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Tips for Travel to Nova Scotia, from someone just back

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Tips for Travel to Nova Scotia, from someone just back

Old Jul 4th, 2003, 07:21 AM
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Tips for Travel to Nova Scotia, from someone just back

Hi -- after all the great help I received on this board, I wanted to post feedback on my trip (got back yesterday!) We drove from NH to Bar Harbor and took the CAT over to Yarmouth, NS -- later, we were told by Haligonians that it's called the Vomit Comet, but we found the ride reasonably smooth and a nice break from driving. That day, we drove down the south coast toward Halifax -- stopping in Lunenberg at the fisheries museum, and then at Peggy's Cove. We learned pretty fast that EVERYTHING is a long drive in Nova Scotia -- to the point where we were constantly revamping our itinerary, so that we wouldn't have to do an eight hour driving stretch. Peggy's Cove was beautiful, as we hit it just past dinnertime when all the tour buses had left. We stood on the dock and talked to a lobsterman loading up his traps.

We were supposed to stay at the Prince George Hotel, but to my disappointment when we arrived we were informed that our car wouldn't fit in the garage (we drive a Ford Expedition). The concierge then told us we'd have to find a lot or a meter somewhere, and make our way back to the hotel on our own dime. I thought this was pretty shoddy service for a hotel whose reputation is exceptional, and we decided NOT to stay there...but instead went to the Westin. They could not have been more accommodating there -- and it was a lovely morning walk down to the waterfront.

The next day in Halifax, we went on a short sail on the Mar II, one of the ships in the harbor. For dinner, we went to the Old Triangle, an Irish pub with live music.

From here, we made an on-the-spot decision to go tidal bore rafting. I had expected this to be "touristy" -- but it really was a blast. As the tides rise in the Bay of Fundy, they create whitewater -- which your zodiac heads into repeatedly. I highly recommend it, especially if you've got kids!

We had planned to drive out to Louisbourg from there, but realized it was going to take about six-eight hours (the driving distances on the Nova Scotian maps always seemed to be on the short side, in my opinion!) Instead, we opted for Pictou -- a little seaside village on the North Shore. We stayed at the Pictou Lodge -- a throwback to the days of family lodges up in the Catskills. Simple accommodations, but very clean and beautifully set on the water.

The next day we drove to Cheticamp, and our vacation really kicked into high gear. There is a lot of debate on the boards about whether to stay in Cheticamp or Baddeck when you're doing the Cabot Trail -- we picked Cheticamp because we thought it would be the more lively of the two towns, but after staying there I can say with authority it's pretty darn quiet. We hiked the Skyline Trail -- the highlight of our trip. IF YOU GO TO NOVA SCOTIA, DO NOT MISS THE CABOT TRAIL...and DO NOT MISS THE SKYLINE TRAIL. The views at the end of this six mile round trip loop are astounding, and the moose we met (about five feet away from us) was a nice boon on the way back! We stayed that night at Laurie's Motel -- which is exactly what you're thinking it is -- and then had dinner at the Parkview, just at the edge of the national park -- we were the only Americans there, and there was live music (Acadian folk songs).

The next day, we went whale watching in Pleasant Bay -- out on Wesley's zodiac. It's worth the expense, because you get about ten feet away from the whales (the zodiac boats are more maneuverable). I was hoping for a great tailfin photo, but most of the whales we saw only sort of arched out of the water so that we could see dorsal fins. However, a trip to the Whale Interpretation Center next door was impressive -- the finbacks we'd seen are second in size only to the blue whale, for example. We hiked a few more short trails in the park, drove up to Meat Cove (make sure you're feeling confident; the road is remarkably thready, winding, and unpaved). We stopped for the night at the Keltic Lodge, which was the most luxurious accommodation we found outside Halifax -- although the rooms themselves were small, the property is gorgeous and the service level is excellent.

The next morning we hiked another trail that leaves right from Keltic, out to the tip of the peninsula, and watched whales playing in the surf at the bottom of the cliffs. From Keltic we drove to Englishtown, and went out on a Puffin Tour. Although we didn't get close enough to Bird Island to make it very exciting, the operator (Donelda) threw fish out to bald eagles, which then would swoop about six feet away from the boat to retrieve them in their talons. I can't imagine ever seeing anything so breathtaking up close again!

We were staying at Pictou again that night, but first headed to the DeCoste Center in town where they have a ceilidh (a collection of live musicians) three times per week. This was fabulous -- we got to hear some good Cape Breton fiddling, a little western Canadian country music, and maritime ballads.

The next morning, we drove to Windsor to see the pond where hockey was first played (a sight most tourists can miss, unless you happen to have a ten year old goalie, like I do, LOL) and then onto Digby and the Pines Resort -- again, a nice property that like the Keltic is owned by the government and is considered the standard for Nova Scotian tourism. The next morning, we took the CAT back to Maine.

All in all, it was a great trip full of wildlife and nature...but only if you do the Cabot Trail. It's a LOT of driving, too, more than you're expecting. And my overall impression of Nova Scotia is what I imagine America must have been like in the fifties, before all vacation destinations were tourist traps -- most towns you drive through are tiny little working fishing towns, not metropolises full of gift shops.

If anyone has any questions specifically, while the trip is still fresh in my mind, please feel free to write me at [email protected].

Have fun!

