Updated May 10, 2016
The May long weekend is once again upon us, and with it comes the start of the summer road trip season. If you don’t have plans yet (or are looking to plan summer travels over the weekend) we’ve got you covered.
Last year, we covered 12 day trips within two hours of Halifax. The itineraries below are best suited for a weekend adventure. They sum up some of our favourite adventures over the past three years.
Is your favourite place missing? Let everyone know about it in the comments!
1. Adventures in Wine Country:
The area between Windsor and Port Williams is home to NINE wineries, making it the perfect place for a romantic weekend or a getaway with friends. Each winery has a different vibe, so choosing a route is personal preference, though we love to start things off at Avondale Sky Winery. The tasting room is located in an old church that was floated down the river four years ago and the stained glass windows cast bright beautiful coloured light into the tasting room.
Keep an eye out for Tidal Bay, Nova Scotia’s appellation wine, and tour the vineyards to see some of the unique grapes we grow here like Petite Milo and L’Acadie. Don’t have a DD? Stay overnight and pick up a ticket for the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus (July – Oct), which does a daily loop to four wineries, or plan a guided tour with Grape Escapes Nova Scotia Wine Tours with pick-up in Halifax or the Valley. We even did a walking winery tour to four wineries once.
Where to Sleep: This area is home to many quaint and comfortable B&Bs, but we love the breathtaking views and trails you get when you camp at Blomidon Provincial Park (Late May – Early Sept).
Where to Eat: The Port Pub in Port Williams has great food, beer brewed on-site, and possibly the best patio in the province. Paddy’s Pub in Wolfville is our other go-to. We’ve also spent some magical evenings on Le Caveau’s terrace sipping wine and eating appys to live music under a vine-covered trellis.
Region: Bay of Fundy/Annapolis Valley
2. The Pull Of The Tides:
The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world, creating some unique sights and experiences. Start in Shubenacadie by riding the tidal bore (May – Sept). This wet, wild, natural roller coaster ride takes you through rapids that turn the zodiac almost vertical at times. Slide down the mud hills and into the Fundy waters, then shower and head for the 104 (via 102). The drive along the Minas Basin is a winding, roller coaster ride of a road with an ocean view the whole way. Stop at Five Islands Lighthouse Park and learn the story about how Glooscap created the five islands, and look for amethyst on the beaches of Parrsboro.
In Advocate Harbour, kayak the world’s highest tides with Nova Shores (Mid May – Mid Oct). Explore cliffs that once connected us to Morocco, and come face to face with jagged red pillars, sea caves and the wildlife that hide among them. Watch the landscape drastically shift on the way back to shore as new structures emerge from the receding tide.
Take your time exploring the scenic winding roads, sometimes called the “Little Cabot Trail,” then stop at Cape d’Or. Samuel De Champlain named this area The Golden Cape, confused by the gleaming copper in the cliffs.
Where To Sleep: The charming waterside cottages at Driftwood Park Retreat (Apr – Oct).
Where To Eat: Wild Caraway is, in our opinion, one of the best restaurants in the province. Relax in their oversized hammocks while you wait to dine on foraged finds and local fare (Apr – Oct). If you stop over in Parrsboro for the night, check out BlackRock Bistro and Wine Bar. You can also grab picnic goodies at Masstown Market or That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm in Upper Economy. More than just mouthwatering gouda, the farm is home to nature trails filled with birds and animals and babbling brooks straight out of a fairy tale.
Region: Bay of Fundy/Annapolis Valley
3. The Eclectic Annapolis History Tour:
Start in Berwick, the Apple Capital of Nova Scotia, to check out the Apple Capital Museum. Learn about the history of apple cultivation and check out vintage barrels, stencils, and other artifacts. Keep heading along to Ross Farm Museum, a living, working, farm museum that depicts 150 years of agriculture. Try your hand at planting, candle making and wood-working and meet the resident animals and the costumed interpreters.
From there head to Annapolis Royal. Annapolis Royal was once the capital city of Nova Scotia, and is the longest continuous European settlement in North America. It’s here where Samuel de Champlain and Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons first landed in 1605. This small area is one of the most fought-over pieces of land in North America. Today it’s home to significant historic sites like Fort Anne (June – Sept) and Port Royal (Late May – Early Oct), and also boasts more than 130 registered heritage properties and the oldest English graveyard in Canada.
Finally, get a truly unique history interpretation at one of the most celebrated gardens in Canada, Historic Gardens (May – Oct). Here, they tell the history of Annapolis Royal through horticulture with a series of five period themed gardens. Walk along a 400 year old Acadian dyke and stop and smell the roses – they have over 200 varieties in their rose garden!
