From exploring seaside fishing villages and historic towns to beach hopping, wine tastings, and walking on the ocean floor, there are many ways to spend a day or two exploring Nova Scotia.
Looking for suggestions for a spontaneous road trip outside of Halifax? We’ve pulled together five popular day trips to make sure you don’t miss popular activities and highlights along the way!
1. Tour Mahone Bay and Lunenburg
It's a picture perfect postcard view - the Three Churches in Mahone Bay.|| Featured Photo by @bluegreenorange #visitnovascotia #explorecanada With little boutique shops like @haskapa and @sugarbubblesbathbakery, great restaurants like #MateusBistro and self-guided kayak adventures by @capelahaveadventures, Mahone Bay is a great place to stop on your South Shore adventure.
Take the Lighthouse Route from Halifax to Lunenburg for a journey through an unforgettable landscape of coastal beauty and historic charm. Follow shoreline roads past rugged, wave-carved headlands and tranquil, island-studded bays.
Depart Halifax for Lunenburg early in the morning as this is a coast-filled road trip with must-see stops to take in along the way, including Peggy’s Cove, Canada’s most beloved lighthouse. If you’re hungry make sure to try a lobster roll while strolling through the village!
Make your way to Mahone Bay, a small, walkable village on a harbour with lots to explore. Local must-eat stops include The Biscuit Eater, Mateus Bistro, and Jo-Anne’s Deli Market Bake Shop. Don’t leave Mahone Bay without capturing the iconic photo of the Mahone Bay Three Churches.
Visit the seafaring town of Lunenburg, where the bustling waterfront, narrow streets, and captivating and colourful architecture radiate the flavour of the town’s rum running and ship building heritage. Old Town Lunenburg is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to Nova Scotia’s famous racing schooner, the Bluenose, which is also featured on the Canadian 10-cent piece.
- Stop by for a tasting at Ironworks Distillery, a boutique distillery housed in an old ironworks building which makes rum, brandy, spirits, and even makes vodka from apples grown in the Annapolis Valley.
- Visit the Bluenose II, the replica of the original Bluenose schooner, who calls the Lunenburg Waterfront home. Be sure to check the sailing schedule for your chance to sail aboard her in Lunenburg Harbour.
- Get up-close-and-personal with the seafood and seafaring history in Lunenburg with a visit to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Included with the museum pass is access to the working wharf, where you can explore retired fishing schooners, chat with their captains, feel the creatures of the sea in the touch tank, and even learn how to shuck a scallop!
- The Windbag Company of Nova Scotia reclaims old sails into handcrafted specialty items and one-of-a-kind bags of all sizes, shapes, and colours!
- Enjoy a wonderful dinner and relaxing evening at one of Lunenburg’s top restaurants – Fleur de Sel, Salt Shaker Deli, The Old Fish Factory Restaurant & Ice House Bar, and Rime Restaurant & Wine Bar, just to name a few.
The Lunenburg area is too rich to do it all in one day. The best way to get to connect to this town, its heritage, and its people is through the popular Lunenburg Walking Tour. Stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage Site town with your tour guide as they delve into the stories of Lunenburg that can’t be seen from the street.
For the photographer and/or kayaker, a 10-minute drive to the nearby fishing village of Blue Rocks should be on your must-do list. Blue Rocks is a photographer’s and kayaker’s paradise with its shallow, pristine waters and hundreds of islands and inlets to explore. Book a kayaking tour or kayak rental with Pleasant Paddling for an afternoon excursion in a landscape so unique you will be captivated by its beauty.
2. Tour Nova Scotia’s warmest beaches
If you’re looking for the warmest waters north of the Carolinas, you’ll find them here in Nova Scotia. With more warm-water ocean beaches than anywhere else in Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore is a beach lover’s paradise. The region is also home to the award winning Jost Vineyards, bustling villages, and one of the highest ranked resorts in Canada, Fox Harb’r Resort.
Spend the day at the beach
The coastline in this region is dotted with many warm water beaches. Arrive at one of the most beautiful beaches along the Northumberland Shore, Melmerby Beach Provincial Park, where you’ll practically have this two-kilometre sandy beach and boardwalk to yourself.
En route to the beach, a must-stop for snacks is at Masstown Market near the town of Truro. The market has large, bright displays of local fruits and vegetables, made-from-scratch daily baked goods, famous chowders and soups, an ice cream shop, a garden centre, a giftshop, and more.
Oh, and the fish and chips at Masstown Market are sooo good!
