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25 coolest things to do in Nova Scotia this year

Carlen Oliveira

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things to do in Nova Scotia

We have so many beautiful provinces and territories in Canada, and each one brings a different flavour to the mix. Trying to decide where to go next? If you’re looking for coastal vibes, history, seafood galore, and wild scenery, Nova Scotia is the destination for you, and Contiki’s North American tours bring you right into the action. 

Nova Scotia may be one of the smallest provinces in Canada, but you’ll be amazed at how much there is to do. Plus, it has that iconic East Coast hospitality with some of the nicest and friendliest people on the planet. Plan an epic trip down east to Atlantic Canada and add these things to do in Nova Scotia to your bucket list!

1. Pick wild blueberries

Did you know that Canada is the second largest producer of blueberries in the world? Nova Scotia’s wild blueberries are some of the best that you can find, and when you’re not eating them, you can pick them yourself. It’s tempting to just roll around and feast in a field of wild blueberries until you look like Violet Beauregarde, but try to practise some self-control.

These sweet superfruits can be picked in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. (It’s also a well known wine region if you fancy a bevy or two!)

2. Visit Masstown Market

This National award winning, family run business is a worthy stop on your east coast road trip if you want to live like the locals.

Craving some fresh fruit, baked goods, or seafood? Check, check and check. Looking for fun knick knacks to remember your trip out east? Also check, they’ve got it all! With a garden centre, Maritime based Canadian artisan crafts and more, Masstown is a one stop shop for all your needs. 

Next door to the main building you’ll also find their popular fish and chip boat, where you can enjoy some of the freshest fish around. Good news for those with dietary restrictions, their batter is both gluten and dairy free!  

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3. Lighthouse hop

Lighthouses are deeply rooted in East Coast culture, so it comes as no surprise that Nova Scotia is home to 150 lighthouses. Why not check out one or twenty while driving along the stunning rugged coastline of the province? There’s actually a roadway on the south shores of Nova Scotia called The Lighthouse Route that takes you all the way from Halifax to Yarmouth – a whopping 585 kilometres – where you can stop to visit a handful along the drive. 

4. Eat all of the lobster you can

Even if seafood isn’t your favourite, you’d be crazy to visit Nova Scotia and not try some lobster. Nova Scotia is one of the most famous lobster hot-spots in the world for good reason. Lobster rolls and lobster boils may be top picks, but there’s so much more to taste. Try lobster poutine, lobster tacos, lobster mac n’ cheese, and lobster risotto. Chances are, you can find practically anything else with lobster in it, too.

You can’t go wrong ordering lobster at any point in the year, but if you’re serious about your grub, November to May is prime lobster fishing season, thanks to the cold, crisp water of the Atlantic. 

5. Go whale watching

Nova Scotia’s coastal towns make for the perfect whale watching spots, and you can choose from a ton of tours to get an even closer look. The east side of Nova Scotia is open to the Atlantic Ocean, and there are 12 beautiful whale species that are known to frequent the waters here. You can even occasionally spot a humpback or a blue whale right from the shores of Halifax on our Atlantic Canada trip. 

Summer and fall seasons are the best time of year to spot these magnificent creatures, while areas near the Cabot Trail and Bay of Fundy are usual hot spots!

6. Golf in Ingonish

Even if golf isn’t your thing, how often can you say that you played at one of the top 100 golf courses in the world? Golf might not be one of the first things that come to mind when you think of Nova Scotia, but this small province has about 38 courses.

Cabot Links & Cliffs is credited with being one of the most popular courses, with Northumberland Links coming in as another top spot. 

Not quite ready to tee off? Luckily for you, the town of Ingonish is located at the northeastern tip of Cape Breton Island, which means you’re never far away from gorgeous hiking trails, stunning beaches and seafood galore. 

7. Go tidal bore rafting

Walking on the ocean floor is what makes the Bay of Fundy such a hotspot for visitors, but there’s a way to get even closer to the action. The large tides that rush in and out twice a day create something called a seiche effect – which is basically big waves similar to water splashing back and forth in your bathtub. Luckily for all you adrenaline junkies, you can get up close and personal with these waves on a motorised raft. 

