Nova Scotia peninsula is ideal for people who enjoy the outdoors.

Cape Breton Island

The second is Cape Breton Island, a large landmass attached to the northeast of the Nova Scotia peninsula and is lined with steep cliffs, Cape Breton Island was originally exploited by early European settlers for its rich deposits of coal. Cape Breton acts as the terminating point of the Appalachian mountain range in the form of the Cape Breton Highlands, tourists visiting the Nova Scotia peninsula will be happy to know that Cape Breton is home to the Highlands National Park and Cabot Trail, two prime spots for those with a taste for fresh air and emerald forests.

Halifax

Halifax has been recognized as a center of culture in the Atlantic region, and it’s not hard to see why it’s a bastion for the arts, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia features a wide collection of cultural pieces, from beautiful paintings to meticulously crafted ceramics, or if you’d rather treat your ears to a masterpiece, there’s always the Symphony Nova Scotia which puts an elegant spin on a wide range of musical ventures, from bluegrass folk tunes to songs from Franklin the Turtle, Symphony Nova Scotia has something for everybody.

If history is your thing then travel to the Fortress of Louisbourg is an accurate recreation of the real fort destroyed back in 1745, you could visit the Halifax Citadel, a grand fortification built to keep invaders out of the capital and protect Canada from attack. Nova Scotia has plenty of outdoor activities and is well known for its active fishing community, Nova Scotia offers unlimited opportunities for pros and amateurs alike to catch big fish. Golfers will be surprised when they see Nova Scotia’s beautiful seaside courses overlooking waters filled with swimmers enjoying the warm Atlantic weather.

Things to do in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has spectacular sea views, picturesque fishing villages, interesting lighthouses & breathtaking countryside, including the Lighthouse Route, Canso Islands National Historic Site, Intercolonial Railway Station, and the Balmoral Grist Mill.

Glooscap Trail

The Glooscap trail shows the wilderness of Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy is surrounded by this trail and the world’s largest tides crash against the shore and can be seen here in Minas Basin which is a wonderful display of natural force. The Shubenacadie River reverses directions due to the powerful tides and flows upstream, this happens daily mostly during full moon days. There is a park named Five Island Provincial Park which has beaches, camping facilities, and hiking trails, there are cliffs which line the Bay of Fundy, the cliffs are worn out because of the strong waves and reveal the sedimentary layers.

Lighthouse Route

The Lighthouse Route connects fishing villages with a shoreline which is sea carved and has open sand dunes and rural roads, there are over 20 lighthouses on the route that includes the world’s most photographed lighthouse which is located in Peggy’s Cove. Peggy’s Cove is one of the most visited places in Nova Scotia mainly because of it’s charm, Peggy’s Cove is quite near to Halifax. The William E. deGarthe Memorial Provincial Park is in Peggy’s Cove and has a complicated mural describing the lives of Nova Scotia’s fisherman. Lunenburg is an old town that has the archetypes of a British Colonial town, there are beaches which offer picnic facilities such as Queensland Beach, Beach Meadows, and Bays water Beach.

Marine Drive

Marine Drive is a rugged coastline and is located on Nova Scotia’s Eastern shore, there are hiking trails around Marine drive with wide inland reserves, lakes and rivers filled with fishes. One place which is worth visiting is the Fisherman’s Life Museum that enables visitors to participate in hooking rugs and cooking on a wooden stove, the Memory Lane Heritage Village will take visitors back to ancient days, the Memory Lane Heritage Village is situated near to Lake Charlotte. Former shipbuilding and lumber producing village is the Sherbrooke Village which also can be seen from afar away, another attraction is the Canso Islands National Historic Site.

Cape Breton Metro

Sydney is at the heart of the Cape Breton Metro which is the second-largest city in Nova Scotia, Cossit and Jost has two famous museums that have keep documentation of the city’s history, both have unique architecture and are decorated with period furnishings, antiques and relics related to that time. Other attractions include Sydney River and the oldest Catholic Church is St. Patrick’s Church which is situated on Cape Breton Island, Cape Breton Centre for Heritage and Science describes the history of the city, tourists are frequent visitors to the surrounding seas on the many various cruises that are available.