Explore a vibrant village
Full of character, Tatamagouche is a thriving seaside village that embraces quality of life along Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore. Be sure to check out the weekend farmers’ market and hop aboard the town’s road train.
Check out these suggestions in the local area to add to your day:
- Experience cooking with locally sourced fish, meats, and produce in the hands-on cooking experience, 'Cooking on the Farm' with the Kilted Chef. Advanced booking is required.
- Enjoy award-wining wines at Jost Vineyards in Malagash. Vineyard tours happen daily.
- Learn how maple syrup is made and be sure to sample it at Sugar Moon Farm.
- Go oystering! Collect, clean, shuck, and taste the delicious treats at Bay Enterprises Limited in Malagash.
- Love lavender? Take a lavender gardens tour, learn about the benefits, shop products, and taste delicious lavender ice cream, at Seafoam Lavender, located in Seafoam.
- Visit the Tatamagouche Brewing Company and pick up some bottles of Hippie Dippie Pale Ale.
- Visit the Northumberland Fisheries Museum and visit the lobster hatchery and to take part in the Adopt a Lobster Program.
- Cider anyone? Visit Malagash Cidery at Bella Vista Farm to sample their line of ciders and stroll through their apple orchards that contain over 100 varieties of apples.
Want to fly direct to Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore?
Fly direct to Fox Harb’r Resort. Private planes frequent from Montreal, Boston, and New York. Consistently ranked among the top Destination Resorts in Canada by leading travel consumer reports and industry peers, Fox Harb’r is one of only five 5-star resorts in Canada and the only one in Nova Scotia. The resort offers classic elegance with a variety of activities including the award-winning Fox Harb’r championship golf course and par 3 course, a luxury spa and wellness center, a deep sea marina, the five-star dining room, and The Willard restaurant for casual dining.
3. Discover Annapolis Valley wineries
A must-do road trip from Halifax is discovering Nova Scotia's award-winning wines.
Framed by two parallel mountain ranges and not more than 20 minutes to the ocean, the Annapolis Valley's rolling fertile fields are becoming known as Nova Scotia’s wine region thanks to over 15 local wineries who work with more than 20 types of grapes.
A trip would not be complete without stopping in to try fresh and crisp cider varieties from the Annapolis Cider Company and unique flavours at Barrelling Tide Distillery. For a complete list of wineries and distilleries featuring 50+ locations across the province, check out the Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail.
Wine tour operators
If you don’t want to worry about driving, there are daily tours departing from Halifax bringing visiting to Nova Scotia’s wine region.
- Go North Tours / Uncork Nova Scotia: Offering daily departures from Halifax and Wolfville from May to November. Unique itineraries for small groups that include wine tastings, "behind-the-scenes" vineyard tours, culinary stops, and gourmet cuisine.
- Grape Escapes: Provides a variety of day tours to Nova Scotia's wine country. Sip and savour your way through wineries and vineyards that show off our cool climate "terroir" and leave the driving to us.
- Wolfville Magic Winery Bus: Hop-on, hop-off wine tours on a traditional British double-decker bus. Departing three times each day from downtown Wolfville and delivering guests to the participating wineries and between locations.
4. Adventure on the Eastern Shore
Are you looking for an authentic outdoor experience? In less than an hour’s drive from downtown Halifax, start your coastal adventure with surfing lessons on Martinique Beach Provincial Park or Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park with a surf school operated by a professional surfer.
Visiting the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia is not complete without exploring the 100 Wild Islands - a fascinating and undeveloped archipelago of islands which feature white sand beaches, bogs, barrens, and forest. These islands are one of the last remaining intact and ecologically rich island groups of this size in North America. To get an impressive experience of these islands, explore them by kayak. Book a tour with Coastal Adventures in advance for an unforgettable experience.
Before heading back to Halifax, stop and enjoy a local meal featuring fresh seafood at The Henley House Pub and Restaurant which is conveniently next door to Sober Island Brewing Company. Yum!
5. Experience the highest tides in the world
Within a 45-minute drive from Halifax, you’ll arrive at the site of the highest recorded tides in the world, Burntcoat Head Park. Their ocean floor tour is offered daily - be sure to book at least 24 hours in advanced as space is limited. At the park, explore the lighthouse, woodland trails, and kilometers of ocean floor while the tide is out.
Not far from Burntcoat Head Park you’ll find the Shubenacadie River, the only place in North America where a tidal bore happens not once but twice daily. Ride these wild rapids with one of the many tidal bore rafting operators in the area, and end your adventure with a mud slide. This is something you can only do in Nova Scotia!