Get a taste of Acadia, be awed by old-growth forests, and hit the soft sands as you travel through small fishing villages and charming coastal locales between Halifax and Yarmouth, two port cities with storied pasts. Take a road trip along Nova Scotia’s South Shore to explore the history, natural beauty, and culture of this Maritime province.
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Midas wants to help you get ready for your summer road trip, starting with your vehicle. Our techs can run a completely free Closer Look Vehicle Check. This in-depth visual inspection lets you know what needs fixing now and what can wait, so you can hit the road with confidence.
Make the trip before the trip to Midas and get $20 off a full-synthetic oil change. Request your appointment at Midas.com.
Start your road trip in the capital city of Halifax. The Mi’kmaq called the area the “Great Harbour” for its waterfront location along the shores of what is now known as Halifax Harbour. This grand city’s lengthy boardwalk offers the perfect spot to soak in the water views, pick up fresh wares at the Halifax Seaport Market, or visit local shops and restaurants. One of the town’s main attractions is the Central Library, an impressive example of modern architecture—and a visit would not be complete without grabbing a coffee from one of two cafes and enjoying it on the rooftop patio. After the library, take a stroll through the beautiful Public Gardens or enjoy the views from the water on a short ferry ride. Finish your day with a show at the Neptune Theatre, which runs quality productions of both classic and new plays and musicals.
Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
Once the primary defense of the city of Halifax, the citadel exists now as a living museum. Take a tour to learn how the fort worked and experience a 19th-century soldier’s life. See the sentry change every hour, and watch reenactors march and conduct drills on the parade grounds. Serious military history buffs can get outfitted with a 78 Highlanders’ uniform, drill, and learn to fire a rifle in the 3-hour Soldier for a Day program. Try to be there at noon for the daily cannon firing.
Now make your way to Peggy’s Cove, home of Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, which rivals Cape Forchu as one of Canada’s most photographed lighthouses. Soak up the atmosphere in the quaint fishing village, and pick up a souvenir or two. Before you go, pop into the deGarthe Gallery and Museum. A Finnish artist who spent most of his life in Canada, deGarthe spent many summers in Peggy’s Cove, painting the locals. His Fisherman’s Monument, although only half-completed at the time of his death, is worth a stop.
You’ll want to reach Hirtle’s Beach bright and early—with limited parking, the earlier you arrive, the better. But the white sand, crashing waves, and few tourists make this beach a must-see. Known as a “living beach” because it moves and shifts with the ocean, Hirtle’s Beach is a coastal paradise. If you’re feeling energetic, hike to Gaff Point for gorgeous ocean views.
Make a stop in Old Town Lunenburg to explore more of Nova Scotia’s sailing history with a visit to the Bluenose II. This rebuilt vessel honors the original, renowned Bluenose fishing and racing vessel, built in 1963. Marvel at the mainsail, which is a breathtaking 386 square meters. Designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site, the rest of Old Town Lunenburg is worth exploring, as most of the buildings are centuries old. This British colonial town is full of colorful facades and home to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic.
Kejimkujik National Park
Kejimkujik is a Mi’kmaq word believed to mean “place where fairies abound.” It’s a name easy to understand when you see the beauty of the old-growth forests, rare wildlife, and petroglyphs along the waterways. The park has been designated a Dark Sky Preserve, so plan to camp overnight for a dazzling display of stars. Take a canoe through waterways that have been traversed not only by the Mi’kmaq, but by the Archaic and Woodland Indians that came before them. The entire park has been designated a National Historic Site and is monitored to maintain its preservation.
Port-Royal National Historic Site
Built by the French in 1605, Port-Royal was one of the first European settlements on the continent. French settlers allied themselves with the Indigenous Mi’kmaq and survived for several years. But internal politics as well as external conflicts with the British led the habitation to destruction and abandonment by 1613. It was reconstructed in the early 20th century, and visitors today can see the settlement as it once stood. Costumed interpreters demonstrate the daily lives of the early settlers, with exhibitions on building and the medicinal properties of local plant life, as taught to the French by the Mi’kmaq. Hear more about the Mi’kmaq culture as well, through their songs, games, and stories during summer hours.
Balancing Rock Trail
The Balancing Rock is one of Nova Scotia’s great natural wonders. The towering column of basalt precariously balanced over St. Mary’s Bay has to be seen to be believed. The hike down is easy to moderate, but be warned there are 250 stairs down the cliff—which also means 250 stairs back up. The majority of the trail is a well-kept boardwalk through the woods, and it opens up to a spectacular view of the ocean.
Did Leif Ericson stop off here and hide a stone carved with runes? While this legend may not be verifiable, the port town of Yarmouth has certainly attracted visitors to its coastlines for centuries. The town was built on maritime pursuits, with flourishing shipbuilding and lobstering industries. Signs of success remain in the opulent Victorian architecture of homes that once housed wealthy captains and shipowners.
Although the French-speaking Acadians were pushed out during the Great Expulsion in the mid-eighteenth century, their culture still runs strong in Yarmouth. Don’t miss out on the purely Acadian experience of rappie pie at a local greasy spoon such as The Dinner Plate. Take a picnic to the Cape Forchu Light Station, one of the most photographed lighthouses in all of Canada, or catch your own lobster with the Living Wharves experience.
This seaside road trip through fishing villages and port cities offers a partial view of all the jewels Nova Scotia has to offer, from bountiful boardwalks and beaches to savory lobster pulled fresh from the bay—with a good dose of history and culture along the way. Continue your loop along the northern coast, head to the interior, or venture northeast to find rugged Cape Breton Island. Nova Scotia’s delights wait to be uncovered, like the seashells along its shores.