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- Flexible itineraries including a coastal road trip and a multi-week Nova Scotia adventure, designed for foodies, families, outdoor adventurers, history buffs, and more
- Top experiences and activities: Take a scenic drive along the coast, tour North America's oldest working brewery, or stroll around the town that inspired Anne of Green Gables. Feast on fresh lobster, crab, and salmon or sample traditional Acadian rappie pie. Board and explore historic ships harbored at a UNESCO World Heritage Site or learn how to forge metal and spin cloth at the living history settlement of Kings Landing
- Best outdoor adventures: Keep an eye out for the world's rarest whales, kayak along the craggy coast, and take in a colorful sunset on a harbor cruise. Hike through wildflower-filled meadows or bright fall foliage, kayak the alongside the craggy coast, or bike the beach boardwalks. Walk between giant sea stacks during low tide and let the sound of waves lull you to sleep at an oceanfront campsite
- Strategic advice from Canadian Andrew Hempstead on when to go, where to stay, and how to get around
- Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
- Background information on the environment, culture, and history
- Essential tips for families with children, travelers with disabilities, and more
Experience the natural beauty and fascinating history of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island with Moon's expert tips and unique experiences.
Expanding your trip? Try Moon Atlantic Canada or Moon Canadian Rockies.
About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can't wait to share their favorite places with you.
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DISCOVER Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island
Planning Your Trip
The Best of Nova Scotia
A FAMILY AFFAIR
The Maritime Tour
TOP 10 CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS
BEST SCENIC DRIVES
The ocean is a defining feature of Canada’s Maritime provinces. It permeates all aspects of life here, as it has for centuries.
Enticing Nova Scotia is a like a picture-book painting, a spacious canvas splashed with brightly colored fishing villages, richly historic towns, and uncluttered parks. Combine historic attractions such as imposing Citadel Hill with walks through coastal parks and feasts of seafood fresh from local waters. Hike through national parks, bike along back roads, kayak the coast, and admire famously photogenic lighthouses. But the options don’t end with the ordinary: It’s also a place where you can feel the excitement of white-water rafting on a tidal bore, get up close and personal with the world’s rarest whales, or feel the fresh salt air on your face as you set sail aboard a famous racing schooner.
Nova Scotia is almost an island, but is connected by a slender, 15-kilometer-long border with New Brunswick, where you’ll find elegant resort towns, pristine beaches, the phenomenal Fundy tides—and a distinct Acadian culture. Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, is an easy excursion. It boasts the country’s smallest capitol, Charlottetown, as well as charming villages and a photogenic landscape.
As a visitor, you will be encouraged to immerse yourself in the Maritimes’ cultural melting pot. Join in the dancing at a ceilidh (Celtic dance), taste rappie pie, and watch artisans at work. Like they have for centuries, the vast majority of the inhabitants continue to live an unpretentious and resourceful lifestyle, yet they are welcoming to visitors and generous to a fault. Conversation comes easily and humor abounds, especially over a few drinks. These are the friendliest folk you’re ever likely to meet.
The Martimes’ charms may reveal themselves slowly, but your greatest memories will be far from ordinary—ones that go beyond the scope of what a guidebook can recommend and instead revolve around adventures of your own making.
Planning Your Trip
Where to Go
Nova Scotia typifies Atlantic Canada, with a dramatic, 7,459-kilometer-long coastline notched with innumerable coves and bays holding scores of picturesque fishing villages. It would be easy to spend an entire vacation exploring Nova Scotia, yet still leave feeling you hadn’t seen everything. The cosmopolitan streets of Halifax, the colorful port of Lunenburg, the historical ambience of Annapolis Royal, and the wilds of Cape Breton Island are just a taste of what you can expect in this diverse province.
New Brunswick is the largest of the Maritime provinces, but is the least known to outsiders. Although the province is mostly forested, it is its coastline and fertile Saint John River valley that attract the most attention. Here you’ll find the elegant resort town of St. Andrews, the phenomenal Fundy tides, and pristine beaches such as Parlee. These attractions, along with the three main cities—Fredericton, Saint John, and Moncton—and a distinct Acadian flavor to the north coast, create a destination with something for everyone.
Prince Edward Island
Little PEI ranks as Canada’s smallest province, as well as its most densely populated, most cultivated, most ribboned with roads, and most bereft of original wilderness. PEI also has the country’s smallest provincial capital—Charlottetown, with a population of just 33,000. Tourism revolves around Cavendish, but the island’s low-key charm is found elsewhere, along rural roads that end at the ocean and drift through neat villages that have changed little over the last century.
Know Before You Go
When to Go
Summer revolves around outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, surfing, and just about anything you can do outdoors. July and August are especially busy. This is the time of year when school is out and the parks come alive with campers, anglers, swimmers, and sunbathers. If you’re traveling during this time, you should book lodging as far in advance as possible.