Sunrise Trail

Northumberland Strait is bordered by the sunrise trail and provides some of the warmest ocean waters, it also has an abundant number of lobsters which the one thing that Nova Scotia is famous for, boats that go out to catch lobsters never return without making a big catch of lobsters if you like you could visit the public wharf or lobster pound where you can buy fresh seafood. Visitors to this area will be able to see farmlands and country roads, throughout the region people, are very warm and friendly. There are plenty of other places that are worth visiting like galleries, theatres, the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry, the Intercolonial Railway Station, and the Balmoral Grist Mill which is one of the oldest operating mills.

Fleur-de-lis Trail

This trail consists of the beautiful Atlantic coastline and also the scenic Isle Madame, a group of coves, inlets, and ponds are main fishing spots, naturists can enjoy visiting the provincial parks in Lennox Passage and Pondville areas. The major attraction of this area is the Fortress of Louisbourg, during the 18th century the fortress was one of the major military and political centers of France.

Cabot Trail

The trail consists of highlands, vistas, and wildlife, the Cabot Trail is named after the famous explorer John Cabot who landed here in search of a shortcut to Asia, at the Cabot’s Historic Site and Provincial Park visitors can learn about the monumental landing of John Cabot. Alexander Graham Bell who is the inventor of the telephone and the Silver Dart, took the first flight with an aircraft powered by gas, Graham Bell built the Benin Bhreag estate on the banks of Bras d’Or Lake which visitors can explore with the help of displays, programs, and audiovisual presentations, at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site visitors can learn about his scientific contributions towards humanity.

Bras d’Or Scenic Drive

Bras d’Or scenic drive is in Cape Breton’s center which consists of Bras d’Or Lakes and surrounds the villages along the shore, Bras d’Or lakes offer shelter for bald eagles, there are also numerous boat tours available which includes bird watching tours, adventurous tours, and relaxing cruises. St. Peter’s Canal was completed in 1969 and connects the Bras d’Or to the Atlantic Ocean, at the National Historic Site you can enjoy interpretive displays and picnic amenities, while the Highland Village Museum tells about the lives and period of Scottish settlers, the museum has the peculiarity of becoming North America’s only living history museum that commemorates Gaelic culture.

Attractions in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a wide variety of attractions that shouldn’t be missed, like the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum, Scot manor house, Oak Lawn Farm Zoo, Bluenose II.

please use the search form at the bottom of this page, or select from the most popular attractions listed to the right.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

This gallery is situated in the center of Halifax and was built in 1865, off the main lobby there are gift shops, art store and café, this art gallery acts as an entrance for the visual arts that brings the world art to Nova Scotia and vice versa. Th…

Scot manor house

The only full two-story structure with a gambrel roof in Nova Scotia is Scotmanor’s house, this building was built by Joseph Scott an Irishman who arrived in Halifax with Governor Cornwallis on land which was given by the King of England, even after t…

Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum

The Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum was opened in 1977, the museum displays both civilian and military aspects that include hundreds of artifacts such as books, badges, uniforms, engines and aircraft. The museum gives information from a heritage poi…

Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy is one of the world’s great natural wonders with huge tides, twice a day, on an average tide one hundred billion tones of water flows in and out of the Bay. The tides create rip currents, whirlpools, seething up

Activities in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is renowned for having plenty of exciting outdoor activities to offer, whether you’re looking to go Cycling, Surfing, Whale Watching, Horse Riding, walking along the Bras d’Or Lakes or playing a round of golf at the Grandview Golf and Country club.

Kayaking

The beautiful coastlines of Shad Bay, Blind Bay or Prospect Bay are close to Halifax and offer breathtaking coastal scenery for canoeists, there are tours that are designed for small groups that are organized to accommodate canoeists of various experience and interests. Single and double kayaks are also available, kayaks should always match the size of the individual and their ability, tour organizers make you feel comfortable and safe throughout the tour making it an enjoyable experience to every one who wants to explore Nova Scotia.

Horse Riding

Cape Breton Highlands is a small ranch located in the foothills where you can go horse riding on spectacular trails, rivers, or along the mountains of Cape Breton. Horses are rented out to whoever wants to ride and the riding centers will allow you to go riding with or without a guide. Beginners should not try horse riding without any assistance as you will need the training to handle a horse, training courses are available for beginners. Horse riding through the scenic trails in Baddeck and Cape Breton is quite relaxing and enjoyable as you ride through scenic villages, enjoying Nova Scotia’s beauty.

