Table of Contents Hide
- How to get to Nova Scotia?
- Rent a car in Nova Scotia
- Information about my trip to Nova Scotia
- How long can I stay in Nova Scotia?
- Road trip route in Nova Scotia
- Day 1 and 2: Halifax
- Day 3: Peggy’s Cove
- Day 4: Lunenburg
- Day 4: Shelburne
- Day 5: Yarmouth
- Day 5: Acadia and Sainte-Anne University.
- Day 5: Westport: the tip of Nova Scotia
- Day 6: Annapolis Royal
- Day 6 : Wolfville
- Day 7 : Blomidon Provincial Park
- Day 7 : Halls Harbour
- Day 7 : Wolfville
- Day 8 : Sullivan’s Crossing filming locations
- Day 8 : Halifax and Darmouth
First of all, you should know that ever since I’ve moved to Canada, I’ve been hearing from all sides that the East Coast of Canada is incredible and that I absolutely must go there. It took me a long time (9 years, but better late than never) to finally get there. And before I go any further and get into the details of how to prepare your road trip to Nova Scotia, let me confirm something: people were right. First of all, it’s absolutely incredible, and if you’re on the fence about going, don’t hesitate! Secondly, the landscapes are magnificent, the people are welcoming, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn so much about the history of Canada and its relationship with France. As you can see, I was won over by Nova Scotia.
Another quick note, and I promise we’re getting to the heart of the matter: I posted one video a day on Youtube during my stay in Nova Scotia, and you can watch them here!
This trip was realized in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Tourism Office, you can find more resources on their website. I went with Marine from the blog OffToMontréal, you can also find articles on her blog.
How to get to Nova Scotia?
You have several options to get to Nova Scotia. You can choose to drive or to take the train if you’re in a neighbouring province. In my case, I flew from Toronto, and this is the most efficient option if you’re coming from a city further away (or from another country, of course). In fact you can then rent a car directly in Halifax.
By car: You may decide to make a road trip out of it and drive from Toronto. It will take you over 15 hours to enter the province and just over 17 hours to get to Halifax (not counting bathroom and gas breaks!). You’ll be able to make stops along the way to visit other provinces, as you’ll be passing through Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and, of course, Nova Scotia.
By train: Secondly the other option is to take the train, which takes longer than the car but is less tiring. You’ll need 1 day and 6 hours to get to Halifax. The advantage is that you’ll leave from and arrive in the city center and you can enjoy the scenery. Prices vary according to timetable; you can check prices and buy tickets on the ViaRail website.
By plane: You can also choose to fly, which is only a 2-hour flight from Toronto. There are several departures during the day from Pearson or Billy Bishop downtown airports. We flew with Air Canada, but you have other options like Lynx Air, Porter, Flair Airlines and West Jet.
Rent a car in Nova Scotia
When we arrived, we picked up the car at the Halifax airport and drove straight to our downtown hotel.
In reality we didn’t drive the car for the first two days. In case you’re planning to spend a few days in Halifax you can cut costs a bit by picking up the car on the day you leave to explore the rest of the province. For instance save the places that require a car in Halifax for the day you pick up your car.
If you’re coming from France, be sure to ask what fuel to put in the car. Most rental cars in North America are gasoline, not diesel like in France. And you’ll have 3 options once you get to the pump. It’s often the cheapest you have to use, but it doesn’t hurt to ask them to confirm this on the rental papers.
If you want to know how to rent a car in Canada, you can read this article.
Information about my trip to Nova Scotia
I wanted to share a few details with you before going deeper into the activities we did each day:
- Including my day of arrival and my day of departure, I stayed 8 days in Nova Scotia.
- I arrived early on Friday morning to make the most of the day.
- I left the following Friday, in the late afternoon, so I could enjoy the morning.
- We made a loop on the western side of the province.
- We drove a total of 1124 km.
How long can I stay in Nova Scotia?
The honest answer would be to tell you as much as possible: there’s so much to see and do.
But the practical answer is: it depends on what you want to see and do. The province is divided into 2 parts, with Halifax at the center. We explored the western part of the province along the coast. If you decide to explore further inland, you’ll need more time. If you also want to visit the eastern part of the province, you’ll need to add even more time.
I think you can visit part of the province in a week, as we did; if you have 2 weeks, you can probably do both. Keeping in mind that the stops in each place will be one or two days maximum and that it can also be quite tiring for the person driving.
Road trip route in Nova Scotia
Day 1 and 2: Halifax
The weather wasn’t exactly on our side when we arrived in Halifax, as you can see from these photos. The city deserves its own blog post. You can find all the information in my article “what to do in Halifax“. I share with you our hotel, my recommendations for choosing your accommodation in Halifax and what to do during 3 days in Halifax.
