North America

Nova Scotia: The scene for a picture-perfect vacation

Peggy's Cove lighthouse | Photo credit: Flickr user miquitos

“You can drive the length of Nova Scotia in less than a day and nowhere are you ever more than 30 minutes from the sandy beaches, vast tidal flats or rugged cliffs of the magnificent seacoast.”

– Anonymous

Nova Scotia, Canada’s second smallest province, lies on the east coast of mainland Canada, a narrow spike of land surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Nova Scotia is divided into two distinct geographic locations, the first is the Nova Scotia peninsula which is ‘attached’ to the rest of Canada, and the second is Cape Breton Island, a large landmass attached to the northeast of the Nova Scotia peninsula.

One of Canada’s most favoured tourism destinations, the Province attracts not only Canadians, but visitors from the United States, Great Britain, Europe and the Asia.

Why? It’s really quite simple … Nova Scotia has everything one could ask for when planning a vacation in Canada: colourful history, stunning scenery, incredible dining, cosmopolitan shopping, the greatest of the outdoors, pristine beaches, and world-famous music and festivals. Whatever your interests and enthusiasms, you will find plenty to see, do, explore and discover in this most beautiful and friendly of Canadian provinces.

The Halifax Metro region offers the best of land and sea; cosmopolitan culture and streetscapes combined with views of Halifax’s historic harbour. Nova Scotia’s picturesque South Shore is renowned for its special mixture of coastal beauty and historic treasures, such as the stark beauty of the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove, UNESCO World Heritage Site Lunenburg Old Town, and the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum. In Yarmouth and along the Acadian Shores, French and English cultures intermingle. But be sure to visit the Acadian fishing villages, where you will find quaint churches and traditional cuisine, and learn more about the area’s rich history, including the oldest courthouse in Canada.

The Fundy Shore and Annapolis Valley offers breath-taking scenery and the unique tidal environment of the Bay of Fundy combined with the fertile lushness of the Valley’s farms and vineyards. The Northumberland Shore features a natural beauty, history and culture in abundance from warm beaches to museums that reveal the area’s varied past. And another must-see is Cape Breton Island; a paradise of rugged coastal trails, crystalline lakes, and fascinating local museums. The Eastern Shore is known for surfing and kayaking, wildlife galore, a host of festivals, and more local culinary delights.

What are the Top Ten things to do in Nova Scotia? (This is not your typical Top Ten List!)

  • Drive the world-famous Cabot Trail.
  • Explore the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.
  • Visit the Fortress of Louisbourg and Halifax Citadel National Historic Sites.
  • See Old Town Lunenburg, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Explore the seacoast city of Halifax.
  • Discover the world’s highest tides along the Bay of Fundy.
  • Feast on the freshest seafood while you watch the whales frolic.
  • Shop for one-of-a-kind treasures handcrafted by local artisans.
  • Golf award-winning sea-side links.
  • Hike through some of the world’s greatest coastal parks and trails.

Autumn scenery along Cabot's Trail | Photo credit:

Whether you’re an urbanite wanting to shop and pamper yourself, a history buff interested in Atlantic Canada’s heritage, a foodie in search of the best seafood, or an outdoors-type excited to begin a new adventure, Nova Scotia has something spectacular awaiting your plans.

Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s three Maritime Provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for “New Scotland,” but “Nova Scotia” is the recognized, English-language name of the province. In 1867 Nova Scotia was one of the four founding Provinces of the Canadian Confederation. The provincial capital is Halifax. HALIFAX, set on a steep promontory beside one of the world’s finest harbours, has become the focal point of the Maritimes, the region’s financial, educational and transportation centre. This pre-eminence has been achieved since World War II, but long before then Halifax was a naval town par excellence, its harbour defining the character and economy of a city which rarely seemed to look inland.

Nova Scotia’s tourism industry showcases Nova Scotia’s culture. There are centres that tell the stories of the province’s internationally renowned musicians like the Hank Snow Home Town Museum (Liverpool), Rita McNiel’s Tea Room (Big Pond), and the Anne Murray Centre (Springhill). And there are numerous music festivals throughout the province such as the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, the Halifax Jazz Festival, the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, Celtic Colours, Deep Roots Music Festival and the acclaimed Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.

And you may be interested to know, or alternatively you may be surprised to learn that Nova Scotia has produced numerous film actors. Academy Award nominee Ellen Page (lives in Nova Scotia); five time Academy Award nominee Arthur Kennedy (Lawrence of Arabia, High Sierra) called Nova Scotia his home; and two time Golden Globe winner Donald Sutherland (MASH, Ordinary People) spent most of his youth in here.

And Nova Scotian stories are the subject of numerous feature films such as Margaret’s Museum (Starring Helena Bonham Carter); The Bay Boy (Directed by Daniel Petrie and starring Kiefer Sutherland).

There is a significant film industry in Nova Scotia. Some of the Academy Award winning feature films that have been made in the province has been Titanic, Bowling for Columbine, The Shipping News and The Widowmaker.

But above all else, Nova Scotia has produced numerous musicians of acclaim. Grammy Award winners include Denny Doherty (from The Mamas & the Papas), Anne Murray and Sarah McLachlan. Nova Scotia has also produced some significant song writers such as Grammy Award winning Gordie Sampson. Sampson has written songs for Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, LeAnn Rimes and George Canyon. Another successful Nova Scotia song writer was Hank Snow whose songs have been recorded by The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

And … If you follow hockey, you know that Sidney Crosby is from Nova Scotia!

Whale watching in the Bay of Fundy | Photo credit:

Nova Scotia’s culture is also shaped by the environment. The highlights include going around the Cabot Trail, Whale Watching off of Brier Island, riding the waves or walking on the ocean floor of the Bay of Fundy (the location of the world’s highest tides at Burncoat Head) and visiting the rocky landscape of Peggy’s Cove.

Tourist Associations portray Nova Scotia as a province whose true essence is found in primitive, rustic, and unspoiled traditions. The Province is more than just a pretty picture. The knack to deriving the best of Nova Scotia is to plan your time here. There are numerous driving itineraries, time to spend in Halifax, and often a colourful festival or two.

You will find that Nova Scotia, and the fine and exceptionally folks that live, work and play here, are the epitome of what one would expect of a vacation – or more like an adventure of discoveries. There is also a vibrant edge to the Province. You just never know around the next corner what you will see or who you will meet!

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