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Halifax is Nova Scotia’s heart and regional capital
The landscape opens into a sunlit valley of vineyards that bleed into a horizon of glittering blue seas and skies. Sipping a local sparkling laced with Tangled Garden’s blueberry liqueur, it’s hard to remember this is Canada.
The eastern province of Nova Scotia is the country’s best-kept secret. Award-winning wines, world-class seafood, untouched nature and dramatic history await those who make it to this Atlantic outpost. Combined with Canadian hospitality, picturesque towns and piratical tales of buried gold, Nova Scotia is a true undiscovered treasure trove.
Peggy’s Cove’s dramatic shoreline is one of Canada’s most photographed places
Nova Scotia’s heart and regional capital is Halifax, a vibrant port city of old wooden boardwalks and modern glass buildings. A stroll along its historic waterfront takes you past street art, 18th century architecture and bustling food stalls. The waterfront culminates at Queen’s Marque, an exciting new cultural district of art installations, galleries, shops and restaurants.
Halifax’s history is half of its draw. The closest port to where the Titanic sank, Halifax took in its survivors and buried its dead. Today, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of the world’s best for Titanic artefacts. In 1917, Halifax had its own disaster when two explosive-carrying ships collided in the harbour. Learn about Halifax’s tumultuous story on the Harbour Hopper tour, which drives the city before sailing its sparkling waters.
The history of Nova Scotia is a tug-of-war between Britain and France in the fight for North American dominance. The original 1605 French settlers were the Acadians, an isolated but ingenious agricultural people who were eventually deported by the British for refusing an oath of allegiance. Discover Acadian settlements and stories at Grand-Pré, their reconstructed colony at Port-Royal, and see Canada’s oldest national historic site, Fort Anne – one of the most contested pieces of land in American history.
Nova Scotia found recent fame in the History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island. This sandy islet off the south coast has been long-rumoured to contain buried gold, and centuries of treasure seekers have come to unearth its mysteries. Salty Dog Sea Tours skipper Tony Sampson helps make the TV show, and will take you through shark-infested waters with tall tales, humour and real-life treasure.
To the island’s east is Peggy’s Cove, a little harbour of roiling seas, weather-beaten lighthouse and a sprinkling of shacks and boat sheds. Painted in plentiful colours, these buildings have made this stark, dramatic shoreline one of Canada’s most photographed places.
Salty Dog Sea Tours is located in Oak Island
Stunning Lunenburg is the best preserved British colonial town in the world, earning its stunning streets of colourful wooden architecture, plentiful shops and bustling cafés a Unesco listing. The brilliant Lunenburg Walking Tour takes you through the shipbuilding, rum-running and Germanic immigration that carved the town’s unique character. Also the world’s richest fishing ground, Lunenburg’s Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic takes a fascinating look into the industry’s history, future and fatal dangers.
Further west, quaint Shelburne is an incredibly pretty fishing and shipbuilding community. Greet the morning overlooking the placid bay with coffee in hand, before learning about the town’s preserved architecture and film set past on a Shelburne Museum’s By the Sea tour.
The western interior forms a sprawling 381 sq km of dense forest, broad lakes and meandering rivers. Crisscrossed with biking and hiking trails and full of wildlife, locally-known Kejimkujik shows off the best of outdoor Nova Scotia. The national park is also home to the Mi’kmaq, the indigenous people who have lived, fished and farmed the area for millennia. At Merrymakedge, you can explore their culture in petroglyphs: pictures carved into the soft stone shoreline of Kejimkujik Lake.
Le Caveau restaurant at Grand Pré Wines
Nova Scotia has some of the world’s best seafood, including succulent Bay of Fundy lobster. Head to Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound on the north coast to rub elbows with locals, tuck into the freshest catch and take a pre-lunch tour of the pound. Further west is Digby, the “scallop capital of the world”. A five-course seafood dinner at Digby Pine’s Churchill’s Restaurant & Lounge shows off seasonal seafood with dishes of lobster vol-au-vent and a Sea’Cuterie board featuring fresh scallop sashimi.
Lunenburg’s Half Shell Oyster Bar is the ultimate place for local oysters. There’s also sensationally creamy seafood chowder and cocktails, all served in the fresh sea breeze. In Halifax, the Waterfront Warehouse does a brilliantly sweet lobster roll and bacon-wrapped scallops.
Drift, part of the new Muir Halifax hotel, is a gorgeous late-night spot dedicated to modern takes on classic Nova Scotian dishes. The sweet Maryann brown bread with honey butter and hearty Hodgepodge are unmissable, as are the cocktails.
At Grand Pré Wines’s restaurant, Le Caveau, the focus is on local seasonal ingredients. Extraordinary local meats and fish are served with fresh pastas, Canadian cheeses and homemade patés, served alongside Grand Pré wines. Make sure to stop at Shelburne’s Charlotte Lane Café, where you’ll find low-lit ambience, soft chatter and a carefully cultivated menu of international favourites.
Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg
The Annapolis Valley is the heartland of Nova Scotian wine, introduced by French settlers in the 1600s. Crisp, citrusy Tidal Bay is the regional appellation white and is the jewel in Nova Scotia’s crown. Pairing perfectly with seafood, you’ll find 14 Tidal Bay wines on restaurant menus across the region – but tasting tours are a must. Check out Benjamin Bridge, home of the all-too-drinkable award-winning sparkler Nova 7, and Domaine de Grand Pré, the province’s oldest farm winery and one of the few creating Nova Scotian reds.
Annapolis also hides the remarkable Tangled Garden, a road-side paradise that creates sensational liqueurs, jellies, cordials and ice creams from its homegrown herbs and flowers. Owner Beverly also hosts beautiful afternoon teas in a breathtaking labyrinth of leaves, flowers and trailing foliage.
Where better to make spirits than a rum-running town? Lunenburg’s Ironworks Distillery, housed in a charmingly hodgepodge heritage building, is making waves and wonderful spirits including rums, gins, whiskeys, berry liqueurs and apple vodkas. With a floating rum warehouse just off-shore, a limited edition rum that sailed the globe and a fantastic maple version, tours here give you a taste of Lunenburg history and future.
Muir hotel in Halifax
There’s a whole host of great hotels across Nova Scotia to choose from, but the standouts are in Grand Pré, Shelburne and Halifax. Grand Pré’s The Evangeline is an unsuspecting star with casual exteriors hiding plush, beautifully made rooms. Within walking distance of the winery and Le Caveau, finish an evening’s culinary excesses by Evangeline’s fire pit with S’mores and a glass of Tidal Bay.
Shelburne’s The Cooper's Inn is a fabulous historic property on the bay whose young owner Amanda Sutherland has brought attention to detail to every aspect of your stay. Rooms reflect the town’s quaint, old-time feel, creating a cosy home from home.
Halifax’s top spot is tied between the recently-renovated, long-standing Westin and shiny newcomer and architecturally stunning Muir, both offering luxury accommodations in the city centre.
Lunenburg is the best preserved British colonial town in the world
Summer 2022 saw Air Canada resume its direct flights from London Heathrow to Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport. The seven-hour flights use smaller 169-seat planes and operate up to once daily year-round, with fares starting from £540. Plan your trip with Explore Canada and discover more about the province at the Nova Scotia tourism website.
See more at aircanada.com; explore-canada.co.uk; and novascotia.com
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