Nova Scotia

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For many, Nova Scotia evokes images of seascapes. To the south and east, the Atlantic crashes against rocky outcrops or washes placidly over white sand. To the northwest, Fundy tides—the highest in the world—recede to reveal mudflats, then rush back in, raising the sea level by more than 50 feet. To the north, warm, relatively shallow Northumberland Strait flows between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, providing a livelihood for fishermen on both sides. Nova Scotia is one of the world’s largest exporters of seafood, particularly lobsters. But the province is much more than its coastline alone; its coastal capital, Halifax, is a lively and attractive business and tourism hub.

It was Thomas Chandler Haliburton who first said "seeing is believing," and the observation applies to his home province because it's hard to fathom such a variety of cultures and landscapes packed into an area smaller than West Virginia without witnessing it firsthand. Within the perimeter drawn by that convoluted coastline, lie the rolling farmlands of the Annapolis Valley, which yields vintner’s grapes, apples, corn, peaches, and plums. In the middle of the province, dense forests are interspersed with blueberry patches, cranberry bogs, and, in spring and summer, open fields of wildflowers—purple and blue lupines, yellow coltsfoot, pink fireweed—that blanket the ground with color. In Cape Breton are highlands that rival Scotland's, rugged rock-rimmed inlets, woodlands that provide spectacular fall foliage, and mountains that plunge dramatically down to meet the waves. Throughout the province there is great biodiversity, including a number of endangered and threatened species that are being actively protected. In the western arm, the Southwest Nova UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the second largest in Canada, includes the remote Kejimkujik National Park, which protects old-growth transitional woodland and all the wildlife that depends upon it.

The people of Nova Scotia are equally diverse. The original inhabitants, the Mi'Kmaqs, have been here for 10,000 years and remain a major cultural presence. In the early days of European exploration, they were joined by the French and English who settled on the shores and harvested the sea. Later, waves of immigrants came: Germans in Lunenburg County; Highland Scots displaced by their landlords' preference for sheep; New England Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution; freedmen or escaped slaves; then Ukrainians, Poles, West Indians, Italians, and Lebanese drawn to the industrial centers of Halifax and Sydney.

That multicultural mélange accounts for the fact that you’ll see Gaelic signs in Mabou and Iona, German sausage and sauerkraut prominently featured on menus in Lunenburg, and Francophones proudly flying their own tricolor flag in Acadian communities along the western Fundy coast and places such as Chéticamp in Cape Breton. It also helps explain why Nova Scotians, who originally hailed from so many different places themselves, are so famously hospitable to "people from away."

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Cape Breton Island

There isn’t much new in the northeastern corner of Nova Scotia and that’s precisely the point; Cape Breton Island's reputation rests on simple...

Halifax

Surrounded by natural treasures and glorious seascapes, Halifax is an attractive and vibrant hub with noteworthy historic and modern architecture...

Lunenburg

This remarkably preserved town has a colorful past and some very colorful buildings, a combo that earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site...

Wolfville

Settled in the 1760s by New Englanders, Wolfville is a fetching college town with ornate Victorian homes (some of which have been converted...

Sydney

If you come directly to Cape Breton via plane, ferry, or cruise ship, Sydney is where you’ll land. If you’re seeking anything resembling an...

Annapolis Royal

Annapolis Royal’s history spans nearly four centuries, and the town’s bucolic appearance today belies its turbulent past. One of Canada's oldest...

Baddeck

Baddeck has enough down-to-earth amenities (like a grocery store) to make it a service center, and enough charm to make it a tourist destination...

Liverpool

In recent years, a paper mill has been Liverpool’s economic mainstay, but between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, privateering...

Parrsboro

Parrsboro, the main town on the north shore of the Minas Basin, is a hot spot for rock hounds and fossil hunters. ...

Mahone Bay

Three vintage churches along a grass-fringed shoreline set a tranquil tone for this pastoral town that wraps around a sweeping curve of water...

Chester

Although Chester is a short drive west of Peggy’s Cove, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in Maine or...

Yarmouth

Yarmouth’s status as a large port and its proximity to New England accounted for its early prosperity, and today the town’s shipping heritage...

Cheticamp

In Chéticamp, an Acadian enclave for more than 200 years, Francophone culture and traditions are still very much alive. That’s why the Gaelic...

Pictou

Many people come to Pictou for the sole purpose of catching the ferry onward to Prince Edward Island (it departs from Caribou, just minutes...

