With its mild weather, vibrant foliage, and irresistible seafood, Nova Scotia makes for an ideal fall getaway in any year, but the weak Canadian dollar makes it a bargain for American travelers to visit right now. Here are five reasons to explore this Canadian province in the coming months.
From September 11–20, Hike the Highlands offers guided hikes in the scenic Cape Breton Highlands on Cape Breton Island. Groups are limited to 20 hikers and are first come, first serve.
In Halifax, check out the Atlantic Film Festival, which runs September 17–24 and is a celebration of film, media, and music from Atlantic Canada and beyond. Another Halifax-based festival is Nocturne: Art at Night, which takes place on October 17 and “brings art and energy to the streets of the city” between 6 pm and midnight. Check out the full schedule of galleries with interactive performances and events.
Other highlights include the Valley Pumpkin Festival in Annapolis Valley, taking place the entire month of October; the Mahone Bay Scarecrow Festival and Antique Fair (October 2–4); and the quirky Whirligig Festival, scheduled for September 19–20 in Shelburne. There are awards for whirligigs and the best weathervane, displays of local arts and crafts, and even a ukulele hootenanny.
Provincial capital Halifax is the largest city in Nova Scotia and is great for walking. To tour some of the highlights by foot, start at the Old Burying Grounds, then head up Spring Garden Street to the Halifax Public Gardens, one of the finest manicured Victorian gardens in North America. Tours and concerts take place through September 23rd, and it’s open to the public through November. Wander through the park to see the bandstand, fountains, statues and lovely floral designs. Head down towards the waterfront on Sackville Street to see the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, where you can learn about the life of a Victorian-era solider.
Down along the harbor is the indoor Halifax Farmers Market, where you’ll find beautifully displayed fresh produce and prepared food. Heading out from the market, meander along the waterfront boardwalk, stopping at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Currently there’s an exhibit dedicated to the shipping magnate Cunard as well as a permanent exhibition about the Titanic with lots of artifacts. Don’t miss the perfectly preserved William Robertson & Son store, a maritime hardware store and ship chandlery from the 1800s.
Charming Seaside Towns
Outside of Halifax, you can easily visit many of the most picturesque seaside towns and communities, many with Victorian, Colonial, or Gothic Revival architecture. Each spot has its own story that brings to life their unique immigrant roots and fishing heritage. The charm of Peggy’s Cove comes from its picturesque lighthouse, simple houses perched along the inlet, and giant boulders facing the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with historic buildings and a vibrant waterfront that includes the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and is port to the Bluenose II, a replica of the schooner pictured on the Canadian 10-cent piece. It’s also home to descendants of Swiss, German, and French immigrants who were recruited by the British to settle the area. Shelburne was a Loyalist boomtown, and today is a popular location for films and TV productions. Wolfville, in the Annapolis Valley, is home to Acadia University and is a vibrant cultural hub. It offers an outstanding, year-round Saturday-morning farmers market and is a good base for exploring the Bay of Fundy and Gaspereau Valley, home of many wineries.
Through October 18, you can pick your own lobster at Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound and have it steamed and served with butter or in preparations like lobster mac and cheese, poutine, or lobster rolls. Other delicacies include large and sweet Digby scallops and the sweet, briny and luscious Ruisseau oysters grown and harvested by a seventh-generation Acadian on Eel Lake. Boat tours of the oyster farm are available and include a sampling of oysters. Fans of chowder should pick up a “Chowder Trail” passport from a participating restaurant or Nova Scotia Visitor Information Center, and collect stamps for each bowl eaten to qualify for prizes; the promotion runs through October 19.
Nova Scotia produces aromatic whites with crisp acidity, dry rosés, and some supple, soft red wines. The grapes are mostly hybrids; the whites include l’Acadie, Vidal, Seyval, Geisenheim, Muscat, Ortega, and Traminette. Most Nova Scotia reds are also hybrids including Lucie Kuhlman, Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Castel and Baco Noir. Some wineries like Benjamin Bridge are focusing more and more on European vinifera: Their Nova 7 is a top selling lightly sparkling off dry wine with bright acidity that pairs beautifully with seafood. The designation Tidal Bay most closely resembles a Nova Scotian appellation, and each white wine blends beautifully reflects the terroir, coastal breezes and cool climate.
A beautiful winery to visit in the LaHave River Valley is Petite Riviere. Winemaker and proprietor Barbara Thomson’s rosé and elegant restrained red wine blends are particularly noteworthy.
From Wolfville, an easy way to explore the local wineries is on the Magic Winery Bus. It’s a hop-off tour of four local wineries in a traditional British double decker bus and runs Thursday through Sunday until October 18.