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Nova Scotia questions/suggestions/tips

Earlier this year my husband and I went to Czech Republic, then a few months later, Scotland. For both trips I relied on advice and suggestions from many people on this site. Much of it was very helpful!!

So now we're wanting to travel to Nova Scotia, to hike as well as sight see. Our recent trip to Scotland involved an eight day trip of hiking the West Highland Way trail. It turned out to be far more challenging for me than I had expected. But I do enjoy hiking. I'm looking into Cabot Trail as well as going over to the west part of NS to check out the Bay of Fundy and the numerous towns and sites there. We plan to fly into Halifax and rent a car. Trying to decide if we should rent lodging for 5 days along the trail and just drive to various trail heads to do some hikes. Then going over to the west coast area and doing more leisurely exploring for 3-4 days before finishing up back in Halifax and taking in that city for a day or two until we fly back home.

We're wanting to go in May, before it gets too hot or crowded. Probably the first few weeks in May of 2024.

So friends, please send along any suggestions, advice, and experiences you might have! Greatly appreciate it.

Posted by
1874 posts

Can't make suggestions on hiking, but I have been to Nova Scotia twice and just love it. I like all areas, but I think the area around Lunenburg is my favorite. My sister has been and has hiked, so I'll ask her if she has any recommendations. Nova Scotia is lovely and the people are very very friendly.

Posted by
32265 posts

I'm sure you'll find lots to see and do in Nova Scotia. A few thoughts.....

I'd recommend spending a few days in Halifax at the beginning as there are some great historic sites there. I enjoyed the Maritime Museum with Titanic history and 1917 explosion, and especially HMCS Sackville. You could rent the car when leaving Halifax.

Posted by
207 posts

Hi Deborah!

Nova Scotian here! First off, I can't tell you how proud it makes me each time I see someone say they want to come visit our little slice of paradise. There is so much to see and do here, and I think you're off to a good start.
I'm not a hiker, but generally speaking, you will not be disappointed by the Cabot Trail. It is stunning and one of our points of pride. With that said, I'm not sure I'd spend 5 days there. If I was recommending something to family, I'd tell them to spend about 3 days there, a couple near the Annapolis Valley, a few in Halifax (my hometown) and a couple near Lunenburg. The best way to experience the tides of the Bay of Fundy is from our neighbor New Brunswick, at Fundy National Park. If you'd instead like to experience the thrill of the tides from the water, I highly recommend Tidal Bore Rafting in Shubenacadie. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's truly incredible.

While you're visiting us, do not miss our fabulous seafood, Peggy's Cove or the downtown Halifax area. We have the Public Gardens, the Waterfront, Citadel Hill and so much more.

If you end up coming later in May, the Apple Blossom Festival will be happening in the Valley region during that time.

I hope this helps!

PQ

Posted by
2397 posts

We truly enjoyed Halifax. Yes Peggys Cove is worth a visit but please listen to advisory to not climb on the rocks although it is tempting. I can't remember the museum name, the previous poster will know, but it has a cottage inside that belonged to Maude Lewis and wow was that worth it. Look up her history, amazing. We took a tour with one of those boats that go on water and land and it was fun and great history lesson. We also were impressed with the history and the connection the city has with Boston and the Titanic. You will not be disappointed.

Posted by
1695 posts

Pier 21 was my favourite site in Halifax. It is extremely well done and entertaining, as well as thought-provoking and educational. Immigrants, soldiers, war brides, home orphans, and many others have passed through Pier 21. https://pier21.ca/

There is a restaurant in Halifax that was once a school owned and operated by Anna Leonowens (of Anna and the King of Siam fame). https://www.fivefishermen.com/history/ The food was excellent when we were there, too (although that was a number of years ago).

Posted by
2898 posts

Depending on just how far afield you're willing to go for some epic hiking, I'd put in a plug for Cape Breton Highlands National Park - located about 4 hours north of Halifax and part of the Cabot Trail route.. We based ourselves in Ingonish Beach for 6 nights a few years ago and wish we could have extended a bit more in order to do justice to the beautiful trails. It's a gorgeous area and one a bit off the beaten tourist path so not that many people around.
Spending a few nights at 2 or 3 locations around the peninsula would allow you to cover most of the trailheads without the necessity of long drives just getting there. The roads are 2 lane affairs and you won't make very good time, but the scenery is so spectacular all the way around that you really won't care. Can preview the drive using the street view feature on Google Maps.
It'll likely be a little buggy in May so bring repellent. Waterproofs wouldn't go amiss either - the trails are likely to be wet.