Truro

Truro's central location places it on many travelers' routes: this is rightly called "The Hub of Nova Scotia" because if you’re driving down...

Antigonish

Pretty Antigonish, on the main route to Cape Breton Island, is home to St. Francis Xavier University, a center for Gaelic studies and the first...

Mabou

The village of Mabou is very Scottish (Gaelic-language signs attest to it), and the residents’ respect for tradition is apparent in everything...

Louisbourg

Though best known as the home of the largest historical reconstruction in North America, Louisbourg is also an important fishing community with...

Pointe de l'Église (Church Point)

As small as they are, you still can’t miss the communities that collectively make up the Acadian Shore. Each one on this stretch, beginning...

Digby

Digby is underappreciated: people tend to race to or from the ferry connecting it with Saint John, New Brunswick. Yet there is quite a bit to...

Windsor

Windsor has much in common with Bridgewater on the South Shore in that both are historic towns that have evolved into regional service centers...

Peggy's Cove

Peggy’s Cove is the home of Canada’s most photographed lighthouse. As you wind along the edge of St. Margaret’s Bay, woodlands eventually give...

Shelburne

Shelburne, about two-thirds of the way down the Lighthouse Route, has a frozen-in-time appearance that many travelers love. It was settled after...

Tatamagouche

Though it only has about a thousand residents, tiny Tatamagouche is a force to be reckoned with. Canada's second-largest Oktoberfest ( 800/895...

Guysborough

...

Pleasant Bay

Because it’s about halfway around the Cabot Trail, Pleasant Bay is a convenient place to stop. Local fishermen catch lobster in spring and snow...

Long Island and Brier Island

You don’t just stumble across these islands—reaching them requires a commitment. It's well worth the effort because Long Island and Brier Island...

Amherst

Amherst is a quaint, quiet town with a central location, but from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, it was a bustling center of industry and...

Cape North

This is where explorer Giovanni Caboto (aka John Cabot) made land in 1497. Not only does Cape North still feel like a new discovery, it also...

Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site

This inland woodsy area, within the UNESCO Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve, attracts campers, canoeists, hikers, bird-watchers, and cyclists. ...

Ingonish

The western gateway to the Cabot Trail, Ingonish is one of the leading vacation destinations on Cape Breton, largely because it’s home to the...

Sherbrooke and Sherbrooke Village

Established by the French in the middle of the 17th century, this little town prospered briefly on the back of a gold rush in the late 19th...

Margaree Harbour

Aside from pleasant pastimes like hillside hiking and saltwater swimming (Whale Cove and Chimney Corner are the local’s top picks for the latter...

Arichat

Arichat is the principal village on Isle Madame: the largest island in a 44-square-km (17-square-mile) archipelago of the same name, which sits...

Springhill

If you’re not going to be visiting Cape Breton, Springhill (on Highway 2) is worth a stop because it gives you a second chance to sample Nova...

Barrington and Cape Sable Island

Cape Sable Island—not to be confused with Sable Island, way out in the Atlantic—is a sleepy spot just off the beaten path, known for its contribution...

Canso

...

Big Pond

This tiny community consists of a few houses dotted along the highway, and a famous tearoom. ...

Judique

Like so many Cape Breton communities, Judique is only a little clutch of buildings with Highway 19 running straight through as the main street...

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Encircled by one of the world's most scenic driving routes—the glorious, partly coast-hugging, switchback Cabot Trail—this beautiful national...

Halifax

Surrounded by natural treasures and glorious seascapes, Halifax is an attractive and vibrant hub with noteworthy historic and modern architecture...

Lunenburg

This remarkably preserved town has a colorful past and some very colorful buildings, a combo that earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site...

Sydney

If you come directly to Cape Breton via plane, ferry, or cruise ship, Sydney is where you’ll land. If you’re seeking anything resembling an...

Wolfville

Settled in the 1760s by New Englanders, Wolfville is a fetching college town with ornate Victorian homes (some of which have been converted...

Annapolis Royal

Annapolis Royal’s history spans nearly four centuries, and the town’s bucolic appearance today belies its turbulent past. One of Canada's oldest...

Baddeck

Baddeck has enough down-to-earth amenities (like a grocery store) to make it a service center, and enough charm to make it a tourist destination...

Liverpool

In recent years, a paper mill has been Liverpool’s economic mainstay, but between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, privateering...

