Scenic hiking trails, relaxing beaches, cool craft breweries and lots of lobster—there are definitely so many fun things to do in the Nova Scotia, and sometimes driving yourself is the best way to experience all the attractions. This was very much true on my flexible self-driving tour of Nova Scotia with Canada by Design, which gave me the opportunity to explore the points of interest at my own pace allowing me to focus on finding the best bucket list adventures for you.
Fun Nova Scotia Attractions and Things to Do in Halifax and Beyond
1. Visit the UNESCO Town of Lunenburg
Lunenburg could have a things to do list of its own! The port town of Lunenburg is a historic Nova Scotia coastal community that has the well deserved title as an UNESCO world heritage site. Whether you take in some shopping, dine at the quaint restaurants or stroll along the waterfront you will be in awe of its charm.
Start your day with a cappuccino and a little shopping at the Shop on the Corner. Afterwards, hit up Ironworks Distillery for a short tour and a taste of delicious raspberry liquor. Make a stop for lunch at Salt Shaker Deli whose name is deceiving because there is much more than just sandwiches! If it’s docked in town, set sail on the tall ship Bluenose II, a replica of the famous fishing and racing schooner. For dinner head to the trendy Lincoln Street Food where you can nosh on vegan fish and chips or beet gnocchi with chanterelles.
2. See the UNESCO Landscape of the Grand Pré
Lunenburg isn’t the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nova Scotia (there are five!), you can add the landscape of the Grand Pré to that list. The 5 square mile landscape is located in the Annapolis Valley’s Bay of Fundy. The marshland and archaeological sites are a testament to the technology from the 17th century. The best glimpse of the landscape drive to the View Park on Old Post Road.
Since you’ll be nearby, also stop at Domaine de Grand Pré for a wine tasting from the region.
3. Witness the Dramatic Changes in the Tide
Nova Scotia has some of the most dramatic tide changes in the world (at a rate of up to 1 inch per minute!!). Hall’s Harbour is a small fishing village where not only can you eat at the local lobster pound, but is also the best place to witness these tide fluctuations. At low tide the wharf is completely dry, leaving the fishing boats sitting on the rocky floor of the harbor. But if you time it correctly and return about 6 hours later, the boats are bobbing in the water ready to fetch some fresh fish. For the tide times check here.
4. Go Tidal Bore Rafting
The Nova Scotia tides cause 160 billion tons of water flow through the Bay of Fundy twice a day, which feeds into the Shubenacadie River. This surge of seawater creates a once-in-a-lifetime adventure like no other, tidal bore rafting. It’s a wild ride where you will zip through up to 10 foot waves, they will crash over your motorized raft drenching you from head to toe or submerging you completely. If you have only one adventurous thing you do in Nova Scotia, this is it!!
There are many companies that have Tidal Bore Rafting. River Runners, Shubenacadie River Adventures and Fundy Tidal Bore Adventures are amongst the most popular, plus have great reviews. We chose the latter of the three because if was a shorter excursion (2 hours versus 3 1/2 – 4) and it included mud sliding where you can roll down hills of fluffy mud until you are not only wet, but also covered in mud.
Related > Tidal Bore Rafting Video
Related > A Nova Scotia Adventure: Tidal Bore Rafting the Bay of Fundy Tides
5. Make a Call From the Luckett Vineyard Phone Box
At Luckett Vineyards, not only can you get a taste of the locally grown grapes, but you can also make a free call to anywhere in the United States from inside the famous Phone Box! This booth is sitting in the center of the vineyards.
If you’re feeling especially winey, take the Magic Winery Bus who will not only stop at Luckett Vineyards, but three others too.
By the way, try a glass of Luckett’s Phone Box Red, it was my fav!
6. Take a Candlelight Graveyard Tour in Annapolis Royal
If a spooky adventure is on your things to do in Nova Scotia bucket list, then don’t miss the opportunity to tour the oldest English graveyard in Canada by candlelight. The Garrison Cemetery in Annapolis Royal comes alive with a fun tour that starts at Fort Anne.
Tour Annapolis Royal will guide you through the graveyard telling stories of the people who lay there, dating back to the 1700s. Some of the tombstones are so old that they have lost their facing!
7. Walk on the Ocean Floor
Nova Scotia has some of the most severe tide fluctuations, with the average tide being 47.5 feet. If you plan it correctly to catch low tide at Burntcoat Head Park, you can take a stroll on the ocean floor. There are not many other opportunities to walk for miles on the bottom of the ocean without getting wet! Have fun exploring the small leftover pools of saltwater to see what types of marine life you can find inside. Maybe a crab or mussel?