Waves on the river can reach anywhere from 4 to 8 metres in height, and the tidal bore is a unique experience to only a few places in the world. If you’re lucky, you might even get to channel your inner kid and go mud sliding! 

8. Winery Hop

Nova Scotia may not be the first place you think of when you think of Canadian wine regions, but it should be on your radar. The province was actually one of the first places in Canada to start growing grapes for wine production in the 1600s. 

Nova Scotian wines are a unique find, and there are now over 20 wineries for you to explore. You can find them scattered all over the province, but the Annapolis Valley is the hot spot – it’s home to half of the province’s wineries. 

And since you’re never more than 20 kilometers away from the ocean, they even say you can taste a bit of saltiness from the ocean in all wines produced here.

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9. Visit Chéticamp

During your time on Cape Breton Island, make sure you spend some time in Chéticamp specifically. Chéticamp is a traditional Acadian fishing village where you can find amazing Acadian eats, go whale watching, hike the trails, and fish for lobster. 

If you’re not familiar with the name, Acadians are an ethnic group found mostly in Eastern Canada, descending from the French who settled in the Maritimes during the 17th and 18th centuries. Acadians are fiercely proud of their culture, language and traditions, and Chéticamp’s lasting French influences make it one of the most unique places in all of Nova Scotia.

Chéticamp, Canada

Image source:Jeebz K / unsplash

10. Visit the Canadian Museum of Immigration

Pier 21 in Halifax is home to Canada’s Museum of Immigration, which is an amazing place to wander for Canadians and visitors alike. The museum is located on the shores of the Halifax seaport, where nearly a million people would have stepped onto Canadian soil for the first time. 

The exhibit delves into Canada’s history of immigration throughout the years, where you can get a guided tour or wander the rooms filled with first-person, inspiring stories, archival photos and artefacts. 

One of the best parts of the museum? You can even explore your own family’s immigration history in the archives for free. Put it on your must-do list for your time in Halifax on a Contiki trip through Atlantic Canada.

11. Wander Kejimkujik National Park

There’s a ton of stunning natural landscapes to see in Nova Scotia, Kejimkujik National Park included. This protected park was historically essential for the Mi’kmaq people as a place to hunt, fish, and travel through. 

Mi’kmaq petroglyphs (prehistoric rock carvings) can still be found in the park, and it’s one of the top places to canoe and camp in all of Nova Scotia. Wander through groves full of 330 year old hemlock trees, soak up the sun at some of the best beaches the province has to offer, and close off the day by falling asleep in a yurt or under the stars at one of their campsites, open year round. 

12. Enjoy some East Coast tunes

East coast music is weaved into the fabric of the Maritimes, and it would be a shame to leave and not have enjoyed the toe tapping tunes! 

From live bands at pubs, to kitchen parties and ceilidhs (a social get together with celtic music, dancing and singing), you can’t visit Atlantic Canada and not enjoy some sort of live music. 

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13. Visit Lunenberg

This gorgeous coastal town has it all. The photo ops and eats are endless in Lunenberg, and it’s one of the two sole urban communities in North America designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Aside from amazing restaurants, history, breweries, and shopping, Lunenberg is best known for its colourful colonial buildings, and for being home to the Bluenose II ship. 

The Bluenose II is a replica of the original Bluenose – a fishing and racing schooner unlike any other which captured the hearts of Nova Scotians and Canadians alike. Today, its image is proudly displayed on Canadian dimes. If you’re lucky, you might catch it docked in town where you can wander this Canadian treasure, or book a cruise ahead of time so you can say you sailed on this iconic ship.



14. Explore Louisbourg

It can be hard to envision life in Nova Scotia in the 1700s; a time when French colonialists were establishing their settlements. The Louisbourg National Historic Site is the largest historical reconstruction in North America and will take you back in time with costumed animators, elegant houses, kitchen gardens, fortifications and 18th century ruins. Learn more about the complex history of Nova Scotia while enjoying beautiful coastal views!

