Gardens, Growlers and Whirligigs in South West Nova Scotia

My dad had been wanting to go to The Historic Gardens for a long time. He’s a talented gardener, and for him, there is nothing quite like a garden road trip. So to celebrate his birthday, the whole family gathered together and hit the road for Annapolis Royal. It’s a bit of a trek from Halifax, but two hours later we arrived.

The Historic Gardens tell the history of Annapolis Royal through flowers and other horticulture. We’ve visited a number of times. June is our favourite time of year to visit to see hundreds of roses in bloom, but there aren’t many bad times to visit and the gardens are formally open May – October.

Historic Gardens 3

Historic Gardens Annapolis Royal Nova Scoita

It was a Saturday, so from the gardens we headed down the street to the Annapolis Farmers’ Market. This has got to be one of my favourite markets in the whole province. It is a good ol’ fashioned open air market, and a town crier announces its opening each week. The summer market runs May 16 – October 10.

Annapolis Royal Farmers Market

Annapolis Royal is a gem of a town, and a place that really celebrates history. It has one of the highest concentrations of historic houses in Canada, and the town has banded together on more than one occasion to save or clean up areas of historic significance.

Fort Anne sits right in the middle of the town, next door to the oldest English graveyard in the province. It also happens to be the most fought over area of land in North America, and the longest continuous European settlement in North America.

annapolis Royal Oldest Graveyard Nova Scotia

We spent some time exploring on foot, then hopped back in the car and made our way to The Wilder.

It was a little out of our way, but The Wilder is worth it. The young couple who own it bought the long-time family business and moved from Halifax to just outside Kejimkujik Park to run it. The menu is full of simple, local, delicious things, and the owners are good, down to earth people. They hold outdoor movie nights. It feels like a little community.

The Wilder Restaurant Keji Nova Scotia

We sat on the deck with Charlie and the whole family, and ordered a mix of local cider, burgers, and sandwiches. The Wilder re-opens for their 2016 season on May 20th.

The Wilder Restaurant Keji Nova Scotia

The Wilder Restaurant Keji Nova Scotia

From there, it was off to Shelburne where we stumbled upon a Whirligig Festival and heard a 29 ukulele rendition of “8 Days a Week”.

Whirligig Festival Shelburne

The Whirligig Festival takes place each September (the next one is September 17 & 18, 2016). The entire historic waterfront is taken over by handmade whirligigs. There are some really funny pieces. You should definitely add this festival to your list.

Whirligig Festival Shelburne

We went a little further to grab a growler fill from Boxing Rock, then started back toward Liverpool.

Boxing Rock Brewery Nova Scotia

We wanted to stay at White Point Beach Resort overnight, but they were full, so we booked a room at The Best Western Liverpool, which is pretty close to the downtown area. You’ll want time to explore downtown Liverpool. We love the Sipuke’l Gallery, Hell Bay Brewery, Oscar’s Coffee Shop, dining at Lane’s Privateer Inn and the Queen’s County Museum. There is also a Farmers’ Market Saturday mornings from May through to October. And hopefully Perkins House will be re-opened soon!

In the morning, we had more garden adventures, this time with a stop at Cosby’s, a quirky, cool garden shop just outside the downtown.

Cosby's Liverpool Nova Scotia

You can get some really different plants at Cosby’s, like Petasites japonicus, Gunnera, bamboo and elephant ears. But the real attraction is the sculptures. The space is filled with unique, whimsical large-scale sculptures, all made on-site by talented local artisan Ivan Higgins.

Cosby's Sculpture Garden Liverpool


We also stopped to check out Pine Grove Park, which has an extensive collection of rhododendrons. May and June are really the best months for this one, but even out of season we enjoyed walking the trails. Noticed in Nova Scotia has a really great piece on this stop, complete with in-season photos, which you can (and should) read here.

Liverpool Nova Scotia Rhododendron Park

The Port Grocer, one of our favourite brunch spots in the province, is on the way home. We didn’t stop in on this trip, but if you have time, add it. You can read about it HERE.

Port Grocer

We took the slow way home, via the Lighthouse Route. It’s been my path to many fun adventures and discoveries over the years. On this trip, it led us to La Have Bakery, a stop known for their beautiful breads and homestyle baked treats.

La Have Bakery Nova Scotia

There’s tea and coffee and a selection of local preserves and other local groceries, and more substantial meals, too, if you’d like to sit a while. We left with bags of bread and sweets, and hot cups of mochas and chai lattes.

La Have Bakery Nova Scotia

La Have Bakery Nova Scotia

By the time we reached Chester Basin, we were getting hungry, so we stopped into The Galley, a restaurant that is right off the Lighthouse Route. Coming from Halifax, signage is good, but if you’re coming from the opposite direction like we were, keep your eyes peeled. The sign is small and comes up quickly.

The Galley has a great water view and a small menu – just two well-spaced pages. My parents both ordered a seafood tart and I settled on a crisped prosciutto burger on a gluten-free bun. 

The Galley Chester Basin Nova Scotia

My burger was good, though I was disappointed that there was a GF surcharge, and that they didn’t tell us until the bill came.

The Galley Chester Basin Nova Scotia

My parents agreed that the seafood tart was great!

We headed two minutes down the road for one last garden stop, the well-known Oceanview Greenhouse. Dad and I have made the trip here from Halifax on many occasions. They have a great selection of plants, and home and garden goods, and it’s only about 35 minutes on the highway.

Oceanview Garden Centre Chester

That was the end of this particular garden road trip, but there is so much more to do along this stretch. I’ve included some of my favourite places below. Now I want to hear yours. Leave a note in the comments with your favourite South Shore/Annapolis Valley adventures!

Privateer Days – a log rolling, axe throwing, sleigh riding, ghost touring, costume wearing good time
Great Expectations Coffee Shop and Antiques in Annapolis Royal
Port Royal National Historic Site

Looking for more fun day trips and itineraries? Try these:
How To Rock A Day Trip To The Valley
An Electric Road Trip From Halifax To Sambro
The Hubbards Farmers’ Market and Other Adventures
10 Day Trips Within 2 Hours of Halifax

Thanks to Michael and Kate, my fantastic HB co-workers, for the late-night title brainstorm. Michael solved the title dilemma after a long string of emails.

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About the author

The Local Traveler

Two travellers' tales of finding adventure on the East Coast. This blog is dedicated to the best parts of travel, and to discovering, celebrating and promoting things to do in our corner of the world, and sometimes beyond. We especially love craft beer, day trips, romantic escapes, local food & hidden gems. Join our community on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and share tips and photos of your favourite East Coast adventures.

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