Nova Scotia w/kids in a week

Old Apr 11th, 2004, 03:12 PM
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Nova Scotia w/kids in a week

we're thinking of going to NS for a week in august with kids 12 & 10 (Sunday to Sunday). I've been doing some research and it looks like there's a ton to do, but I don't want to spend the whole trip in the car. Must do's: are titanic museum and whale watching. my husband also wants to go to PEI. any suggestions on the best way to do this?

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Old Apr 11th, 2004, 07:50 PM
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I did this trip in 12 days last summer with my 10-year-old daughter. Nova Scotia and PEI are fabulous! In my opinion, you can do Halifax in a day -- see the Citadel ceremony and Maritime Museum (fantastic exhibits not only on the Titanic but also on the Halifax explosion). A short drive to the west of Halifax are Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg, with postcard-like fishing village views. East of Halifax (about a 4-hour drive) is Cape Breton Island, featuring great Celtic music, the breathtaking Cabot Trail drive (which takes a full day), the Fortress at Louisbourg (a sort of French Williamsburg), and Highland Village in Iona (a recreated Scottish living history village with a fantastic children's program on certain days). I believe you can do whale watching on Cape Breton Island also. If you have a daughter, go to PEI and see Anne of Green Gables' house and Avonlea Village in Cavendish, then the fantastic Anne musical in Charlottetown. Also noteworthy on PEI is the almost-nightly Scottish music and dancing program at the College of Pipes & Drums in Summerside. The drives within PEI are amazingly short. We drove over the Confederation Bridge when arriving on PEI and departed via the ferry. Both take a similar amount of time -- just depends on what part of the island you are wanting to visit.
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Old Apr 11th, 2004, 08:13 PM
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Let me know if you have boys or girls and I can help you tailor an itinerary to their interests. If no one is interested in Anne of Green Gables attractions, you'd probably be better off not going to PEI, since you're so limited on time.
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Old Apr 13th, 2004, 01:36 AM
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From where are you departing? May make it easier on entry and exit of the Atlantic Provinces?

If you wanted to do Halifax area - two days would probably suffice. You can take whale watching tours out of Halifax Harbour. Last summer I was working in downtown Halifax and we watched whales in the Harbour from our office tower.

On your way out of the city towards Pictou County (to catch the ferry), stop off at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. Always a few hours fun looking at the various animals. Bring a picnic lunch and spend it at their picnic park. As you leave Shubenacadie, there is a little mini golf, gift shop, etc. at Stewiacke.

On your way to PEI, I would recommend spending a day in Pictou County. The kids would enjoy the museum of industry, Town of Pictou, Melmerby beach. The water is as warm as PEI, but without the plentiful tourists. You can depart for PEI from Pictou on the ferry which kids usually love as well.

The kids will enjoy PEI's Cavendish area with lots to see and do - but the beach is truly the big attraction! If you love to bike, PEI has great biking trails - bring your own or rent.
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Old Apr 13th, 2004, 08:05 AM
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There are plenty of locations where you can take 'whale watching' trips in Nova Scotia but I highly recommend the Brier Island area on the lower Bay of Fundy.

August is a very good whale viewing time in that region with a good chance to see Northern Right Whales and several other species.

Let me know if you want specific tour operator suggestions.

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Old Apr 13th, 2004, 03:53 PM
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My 16 year old son and I spent 9 days in Nova Scotia and PEI last year. Below is a report of the trip that we took. To narrow it down to seven days and avoid spending as much time in the car as we did, I'd visit Halifax, Cape Breton Island and PEI.

In Halifax we spent two nights at the Cambridge Suites, having obtained a half-price rate (about $130US) using our Entertainment card. Our sixth floor room had a pleasant if distant view of the harbor, which was particularly nice at night when the lights came on across the harbor in Dartmouth. The suites include a microwave and minifridge, and the facility has a nice roof top area with picnic tables and a gas grill for guest use. An unremarkable continental breakfast is included with the room. The location was right across from the Citadel and very convenient to Spring Garden Road and the public gardens and a 3 block walk (uphill) from the waterfront.

We loved the Citadel, spending an hour before closing on our first day there and returning the next day to complete our tour. We took a guided tour of the fortress, watched the noon gun being fired, saw the multimedia presentation (initially Noah balked at this but later agreed it was very interesting), talked with the ?teacher? who showed us magic lantern slides, and saw a rifle demonstration. There?s a great view from the citadel looking down over Halifax and the harbor.