15. Visit Peggy’s Cove

You can’t go to Nova Scotia and not tick this iconic lighthouse off your bucket list. The province is home to arguably the world’s most photographed lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. What makes Peggy’s Cove so popular is how picturesque it is, and the charm of the small fishing village makes you fall in love as soon as you visit. 

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse was built in 1915 and is still operational, and was a working post office until 2009. Its beautiful red and white structure perched on top of the wave sculpted granite rocks make it one of the most famous and well-known spots in Canada. It doesn’t cost anything to visit, but you’re better off going bright and early in the morning to beat the crowds! 

Peggy's Cove

Image source:Unsplash

16. Try a donair

Nova Scotia’s love of lobster is rivalled only by their love of donair. Donairs are the unofficial food of Halifax, and make an amazing lunch, and an even better late-night snack after a night at the bar. The donair is a remixed version of a Greek gyros wrap, with beef shawarma and a signature donair sauce. Try one – or a dozen – for yourself during your free time in Halifax when you visit Canada with Contiki.

17. Visit Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Cape Breton Island is a stunning part of the province, and the National Park has some of the best ocean and mountain views around – it’s even been ranked as the #1 island in North America! Cape Breton Highlands National Park has some of the most diverse and rugged landscapes in the Maritimes. It’s the perfect place to go hiking, fishing, cycling, or swimming.

18. Go pub hopping

With more bars per capita than any other city in Canada, bar hopping is a must in Halifax. The city boasts nearly 200 bars and restaurants, so you won’t have any trouble finding a place to relax and chat with friends, and most likely a local or two along the way. 

The Split Crow pub is Nova Scotia’s original tavern and has had its doors open since it was granted its liquor licence in 1749, and features live music every night. East Coast Canada is also well known for its ties to the UK, so if you’re craving an authentic Irish pub, Durty Nelly’s has you covered. It’s so authentically Irish, the pub was actually designed and built in Ireland and shipped overseas! 

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19. Eat some Digby scallops

Just like its lobster, Nova Scotia has amazing fresh scallops that you just have to taste to believe. The town of Digby is the scallop capital of the world, so it should come as no surprise that they get its namesake from this fishing town. Whether you’re a seafood fan or not, these delicious molluscs are worth a try. Get them right in town or look for them on local menus all around the province.


Image source:Unsplash

19. Chill out at Halifax Harbour

Life by the water is just better, and when it comes to Halifax, the proof is in the view. You can try your luck by whale watching down by the water’s edge, grab some delicious fresh food (cough, cough, lobster rolls) from one of the food huts, and walk one of the worlds longest urban boardwalks that spans 4 kilometres along the Halifax harbour. 

The Harbour is the hub of a lot of excitement and culture in the city, and it’s also a great place to go for nightlife – you can watch the sun set and relax with a drink under peaceful twinkle lights at a local favourite, the Beer Garden.

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21. Drive along Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail is the world famous 298 kilometre road that weaves through Cape Breton Island, and it’s a drive like no other. From small fishing villages to jaw dropping ocean lookouts, the views along Cabot Trail are some of the most stunning coastal landscapes you’ll ever find. 

There’s no shortage of breathtaking views, hiking trails, and amazing eats along the trail too. The Cabot Trail is especially worth a visit in the fall when the leaves are in full bloom! 

Cabot Trail - things to do in nova scotia

Image source:Unsplash

22. Visit the Bay of Fundy

Want to walk on the ocean floor while staying dry? This unique experience is the reason why the Bay of Fundy often tops the list of things to do in Nova Scotia. Fundy has the highest tides in the world, which rise and fall 16 metres (that’s about the same as a 4-story building) twice a day!  

When the tide is low, you can walk out onto the ocean floor and wander between the larger than life rock formations known as Hopewell Rocks. Grab some lunch at the restaurant on site and wander the gift store while you wait for the tides to change. The fun experience comes in visiting the same spot a few hours later to see it completely submerged in water. And if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can even book a kayaking tour to be on the water as the tide changes!