Jodi
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Old Jul 4th, 2003, 07:43 AM
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Hi- Thank you for posting about your recent trip to Nova Scotia. We're a little disheartened to hear about the lengthy drives. How much time did you spend on the entire trip? We are planning on 7 days, 8 nights to cover Halifax, Lunenburg, Louisbourg, and the Cabot Trail. Does this sound too rushed?
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Old Jul 4th, 2003, 08:04 AM
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jpvanleer, I agree with almost all of your observations.

We also had a great trip to NS a few years ago, and my main tip to others is "NS is bigger than it looks!"

mntrvlr, if you're starting and ending in Halifax, you should be fine. Just check the milage between places and remember that it will most likely be smaller, windy roads rather than highways.
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Old Jul 4th, 2003, 08:54 AM
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Thanks for your trip report. I'm glad you had a good time in Nova Scotia. I visited for the first time from Montreal recently, hitting Halifax and some of the nearby South Shore communities. I look forward to a repeat visit and your itinerary gives me ideas!
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Old Jul 4th, 2003, 09:02 AM
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Hi, Jodi! Thx for your NS trip report! I really enjoyed reading it. Lots of great ideas for my next trip "out East"!
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Old Jul 4th, 2003, 12:10 PM
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jpvanleer,

It sounds like you had a fantastic trip! Could you tell me what type of room you had at the Keltic Lodge? Was it in the main lodge or the Inn? I have been noticing postings saying that the rooms in the Inn are not all that great for the price. What did you think of your room and where was it?

Thanks for all the great info in your trip review!
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Old Jul 4th, 2003, 12:41 PM
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I would just like to know how you went on the Fundy Tidel bore from Halifax since Halifax in on the Atlantic not the the Fundy?
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Old Jul 5th, 2003, 03:32 AM
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Mtlvr, you can definitely do that trip in 8 days/7 nights -- just be aware that it's still going to be a lot of driving. It helps to NOT have to drive to and from a ferry in Yarmouth, which is four hours from Halifax. If you're flying into Halifax, Lunenberg is a close trip (maybe an hour at most?); but the drive to the head of the Cabot Trail (either Cheticamp or Baddeck) from Halifax is a long one (more like four hours, I'd bet). That's why we chose to stop off in Pictou in between. I think that if you end up in Baddeck (i.e. do the Cabot Trail clockwise) the trip to Louisbourg isn't quite as massively long.

GoPack: Our room at the Keltic was in the main lodge, and was pretty small with two twin beds (it was all they had left that night!) The lodge is gorgeous. The Inn is a two minute walk away from it, and is more modern looking (I never saw the inside). If you can stay at the Keltic, I really do recommend it, simply for the location and the Middle Head Trail that you can do first thing in the morning -- a great hike.

LissaJ: I'm no geography queen, but somehow the Bay of Fundy tides affect the Shubecanadie River, which is about an hour and a half NORTH of Halifax. I assume the mouth of the river opens into the Bay of Fundy You're absolutely right -- no wild tides in Halifax Harbor...although I hear from locals it's mighty polluted!

Jodi
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Old Jul 5th, 2003, 05:14 AM
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ok, that makes more sense. it just sounded like you did that in Halifax where you said it was spur of the moment, and I didn't see how.
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Old Jul 5th, 2003, 01:24 PM
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Hi Guys, Sounds like you had a ball in Nova Scotia. You traveled all over but you didn't see The Fortress of Louisbourg.What a shame, its a must see on Cape Breton Island, maybe you could see it the next time you visit, you'll be glad you did. AND BELIEVE ME YOU"LL BE BACK .
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Old Jul 5th, 2003, 05:12 PM
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Cape Breton, you're right -- we're already planning the return trip with the kids in tow. And we WILL get to Louisbourg -- as I said, that was the one thing I had to cut out because it was just too far to drive for us, personally. I think that if you fly into Halifax, it's easier to make that trip to the east...it's such a long haul when you start out in Yarmouth!

Jodi
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Old Jul 7th, 2003, 05:37 AM
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Hi Jody,

If you're planning to revisit the Cabot Trail, you might try the Normaway Inn in Margaree. It's a 1920s style inn and cabins, but modernized and very well maintained (some of the cabins have jacuzzis). It's in a lovely tranqil spot, the dining room is excellent, and they hold weekly ceilidhs. My husband and I spent a couple of days in early July, the weather was cool and rainy, and we were glad to have a wood stove in our cabin.

We drove back to the Causeway along the Ceilidh trail, which follows the western shore of Cape Breton (an area written about in "No Great Mischief" by Alistair MacLeod, a hauntingly beautiful novel).
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Old Jul 8th, 2003, 03:00 AM
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Loved your description. Have a question. We are planning a trip from Boston to NS with a night in Maine before getting on the cat. We only have a about 5 days on NS and considering the lengthy drive what would you say are the must sees..and what about places to stay?? we are going from the 10th of Aug to the 15th of Aug. Thanks for your help, I am feeling overwhelmed with the planning...
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Old Jul 17th, 2003, 05:05 AM
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Hi Mostef -

If I could only pick one place to visit in Nova Scotia, it would be the Cabot Trail. Unfortunately, that's about ten hours away from where the CAT lets you out. I think it really depends on how much driving you want to do...you can get off the CAT and head straight up to Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail, stay for a couple of days hiking, etc. and doing very little driving, and then maybe do a night in Halifax on your way back toward the ferry. If you can't stomach the thought of driving all the way to the Cabot Trail, I'd focus my attention on Halifax.

Hope this helps.

Jodi
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