We both enjoyed Pier 21, particularly the 4D presentation. There are real objects on the stage (e.g. packing crates, train car, benches) while people are portrayed through 3D holograms. We?d never seen anything like this before. The story is narrated by a man who supposedly worked at Pier 21 during its 50 years of operations. Interspersed in the narration are scenes of folks who came through Pier 21 (Russian immigrants, returning soldiers, war brides, etc.). We also thought the World War II display was the most interesting with little kiosks where you could see brief video narrations related to Pier 21.

We also visited the Maritime Museum and enjoyed the below decks guided tour of one of the boats, the exhibit about the Halifax explosion, and the small exhibit on the Titanic. Strolling on the waterfront was fun, although there was only one busker performing while we were there.

While we were in Halifax we drove down to Peggy?s Cove in the evening. By seven the light was gorgeous and the tourists had diminished. The lighthouse is surrounded by huge, round rocks and crashing surf. I was able to get a neat photo of the lighthouse reflected in a tide pool on one of the rocks (without any tourists in the picture!). While the ride between Halifax and Peggy?s Cove was not particularly scenic, the outskirts of the area was really interesting and rugged.

Upon returning to Halifax, we drove to Point Pleasant Park. What a neat area! I?m sorry we didn?t have more daylight to explore the park. The parking lot was being used as a cruise night but as we walked along the shoreline, we moved beyond views of the industrial area across the harbor to great views of less congested shoreline across the harbor.

While we had originally booked three nights in Halifax, we decided to reroute our trip slightly. We left Halifax around 8:30am, taking the highway down to Lunnenburg. My 16 year old son and I drove around town and visited the Museum of the Fisheries. The most fascinating part of the Museum was walking around on the boats and talking to the various docents. We learned about the seasonal nature of lobstering and the various techniques/regulations from a man who had helped his uncle, a lobsterman. Another docent talked about rum running which supplemented Nova Scotia fisherman?s income and the fact that it still isn?t talked about, 50 years after the last province ended prohibition. Near Lunnenburg we also visited the Ovens Natural Park taking a short walk to visit the sea caves and Blue Rocks, a cute fishing town nearby. Both were pleasant, but I wish we had skipped the Ovens and substituted a guided walking tour of Lunnenburg.

From Lunnenburg we took the Lighthouse Trail north to Mahone Bay and Chester. Mahone Bay is a cute town with a main street which is fun to stroll. Friends recommended a restaurant, Mimi?s Ocean Grill, which had been recommended to them by a B&B owner on the other side of the island. The ambiance and menu looked great, but unfortunately we arrived 15 minutes after the lunch hour ended. We ate at one of several little cafes with decks over the water.

From Chester we took the highway back towards Halifax. I was amazed that there was no highway bypass and we ended up driving through Halifax/Dartmouth during rush hour, before being able to pick up the highway again on the other side of Dartmouth. We picked up the Marine Drive, detouring to visit the Musquodoboit Harbour a pretty 9 mile ride to a 3 mile beach, one of the longest sand beaches in Nova Scotia.

The Lighthouse route seems to be particularly popular, but we actually spent more time near the water (lots of pretty coves and inlets) on the Marine Drive. Fairly isolated, lovely scenery. The only reason we ventured this way was to get to Sherbrook Village which Noah wanted to visit and which is not close to the highway. The highlight of Sherbrook Village was the blacksmith, who spent quite a bit of time talking with us and demonstrating his craft as well as how to ride an old fashioned bicycle, and the Ambrotype photography shop. The photography shop is over the general store and is one of three places in North America that continues to make ambrotypes-a photographic image on glass. Noah agreed to pose for a photograph (very unusual!) and had a choice of dressing as a farmer or middle class person. He had to hold still for about 10 secs. while the image was being captured. We got to look through the camera and watch the glass plate being prepared with chemicals. The photograph is a wonderful souvenier and very reasonably priced at $30CAD. It also enabled us to see a demonstration of the ambrotype process.

While we enjoyed Sherbrook Village and the Marine Drive, it took a lot longer to get around, and in retrospect I wish I?d gone directly from Halifax to Cape Breton Island and skipped the Lunnenburg area and Sherbrook Village.