23. Halifax Citadel

Citadel Hill is a National Historic Site and a great way to get an understanding of Halifax’s significance in Canadian history – it might also give you an explanation as to why the streets are so hilly. 

Aside from enjoying the stunning views overlooking the city and harbour, you can book guided tours or enjoy walking around at your own pace. Be sure to hang around to witness the changing of the guard ceremony, and keep your eyes and ears peeled around lunchtime to witness the firing of the 12 o’clock cannon. 

24. Cows Ice Cream

Once listed as number 1 in the “World’s Top Ten Places for Ice Cream” you can’t leave the East Coast without at least wandering into one of the most iconic ice cream shops Canada has to offer. Since 1963 Cows has been hand making their ice cream and waffle cones, and coming up with all sorts of punny Cow themed names for their flavours like “Cowie Wowie”, “Cownadian Maple” and “Fluff & Udder”. 

If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, they’ve got all sorts of fun, cheeky Cows merch to bring home and show off to your friends! Whether you want to be decked out in head-to-toe cow print or rock a Cows themed T-shirt with a unique spin on your favourite show, you’ll definitely be in for a chuckle or two in this store. 

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25. Visit the Alexander Keith’s Brewery

You can’t leave Nova Scotia without your fair share of beer. The pub lifestyle and Scottish/Irish influences are well-known and celebrated within the province. It also doesn’t hurt that it pairs so well with seafood and donairs. Plus, there are few things more satisfying than a nice cold one after a long day of fishing.

During your time in Halifax on our Atlantic Canada adventure, you can enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of one of North America’s oldest breweries. Alexander Keith’s is not only the pride of Nova Scotia, but also a nationally beloved beer with 200 years of history here. You’ll be able to learn more about the man, the myth, and legend himself, as well as what goes into making their iconic brews – literally and figuratively. 

Afterwards you’ll head down to the Stags Head, a historic pub that was once an ageing cavern, where you’ll sample some of the finest beer on tap while enjoying your own private Cèilidh. Pronounced Kay-Leigh, these social gatherings come from both Irish and Scottish traditions where family and friends gather around to sing, dance and drink after a hard day’s work! Not a bad way to end the day! 

things to do in Nova Scotia Brewery

Image source:Unsplash

Inspired to say yes and make a trip Down East for yourself? Here are some other things you may be wondering about when you’re planning out your list of things to do in Nova Scotia:

What is Nova Scotia best known for?

There are so many amazing elements to Nova Scotia. The 25 things above are just the tip of the iceberg of things to do and see in this province. But, if we have to choose favourites, you could safely say that Nova Scotia is best known for Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Cape Breton Island, the Bay of Fundy and of course, delicious lobster.

What is the best month to visit Nova Scotia?

Like the other Maritime provinces of Canada, winters in Nova Scotia can be very harsh and snowy. For that reason, the summer months are the best time to visit Nova Scotia and experience it to its full potential. Nova Scotia’s summers are warm and make the perfect time to see and do everything on your list. Visit Nova Scotia between May and October for the best weather. If you want to avoid the peak season as much as possible, choose the very beginning and end of summer and visit in either May or October.

Nova Scotia, Canada

Image source:Contiki

Is Nova Scotia expensive to visit?

There are aspects of a trip to Nova Scotia that fall on both ends of the scale, from cheap to pricy. Regardless of the time of year, getting yourself to Nova Scotia is where you’ll spend a big chunk of your budget. Flights to Nova Scotia can be a bit steep, but that’s to be expected when you’re flying into a tiny province on the edge of the Atlantic. Flight deals are common though, so keep your eyes peeled for a deal.

You can do Nova Scotia nicely on a budget in shared accommodations and with street eats, or you can ball out with lobster feasts and fancy hotels. Regardless of which way you go about your trip, the cost is well worth it. There aren’t many places in Canada where you can feast on fresh lobster 24/7, so make the most of it and channel the YOLO mentality. Pro tip: do it with Contiki: they have all of the details sorted for you, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck when you travel together.

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