Click here for tide schedule at Burntcoat Head Park.
8. Drive Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island
The Cabot Trail is a 185 mile driving loop that has picturesque lookout points, miles of hiking trails, lush forests and 360 degree beauty, plus quaint crafty shops, harbors and delectable fish eateries. It is a drive where you can take a walk on the beach, take in the scenic vistas, eat lobster rolls at the Rusty Anchor and pet some four-legged friends at the Groovy Goat Farm.
Don’t forget to make the quintessential Cabot Trail stop — hiking the Skyline Trail.
For more information see our: Canada’s Cape Breton Island: 9 Best Stops While Driving the Cabot Trail
9. Hike the Skyline Trail
You’ll know you’ve reached the Skyline Trailhead by the dozens of cars that line the entrance. This hiking trail is the most famous attraction on the Cabot Trail and for very good reason. It will not only give you the most incredible views, but you will also have the opportunity to spot a moose (we saw 3!). Make sure to ask the hikers you pass along the trail if they saw Bullwinkle on their route and how far back, so you can catch one before they retreat into the dense brush.
The full trail took us about 2 1/2 hours, but if you are strapped for time when you get to the the fork in the trail head left to get to the boardwalk view and then turn around and come back the same way you came instead of completing the loop which can add up to a half hour.
10. Go Back in Time at the Fortress of Louisbourg
The Fortress of Louisbourg will bring you back in time to a busy 18th century seaport. It is the largest reconstruction project in North America, a quarter of the walls and a fifth of the town has been restored back to an old French town.
Once you are greeted at the front gates, you will be immersed into a different lifetime where elaborately dressed actors enhance the experience by roaming the streets and putting on a show with every one they encounter. Some will be acting out a scene from the second story of a window, while others will be shooting muskets at the range. There is always some sort of action going on at the Fortress!
For families, this is one of the best things to do in Nova Scotia. Keeping all ages entertained!
11. Be a Soldier For a Day
The Halifax Citadel has a strategic hilltop location which made it the perfect place for the 78th Highlanders to protect the city back in the 1700s. You can not only visit the star-shaped structure, which is the highest point in the city, but also take a step back in time by being a soldier for the day.
Are you ready to enlist as a temporary British soldier? You will be fitted for a uniform (kilt included of course!), march in line, practice military drills and learn to fire your rifle.
12. Get Your Passport Stamped at Peggy’s Cove
Thousands of people travel to the quaint fishing village of Peggy’s Cove to see the iconic lighthouse (and it’s a beauty!) or eat lobster rolls with a picturesque view of the water. But, you can also get your passport stamped with the cutest picture of a lighthouse in the little post office.
TIP: Get to Peggy’s Cove early to avoid the hordes of tourists. And if you have time make a pitstop in the tiny village of Prospect. It’s just as adorable as Peggy’s Cove, minus the crowds and shops.
13. Go Clamming in Nova Scotia
Break out your rubber boots and go on a clam digging adventure on the shores of Clam Harbour. You will not only get an informational lesson about clams, but also learn how to use a clam fork to find your prize mollusk. The experience wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t get rewarded for your hard work with a steamed clam feed.
14. Walk One of the World’s Longest Boardwalk
The approximately 3km long wooden boardwalk in Halifax is one of the longest in the world. It winds along the waterfront passing picturesque ships at dock, plus cute knick-knack shops, historic buildings, restaurants and seaside snack shacks.
It’s the perfect thing to do on a sunny afternoon while indulging in a bit of shopping followed by dinner at The Bicycle Thief and a beer at Garrison Brewing Company.
15. Listen to Fiddlers on Cape Breton
Nova Scotia is home to the largest fiddle in the world, a tribute to Cape Bretons signature celtic music style. On the island there are many places that you can hear the sounds of their trademark fiddle music, Scottish immigrants brought fiddle music to Cape Breton and it’s tradition has been upheld ever since.
It’ll be hard to keep your feet from tapping once the musicians start to play!
Related > Cape Breton’s Fiddle Music Hot Spots
16. Eat the Famous Digby Scallops in Digby
The small town of Digby has an active fishing community that harvests the famous Digby Scallops. These same sea scallops are served throughout Nova Scotia, but if you eat them anywhere else you can’t say that you ate “Digby Scallops in Digby”. It’s bragging rights just like drinking Champagne is Champagne!
There are a few restaurants in the town that will serve you up some fresh scallops. Try It’s a Shore Thing or Fundy Restaurant.
