If a place could steal your heart, I’m pretty sure Nova Scotia would take it one step further and “accidentally” lose the key.
But in all seriousness, this retrospectively small province of Canada is absolutely breathtaking and doesn’t get enough recognition as it should.
While this area in particular had been on my radar for quite some time, it wasn’t until my husband and I were deciding where we wanted to spend our honeymoon that I suggested us taking the less traditional route of an all-inclusive resort and spend it adventuring around Nova Scotia instead.
Since our wedding took place later in the summer, we opted for an early fall honeymoon in hopes that we could catch all the fall colors and beautiful weather. While most travelers tend to visit Nova Scotia during the summer, I highly suggest visiting early to mid-October. Not only was it beautiful with everything hitting its full autumn peak, but we also couldn’t have asked for better weather during our time there.
Even with a jam-packed schedule trying to see as much as possible while we were in the area, it was the most relaxing trip that was filled with plenty of walks around the coastline, lighthouse viewing and an enough Poutine fries to go around that I can’t help myself from hitting the replay button even now just to relive some of it again.
Here are some highlights from our Nova Scotia adventure:
If there is one thing to note right away about Halifax, it’s the central hub of Atlantic Canada with plenty going on, but still somehow manages to give you that small town feel. With its gorgeous waterfront, awesome food selection, diversity of shops downtown and history lessons along the way, this area offered a lot of what we were looking for during the beginning of our trip.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of the oldest and largest Maritime Museums in Canada, and is also a neat place to see some notable artifacts and collections of Nova Scotia’s marine history. One of the more memorable sections of the museum was learning about Nova Scotia’s role in the aftermath of the Titanic, along with getting to see some of the memorabilia they collected following the disaster.
Also, right outside on the waterfront is the CSS Acadia that you can step aboard to explore on your own. The preservation of this steamship alone is an amazing site to see itself, but you can also get a better idea of its significance throughout its history on the water.
Old Clock Tower
The Old Clock Tower overlooks downtown Halifax, and is located next to the Citadel Hill National Historic site. Even if you don’t plan to take a full tour of the site, the Old Clock Tower is just a quick walk from downtown, and is definitely something worth taking the time to see!
World Tea House
I’m a huge coffee and tea person, so whenever I’m in a new area, I always scope out new places to try. I think it’s the perfect opportunity to not only try something local you wouldn’t find back home, but also to order something you wouldn’t normally get.
If you’re like me and hate making decisions, I always suggest asking the barista for their recommendations, or if you’re willing to really mix it up, have them surprise you with something instead. I ended up going with a recommendation from the barista, and I’m glad I did because I ended up with the most amazing iced concoction that I would have never thought of otherwise.
Either way, if you ever come across this gem in Halifax, order an iced black coconut loose leaf tea with a scoop of dark chocolate, and ask for cold frothed almond milk. It’s a mouthful to order, but it won’t disappoint!
Halifax Public Gardens
A stroll through Halifax Public Gardens is a great way to start or end your day. Since anyone has access to the public gardens during the day (free of charge), it’s the perfect spot to view one of the rare surviving Victorian gardens in Canada and admire its radiating beauty.
Even though I’m an Earth sign, I’ve always considered water to be more of my element. There is something about being near water that seems to brings a sense of calm to my anxious mind, so getting to take as many walks along the waterfront in Halifax as I did was a huge highlight of the trip for me!
Since Halifax was built around the waterfront, it gives you a better idea of its relevance and importance to the city, along with a chance to slow down and take in the scenery. If you’re around Halifax in the evening, I highly suggest catching the sunset as you stroll around the shops, bars and restaurants downtown.
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
This lighthouse is quite a popular spot among tourist (it happens to be the most photographed lighthouse in Canada), but I have to say, with all the people around there the day we were visiting, it was actually quite peaceful. We spent a few hours jumping around from rock to rock just taking in the scenery as we got serenaded by a man wearing traditional Scottish attire playing the bad pipes (it doesn’t get much better than that). But Peggy Cove’s relatively small community was the perfect place to spend a few hours before heading to our next destination.
The fishing village of Lunenburg hands down has to be one of my favorite spots in all of Nova Scotia. This quiet, but vibrant harbor has some of the most beautiful architecture and vibrant buildings around. Whether you are looking to stroll around downtown and hit some of its local shops, or eat at one of the restaurant overlooking the water (I suggest the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic), this harbor’s charm will make you want to extend your trip there a little longer.
Cape Breton Island
It might be considered a remote pocket of Nova Scotia, but the Cape Breton island off the eastern end of this Canadian province is the perfect spot to fully unwind. With their vibrant Celtic music scene, beautiful trails overlooking the coastline and historical background, this area is both rich in history and culture. As secluded as it might seem, there is plenty to see and do here that you will definitely want to make time for.
At the time my husband and I were looking to get more into sailing and possibly buy our own sailboat, so it seemed natural to add this to our list of things to do while we were here. Even if sailing isn’t at the top of your list of activities to try, chartering a boat for the day is a great way to get out on the water and see the area from a different viewpoint.