Where to Eat: End of the Line Pub in Bridgetown is housed in an old train station restored to look as it would have in 1901. You can also pick up picnic supplies at the open air market in Annapolis Royal, which opens with a town crier dressed in period costume.
Where to Sleep: The King George Inn in Annapolis Royal (June – Sept), where you’ll get a lesson in Victorian dining etiquette.
Region: Bay of Fundy/Annapolis Valley
4. Elemental Eastern Shore:
Start at Lawrencetown Beach and Provincial Park for a surf lesson, beach time or a hike on the nature trails. If vintage clothing is your thing, visit nearby Fancy Lucky Vintage Boutique (thanks to Amanda Cashin). Hop back in the car and keep heading along this rugged coastal stretch to the Memory Lane Heritage Village in Lake Charlotte (June 15 – Sept 15) where you can step back to 1940s Nova Scotia. From there, head to Taylor Head Provincial Park in Spry Bay, one of our favourite beaches in the province and home to more great nature trails.
Take your time to sight-see on the way to Sherbrooke Village (June – Sept). There are lovely scenic picnic spots and road side folkart along this route. Sherbrooke Village is a living history museum that brings 1860s Sherbrooke back to life through restored historic houses and costumed interpreters. Finally, head to the “Authentic Seacoast”, in Guysborough. Tour the Rare Bird Brewery, kayak in the Guysborough harbour, sip coffee roasted on-site at the Harbour Belle Bakery, and walk the trails along the harbour while you learn about the history of the town through interpretative panels.
Where to Sleep: We love the stately, romantic rooms, wrap-around deck and mouthwatering dining at DesBarres Manor Inn in Guysborough. If you’d rather camp, there are tons of options all along this area, including Murphy’s Campground (where you can also book a boat tour of the Bay of Islands).
Where to Eat: Desbarres Manor Inn
Region: Eastern Shore
5. Beaches, Birds, and Dark Sky Preserves
The fastest route up the South Shore is the 103 highway, but we recommend the Lighthouse Route, a slow and winding journey along the coast. It’s along this stretch you’ll find some of the province’s best beaches, from Queensland to Hubbards to Rissers to Beach Meadows to the secret healing beach near Hell Bay.
Get out on the water in beautiful Blue Rocks near Lunenburg where you can explore small islands and learn about the vibrant sea life that resides in the clear shallow waters. Visit the nearby Ovens where you can walk into natural waterside caves that were extended by mining during the gold rush. White Point Beach Resort near Liverpool is home to a community of bunnies and a family of piping plovers, an endangered species, just one example of how nature abounds on the South Shore.
Finish your nature trek at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (May 20 – Oct 10) where you can explore the vast network of trails, lakes and rivers on foot or by water. Expect wildlife sightings and some superior stargazing – Keji is a recognized dark sky preserve, a rare designation bestowed by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada that recognizes an area free of light pollution, making it an ideal spot to stargaze.
Where to Eat: There’s a ton of great markets along this stretch. Hubbards Farmers Market is open Saturdays (May – Oct) in a magical little barn, Lunenburg Market is great for those traveling on Thursdays, and the Privateer Farmers Market (May 20 – Oct 8) in Liverpool is another fun stop. See more dining along this stretch in the next itinerary!
6. South Shore Eats:
The South Shore is also a huge foodie destination, many of our favourite restaurants are along this stretch. Start at the Hubbards Farmers’ Market for picnic food, or hop across the street to Trellis.
Lunenburg is home to many top restaurants that range in style from cafe to pub fare to fine dining. Our favourite is Lincoln Street Food where you’ll find small plates made with local fare, cocktails, craft beer, and a very cool atmosphere.
Lunenburg is also home to Fleur de Sel, which has been named a top restaurant in Canada by numerous publications (Closed until 2017).
Some darling and delicious cafes dot the coast between Lunenburg and Liverpool. Best Coast Cafe and LaHave Bakery are well worth a stop, and you MUST stop at Port Grocer for brunch. Seriously this place is so good and the on-site shop is chocked full of local gifts and food. In Liverpool, check out Lane’s Privateers or dine on the river at the Riverbank General Store and Cafe where you can expect simple foods made and displayed perfectly at a price that doesn’t spoil the taste.