Posted by
317 posts

Another Nova Scotian here. I do hike and there are lots of great hiking trails along the Cabot Trail. The Skyline Trail being one of the best. It’s near Cheticamp. You can also do bit of a climb to the top of the gypsum mine in Cheticamp. The view from there is spectacular.

White Point (no not the resort near Liverpool) between Dingwall and Neil’s Harbour is incredible. It’s like you are on the coast of Scotland. It’s a nice hike too.

Just to point out that that area of NS is seasonal and some restaurants and accommodations may not be open yet. Victoria Day weekend (closest Monday to May 24) is when many seasonal places open.

Posted by
4594 posts

I used to live in Nova Scotia and now in Ottawa. I know leaves only come out on the trees in early part of May here. I can't recall in NS, but may be similar. But I do remember canoeing Kejimkujik Nat Park over May long weekend and the ticks were terrible..and mosquitos and black flies. So your early May dates should avoid most of the hiking pests, but as mentioned, seasonal activities may be fewer.

Posted by
88 posts

It's been a while since I've posted but am finally taking the time to research particulars for our trip. We're flying into Halifax May 16. My husband is running a marathon in Halifax on the 19th, and as a rule, doesn't like to spend too much time walking before the race. So we'll spend a few days post race checking all all the wonderful places so many of you suggested before renting a car and driving up to Baddeck. I figured a 2 day stay there, hiking the Uisge Ban Falls trail, touring the Alexander Graham Bell museum, and driving to Fortress Louisbourg National Park.
I see many people recommend going over to Annapolis Valley for a few days but we aren't wine drinkers. Is there more to do and see there than vineyards? And we still hope to see the Bay of Fundy, even though we won't be on the right side of the bay to appreciate the tides. Suggestions for these 2 areas would be appreciated.
would also appreciate suggestions for places to stay in Halifax that is central enough for us to hit all the tourist sites, the race and pick up a rental car. Suggestions for lodging in Baddeck would be appreciated.

Many thanks!

Posted by
267 posts

It is about 250 miles from Halifax to Cheticamp - half on very good roads. The other roads on the island were less good except those within the park. In Cheticamp, check out the Seaside Shacks (very popular). The town is known for Hooked Rugs. Just north of town stop at the AuCoin Bakery - very yummy. We stayed 3 nights in Cheticamp, taking hiking day trips to the west side of Cape Breton (with stops every morning at the bakery!). (There is only camping in the Park.) The park's east side did not seem as interesting to us but the coastal towns on that side were. Very near Baddeck, stayed at auldfarminn.ca. There are a dozen rooms and the Vickers are great hosts. 4 nights at Auld Farm Inn with day trips to Sydney and area, hiking the Baddeck area and the Bell museum. We have always enjoyed Halifax. Don't skip the Maritime museum. If exploring near Halifax area, checkout Wolfville (great BnBs and restaurants). A lot of Acadian/Cajun history in that area. Annapolis Royal area has early settlement history and scallops.

Posted by
88 posts

So been doing some deeper planning into Halifax. Can anyone tell about about their public transit system? I see they offer a bus from the airport to 4 stops into Halifax proper. We are looking to stay at a hotel on Grafton Street and it appears the last stop for that bus from the airport is Scotia Square. Trying to determine if we could walk with our luggage to Grafton from there or hail a taxi. The hotel does not offer transport from the airport. Or just getting either a taxi or an Uber from the airport directly to the hotel, though I realize that will be pricey.
And is this bus service the same one we would use to get around the city? I see they offer passes for 5 and 7 days. Does that include Downtown, North End and Dartmouth? We don't plan to rent a car until we leave Halifax to travel north.
Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated, especially from people who live or work in Halifax.

Many thanks!!

Posted by
207 posts

Hi Deborah,
While you technically could walk to Grafton from Scotia Square, with luggage I wouldn't really want to. That part of the city is quite hilly so it wouldn't be without some hassle. Personally I would either rent the car at the airport and drive in or get a car service for a flat rate.
While there are buses, they can be crowded, especially at peak times. The best option for getting to Dartmouth is the ferry. This costs about $2-3 each way and gives you a nice view of the harbour on the way. Personally, I would want a car while in Halifax, especially for a trip out to Peggy's Cove (stay off the black rocks!).

PQ

Posted by
73 posts

We will be in Halifax for 12 days this coming August.

A different viewing point for the tidal changes!

We will be staying in Truro, NS and going to see the tidal changes at Hopewell Rock National Park.

https://www.nbparks.ca/en/parks/33/hopewell-rocks-provincial-park. This site also lists the low and high tide changes for each day.

It's about a 3 hour drive from Baddeck. We'll be heading there after 2 nights in Truro.