17. Drink at One (or Several) of the Craft Breweries
Craft beer is all the rage in Nova Scotia (and thousands of other cities around the world!). Grab a creatively named brew (like an Ol’ Scurvy Bastard and Goseface Killah) at the Good Robot Brewing company or if the weather is nice sit outdoors at the popular Stillwell Beergarden. One of the most popular beer experiences is to take a tour at Alexander Keith’s (samples included!) and then hit up the Red Stag Tavern right next door to buy a glass of your favorite.
Like beer and want to drink lots of it? Then don’t mess around and just take the Beer Bus Tour.
18. Eat at a Nova Scotia Lobster Pound
Technically, a lobster pound is the enclosure where live lobsters are kept while waiting to be sold. But in Nova Scotia, restaurants where you can pick your own lobster based on weight, then have them cooked to order are what they refer to as a lobster pound.
At Halls Harbour Lobster Pound you can pick your live lobster from the their tanks that separate them by pound, ranging from 1 to 5. Take your selection to the cookhouse where it will be prepared to perfection. While you wait, take a stroll along the dock just outside to watch the lobster boats as they are waiting for the tide to come in, when they can navigate their way out to sea.
19. Overdose on Maple Syrup
Sugar season at the Sugar Moon Maple Farm is in the spring, but you can enjoy the taste of maple there all year long. During a visit you can take a tour to learn about making maple syrup and life on the farm. Follow up the tour with breakfast or lunch at the on-site restaurant where you can feast on things like Maple Mac n Cheese, Maple Baked Beans and a Spiked Maple Mocha. Do you see the theme here?
20. Go to a Lobster Supper
Lobsters suppers are typically know as a church or town event where hundreds of folks gather in large halls to eat multi-course meals where the star of the show is of course a big, juicy lobster. Though you can still find these events, many being fundraisers, there are also restaurants around Nova Scotia who have created their own style of a lobster supper.
Baddeck Lobster Suppers is the perfect stop at the end to Driving on the Cabot Trail or just about any other time too. You can choose from a main dish (lobster, crab, salmon or steak) and it includes all-you-can-eat fixins — mussels and chowder.
21. Climb Jacob’s Ladder
Looking for a fun and unique way to spend an afternoon in Nova Scotia? Why not walk the Jacob’s Ladder trail in Truro’s Victoria Park? The trail gets its name from the series of 175 steps that lead up to the top of a gorge. From there, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
The walk is slightly challenging but can be completed in about an hour. The best part is that it’s free! So next time you’re looking for something to do, consider taking a walk on the wild side with Jacob’s Ladder.
22. Eat a Moon Mist Ice Cream
Moon Mist is a popular ice cream flavor in Nova Scotia, Canada. The ice cream is a unique combination of flavors: banana, grape, and bubble gum, giving it a perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavor. Moon Mist is available in many different ice cream shops across the province.
The most popular way to eat Moon Mist is in a cone, but it is also available in pints and other sizes. Moon Mist is a must-try for anyone visiting Nova Scotia, so be sure to enjoy a scoop (or two).
23. Explore Chéticamp
Chéticamp is a small fishing town located on the west coast of Nova Scotia. It is known for its Acadian culture and its beautiful scenery.
The town is home to several attractions, including the Les Trois Pignons, which chronicles the history of the Acadian people through hooked rugs, and the Chéticamp Island Nature Reserve, which is a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers.
Visitors to Chéticamp can also enjoy hiking, canoeing, and fishing in the nearby Cape Breton Highlands. With its friendly people and stunning location, Chéticamp is an ideal place to visit for anyone looking to experience the best of Nova Scotia.
24. Explore Kejimkujik National Park
Kejimkujik National Park is located in Nova Scotia, Canada. The park is known for its many hiking trails, which wind through forests and along lakeshores. In addition, the park is home to a variety of wildlife, including beavers, black bears, and white-tailed deer.
Kejimkujik is also home to the world’s largest collection of petroglyphs – images that have been carved into rocks. These petroglyphs (there are 500 of them) are a testament to the park’s rich history, and they provide visitors with a unique glimpse into the past.
25. Explore the Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is a large body of water located between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada. The bay is famous for its tides, which are some of the largest in the world.
Every day, the water rises and falls by as much as 16 feet (5 meters), with the highest reaching a whopping 53 feet (16 meters), creating a constantly changing landscape. The tides also create a unique habitat for plant and animal life. For example, the bay is home to the world’s largest population of wild Atlantic salmon.
Visitors to the Bay of Fundy can enjoy activities such as hiking, kayaking, and whale watching. They can also learn about the area’s history and culture at one of the many museums and historic sites. With its dramatic tides and rich variety of experiences, the Bay of Fundy is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Nova Scotia.