While I liked the other areas we visited on this trip, Cape Breton Island (and possibly Prince Edward Island) was the only area to which I would consider returning. Destinations worthy of a return visit generally have to include spectacular scenery, which Cape Breton certainly has-particularly along the Cabot Trail area.

We arrived on Cape Breton in mid afternoon and followed the Ceildgh Trail (and off road detours) described in the Doers and Dreamers Guide to the point where it meets the Cabot Trail. We spent our first night on Cape Breton at the Normaway Inn. The Normaway Inn consists of a small lodge with a few guestrooms, a dining room and a large, living room where is music is normally played in the evening. Most guests stay in cabins. Ours was built in the 1940s, but had been modernized to include newer wooden floors and a wood stove. A large screened in porch had a two person swing, a wooden box seat and a table attached to the wall which could be pulled down or left up. Dinner was good but not remarkable-well prepared but without gourmet flourishes. Noah tried the french toast at breakfast and pronounced it the best he?d ever had. We?d selected the Normaway Inn because they host celidgh music each evening, but unfortunately, the scheduled musicians did not show up. While this was very disappointing, we had an enjoyable time chatting with a woman from Ottawa about the differences in the Canadian and American school systems, etc.

We left the Margaree Valley, entering the national park at Chetticamp. We stopped several times along the Cabot Trail to take recommended walks and detours. While multiple people recommended the Skyline Trail, a 5mi walk, we were disappointed. The first .5k of the walk is actually a dirt road which is no longer used. The rest of the trail to the boardwalk is a well maintained gravel path that is pleasant, but not especially interesting. The ?destination? is a series of boardwalk steps and viewing platforms at a headland several hundred feet above the ocean, which allows for broad sweeping views. Nice, but no more scenic than other viewpoints from the road. Most people return the same way they come, probably because the rest of the round trip is not well marked. In fact, after walking 5-10 minutes, we retraced our steps to the boardwalk to doublecheck if we were on the right path, because there were no markings. We concluded that we had been and continued on, but the return route was no more scenic than the original. I had envisioned that we would have opportunities for water views along this trail, but that wasn?t the case.

The bog trail was short .5 mile, but provided a nice orientation to a bog, and had a number of interesting plants. Benjie?s Lake Trail was also short 2.3 miles and led to a pond where the trail stopped and a bench was provided. This is one of the trails where moose are sometimes spotted, but we hiked it in midday which is not a great time for wildlife viewing and it was warm and not particularly scenic. Ironically, about a mile later as we ascended a hill and came over the crest, I was startled to see a moose drinking in a stream (or drainage ditch?) about 3 feet off the road. I was able to park and get several nice shots since there wasn?t much traffic and the moose did not seem preturbed by our presence. We watched until he ambled off across the road.

We followed all of the alternative routes recommended in the Doers and Dreamers guide, driving out to Bay St. Lawrence and Meat Cove, Neil?s Harbour etc. These offshoots provided some of the prettiest scenery along the Cabot Trail and I would highly recommend them all. While people drive the entire Cabot trail (not just the national park section) in one day, it doesn?t allow sufficient time for hiking and detours. As it was, it took us from 8:30am to 6:30pm to get to Ingonish, and that was without sampling any of the many walks available near Ingonish.

We spent the night at the Keltic Lodge, of which I had read mixed reviews. We loved it! The lodge sits on a promontory about 200 feet over the water and has gorgeous views from the dining room of the open water on one side and a cove on the other. Our room had the cove view, which I think is supposed to be less desireable, but I liked it better, because there were interesting views of the cove and beaches. Rooms seem to be individually decorated. Ours was adorned with wonderful copper color accents and antiques/traditional furniture. I glimpsed a few other rooms and they seemed to be much plainer. It?s probably worth inquiring about the view/decoration of the room when you book. The Inn at Keltic is a separate set of buildings which are often recommended for families because the rooms are larger. The location is also lovely and guest can still eat meals in the main dining hall (or in a less formal dining room across the street which is cliffside with wonderful water views). The rooms at the Inn at Keltic are more motel-like so it lacks the charm of the older building. The Keltic Inn has a lovely pool and evening entertainment. Food was truly gourmet and included a four course dinner. The Lodge extended directly to us the Expedia rate I found on the internet. This had the advantage that I could cancel with 72 hours notice. Better yet, since Noah is 16, we were only charged a child?s rate for food, making the Keltic Lodge the best value of our trip.