We ended up going through Cape Breton Sailing Charters in St. Peters, Nova Scotia, accompanied by the friendliest hosts (shootout to Greg and Dawn) and took a half-day trip sailing around St. Peter’s Canal. Part of the trip took us near Chapel Island, where our hosts informed us is where the Native Americans first converted to Catholicism. To this day, they still continue to meet there at least once a year. If you get close enough to the island, you can even see the church and all the homes that surround it. It was a huge highlight to the trip that we wouldn’t have been able to see from land!
Moon Mist Ice Cream
The hype level behind this ice cream is a real, but then again ice cream is my FAVORITE dessert so it’s hard to disappoint me there. Anyways, it’s a mix of banana, bubble gum and grape flavored ice cream that somehow works really well together. If you ever get a chance to try it, you’ll see why it’s a fan favorite over there.
Fortress of Louisbourg
This was actually added to our schedule last minute, and thank goodness it was. Our Airbnb for the night happened to be in Louisbourg, which if you’re in the area the place we stayed would make the perfect place to rend with a couple of friends for the weekend if you’re wanting to explore the Cape Breton Island a little more.
Before heading over to the Fortress of Louisbourg, across the harbor is the Louisbourg Lighthouse. It’s history is tied in with the Fortress, so it’s a great starting point for the day, along with getting a quick hike in for the day to see some of the coastal trails in the area.
The Fortress of Louisbourg though is really a neat historical part of Louisbourg to witness. The city was able to reconstruct around a quarter of what was originally there back in the 18th-century, it was amazing to see how accurate each building was according to the original blueprints of this historically known seaport.
Even though I prefer exploring on my own, I highly recommend taking the hour guided tour because it’s both interesting and informative. Also, the guides are extremely interactive with their small groups, and have a lot of extra knowledge to share on the place that you might not know otherwise.
Whether you choose to go by car or foot, the Cabot Trail is definitely worth seeing. This roadway encircling the Cape Breton Island is specifically known for it’s scenic drive overlooking its coastal waters, but also for its amazing hiking trails toward the northern tip of the island.
Since my husband and I got there fairly late in the afternoon due to last minute plans we added to our agenda, we choose to drive it instead. We probably drove about half of the route – if you choose to do the whole thing it could take up 6 to 8 hours – and spent the remainder of the time stopping a few times to hike around some of the trails and admire the coastline. If we ever get a chance to go back someday, we plan on spending a few days out there just to hike and camp.
Wolfville is a small Canadian town in the Annapolis Valley, which is known to be the heartland of Nova Scotia’s wine industry and offer a stunning view of the Bay of Fundy. But it’s more than just that. It’s a charming small town that has a warm sense of community running through it that makes you wish you could unpack your suitcase and stay forever.
Bay of Fundy
Like most trips (especially toward the end), you seem to wish you had more time to see everything you originally intended on seeing. This was especially true with the Bay of Fundy. It’s known to have the highest tides in the world, and while we got to see some of it spending time in Wolfville, it would have been much better to extend the trip and drive along the northern coastline to see all of it.
What is a trip without wine? Annapolis Valley is considered the heartland of Nova Scotia’s wine industry, and as you can imagine, this area in particular is filled with a bunch of wineries. They even offer a magic winery bus tour to some of the more popular locations in the area, but if you get tired of tours like I do, then I would suggest skipping this one and choose a few around the area that look the most appealing to you.
While all wine is delicious (I mean let’s be real), the one place that stood out amongst the rest was Luckett Vineyards. They had a great selection of reds, white, dessert and fruity wines. While I’m a huge dry, red person, it was great to experience some of their other wines and learn about how Nova Scotia’s fertile soil and climate affects the wines they produce, making it an ideal spot to grow grapes for this particular reason.
If you happen to try this winery, make sure to add the Black Cabernet to your list of wines to try. It was my personal favorite!
Annapolis Cider Company
A few years ago I was on a huge cider kick. While I’m not as into cider as I used to be, we did end up coming across Annapolis Cider Company – a newer establishment in the area – when we were exploring downtown Wolfville.
I absolutely adored this place, and their setup/presentation of each tasting stood out right away. Each tasting came with a small glass of corn kernels placed with your various ciders on an artist’s palette. I’m sure that has been done before somewhere else, but I thought it was a unique way to present a tasting that I hadn’t seen before. Out of the ciders we tried, the sour cherry was by far the best! It wasn’t too sweet, and it also had the perfect hint of nutmeg, which was super satisfying for that time of the year.
If My Heart Ever Returns
I could probably go on forever about Nova Scotia, but really this place makes for the perfect road-trip because there will be so much you will want to see. There are many things I truly admired about this area, but I think what hit home for me was how much it reminded me of living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Between the locals’ friendliness, its relatively small population and being entirely surrounded by water, it brought back a familiar feeling of how life tends to move slower there and reminded me to slow down as well.
Either way, if you’re looking for an offbeat honeymoon destination, or looking for a more under-the-radar place to travel to in general, I would definitely recommend planning a trip to Nova Scotia is the near future.
Stay curious, be present, travel often!