26. Explore the Ross Farm Museum
The Ross Farm Museum is a marvelous place to learn about early American farm life. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the 150-year-old museum/farm grounds offer a beautiful setting for a day of exploration. Visitors can tour the historic farmhouse, barn, and outbuildings to see how early settlers lived and worked.
The farm animals are also a big hit with kids, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn about old-fashioned farming techniques. In addition, the museum hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, making it a fantastic destination for groups of all ages.
27. Go Glamping on LaHave Islands
Glamping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors without having to rough it, and there’s no better place to go glamping than the LaHave Islands, a group of three small islands off the coast of Nova Scotia known for their beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and camping/glamping sites.
Glamping sites on the LaHave Islands offer all the comforts of home, including beds, electricity, and running water. And because they’re located on an island, you’ll have gorgeous ocean views right from your campsite.
28. Go Whale Watching
There are few experiences more exhilarating than whale watching. During summer and fall, thousands of people travel to Nova Scotia to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures (12 whale species!) in their natural habitat.
Two of the best places to go whale watching in Nova Scotia are Cape Breton and the Bay of Fundy, both of which are abundant with marine life making them the perfect breeding and feeding grounds. There are also plenty of whale watching tours from several ports in Nova Scotia, so it is easy to find one that suits your schedule and budget.
29. Go Winery Hopping
If you’re a fan of wine, then you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of great places to go wine tasting in Nova Scotia’s Wine Country in Annapolis Valley.
The Annapolis Valley is one of the province’s most popular tourist destinations and is also one of the four main producers of wine. Many of the valley’s wines are produced from locally-grown grapes, and the climate here is ideal for grape-growing.
Of course, a Nova Scotia wine tasting is never complete without having a taste of its signature wine: the Tidal Bay. Some of the best producers of this wine include Benjamin Bridge in Gaspereau Valley, Domaine de Grand Pré in Eastern Annapolis Valley, and Jost Vineyards in Malagash Bay.
Whether you’re a casual wine drinker or a serious connoisseur, you’ll be sure to find something to suit your taste in Nova Scotia.
30. Hike Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Cape Breton Highlands National Park is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Situated on the east coast of Canada, the park is home to spectacular cliffs, pristine forests, towering waterfalls, and picturesque views (especially on Cabot Trail, which requires a park pass). And that’s just the beginning – the park also offers countless opportunities for hiking, camping, canoeing, and wildlife watching.
Whether you’re looking for an adventure-filled vacation or a relaxing nature escape, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is the perfect destination. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Cape Breton!
31. See the Animals at Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park
Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park is a great place to see wildlife in Nova Scotia. The 40-hectare park is home to a variety of animals and birds, including moose, bobcats, emus, and pheasants.
The wildlife park also offers a variety of educational programs, making it an excellent place to learn about the wildlife of Nova Scotia. In addition, the park offers a variety of recreational activities, such as hiking and canoeing. Whether you’re looking to see animals or just enjoy the outdoors, Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park is a great place to visit.
32. See the Cape Forchu Lightstation
Cape Forchu Lightstation is an iconic landmark in Nova Scotia. The unique “apple core” lightstation overlooks the beautiful Bay of Fundy and has been guiding ships since 1840. Today, the lightstation is a popular tourist destination, and visitors can tour the lighthouse (which you can also climb), museum, and grounds.
The lightstation is also home to a colony of protected seabirds, making it a fantastic stop for birdwatchers. Whether you’re looking for a fun day trip or a chance to see some of Nova Scotia’s natural beauty, Cape Forchu Lightstation is definitely worth a visit!
33. See the Concrete Creations at Cosby’s Garden Centre
Cosby’s Garden Centre in Nova Scotia is home to the studio and outdoor gallery called Concrete Creations, a variety of sculptures made from concrete. The sculptures are made by local artist, Ivan Higgins, and range in size and subject matter from small animals to larger-than-life figures. Each sculpture is designed to be weather-resistant and durable so that it can withstand the elements for years to come.
Cosby’s Garden Centre is open to the public year-round, and visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and view the sculptures at their leisure. For those looking for a unique gift or piece of art for their home, Cosby’s Garden Centre and Concrete Creations are definitely worth a visit.
34. Stroll Through the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
The Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens are a must-see for any gardening enthusiast. Located in Nova Scotia, the historically-themed gardens are situated on 17 acres of land and feature over 200 varieties of plants.
Visitors can explore the gardens via a series of stairs that wind through each section or take a leisurely stroll along the paved paths. Highlights of the gardens include the fragrant Rose Garden (with over 270 rose varieties and 2000 roses), the tranquil Japanese Water Garden, and the lively Butterfly (Victorian) Garden.
