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Into the wild

Discover Nova Scotia - force of nature

Clive Wedderburn November 16, 2017

Nova Scotia maybe comparatively small in size, but in terms of experiences, it’s an epic region, a force of nature, and the perfect opportunity to discover the spectacular landscape and compelling culture of Canada in one bite-sized trip. If you’re looking for wild landscapes, intriguing coastal communities and thrilling adventure, the peninsula and offshore islands of Nova Scotia will welcome you to one of nature’s greatest playground.

Nova Scotia fast facts:

  • Population approximately one million
  • The capital is Halifax
  • Famous for its record breaking high tides
  • Agriculture, fishing and coal mining are three of its largest industries
  • Possesses over 4,700 miles of coastline
  • Mainly English speaking with vibrant French-speaking communities

Best time to visit:

Go during May–October and you’ll be greeted by pleasant weather and many outdoor events and festivals.

Wildlife encounters

If your idea of the perfect holiday is trekking to reveal a panoramic wilderness laid out before you without a hint of human habitation as far as the eye can see, blanketed in woodland, glistening with sparkling lakes and criss-crossed by rivers and streams, then you’re going to fall in love with Nova Scotia.

Although its attractive coastal towns, with their artisanal shops and craft industries, offer unique insights into contemporary Canadian culture, there are so many natural adventures to be enjoyed that you’ll be desperate to pull on your boots and hit the trail.

Nova Scotia enjoys four distinct seasons, each with its own distinct pattern of animal activity for wildlife enthusiasts, from black bear and bald eagle spotting, to the world’s best whale-watching.  It’s a unique habitat containing muskrat, beaver, white-tailed deer, raccoon, woodchuck, skunk, snapping turtle, osprey, coyote and bobcat.

Outdoor types can take things easy with a picnic at Clam Harbour Beach, or stroll through the breathtaking scenery of Cape Breton particularly striking in late autumn, or get active and cycle the boardwalk at Inverness Beach. The clear skies at night are widely celebrated too, so a full moon tour among the lighthouses of the Cabot Trail will be one of many highlights of your Canadian adventure.

The Bay of Fundy

Mention the Bay of Fundy to any geologist or palaeontologist and watch their eyes sparkle in appreciation. It’s an extraordinary natural wonder, whose position, equidistance from the Equator and the North Pole, has created a very special ecosystem.

Comb the coastline for evidence of Triassic dinosaur fossils, particularly at Joggins Fossil Cliff, and you’ll uncover mysteries from life on our planet over 300 million years old. The Bay of Fundy is also a sanctuary for a massed gathering of seasonal birdlife, including sandpipers, yellowlegs and plovers, drawn to the feeding grounds created by vast tidal flats. The Bay of Fundy is renowned for its many species of whale, porpoises, dolphins and seals. Embark on a thrilling Shubenacadie river tour along Nova Scotia’s longest river and you’ll be riding the crest of the waves, or more precisely the phenomenon known as the tidal bore, which rises by as much as 30 feet in three hours, the highest tides on earth.

History of Nova Scotia

Wander through Nova Scotia and history buffs will find plenty to pique their curiosity. To the First Nation people it was Mi'kma'ki, to the French it was L’Acadie, while the British called it New Scotland. Look closer and you’ll find Birchtown, founded in 1783 and home to the largest Black Loyalist community in North America. Meanwhile, Halifax, its capital, is remembered for many things, not least for its involvement in the Titanic disaster of 1912. The world’s largest pre-nuclear explosion also happened here in 1917 when a munitions ship caught fire and the resulting explosion killed 2,000 people.

Halifax

Explore Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax and you’ll find the Old Town Clock has chimed since 1803, and a gun has been fired every day at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site since 1856. Halifax is also the second largest ice-free harbour in the world, and, with its locally owned boutique stores, cafes and restaurants, is a must-see stop on your tour of Nova Scotia.

Ascend the heights to its old fort, the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and gaze out over a city with more pubs per capita than any other in Canada, plus, it’s also home to no less than six universities. Explore the architectural masterpiece that is the Halifax Central Library and absorb the views from its floor to ceiling windows. After a stroll along the Halifax Waterfront, head over to the Titanic Exhibition at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to discover how the disaster of 1912 directly affected the city, whose cable ships were the first to reach the scene of the tragedy. 

Signature dishes

You’re going to eat well in Nova Scotia, that’s for sure. The food culture that is prevalent all over Canada is accentuated here, after all, its plentiful farms and fisheries ensure there’s no shortage of quality culinary experiences. Expect to find specialty food stores, craft breweries and distilleries, food trucks and farmer’s markets to wander through and gourmet experiences created from the finest local ingredients. 

Nova Scotians love their seafood pies and local desserts such as the intriguingly named blueberry grunt. While in Halifax, after a late night they’re partial to snacking on a donair, a beef-filled pita wrap that’s tasty and tempting after a beer or two. But if there’s one dish that typifies this province’s approach to food, it’s the lobster, and we doubt you’ll find a finer example anywhere in the world. Take a stroll along any wharf in Shelburne, Nova Scotia’s lobster capital, watch the fishing boats unload their catch, then head to the closest seafood restaurant for the best lobster you’ve ever tried. As they say in these parts, if you haven’t eaten lobster in Nova Scotia, then you haven’t eaten lobster.

Where to stay 

There’s a wide range of accommodation to choose; humble B&Bs, cosy cottages or boutique hotels with breathtaking sea views – so you’ll be spoiled for choice. But like many explorers who have reached these shores, you may not want to be fixed to one spot.

And why should you be when Nova Scotia is a road trip waiting to happen, with highways that wind through forests, circumnavigating rivers and lakes and climbing above clifftops to reveal rugged coastal shores: this is true motorhome country and it makes perfect sense to have your wheels and accommodation in one place.

Tempted?

Nova Scotia calls to the explorer in us all. Its dramatic landscape is only matched by the laidback attitude of its people, their delicious cuisine, and fascinating culture and history. You visit Nova Scotia to enjoy the freedom of the open road, its wide open spaces, impressive wildlife, and to experience a true force of nature. If you’d like to know more, check out our Canada Pages for more inspiration.