Posted by
317 posts

Kdh, you realize Hopewell Rocks is in New Brunswick, not Nova Scotia and is about 2 and a half hours from Truro and a five hour drive from Baddeck.

Posted by
317 posts

Deborah,

It depends where on Grafton you are staying. If it is the Prince George, that isn’t very far from Scotia Square and is walkable.

You can certainly get buses from the downtown easily enough to Dartmouth and other areas.

The Annapolis Valley has some nice little towns. If you aren’t into wineries, you could go to Annapolis Royal. It’s really interesting and you could go to Balancing Rock near Digby. You could also hike Cape Split near Scot’s Bay. Halls Harbour is near when the tide is out and there is also the lookoff in Canning.

Grand Pre is a UNESCO site and is really pretty also.

So, there is lots to do in the Valley besides wine.

Posted by
88 posts

We're staying at the Residence Inn on Grafton ST. And we aren't too far from the marathon Start/stop points, but I did email someone connected with the marathon about walking to the start versus riding a bus or grabbing a cab.

I like the suggestion of taking the ferry over to Dartmouth when we go to the race expo. I'll investigate that more.

We decided to stay at a farm B&B in Baddeck- there's plenty to do there and we'll spend 5 nights there before heading back to Halifax for our flight out.

Any other suggestions or advice are always appreciated!

Deborah

Posted by
88 posts

Hey everyone. We just returned from our Nova Scotia trip a few days ago. Really appreciated all the suggestions sent by so many of you!
Halifax is an amazing city and the friendliness of the people there was really inspiring. We used an Uber to get from the airport to our hotel. While the Residence Inn on Grafton was very well located for getting around town, it is in dire need of upgrades and cleaning. And directly across the street from the hotel entrance is a bar/grill, The Marshal Plum, I think, that plays loud music much of the day and night, and has outdoor speakers positioned towards the hotel.
Bus transportation was easy to use and navigate.
It was pretty chilly and blustery most of the time we were there. May 16-21.
Restaurants are plentiful but many were overpriced with not very good food. We ate at a grill called The Pint Halifax- I ordered a burger and there was something odd about the texture of the meat!! Would not recommend this place. Ate at the something goat restaurant down on the water front and head a good meal. Great healthy place called the Harvest just up a block from the hotel. Wanted to eat at Elle's Bistro on Barrington St. but didn't get the chance. Ate at a small lebanese cafe with delicious chicken wraps.
We found the Maritime Museum and the Immigration museum the two best "things to do". Avoided Keith's Brewery- over priced and not very tasty beer. Garrison's Brewery was a better choice.

We rented a car from Touro (I think that's what it's called) to drive up to the National Park. Stayed in Baddeck at the Auld Farm Inn B&B. Very nice hosts- Glen and Jan Vickers and their sweet dog KC. They were helpful to a point. Unfortunately many of the town's restaurants weren't open yet, so few choices. Ate at the Freight Shed- very overpriced! Tom's Pizza was a busy place that offered delicious pizza and good beers! Highwheeler Cafe had good sandwiches and yummy cookies but was rather pricey for just a sandwich- no sides come with the sandwich unless you pay extra. We went to the Lobster Galley to have authentic lobster dinner- was tasty but small lobsters.
Big Spruce Brewing company is just a short drive away and they have a food truck 4 days a week with tasty burgers, and the brewery offers very good beers. We also stopped at the Breton Brewery in Sydney and had some good beer too- they don't offer food but you can bring your own food there.
Visited the Alexander Graham Bell museum- very informative!
Drove to Fortress of Louisbourgh and enjoyed what little of it was open. Despite being told that things open up after Victoria Day (May 20th) many places were still shut or limited service. Disappointing and we felt our B&B hosts should have informed us better of this before we came up.
Drove the whole Cabot Trail road. Did the Skyline Trail, Middle Head trail (was under some sort of construction and much of the trail was inaccessible), UsiageBan trail (much of it closed after a harsh winter caused two bridges to collapse), and Nicholson Trail (very wet and buggy), not much to see. Also hiked around a pretty lake but can't recall the name. Lots of trails we didn't get to that we wished we had if the information about trails has been up to date. Our last day in Baddeck we heard that many of the trails had been maintained by the various communities but that Canada Park Services was going to take over the care and maintenance of the trails. WE did stop at a small outdoor store near Ingonish but the proprietor wasn't very friendly- poo pooed just about everything we asked about visiting. Skyline trail was the best one we hiked.
Think I've carried on enough!! Overall enjoyed the visit to NS and would definitely recommend for anyone considering it. And we enjoyed the refreshingly cooler weather- was tough to come back to temps in the 90's and high humidity.