Day 3: Peggy’s Cove
We spent the first part of the day in Halifax, visiting the cemetery where the victims of the Titanic are buried. Then we set off for Peggy’s Cove. Peggy’s Cove is a popular tourist spot, known around the world over for being part of the Windows 10 and 11 wallpapers. It’s also the most photographed lighthouse in Canada and one of the most photographed places in the world. Just that yes! Unfortunately, in our case, we got a better view on the computer screens because the day we visited it was so foggy. If you’re passing through, ask for Jo-Ann at the tourist office: she was great with us.
Once there, you absolutely must try the lobster roll at Tom’s Lobster Shack, as I told you in the article on the 5 specialties to try in Nova Scotia. The restaurant was featured in season 3 of Big Food Bucket List on Food Network Canada. It’s featured as a must-try if you’re ever in the area. And my taste buds confirm that it’s well worth the trip!
Then we hit the road again, stopping off at Mahone Bay. The village is known for having 3 churches next to each other. St James’ Anglican; St John’s Evangelical Lutheran; and Trinity United. An example of the cohabitation of different faiths. In fact, it’s a much-photographed tourist attraction. You can read more about the history of the 3 Nova Scotia churches on the website of the association that oversees their preservation. If you cross the road, you’ll have a beautiful view with the lake in the middle.
We then arrived in Lunenburg for the night.
Day 4: Lunenburg
We spent our fourth day in Lunenburg. Thanks to its Unesco heritage status, the village is world-famous. Yes, that’s right. It’s a must-see if you’re in the area. You’re about to discover a very colourful town! By the way, speaking of stops, I’d like to recommend 8000% the hotel where we stayed: The Rum Runner Inn. Tim, the owner, is incredibly kind and made us feel so welcome. The hotel is centrally located. There’s parking in front and even a patio overlooking the harbour. We weren’t able to take advantage of it because of the rain. But you can see from the vlog that it’s really nice. Plus the wifi connection was great! I was able to upload my videos to Youtube without any problems.
We started the day with breakfast at The Savvy Sailor. Only a few meters from our hotel. I loved the authenticity of the place.
Lunenburg Walking Tour
We followed this up with a guided tour of Lunenburg with Lunenburg Walking Tour. But what a pleasure to discover the city through the eyes of an enthusiast. I learned lots of fascinating stories about the town. For example, the story of the house with all but one identical window. The owners were superstitious and very religious. They believed it was bad luck to pass a coffin through the door. So they adapted a window to accommodate a coffin.
I was also deeply moved by the story of St John’s Church, which burned down on Halloween night 2001. Parts of the church dating back to 1754 were completely destroyed. Thanks to donations (over $6 million) and some very talented craftsmen, they were able to rebuild the church and reopen it to the public. If you’re ever there, take a look above the altar. Not only is it magnificent, apparently it’s also the starry sky that hung over Lunenburg the night Jesus was born.
After the hour-and-a-half tour in the rain, a warm break was in order. I recommend the Moontown Market café. Very pretty, my chai latte was delicious and it’s superbly located! We’d also been recommended N°9 Coffee Bar, which we didn’t have time to try out.
Before leaving Lunenburg, you need to make one last stop. Trust me on this one! You won’t regret it. We stopped by chance at the Ironworks distillery. We tasted rum, whisky and vodka made in Nova Scotia. The people who work there are so friendly and passionate. If you don’t want to carry anything the rest of your trip, you can also pick up some of their products at the Halifax airport.
Day 4: Shelburne
After all these wonderful discoveries, we hit the road again to continue our tour of Nova Scotia. In order to get to the other side of the lake, we had to take the ferry by car.
- Liverpool. A small town of 2,500 inhabitants, we just wandered around for a while. Not an essential stop if you’re short of time.
- Shelburne. A small town with a population of less than 2,000. Shelburne is famous for several reasons.
- Shelburne County was an important place for the Black community in the 18th century. While fighting on the side of the English during the American Revolution, over 10,000 former Black slaves settled in Nova Scotia, and more specifically in Birchtown. At the busiest of its population, it was the largest free Black community outside Africa.
- You can also visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum (beware of opening hours, it was closed when we visited) to learn more.
- Additionnally, the town is often used for period films. Indeed, there are many 18th and 19th century houses still in excellent condition. There’s also something quite unusual these days. There are no exposed electrical wires, which makes it easier to shoot period films.
- Some examples of films shot at Shelburne:
- Mini series Washington Black
- Moby Dick
- The Crucible
Finally, here are a few more visits we had noted but ran out of time: Barrington, Pubnico, Blue Rocks and Birchtown.
Day 5: Yarmouth
So, after a busy day, we woke up in Yarmouth. A town where we met a lot of really nice people. On the other hand, it’s still a dormitory town, so unless it’s convenient on your route to take a break, I wouldn’t really recommend stopping there. It’s also possible that we were unlucky because the town was under thick fog.