Golf

There are different Golf courses in Nova Scotia, courses vary from 9 to 27 holes, the Grandview Golf and Country club is an 18 hole regulation course located on the outskirts of Dartmouth, most of the golf courses around Nova Scotia are fully irrigated and have a professional layout, golf courses in and around Nova Scotia will give an enjoyable experience for both beginners and expert golfers. The beauty of these golf courses are shown in the well-groomed wide fairways, if need to rent or buy golf equipment then there are site shops that have a good selection to choose from, there are also cafeterias for when you get hungry, if your new to golf, then not to worry as there are lessons available for beginners, most of golf courses are only open during certain seasons, while others are open for the whole year.

Cycling

Cycling around the central Cape Breton along the Bras d’Or Lakes is an enjoyable experience, cyclists can pass through Estmere and Ottawa Brook, on the way you will see MacKinnon’s Harbour and a country ski trail and hiking trail at Highland Hill. You will pass the Highland Heights inn and Nova Scotia Highland Village, as well as the Scottish Outdoor Museum.

Along your journey you will see St. Columba Church and the Rankin Memorial School that goes on towards MacCormack’s Provincial Park where you can stop for a picnic park and enjoy the view of Bras d’Or Lakes, Grass Cove and Gillis point, from here you can easily reach Maskill’s Harbour, Washabuck Beach, Washabuck Bridge and on to St.Columba Road and Cains Mountain Road heading towards Hazeldale.

Surfing

The South Shore of Nova Scotia is good for surfing and has a good mix of beaches with a rugged coastline, there are hundreds of bays and inlets that give best the surfing opportunities and challenges, surfers will find steep fast breaks, right and left point breaks along with reef and shoal breaks. The best time of the year for surfing in Nova Scotia is during August to late November, the temperatures of water can reach up to 20 degree Celsius, though surfers should wear wetsuits as the air and water temperature varies, accessories for surfing are available for rent, surfing lessons are also available for beginners.

Whale Watching

On the southern coast of Nova Scotia there is a whale watching tour, make sure you take a camera and binoculars so you can enjoy whale watching to the fullest, boats depart four a times a day from the historic waterfront and World Heritage Site of Lunenburg. While cruising on the boat you will see magnificent whales that are so close you can almost touch them.

There are different types of whale such as fin, pilot, minke and the favored humpback whales, there are also dolphins, several sunfish, giant blue tuna, leatherback turtles and birds such as terns, black guillemot petrels, shearwaters, and gannets, you will also get a chance to see seals. If the seas are too rough it is quite difficult to see the whales. The spectacular rugged coast and sea caves at the Ovens Natural Park are beautiful to see, along with the bright colored buildings that provide a perfect backdrop for the tour.

Eagle Watching

Eagles can be seen in Nova Scotia from late November until early March, the best months for viewing eagles are between January and early February. If you want to see eagles close up then visit the Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch, displays are open for two weekends i.e. from February 8-9 and February 15-16, schools can also visit, bookings for schools are encouraged during weekdays from January 20 – February 14.

Walking

Nova Scotia offers a wide variety of trails and there are numerous scenic villages along the trails, Glooscap trail shows the wilderness of Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy has the largest tides in Minas Basin, as you walk along the sunrise trail there you will pass through farmlands and country roads. Along the Lighthouse Route you will see over 20 lighthouses and it takes your through many picturesque fishing villages, including the beautiful Peggy Cove which is a British colonial town, there are also several beaches to walk along on this trail.

Sailing

Nova Scotia is the best place for Sailing off the beaten path, there are numerous large harbors, small bays and inlets by navigable rivers along the coastline of Nova Scotia, there are also groups of smaller islands. The finest Sailing area in Nova Scotia is Lunenburg’s Mahone Bay, Mahone Bay is a large bay as well as a town and is just a few miles away from Lunenburg. Shelburne is the most popular port for yachts from US, the vast harbors and bays in Nova Scotia can handle 275 yachts. Lunenburg is a picturesque harbor in Nova Scotia and is a wonderful stop for yachts, surrounding the Mahone Bay there are hundreds of pristine anchorages and small towns, from Mahone Bay you can sail to Halifax to Bras d’Or Lakes.