Since I began working with Nova Star (the cruise ferry that takes the 10 hour trip daily between Yarmouth Nova Scotia and Portland, ME), I repeatedly get asked the same questions: “What is there to do in Nova Scotia? What is it like?” First, it is a stunningly beautiful and vibrant province in Eastern Canada, that is almost completely surrounded by water. It is made up of a mainland peninsula and Cape Breton Island, across the Canso Strait, and about 3800 smaller coastal islands. Nova Scotia covers some 55,284 sq. km (21,345.3 sq. miles) (Natural Resources Canada, 2001). Nova Scotia has a population of over 920K of which 390,096 live in the capital city of Halifax. It can look a little like New England, but also very different.
I tried limiting myself to 30 Excellent Places/Things to Do but that number kept creeping up. Especially since I keep discovering new places each time I visit the Province. But on this date July 15, 2014, these are the places that most people seemed interested in when I told them about my trips throughout the area. Seriously this is just the tip of the iceberg, and by the way, don’t go looking for icebergs – Nova Scotia has the warmest ocean water north of North Carolina due to the Gulf Stream. The ocean temps moderate the Province’s temperature making Nova Scotia, on average the warmest of the provinces in Canada. Oh and FYI I slipped in a few extras through the photographs.
1. Cape Forchu Lighthouse http://www.capeforchulight.com/WelcometoCapeForchu.htm. I love this lighthouse it greets Nova Star as we sail into Yarmouth Harbour and it has amenities both natural and manmade including fabulous climbing rocks and trails and a tea room that serves a Nova Scotia classic – Hot Creamed Lobster sandwich. Everything about this place is a feast. It’s the second most photographed lighthouse in Nova Scotia and boasts the unique apple core shape.
2. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Yarmouth and Halifax http://www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/en/landing/default.aspx I’ve visited the Yarmouth location with its focus on Nova Scotian artists and particularly enjoyed the joyful images from Yarmouth County folk artist Maud Lewis. For your viewing entertainment, here’s a Zoe D’Amato video for My Destination Nova Scotia on “Artsy Halifax” including Maud Lewis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUW-lHOhYXQ
3. The Historic Acadian Village https://levillage.novascotia.ca/ For most of your travels in Canada you will feel right at home, but at “The Village” as they call it, you begin to experience a different lifestyle, a different language – French – if you want to give it a try, or stick to English if your foreign language skills are a distant memory).
3. Ye Olde Argyler – Creamed lobster poutine or regular poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese curd) in less skilled kitchens would be junk food, but at the Argyler it’s worth fighting for the last fry. The rest of the menu is created with equal care and local ingredients. http://argyler.com/
4. Bear River Winery http://www.wine.travel/index.html So the proprietor of this winery is a bit… “eccentric” …is perhaps the best word. But the winery is the oldest continuously operating in North America with the first plantings in 1611! It’s so revelatory to see how the wine making process of old, before hydraulics, electricity, etc., was based entirely on gravity.
6. Darren Hudson’s Lumberjack Axeperience http://wildaxe.com/wordpress1/ Most fun you can have with an axe. Really you have to try it to believe it more laughs per minute than any other activity we tried in Nova Scotia.
7. Digby Scallops/Digby Pines http://www.digbypines.ca/ Pretty luxurious accommodations on a hill overlooking the largest scallop fleet in the world. Has an excellent golf course, and I believe I experienced a ghost when we visited off season. In any event it is beautiful and offers activities to soothe every soul, so no worries from the ghost, probably just a guest who couldn’t bear to leave. And make sure you try the scallops. There is something exquisite about them.
8. White Point Inn/Rabbits http://www.whitepoint.com/ Anyone who knows me, knows my penchant for rabbits, so imagine my surprise to see dozens of them scampering about the property. It appears that long ago domestic rabbits were abandoned on the property and they were fed and did what bunnies do, so now there are a lot of them. The property is pet friendly and has enough activities to keep anyone busy or enough serenity to slow down any type A personalities. Open year round.
9. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic – Halifax https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/ Permanent exhibits on the Titanic (the deceased were brought to Halifax, the survivors transported to New York) and the Halifax Explosion (where Boston was the first responder with medical assistance) forever link our two nations and the sea that connects us. Very poignant.
Addendum: I intend to continue to eat my way through Nova Scotia – the whole province from the big city, Halifax, to the smallest food producing business or restaurant in rural Annapolis Valley. My food quest is neither a fait accompli or a “never tried” activity it deserves a special place of its own. A good guide to what’s cooking in Nova Scotia is The Taste of Nova Scotia http://tasteofnovascotia.com/ Finally here is a Zoe D’Amato video for My Destination Nova Scotia on the food movement in Nova Scotia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_tH0mDBCAk.
10. Nova Star http://novastarcruises.com/ My baby! I work with Nova Star and can honestly say the very gentle rocking of the ship provides me with the only time I sleep through the night, and that’s the conundrum, there’s so much to do onboard and such wonderful late night dining options, it’s hard to want to go to bed.
Stayed tuned for Part 2 where I talk about the places I’d like to visit but haven’t yet, and Part 3 Fabulous Places/Things I don’t want to try but lots of other people love.
(c)2014 by Alison Colby-Campbell