Restaurant: Rudder’s Seafood Restaurant & Brewery
Café: Studio Yarmouth
Day 5: Acadia and Sainte-Anne University.
Certainly the day that made us the happiest: blue skies and sunshine returned !!!! You can see our excitement in the vlog on Youtube.
Also, as a francophone, I absolutely wanted to visit Acadia. We stopped off at Université Sainte-Anne, the only French-speaking university in Nova Scotia. If you get the chance to stop off, I recommend you do what we did. Go into the university store and have a chat with the locals. We learned more about the history of the Acadians, the history of Université Sainte-Anne and the town.
Around the university you’ll find the beautiful Saint Bernard church. The foundation stone was laid in 1910. The community then spent over 30 years building it. Despite their best efforts, it closed recently after less than 100 years of activity. I’ll let you read about its history in the article published by Radio Canada. In fact, shortly after our visit, Radio Canada announced that a sale agreement had been reached.
You’ll quickly notice that in Nova Scotia there are many churches closed for lack of attendance and resources. Some have found buyers and been transformed into new living spaces. Others are suffering from the time and lack of resources while waiting for buyers.
If you have a little more time, take the opportunity to sample some of Nova Scotia’s local specialties. In fact, we’ve been recommended La Cuisine Robicheau in Pointe de l’Église several times!
Day 5: Westport: the tip of Nova Scotia
If you thought the day was over, you’d be wrong! We’ve really optimized our stay to make the most of it.
I’ll take you to the tip of Nova Scotia, first stop Sandy Cove Beach. Venturing out onto the surrounding roads, we ended up in a small fishing village, which you can see in the photo above. It’s well worth exploring the area for hidden treasures.
Here we go again, back on the road to East Ferry, where we’ve been waiting for the ferry. It’s the only way to get to this little piece of land at the end of Nova Scotia. Once on the other side, you can make your first stop at the Board’s Head lighthouse or Balancing Rock (we didn’t have time. But I’ve heard several people recommend it). A few more minutes on the road to wait for the last ferry to Freeport. A unique feeling at that moment, as if we were at the end of the world. Here we are in a community far removed from anything we know. You can imagine what it’s like to live in this environment. Tourists come all the way here for the whale-watching tours. It’s possible, but it’s quite time-consuming. We preferred to skip this activity.
Once in Westport, Briar Island, we grabbed a bite to eat at the Lighthouse Café. It’s nice and cosy on the patio across the street. With a view of the harbour. Under the sun. That how we enjoyed our first real moment in the sun.
With our bellies full, we headed off to explore Pond Cove Beach, at the far end of the island. It was quite interesting to see a pebble beach next to large expanses of greenery. A nice mix you don’t often see.
The day ends for us. Two things to note: the ferries were free. Pay attention to the timetable if you have any special requirements. In our case, we were lucky on the outward journey but had to wait 45 mins on the return.
Day 6: Annapolis Royal
We arrive at one of my favorite parts of the trip: the pretty town of Annapolis Royal. The town is steeped in history. In just a few hours, I learned so much about the relationship between France, Canada, the First Nations and England. It was the first place Europeans settled when they came in 1605. The site was chosen for its proximity to water, to facilitate transport and trade.
Fort Anne National Historic Site
My number 1 recommendation is to make sure you take the time to visit Fort Anne and its museum. And allow plenty of time. I’ve seen quite a few people go through the museum very quickly, whereas we spent, no lie … 2 hours! It was so well done and interesting. Outside there are large green spaces that you can also explore. A few meters from the museum, you’ll find the French powder magazine, built in 1790. It’s the oldest building protected by Canada.
Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
Then you can take a tour of the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. Their collection of roses is magnificent. They also have a reconstruction of a pre-deportation Acadian house. You can’t go inside, but you can really see what life was like back then.
Downtown Annapolis Royal
Another must-see at Annapolis Royal: visit the village center. Read the signs, learn more about life here. Look at the pretty houses, see how they’ve changed over time. Then enjoy the waterside walkway. In the center of the village, you’ll also see the market. The market doesn’t take place every day, but the facilities are. I found it very typical.
Certainly loved how colourful the town is and how much you can learn there. In short, I’d add it to your road trip list without hesitation!
Other things to do in Annapolis Royal:
- Sissiboo Coffee Roaster Café
- Arch&Po. This café is housed in a former post office. With very high ceilings and a lovely decor. I’d at least take a look inside if I were you.
- But also Port-Royal. Not really in Annapolis, but everyone recommended it! It’s also a place steeped in history.
Where to sleep in Annapolis Royal ?