For lovers of fine spirits, Lunenburg is home to Ironworks, an artisan distillery that makes a range of spirits from rhubarb liquor to gin to rum in a re-purposed blacksmith shop. Just outside Lunenburg you’ll find two wineries – Petite Riviere and Lunenburg County Winery (fruit wines). For craft beer, head to Hell Bay Brewery, who make English-style ale in downtown Liverpool, then keep going to Shelburne to check out Boxing Rock Brewery.
7. Not Just The Cabot Trail
The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton has made many a list of top attractions and places to see before you die, but it’s just one of a number of great reasons to visit. If you have a few days we suggest starting in Whycocomagh at Firehouse Ironworks where you can become a blacksmith for the day. Keep going along the 105 to Nyanza and taste at the province’s first organic brewery, Big Spruce, then head into Baddeck to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum (May 20 – Oct). Make and fly a kite and take a white glove tour where you can get an intimate look at Bell’s life and work. The town of Baddeck is a great place to shop, grab a bowl of chowder, and grab a coffee for the road, or spend time exploring by sailboat or kayak.
From there, take the road to Margeree and then backtrack to Glenville and tour Glenora Distillery (May – Oct). Even if you’re not into whiskey, the babbling brook, on-site restaurant and copper stills are worth the trip. Next, head up to Inverness and hunt for seaglass, then follow the stretch of the artisan trail from there to the Cape Breton Highlands.
The drive through the highlands is spectacular, but it’s even better when you get out on the trails. Walk the Skyline and see if you can spot a moose, and be sure to go right to the end – the view is worth it. Finally, head to Pleasant Bay for some Whale Watching (June – Sept). This zodiak tour is known for sightings of humpback, pilot, Finback and Minke whales with the occasional Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins, Basking Sharks and shy Harbour Porpoises. We also saw eagles and schools of fish.
Where to Eat: The Bite House, The Rusty Anchor (June – Aug).
Where to Sleep: MacLeod’s Cottages in Inverness is a little piece of paradise (May – Oct).
Region: Cape Breton
8. North Shore Nature:
Truro is technically part of the Bay of Fundy/Annapolis Valley region, but its central location makes it a great stop, or start, for a road trip. Coffee shop hop around the downtown, and do a little shopping in the quickly growing core, for everything from activewear to artisan soaps to material for your next DIY, then relax on the patio at The Nook an Cranny, a craft beer bar and brew pub. From there, to the vast and stunning Victoria Park (above), where you can drop a coin into a wishing well, race up Jacobs Ladder, and relax by Waddel Falls.
Head to Stellarton to explore the Museum of Industry, a fun and interactive space that delves into traditional industries here in the province. Learn how to caulk a boat, use a printing press to make a souvenir, control a mill, and more. Grab a slice of Pictou County Pizza then drive out to “The Merb” for a beach escape. Get even more nature therapy at Arasaig Park where you’ll find fossil filled cliffs, trails, and waterfalls. Finish your journey in Antigonish. Long known as a university town, there’s lots to do for those passing through like the Antigonish Landing Trail and Wildlife Sanctuary and The Townhouse, a community owned English-style brew pub.
Region: Northumberland Shore
9. North Shore Nurture:
Take the first part of itinerary 8, but head to Pictou for your Pictou County Pizza fix. Explore the Tall Ship Hector (June – Oct) and the many artisan shops and restaurants in this area. If you’re a beer lover, take a quick detour to Lyons Brook and pick up some Uncle Leo’s for later, then head along the 106. This pretty stretch will take you past some road side farm stands, Seafoam lavender farm, and past Lismore Sheep Farm and Wool Shop, all great stops (May – Dec).
You’ll eventually come to Tatamagouche where you’ll find the only Prairie-style grain elevator this side of Manitoba and the Anna Swan museum; she was a Nova Scotian who lived in Tatamagouche in the 1800s, made famous by her height (7.5 ft tall). Check out Tatabrew, and explore the Train Station Inn and Restaurant (May – Oct), located in the old Tatamagouche Train Station.
Take route 311 back towards Truro, stopping into Earltown for a maple syrup tasting at Sugar Moon Farm, and a peek at the Earltown General Store.
Where to Eat: Sugar Moon, Mrs. MacGregor’s, or dine in an old rail car at the Train Station Inn.
Where to Sleep: Irwin Lake Chalet, Smith Rock Chalets, Pictou Lodge (May 20 – Oct).
Region: Northumberland Shore
10. Halifax Sampler:
Start along the Halifax Boardwalk. This 4 KM stretch is the world’s longest downtown boardwalk and the hub for many fun sights and activities downtown. You can rent bikes, segways, or kayaks along this stretch to help you explore the city’s rich history. Check out our self-guided history tour of downtown Halifax here. You can also choose a themed tour like a taste tour of one of Halifax’s neighbourhoods or a Halifax Ghost Tour ($15) that takes you through the spookier side of the city.
