Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s Atlantic Provinces. With around 950,000 inhabitants, it is one of the least populated. As a peninsula exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, Nova Scotia has a more maritime climate than mainland Canada, with mild winters and cool summers
Some of the highest tides in the world and the Joggins UNESCO World Heritage site
Beaches with some of the warmest water north of the Carolinas
The main tourist draw of the province with the historic city of Halifax and the iconic rocks and lighthouse of Peggy’s Cove
A historic agricultural region with many small towns and villages
Beaches and picturesque seaside villages like Mahone Bay and Lunenburg
Yarmouth and Digby
The far western tip of Nova Scotia where Acadian culture lives on; inland is the large protected Tobeatic Wilderness Area
The less travelled, wilder shore
Cape Breton Island
Celtic and Acadian culture, and the scenic Cabot Trail
1 Halifax — Capital of the province and economic and cultural hub of Eastern Canada. There’s history to explore, culture, beaches and friendly laid-back East Coast hospitality.
2 Amherst — Closest city to the Joggins Fossil Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3 Dartmouth — The “City of Lakes” across the harbour from Halifax.
4 Guysborough —
5 Lunenburg — Historic fishing village with the brightly painted houses and picturesque townsite. UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6 Pictou —
7 Sydney — Largest city on Cape Breton Island and close to the ferry to Newfoundland
8 Windsor —
9 Yarmouth —
Other destinations : Tobeatic Wilderness & Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve. The largest protected wilderness area in Atlantic Canada. The Tobeatic is a large natural area that spans five counties and more than 104,000 hectares of central southwestern Nova Scotia. Nine major rivers flow from the Tobeatic and over 120 lakes are found within the wilderness area. The wilderness area is available to the public for canoeing, birding, and other outdoor pursuits for the enjoyment of nature.
The Tobeatic features numerous species of interest including the last native population of moose, black bear, southern flying squirrel, Blanding’s turtle, Eastern ribbon snake, Bald Eagle, brook trout, Lady Slipper orchids, and various carnivorous and non-chlorophytic flowering plants.
Brier Island in the Bay of Fundy. Brier Island is a unique destination situated off the end of ancient basalt formation (Digby Neck) jutting out into the world famous Bay of Fundy. This area is rich in marine life (Whale watching, Atlantic flyway for migrating birds and has a resident seal colony) The area has been long visited by naturalists who regularly spot rare and endangered plants. Rock hounds will be impressed with the many types of rock formations and can find quartz, agate jasper, amethyst and even zeolite.
An area truly unspoiled, off the beaten track and deeply steeped in maritime tradition. (Home of the famous Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail solo around the world in 1895 on the Spay a 37’ sloop.) Brier Island offers many trails to explore both easy and challenging for hikers on short or extended visits. The island is accessible by two short ferry rides from the end of Digby Neck. Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site is an amazing place to visit., Maitland Bridge, Annapolis County, Nova Scotia
Understand : For a population just under a million Nova Scotia is remarkably diverse: Mi’kmaq, Scots descendants, black Nova Scotians, French Acadians, Annapolis Valley farmers, Cape Bretoners and Haligonians all form distinct groups with their own unique quirks, culture and language. The novel “Rockbound” is written entirely in the South Shore dialect of the fishermen of that region, a fusion of Shakespearean English, German and unique local idioms.
Champlain named Nova Scotia “Acadie” and claimed it for France in 1604. French immigrants settled the area and became prosperous farmers and fisherman. However, they were expelled by the British in the mid 18th century, with their lands, especially on the South Shore, repopulated with “foreign Protestants”, meaning mostly Dutch and Germans. Many areas still retain a strong Acadian French culture, including the largest Francophone municipality, Clare in Digby County and Argyle, in Yarmouth County. Nova Scotia hosted the World Acadian Congress in 2005. The Louisiana “Cajun” is a slang adaptation of “Acadien” in the French. Longfellow’s poem “Evangeline” celebrates the victims of the expulsion, as does Zachary Richard’s drum and voice song “Reveille”. Because of the expulsion, French is far more commonly heard in New Brunswick.