I was lucky to stay at the Carliste House. A freshly renovated 19th century house. It’s a beautiful building in a great location. You can park in front and walk to the center of town. The house was built in 1868 and at the time had… 18 bedrooms! When Captain Barteaux returned to France in 1903, he sold the house to the neighboring church. The church transformed it into a more austere home. Parts of the house were demolished, and the number of rooms was reduced to 9.
Finally, we hit the road for our last stop before returning to Halifax: Wolfville.
Day 6 : Wolfville
In fact, Day 7 in Wolfville starts on Day 6, because we arrived the evening before and were able to enjoy it a little before the end of the day.
I highly recommend our first stop: we ate in an old church. If you’ve made it this far in the reading, you’ve realized that churches are a big part of the Nova Scotia landscape.
The Church Brewing Co. is now a restaurant. Built before 1840. It was moved in 1885. Before succumbing to fire in 1913. An eventful early history. In 2017, the church was bought by The Church Brewing Company and turned into a restaurant. Undoubtedly, the acoustics of the old church makes it a perfect venue for live concerts.
Day 7 : Blomidon Provincial Park
On this new day, we really wanted to check out the red sand beach at Blomindon Provincial Park. The park is on the border with New Brunswick. It’s a bit of a detour, but believe me, it’s worth it! As you’ll see in my Youtube video when we walked on Houston Beach. My only piece of advice: bring a change of shoes. Or a towel you don’t really like to try your feet on afterwards. The red sand stains everything, and Marine’s shoes took the brunt of it. Be careful with the timetable, as the tide comes in at this point and you could get stuck.
Lastly once you’ve enjoyed this incredible beach, you can get back in the car to admire the view from a little higher up. At the Blomidon Look-Off you’ll have a pretty cool view!
Day 7 : Halls Harbour
Without doubt, you can’t leave Nova Scotia before eating freshly caught lobster! Venture into this small fishing village to enjoy it on the patio. The little town is just too cute. You’ll also find little boutiques if you want to pick up some local gifts. Be warned, though, I didn’t have any signal there. But it’s well worth the visit, you’ll get a real change of scenary.
Day 7 : Wolfville
Back to Wolfville to visit the town by day. When I tell it like this, it sounds like we’re really far from Halifax because we’ve been gone for 7 days. But since we did a loop, we were actually only an hour from Halifax.
Wolfville is a student town, the liveliest we visited and with the youngest population. It’s also a region popular for its wine. There are plenty of options if you want to visit wineries. Thanks to its proximity to Halifax, many people make it a day-trip destination.
As the waterfront is well landscaped, it’s a great place to take a stroll, and you’ll also find signs to learn more about the town’s history. Honestly, I really enjoyed wandering around town, taking in all the colourful facades. I particularly liked the The Library Pub and Merchant Wine Tavern.
Few more things to do in Wolfville:
- Visit the little church at Grand Pré. Please note that it closes at 4.45pm.
- Visit the Grand Pré museum. Please note that it closes at 5 p.m.
- Buy coffee in a local store, Just Us! Roaster Coffee
- Visit one of Grand Pré’s wineries.
Where do sleep in Wolfville?
I had the opportunity to stay at the Grand Pré winery. The loft was really beautiful and very spacious. Not a fan of the restaurant, but there are other options in town to eat out.
Day 8 : Sullivan’s Crossing filming locations
To conclude our stay, we experienced probably the most unexpected day of our entire trip to Nova Scotia. I got to visit the set of Sullivan’s Crossing! In France, the series may not yet be well known, but in Canada it’s a hit. It’s a new Canadian series starring Chad Michael Murray, our very own Lucas from One Tree Hill, and Scott Patterson, Luke from Gilmore Girls. We’d already visited some of the sites during our few days in Halifax. But this is another level. By chance, we arrived at the main shooting location at the same time as one of the protectors of the space. After chatting with him, confiding in him that we’d wanted to come to Nova Scotia after discovering the landscapes in the series… He offered us an exclusive tour of the filming locations! Incredible!
Day 8 : Halifax and Darmouth
It was with a big smile that we headed back to Halifax. We’ve come full circle. We’re back where we started from. As the weather wasn’t really on our side when we arrived, we decided to take a little tour of Halifax and Dartmouth. For this part, I refer you to my city guide: what to do in Halifax.
To conclude this very long (and I hope very comprehensive) article, I wanted to put on your radar a pretty cool concept that Nova Scotia is offering. During your road trip, you can follow the trails to taste the specialties. For example, there’s the lobster trail. To obtain a paper passport, visit one of the participating tourist offices or restaurants. Every time you visit a participating location, you’ll be able to get it stamped! Also available: the chowder trail or the good cheer trail.
I hope this article helps you enjoy your stay in Nova Scotia. Of course, there are plenty of activities I haven’t been able to include. I recommend you take a look at the Nova Scotia Tourism website for more suggestions. My next goal: to discover the eastern part of the province!