From the core, you can head in any direction and find a bevy of outdoor activities, scenic vistas, and fun experiences. Here are just a few of our favourites. Head out towards Purcell’s Cove to York Redoubt, a National Historic Site that was part of the same network of forts to guard the harbour as the Citadel and today features the World War II Command Centre. Stop into the Look Off, grab an espresso and browse the art at Pavia, then keep going to Duncan’s Cove for a beautiful hike out to two wartime bunkers (and some amazing ocean views along the way). You can see photos and more info on this itinerary here.
Head out to Fisherman’s Cove, a perfect seaside getaway with a boardwalk, boutique shopping, seafood restaurants and ice cream shops (May – Oct; some shops open longer). From there, hop a boat to McNab’s Island and play I Spy for deer, rabbits, coyotes, and more than 206 bird species. The terrain ranges from cobblestone to sand to salt marsh to coves. For the history buff, McNabs’ historical evidence of use spans back more than 5,000 years up to more recent involvement in World War II efforts.
There are many places in Halifax that you can access by bus. Some of the route numbers have changed since this post, but here are 10 great places you can map out and reach with Halifax Transit.
Where to Eat: A few of my favourites are Lion & Bright, Chives, Eliot & Vine, Robie St. Station, and Rhubarb, but send me a tweet @GillianWesleyNS letting me know what you normally like in food, I’d be happy to make a suggestion.
Where to Sleep: We like the history, comfort, and proximity to the market and boardwalk at The Westin NS, and the romantic seaside cottages at Oceanstone (great if you have a car and are looking to visit multiple regions).
Region: Halifax Metro
11. Clam Digging, Kitchen Parties, and a lot of Lobster:
Start at Rendez-vous de la Baie, a VIC located on the Sainte-Anne University campus, one of the greenest buildings in Canada. Tour the interpretive centre and get a base understanding of the history and culture of the area, and see what’s hiding in the little woods. Clare is the largest Acadian region in Nova Scotia, and you’ll be immersed in Acadian culture, history, and food all along this stretch.
Backtrack to Belliveau Cove for some clam digging (July – August). This was one of our favourite excursions last summer and a great way to spend an hour or two. Each Friday during the summer, Belliveau Cove is home to “Beaux Vendredi”, a lobster dinner on the cove with lively music (June 24 – Sept 2). Nearby, explore the Acadian Cemetery at Major’s Point, then start making your way to the five churches, which includes L’eglise Sainte Marie, the tallest wooden church in North America (see if you can spot the biker on the ceiling).
Clare is home to some of the more unique culinary options in the province, with traditional Acadian dishes like Rapure (clam or chicken depending on where you go) and Chicken Fricot. But it’s also home to many delicious lobster dishes like the mouthwatering creamed lobster at La Cuisine Robicheau.
Head to The Bangor Sawmill (July-Aug) to tour one of the last remaining water-powered saw mills in Nova Scotia, then step back to prohibition times at Smugglers Cove. Finally, relax at beautiful Mavillette Beach. Mavillette is also home to a marsh with some amazing bird watching opportunities. Want more French Shore adventures? Check out these 60 Things To Do In Clare (and see if you can spot us near the end of the flipbook).
Where to Sleep: Stay in the beautifully renovated Chateau Sainte-Marie (April – Oct).
Region: Yarmouth and Acadian Shores
I aimed to organize these road trips by theme, which meant leaving some really amazing things out, and while we’ve explored a lot of places in Nova Scotia, there are many we’ve yet to visit. Plan extra time to explore, or browse our content by region for more ideas. We try to keep these itineraries up-to-date, but it’s best to call the places you’re interested in before you go. Nova Scotia has areas that are quite seasonal. Most importantly, share your favourite places in the comments. It will not only help other readers plan their perfect getaway, but adds new stops for our future NS road trips!
We’ve got many more adventures and road trips coming up this summer. If you’d like to follow our adventures in real time and let us know about places we should check out while on the road, follow @GillianWesleyNS or visit us on Facebook.
Looking for more fun day trips and itineraries? Try these:
How To Rock A Day Trip To The Valley
A Garden Road Trip Through South West Nova Scotia
An Electric Road Trip From Halifax To Sambro
The Hubbards Farmers’ Market and Other Adventures
10 Day Trips Within 2 Hours of Halifax
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