You can easily spend a full day exploring downtown Halifax, since all the top sights are within walking distance of each other from the waterfront. Remember to take time out for lunch at an outdoor harbor-front restaurant for the full experience.
Canada’s oldest surviving group of waterfront warehouses is also one of the city’s main tourist attractions, with excellent shopping and dining spread along a three-block expanse on Upper and Lower Water Streets. The wooden and stone warehouses, chandleries, and buildings once used by shipping interests and privateers have been restored to their early 1800s glory. They now house restaurants, shops, and other sites impressively styled with Victorian and Italianate facades. The history of the precinct is cataloged halfway along the Privateer Wharf building (on the inside) with interpretive panels.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The seaport’s store of nautical memorabilia lies within the sleek, burnished-red waterfront Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (1675 Lower Water St., 902/424-7490, summer daily 9:30am-5:30pm, the rest of the year Tues.-Sat. 9:30am-5pm, Sun. 1pm-5pm; adult $9.50, senior $8.50, child $5). The museum is one of the crowning achievements of the city’s Waterfront Development Project.
Most visitors find the Titanic display room most interesting. It contains the world’s largest collection of artifacts from the floating palace deemed unsinkable by its owners; you will see the only deck chair recovered at the time of the sinking, a cribbage board, lounge paneling, and more. Also on display is a model of the Titanic, the wireless log taken as the vessel foundered, and a variety of information boards that tell the story of the ship’s construction. Titanic 3D, a National Geographic documentary created from footage taken from the wreck, shows continuously.
Outside, the CSS Acadia is tied up at the wharf. This sturdy vessel spent its life as Canada’s first hydrographic vessel, its crew surveying the east coast using sextants and graphing shoreline features. Admission is $2, or free with proof of admission to the maritime museum.
Alexander Keith’s Brewery
At the south end of downtown and one block back from the water, Alexander Keith’s Brewery (1496 Lower Water St., 902/455-1474, tours June-Oct. Mon.-Sat. noon-8pm, Sun. noon-5pm, Nov.-May Fri. 5pm-8pm, Sat. noon-8pm, Sun. noon-5pm, adult $21, senior $18, child $10) is North America’s oldest operating brewery. Keith arrived in Halifax in 1795, bringing with him brewing techniques from his English homeland and finding a ready market among the soldiers and sailors living in the city.
Although main brewing operations have been moved to the Oland Brewery, north of downtown, the original brewery, an impressive stone and granite edifice extending along an entire block, produces seasonal brews using traditional techniques. Tours are led by costumed guides, ending with a traditional toast to the “Father of Great Beer.”
Point Pleasant Park
Before dawn on September 29, 2003, Hurricane Juan hit Halifax like no other storm in living memory. Seventy-five-hectare Point Pleasant Park (5718 Point Pleasant Dr., daily 6am-midnight), at the southern tip of the Halifax peninsula, took the full brunt of the storm. By daybreak the next morning the full extent of the damage was first seen—more than 75,000 of the park’s 100,000 trees had been destroyed, and the park’s ecology had been changed forever. After the cleanup, a massive rejuvenation project that continues to this day began.
Although much of the forest may be gone, the park is still well worth visiting. To get to the main entrance, take South Park Street south from Sackville Street. South Park becomes Young Avenue, a tree-lined boulevard graced by magnificent mansions; turn left on Point Pleasant Drive. Marginal Road from downtown also terminates at the same waterside entrance. Views from the parking lot sweep across the harbor, with container terminals on one side and green space on the other.
Forty kilometers of trails, many paved, allow for hiking, jogging, and cross-country skiing in winter. Bikes are allowed only Monday-Friday. Most of the main trails have reopened since the storm, allowing access to all corners of the spread, with terns, gulls, and ospreys winging overhead. A bit of real-estate trivia: The park is still rented from the British government, on a 999-year lease, for one shilling per year.
Point Pleasant’s military significance is evidenced by the 1796 Prince of Wales Martello Tower (July-early Sept. daily 10am-6pm) and Fort Ogilvie, built in 1862, both part of Halifax’s defensive system. The former, a thick-walled round tower based on those the British were building at the time to repel Napoleon’s forces, was the first of its kind to be built in North America.