The Middle Head Trail, which leaves from the parking lot at the Keltic Inn was the most scenic of the five we sampled in the national park. There are frequent views of cliffs, water and lupin. At the end there is a rocky point, where the water sprays against the rock. Nearby, was a huge rock where baby gulls had recently hatched. We also took the short walks for Freshwater Lake and the Freshwater Lake Lookout, which provides a view over the lake and beach back toward the cliff where the Keltic Lodge is located.

I really liked the Ingonish area and the Keltic Lodge and wished that I had arranged for more than one night there. The drive between Ingonish and Baddeck was pleasant and took less than 2 hours. We arrived at the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck about an hour before closing. It?s an odd museum and could do a better job of summarizing the work Bell did in various areas (in fact, there are signs up indicating that the museum considers the displays outdated and intends to improve them). However, we knew nothing of Bell?s work or life, outside of his invention of the telephone so it was interesting to see what else he had done. Better yet, we caught a 6:30pm boat tour of the lake and were shown the cove where Bell and his colleagues launched the first manned Canadian flight, Bell?s boat house, his mansion, etc. This reinforced what we had learned in the museum and made it ?real?. The captain told interesting anecdotes about people who lived in the area, and showed us a boat which had been sunk by its crew due to the captain?s failure to pay wages.

We spent the night in Baddeck and enjoyed dinner at the Yello Cello, recommended by other internet posters. They have funky pizzas and salads which can be eaten on an open air porch which is on the main street but provides some views of the dock area.

The next morning we went to Fortress Lunnenburg, which was the highlight of Noah?s trip. The Fortress was occupied by the French in the mid 1700s. It includes military buildings and lodging , a fisherman?s cottage, houses, and a wonderful blacksmith shop. The visit to the bread bakery was probably my favorite. The master baker was a great performer, and apparently follows the 1750?s method for baking hundreds of loaves in three giant brick ovens. Not as simple as it sounds-he showed us his hairless arms and told us that the way to determine if the oven is the right temperature is to see if you can hold your arm in it for exactly 10 seconds. We took a 1 ? hour tour of the fortress which provided an excellent overview. Without it, we wouldn?t have really appreciated the buildings that we then toured on our own. There are also various military demonstrations throughout the day. One hint-definitely bring layers of clothing. Within three miles of Fortress Louisburg, we entered fog, a stiff breeze and the temperature dropped at least ten degrees. Since you are bussed from the visitor center to the fortress, it?s very time consuming to try to go back to the car for additional clothes. We ended up buying Noah a pullover since he had insisted that he wouldn?t need his sweatshirt.

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Old Apr 13th, 2004, 07:45 PM
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All of the above gives you a pretty good overview. We (wife and two sons, ages 13 and 9) went last August and spent 8 days on NS and 3 on PEI. PEI is small and driving distances are rather short. If you do the Ann of Green Gables thing, expect crowds. But there is also a large water park just down the road which my two kids loved. We did NS first and they had to endure a lot of car time, so the water park was their thing. There are about 4 large water slides and the park fee is very reasonable for the entire family.

On NS, which is large, expect to drive hours at a time to get places, but the traffic is not a problem. To me, Lunenburg is a bust. Very touristy and overpriced (as well as overhyped). But Peggy's Cove, while also touristy, is a must see given its location. It's less than an hour's drive out from Halifax.

In Halifax, one sure kid-pleaser are the amphibious vehicle tours. There are 2 companies which use these converted military amphib vehicles used in Vietnam. With a guide you are driven around the city and then straight into the harbor for a look from the water. Lots of fun for all! If you choose to do so, call them when you first arrive for an advance reservation. These companies are very popular and tours fill up fast.

We stayed in Badeck (about 4 hours from Halifax) and enjoyed the area. Again, lots of driving around the cape. While there we drove over to Glace Bay to tour the Miners Museum. You are taken down into a now closed coal mine by a retired miner. The kids loved it and if its a hot day, you'll be treated to much cooler temps below ground.

Finally, I think the best whale watching is in the Bay of Fundy, which seems to have a wider variey of whales than in the open Atlantic. Brier Island, as someone mentioend, is a very good location for it and is located at the bottom of Digby Neck. The drive down the neck takes about an hour from Digby, and there are two small auto ferries, which my kids liked. Also, there's a colony of sea lions on the Island (just ask a local where to go), and my kids loved seeing them, too. There are a few whale watching boats on the Island as well as some on the Neck itself. Have fun!
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