The province of Nova Scotia is located at the far eastern tip of Canada on a bit of land that stretches into the Atlantic Ocean like a giant prehistoric fish with its tail and top fin extended to maximize mass. Part of Atlantic Canada along with New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, charming seaside villages, and delicious foods and wines—a veritable cornucopia of attractions for all ages and interests to enjoy.
We began our visit on the Northumberland Shore in the north-central part of the island at a hidden gem of a resort called Fox Harb'r. This exclusive, secluded luxury resort offered every amenity one could wish for, including a private airfield, world-class golf, award-winning spa, and gourmet kitchen.
Hall’s HarbourAfter days of extreme pampering, we bade farewell to Fox Harb'r and went in search of the authentic Nova Scotia. We headed southwest to the charming seaside village of Hall’s Harbour, a perfect spot to watch the famous tidal surge at the Bay of Fundy, known for the highest tides in the world. We arrived early, at low tide, to see the fishing boats stranded on the harbour bottom, and stayed until the rising tide—as much as an inch a minute—lifted the stranded boats to the 40-foot-high watermark.
Grand-Pré National Historic SiteNext stop was Grand-Pré National Historic Site, one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nova Scotia. Here we learned the tragic story of the Acadians (French Huguenots seeking religious freedom in the new world) who settled in the Grand-Prè area beginning in 1682. They developed unique fishing and farming methods in a semi-autonomous community, relying heavily on the Mi'kmaq Indigenous population with which they developed a peaceful, symbiotic relationship.
In 1755, just before the start of the Seven Years’ War between France and Great Britain, the Acadians refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the British Crown, not wanting to take sides. As a consequence, they were forcibly deported as a security risk under appalling conditions in which families were separated, and many didn’t survive. You can visit the museum and view the graphically depicted story of the deportation and subsequent return, the memorial church, and the site’s magnificent landscaped gardens.
LunenburgOn to the seafaring town of Lunenburg, a throwback to an earlier age with its colourful waterfront, horse-drawn sightseeing buggy rides, narrow winding streets, and pastel-coloured clapboard houses on steep hills rising up from the harbour.
A good way to experience the town is by taking one of the many tours offered; we opted for a walking tour with Essential Lunenburg Tours.
Lunenburg has a dual history of rum-running and shipbuilding, and Old Town Lunenburg is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also home to Nova Scotia’s famous racing schooner, Bluenose II (featured on the Canadian ten-cent piece), which was in-harbour when we visited. One morning, as we enjoyed a leisurely alfresco breakfast overlooking the harbour, we watched long lines of enthusiastic tourists queuing up for a ride.
One of the joys of Nova Scotia for us was the consistently fresh, cooked-to-order, locally sourced, deliciously prepared food we found at every meal. Regardless of the ambience of the restaurant, the food was always outstanding.
You can’t have food without drink, so to honour Lunenberg’s rum-running history we stopped at Ironworks Distillery, a family-owned and -operated boutique distillery that makes vodka and liqueurs from locally grown fruit. Ironworks is housed in an 1892 marine blacksmith’s building; hence the name.
Peggy’s CoveMahone Bay, an artists’ haven, is another charming community filled with craft shops and wonderful eateries that we passed along Route 3 as we made our way to the iconic coastal village of Peggy’s Cove.
This tiny harbour just below the lighthouse is one of the most photographed spots in all of Canada. The day we were there was stunning, with an amazing blue sky, artistically drawn white puffy clouds, and massive boulders polished by sea and wind making a stark, graphic statement against the splashing waves.