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Top 9 Best Things To Do in Nova Scotia

If you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation destination, the Canadian Maritime Atlantic province of Nova Scotia truly has it all, from picturesque seaside villages, fresh seafood, and a rich maritime history to spectacular landscapes, Celtic tunes, vineyards, and especially welcoming people. When it comes to things to see and do, you’ll find a ton, but be sure to put at least some of these must-experiences on your itinerary.

Whale Watching Humpback whale off in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Credit: Humpback whale off in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia by Bigstock.com

Whale Watching

What Is It? Canada is renowned for offering some of the world’s best spots for whale watching, and Nova Scotia provides some of the best of the best. 

Why Do It? You’ll have the chance to watch for the finbacks and minkes that arrive in May and the humpbacks that come in June, all of which stick around through the summer and even into October. Witnessing a whale breach, as they lunge up toward the clouds, returning with a loud splash, is an experience of a lifetime, although simply seeing their spouts that can reach as high as 13 feet, is thrilling as well. With the waters here teeming with whales in the summer, you may see those spouts all around you.

Good to Know: The very best viewing points tend to be along the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton and the Bay of Fundy.

Driving the Cabot Trail Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Credit: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia by Bigstockphoto.com

Driving the Cabot Trail

What Is It? The incredibly scenic roadway known as the Cabot Trail can be found on Cape Breton Island and is considered one of the world’s best drives. 

Why Do It? The 185-mile-long route winds along oceanside cliffs, completing a loop around the island’s northern tip, and passes along and through the Cape Breton Highlands, immersing travelers in the still vibrant Celtic and Acadian cultures. 

Good to Know: In addition to the jaw-dropping scenery, there are many other reasons to visit Cape Breton. Indulge in the tasty fresh seafood, endless gorgeous beaches, live traditional Celtic music, then spot whales, dolphins, seals, puffins, bald eagles and more.

Embark on a Sailing Cruise Bluenose II, Halifax
Credit: Bluenose II, Halifax by Bigstock.com

Embark on a Sailing Cruise

What Is It? How about sailing on a replica of the ship you’ve seen on the Canadian dime? The original Bluenose was built to compete for the International Fisherman’s Trophy and won her first race in 1921.

Why Do It? Over the next 17 years, she defeated all contenders to become the pride of the province. The Bluenose II is an authentic replica that sails out of the lovely 18th-century French harbor town of Lunenburg during the summer months. 

Good to Know: If you want to take the experience up a notch, sign up (well in advance) to be Deckhand for a Day which includes a safety orientation, a lesson on the history of the tall ship, learning knots, how to anchor and even taking a turn at the wheel.

Explore the Port Royal National Historic Site Port Royal National Historic Site
Credit: Port Royal National Historic Site by Bigstock.com

Explore the Port Royal National Historic Site

What Is It? History lovers won’t want to miss a visit to Port Royal, the first European settlement in the province. 

Why Do It? Here you can see history reconstructed at the site of the Habitation at Port Royal that was established by France in 1605, serving as the capital of Acadia for nearly a decade, until it was destroyed by British military forces. 

Good to Know: Take a step back in time, imagining the songs of the Order, the chaos in the kitchen, and the experiences of the early pioneers who arrived some four centuries ago.

Go on a Thrilling and Unique Rafting Adventure
Credit: by Bigstock.com

Go on a Thrilling and Unique Rafting Adventure

What Is It? In Nova Scotia, you can experience rafting in a unique way that’s unlike anywhere else on the planet: tidal bore rafting.

Why Do It? It’s powered by the Bay of Fundy’s world-famous tidal bore, with passengers hopping aboard a whitewater Zodiac boat, feeling the rush while riding the 8-foot waves of the world’s highest tides, which has been likened to a roller coaster ride. One minute, you’re peacefully floating along the calm water, taking in the impressive scenery, then the next, the water suddenly transforms into raging rapids.

Good to Know: Fundy Tidal Bore Adventures offers these rafting trips that start from Gosse Bridge in Green Oaks near the town of Truro.

Enjoy Wine Tasting and Touring Vineyard, Nova Scotia
Credit: Vineyard, Nova Scotia by Bigstock.com

Enjoy Wine Tasting and Touring

What Is It? Nova Scotia’s wine is becoming an increasingly popular draw for visitors. 

Why Do It? Beyond its rugged, ocean-battered coastline, the province’s wine offerings are said to even rival that of Champagne, France, despite winemakers having to battle rather challenging conditions, like the rocky, acidic soil and cool temperatures to produce their award-winning white and sparkling wines. 

Good to Know: You can wander alluring country lanes that snake through lush valleys, popping into one of the many wineries for a tasting, tour, and often, a whole lot more, with over 70 grape growers across the province including on Cape Breton, in the Annapolis and Gaspereau valleys, Marble Mountain and beyond.

Hike the Cape Split Trail Cape Split, Nova Scotia
Credit: Cape Split, Nova Scotia by Wikimedia Commons

Hike the Cape Split Trail

What Is It? There are miles and miles of hiking trails throughout the province, but if you’re looking for an ideal day hike, the Cape Split Trail is one of the top day treks in Nova Scotia, situated in Cape Split Provincial Park Reserve. 

Why Do It? The nearly 8-mile round trip coastal hike can be accomplished in about four to five hours, and rewards hikers with unsurpassed views of the Bay of Fundy, and its world’s highest tides. 

Good to Know: It starts at sea level and traverses through a lush canopy of trees before culminating about 200 feet above the water, with sheer cliffs on either side, along with a host of nesting birds to watch.

Go Lighthouse Hopping Peggy's Cove
Credit: Peggy's Cove by bigstock.com

Go Lighthouse Hopping

What Is It? If you like lighthouses, you’ll love Nova Scotia. Travelers to the province are often awestruck by the beauty of the many lighthouses here that have served as beacons to sailors attempting to safely navigate the rugged coast.

Why Do It? One of the most famous is Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, which lies along the south shore. The classic red and white lighthouse situated in the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove marks the eastern entrance of St. Margaret’s Bay and was first lit in 1915. Its image, set atop a mound of rocks with sea waves crashing against has been a striking sight ever since. 

Good to Know: Other lighthouses to visit include the 1864 Boar’s Head Lighthouse, Louisbourg Lighthouse, Low Point Lighthouse, and the Cape Sable Light, the tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia.

Brew Hopping Heritage Brewing Co.
Credit: Heritage Brewing Co. by Heritage Brewing Co.

Brew Hopping

What Is It? Nova Scotia is also a great destination for beer lovers, with its craft brewery scene starting to draw enthusiasts from across the globe – in fact, the capital city boasts the most pubs per capita in the entire nation. 

Why Do It? There’s been an explosion in the craft brewery scene, with nearly 40 breweries in the province to date. 

Good to Know: Enjoy checking out the breweries and brewpubs, craft beer bars, bottle shops, taking tours, and more.

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