Halifax, the capital, is one of the oldest cities in North America and was a critical sea link during World Wars I and II. The infamous “Halifax explosion” caused by collision of two ships in Halifax Harbour in 1917 was the worst man-made explosion on Earth until Hiroshima in 1945. Halifax today is an education and high technology centre, with over a dozen post-secondary institutions including Dalhousie University and substantial operations by major high-technology firms.
Academics have unusual influence in Nova Scotia, perhaps because of their concentration in the capital. Many have even written legislation. Unless you are a winter surfer, or like to snowshoe, then it is probably best to visit Nova Scotia sometime between June and October, when the weather is warm, the skies are blue and the water may be less frigid. The main byways are along the coast, and a lot of small shops and restaurants are open around the coast during the summer months. Watch out for mosquitoes and horseflies in the summer, however, especially after a storm
Access : Coordinates: 45, -63 / By plane : Robert L. Stanfield International Airport (YHZ IATA), at Halifax, is the main international airport in the province. Flights can also be made to Sydney, via JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport (YQY IATA), from Halifax, or periodically from Boston, Toronto, or other Maritime cities. By car : Nova Scotia is part of the Trans-Canada Highway linking it with New Brunswick at Amherst. It is roughly a three hour drive from Moncton to Halifax and 3.5 hours from Charlottetown to Halifax.
By bus : Two bus companies — Greyhound Canada and Maritime Bus — provide inter-provincial bus service to Nova Scotia. They can be useful if your destination is along the Trans-Canada highway or the Truro-Halifax corridor, but service does not extend far elsewhere. For more structured bus trips / transport there is also Out Here Travel a backpacker focused hybrid bus transport / tour company which picks up passengers in the Toronto and other nearby locations – heading east primarily. For trips to national parks, such as Algonquin Park, there is also Park Bus. By boat : Ferry service is available from Prince Edward Island to Pictou, Digby to Saint John, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland to North Sydney. Ferry service from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth ceased on December 15, 2009. A ferry from Portland to Yarmouth has been reinstated. By train : Via Rail provides service connecting Halifax to Montreal three times a week. The trip takes 22 hours and also stops at Truro and Amherst
Attractions : Peggys Cove Lighthouse, 35 km SW of Halifax on road 333 is a lighthouse on rounded rocks. There is a restaurant and tourist information, but otherwise it is just big rocks with a dozen small houses and 60 people living there. Outside Peggys Cove on the 333 there are plenty of B&Bs and restaurants.
Swissair Memorial, close to Peggys Cove on the 333.
Cape Breton Highlands A profoundly beautiful drive any time of the year but it is most pristine in Autumn, once the leaves change.
Bras d’Or Lake (Pronounced ‘bre-dor’, an inland sea within the island of Cape Breton).
Bras d’or Lake
Cape George Lighthouse, on the Northeastern mainland coast, near Antigonish.
Citadel Hill, A daunting Vauban style fortification dating from the first half of the 19th century it is called the ‘Warden of the North.’ Located in downtown Halifax you can’t miss it.
The Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere, Tobeatic Wilderness Area, and Kejimikujik National Park in the southern half of the province–the largest protected wilderness area in Atlantic Canada
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, the largest reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town in North America.
Activities : Fossil Collecting Many beaches along the shores of Cape Breton Island have exposed coal seams and rocks containing fossilized ferns and other flora can be found in these areas.
Tidal Bore Rafting. Experience the highest tides in the world by riding on the tidal bore wave in a raft. Exhilarating fun, even when the moon isn’t full.
Victoria Park, Truro. This 400-hectare (1,000-acre) park in Truro came into being in 1887 and attracts many visitors each year to its wooded trails, swimming pool, picnic areas, waterfalls, ball field, playground, and outdoor stage. During winter months, visitors enjoy walking, snowshoeing, skating and cross-country skiing in The Park. It’s truly a year-round facility.
Hike the Trans Canada Trail in Nova Scotia
Go next : Ferries leave for Newfoundland from North Sydney
Ferry service to Maine runs from Yarmouth
New Brunswick and Quebec can be reached in a day’s drive on the Trans-Canada Highway
Prince Edward Island (PEI) can be reached via ferry from Caribou Wharf near Pictou, or via the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick.
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