Spring and fall are excellent times to visit Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI. While May-June is considered a shoulder season, in many ways the provinces are at their blooming best in spring. After the first weekend in September, there is a substantial decrease in travelers across the region. But early fall (Sept.-Oct.) provides pleasant daytime temperatures, reduced room rates, and uncrowded attractions. By late September, fall colors are at their peak (Cape Breton Island is a major destination this time of year), creating a mini-surge in visitors.
Officially, winter extends from late December into March, but in reality most attractions and visitor information centers, as well as accommodations in resort towns, start closing in mid-October.
Passports and Visas
To enter Canada, a passport is required of citizens and permanent residents of the United States. For further information, see the website http://travel.state.gov/travel. For current entry requirements to Canada, check the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website (www.cic.gc.ca).
All other foreign visitors must have a valid passport and may need a visa or visitors permit, depending on their country of residence and the vagaries of international politics. At present, visas are not required for citizens of the United States, the British Commonwealth, or Western Europe. The standard entry permit is for six months, and you may be asked to show onward tickets or proof of sufficient funds to last you through your intended stay.
Visitors to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI have the option of arriving by road, rail, ferry, or air. The main gateway city for flights from North America and Europe is the capital of Nova Scotia. Ferries cross to Yarmouth from Maine, while the main rail line enters the region from Quebec and terminates at Halifax. Driving, whether in your own vehicle or a rental car, is by far the best way to get around, although major towns are served by bus. It is possible to visit Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI without your own vehicle (or a rental), but you’ll be confining yourself to the cities and then relying on public transportation and guided tours to travel farther afield. Driving is more practical, especially if you plan to tour all three provinces and pursue outdoor endeavors.
The Best of Nova Scotia
Hitting all the highlights of Nova Scotia in one week is possible, but you’re not going to see everything. In fact, you’ll be covering so much ground, it may not seem like a vacation at all. This itinerary balances a little bit of everything—Halifax, the prettiest coastal villages, the two national parks, and the main historic sites—with time out for enjoying a glass of Nova Scotian wine over a feast of local seafood. The itinerary, like those that follow, assumes you rent a vehicle or have your own.
Check in for a two-night stay at a downtown Halifax accommodation such as The Halliburton, a historic lodging within walking distance of Halifax’s harbor front. Rather than start ticking off attractions, settle into the city by walking along the waterfront and soaking up the sights and sounds of the busy harbor. You’ll see all manner of vessels tied up at the docks, and plenty of places where you may want to eat dinner at an outdoor table.
Start at the top, literally, by visiting Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and then take a stroll through Halifax’s formal Public Gardens. It’s now lunchtime, and the Italian Gourmet is ideally situated en route to downtown. Take a tour of Alexander Keith’s Brewery on your way to the Titanic exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Dine at the Economy Shoe Shop.
Rise early for the one-hour drive to Peggy’s Cove, famous for its photogenic lighthouse. Continue south to Mahone Bay for an early lunch and a walk through the many shops lining the main street of this busy waterfront town. Lunenburg is your overnight stop, and there’s plenty of colorful seafaring history to soak up along the harbor of this town that UNESCO has dedicated as a World Heritage Site. Grand Banker Bar & Grill is within walking distance of your room at the Spinnaker Inn (both have water views).
Take Highway 8 to Kejimkujik National Park, which protects a large chunk of the forested interior. Rent a canoe for a paddle on the protected waterways. Continue to Annapolis Royal, where Port-Royal National Historic Site protects one of North America’s oldest settlements. After dinner, watch the sun set across the Annapolis Basin from the grounds of Fort Anne National Historic Site. With reservations at the inviting Garrison House, you’ll be within walking distance of everything.
Drive through the apple orchards of the Annapolis Valley to Truro and take the TransCanada Highway across to Cape Breton Island and overnight lodgings at Baddeck’s restored Telegraph House. The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site is the main attraction, but the town also has a picturesque lakefront area and a good choice of stylish eateries.
Today’s destination is Ingonish, along the Cabot Trail. You drive the long way around, but that’s a good thing, because the rugged coastal scenery between Chéticamp and Ingonish is more beautiful than you could ever imagine. (Though this also means that the 200-kilometer drive will take longer than you imagine.) Plan on feasting on seafood at the Chowder House in Neil’s Harbour and staying the night at Glenghorm Beach Resort.
It takes a little more than five hours to reach Halifax International Airport from Ingonish. If you’re on an afternoon flight, there’s enough time to spend an hour or two in Ingonish. To play the revered Highlands Links golf course, you’ll need to tee off early and fly out in the evening.