With something for everyone, the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens are a must-visit for all those who appreciate the beauty of nature.
35. Take a Peak into the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of the must-see attractions in Nova Scotia. Located in Halifax, the museum tells the story of the province’s rich maritime history, from the early days of exploration to the present day.
The museum is home to a variety of exhibits, including a small replica of the Titanic and a detailed model of the Halifax Harbour. Visitors can also learn about Nova Scotia’s role in the War of 1812 and see a variety of historic ships, including the CSS Acadia.
With so much to see and do, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is an essential stop for anyone interested in Nova Scotia’s history.
36. Take the 235 Stairs to Balancing Rock
Sitting atop a long set of stairs, (there’s 235 of them!) in Nova Scotia is a massive boulder known as Balancing Rock. The rock is believed to be about 535 million years old and is precariously balanced on a small stack of stones.
Visitors to the site can’t help but wonder how the rock got here and how it has managed to stay in place for so many years. While the exact origin of the rock is a mystery, scientists believe it was likely carried here by glaciers during the Ice Age.
As for how it has stayed in place, it’s all thanks to gravity. The force keeps the rock from toppling over, despite its seemingly precarious position. So next time you’re feeling stressed, take a cue from Balancing Rock and find your own sense of calm and balance.
37. Throw an Axe
HaliMac and Timber Lounge are two of the most popular axe-throwing venues in Halifax, Nova Scotia. HaliMac offers a wide range of axe-throwing games, while Timber Lounge specializes in traditional Nordic axe-throwing. Both venues also offer drinks and food, making them the perfect place to relax after a long day of work or play.
38. Visit a Distillery
Nova Scotia is home to a thriving whisky industry, with dozens of distilleries dotting the landscape. The province’s cool climate and rocky coastline make it the perfect place to grow barley and produce high-quality malt.
Nova Scotia’s whisky producers use a variety of techniques to create unique spirits that reflect the region’s terroir. In recent years, the province has become known for its peated whiskies, which are distilled using malted barley that has been smoked over peat fires. These smoky whiskies have a bold flavor that is perfect for sipping on a cold winter’s night.
There are plenty to choose from, but don’t miss Ironworks Distillery, Halifax Distillery Co. and Steinhart Distillery.
39. Visit the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Pier 21 has been a gateway to Canada for millions of immigrants since it first opened in 1928. Today, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is the country’s sixth national museum and is a nationally significant heritage site that tells the stories of those who have made the journey to Canada.
The museum offers visitors a chance to explore the history of immigration through interactive exhibits, multimedia displays, and personal stories.
Visitors can also learn about the immense contribution that immigrants have made to the building of the country. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about our country’s rich history and diverse culture.
40. Walk through the Halifax Public Gardens
The Halifax Public Gardens are a lovely place to take a walk, especially in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. Located near Spring Garden Road (a famous shopping district), these 16-hectare gardens were first established in 1867, and cover an area of approximately 16 hectares.
Visitors can find a variety of different gardens inside, including a Japanese Garden and an Herb Garden. There is also a bandstand where concerts are often held in the summer months.
. . .
The Canadian province of Nova Scotia is filled with lots of fun things to do. The region has some of the best attractions and breathtaking points of interest, plus lobster—lots of lobster! From activities in Halifax to Cape Breton to Yarmouth, your bucket list will be overflowing. Have fun!
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Essential Tips for Visiting Nova Scotia
Getting There: The Halifax Stanfield International Airport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can use the Maritime Bus, take a shuttle or take a taxi.
Where to Stay in Nova Scotia: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. The Barrington Hotel (moderate) located in Downtown Halifax, and the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Halifax (moderate), located in Dartmouth, are both great choices. For something on the less expensive side, try the Halliburton in Downtown Halifax, or the Hearthstone Inn Boutique Hotel Halifax, located in Dartmouth. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Renting a car in Nova Scotia is the best way to really experience the area and RentalCars.com has some great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. Taxis and Uber are available, and the public transportation is simple and easy to use within Halifax. Plus most of the top attractions within Halifax can be accessed with the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus.
Best Tours in Nova Scotia: You can find some of the top tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some of the top ones:
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
More Things to Do in Nova Scotia
Tidal Bore Rafting Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy Tides
A Wild Nova Scotia Adventure: Tidal Bore Rafting
Canada’s Cape Breton Island: 9 Best Stops While Driving the Cabot Trail
Canada: Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Manitoba
BOOK: Scenic Driving Atlantic Canada: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island & Beyond
Nova Scotia (Bradt Travel Guide)