Mahone Bay

Three vintage churches along a grass-fringed shoreline set a tranquil tone for this pastoral town that wraps around a sweeping curve of water...

Parrsboro

Parrsboro, the main town on the north shore of the Minas Basin, is a hot spot for rock hounds and fossil hunters. ...

Chester

Although Chester is a short drive west of Peggy’s Cove, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in Maine or...

Cheticamp

In Chéticamp, an Acadian enclave for more than 200 years, Francophone culture and traditions are still very much alive. That’s why the Gaelic...

Yarmouth

Yarmouth’s status as a large port and its proximity to New England accounted for its early prosperity, and today the town’s shipping heritage...

Truro

Truro's central location places it on many travelers' routes: this is rightly called "The Hub of Nova Scotia" because if you’re driving down...

Pictou

Many people come to Pictou for the sole purpose of catching the ferry onward to Prince Edward Island (it departs from Caribou, just minutes...

Mabou

The village of Mabou is very Scottish (Gaelic-language signs attest to it), and the residents’ respect for tradition is apparent in everything...

Antigonish

Pretty Antigonish, on the main route to Cape Breton Island, is home to St. Francis Xavier University, a center for Gaelic studies and the first...

Windsor

Windsor has much in common with Bridgewater on the South Shore in that both are historic towns that have evolved into regional service centers...

Pointe de l'Église (Church Point)

As small as they are, you still can’t miss the communities that collectively make up the Acadian Shore. Each one on this stretch, beginning...

Louisbourg

Though best known as the home of the largest historical reconstruction in North America, Louisbourg is also an important fishing community with...

Digby

Digby is underappreciated: people tend to race to or from the ferry connecting it with Saint John, New Brunswick. Yet there is quite a bit to...

Shelburne

Shelburne, about two-thirds of the way down the Lighthouse Route, has a frozen-in-time appearance that many travelers love. It was settled after...

Peggy's Cove

Peggy’s Cove is the home of Canada’s most photographed lighthouse. As you wind along the edge of St. Margaret’s Bay, woodlands eventually give...

Tatamagouche

Though it only has about a thousand residents, tiny Tatamagouche is a force to be reckoned with. Canada's second-largest Oktoberfest ( 800/895...

Guysborough

...

Amherst

Amherst is a quaint, quiet town with a central location, but from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, it was a bustling center of industry and...

Cape North

This is where explorer Giovanni Caboto (aka John Cabot) made land in 1497. Not only does Cape North still feel like a new discovery, it also...

Pleasant Bay

Because it’s about halfway around the Cabot Trail, Pleasant Bay is a convenient place to stop. Local fishermen catch lobster in spring and snow...

Ingonish

The western gateway to the Cabot Trail, Ingonish is one of the leading vacation destinations on Cape Breton, largely because it’s home to the...

Arichat

Arichat is the principal village on Isle Madame: the largest island in a 44-square-km (17-square-mile) archipelago of the same name, which sits...

Sherbrooke and Sherbrooke Village

Established by the French in the middle of the 17th century, this little town prospered briefly on the back of a gold rush in the late 19th...

Margaree Harbour

Aside from pleasant pastimes like hillside hiking and saltwater swimming (Whale Cove and Chimney Corner are the local’s top picks for the latter...

Springhill

If you’re not going to be visiting Cape Breton, Springhill (on Highway 2) is worth a stop because it gives you a second chance to sample Nova...

Judique

Like so many Cape Breton communities, Judique is only a little clutch of buildings with Highway 19 running straight through as the main street...

Big Pond

This tiny community consists of a few houses dotted along the highway, and a famous tearoom. ...

Canso

...

South Shore and Annapolis Valley

The South Shore is on the Atlantic side of the narrow Nova Scotia peninsula; the Annapolis Valley is on the Bay of Fundy side. Although they...

The Eastern Shore and Northern Nova Scotia

From the rugged Atlantic coastline to the wave-ravaged rim of the Bay of Fundy and the gentle shores of Northumberland Strait, the area east...

St. Ann's Bay and Around

Continuing down the Cabot Trail from Ingonish, you’ll skirt St. Ann’s Bay where communities are of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety. Other...

Cape Chignecto and Cape d'Or

Two imposing promontories—Cape Chignecto and Cape d'Or—reach into the Bay of Fundy near Chignecto Bay. ...

Five Islands

Located between Parrsboro and Truro, Five Islands is one of the most scenic areas along Highway 2, with spectacular views of the Bay of Fundy...

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