The Maritime Tour
It’s possible to touch down in all three provinces in one week. This itinerary assumes you have your own vehicle or a rental.
Arrive in Halifax and spend the afternoon exploring the downtown precinct; include a visit to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and a tour of Alexander Keith’s Brewery. Enjoy your first evening in the city by tucking into seafood at an outdoor waterfront restaurant such as Salty’s. For lodging, choose The Halliburton for historic charm or the Prince George Hotel for modern conveniences.
Rise early to beat the crowd to Peggy’s Cove, then follow the scenic coastal route through Chester to Mahone Bay. After lunch, spend time admiring the local arts and crafts scene and walk along the waterfront to view the trio of waterfront churches. At nearby Lunenburg, you’ll find enough time for a sunset harbor cruise before turning in for the night at the Spinnaker Inn.
Drive across southwestern Nova Scotia to Annapolis Royal and spend the afternoon exploring North America’s oldest downtown street as well as attractions like Port-Royal National Historic Site. Guest rooms at the Garrison House reflect the town’s gracious past.
Catch the ferry from Digby to Saint John and drive down the coast to St. Andrews, where you can do what visitors have done for over a century—browse through the boutiques, enjoy Kingsbrae Garden, and dine on seafood. Have a room reserved at Seaside Beach Resort, unless it’s a special occasion, in which case you’ll want to spend the night at the Kingsbrae Arms.
Drive along the Fundy Coast to Fundy National Park. Plan on at least one hike (Dickson Falls is an easy walk), and time your early afternoon departure for low tide at Hopewell Rocks, where you can “walk on the ocean floor.” Continue north across the Confederation Bridge to the Shipwright Inn in Charlottetown.
Spend some time in the island capital, where Province House is a highlight, but also head north to Cavendish to soak up the story of Anne of Green Gables at Green Gables Heritage Place and explore the beachfront national park. Either way, the last ferry of the day departs Wood Islands at 7:30 pm, and you’ll need to be on it to reach Pictou and your room at the waterfront Consulate Inn.
Drive to Halifax. If time allows, fit in a few more city sights. The Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and the Public Gardens should be at the top of your list.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
CITADEL HILL AND VICINITY
NORTH OF DOWNTOWN
WEST SIDE OF NORTHWEST ARM
WALKING AND HIKING
HARBOR CRUISES AND LAND TOURS
Entertainment and Events
PUBS AND BREWERIES
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
SPRING GARDEN ROAD AND VICINITY
NORTH OF DOWNTOWN
DARTMOUTH AND VICINITY
Accommodations and Camping
CITADEL HILL AND VICINITY
NEAR THE AIRPORT
Information and Services
ACCESS FOR TRAVELERS WITH DISABILITIES
Halifax (pop. 390,000), the 250-year-old provincial capital, presents Nova Scotia’s strikingly modern face wrapped around a historic soul.
It’s one of the most vibrant cities in Canada, with an exuberant cultural life and cosmopolitan population. The tourist’s Halifax is tidily compact, concentrated on the manageable, boot-shaped peninsula the city inhabits. Its prettiest parts are clustered between the bustling waterfront and the short, steep hillside that the early British developed two centuries ago. In these areas you’ll find handsomely historic old districts meshed with stylishly chic, new glass-sheathed buildings.
Halifax is more than a city, more than a seaport, and more than a provincial capital. Halifax is a harbor with a city attached, as the Haligonians say. Events in the harbor have shaped Nova Scotia’s history. The savvy British military immediately grasped its potential when they first sailed in centuries ago. In fact, Halifax’s founding as a settlement in 1749 was incidental to the harbor’s development. From the first, the British used the 26-kilometer-long harbor as a watery warehouse of almost unlimited ship-holding capacity. The ships that defeated the French at Louisbourg in 1758—and ultimately conquered this part of Atlantic Canada—were launched from Halifax Harbour. A few years later, the Royal Navy sped from the harbor to harass the rebellious colonies on the Eastern Seaboard during the American Revolution. Ships from Halifax ran the blockades on the South’s side during the American Civil War. And during World Wars I and II, the harbor bulged with troop convoys destined for Europe.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
Everyone has his or her own idea of how best to spend time in Halifax. History buffs will want to spend an entire week exploring the city’s oldest corners, while outdoorsy types will want to hit the highlights before moving through to the rest of the province. Halifax has three attractions no one will want to miss, even if you have just one day. The first of these is the Historic Properties, a group of waterfront warehouses converted to restaurants and boutiques, while the nearby Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the place to learn about the city’s seafaring traditions. The third is Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. These three attractions, along with time exploring the waterfront, could fill one day, but you’d be missing one of Halifax’s best known attractions—its pubs and breweries, including Alexander Keith’s Brewery, North America’s oldest, which is open daily for tours.
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- Nov 16, 2021
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