Spotlight on Nova Scotia
If Nova Scotia were a film, its protagonists would be rugged yet kind-hearted, burnt by the wind and at one with the sea. It would be shot against a backdrop of rolling green fields and high sea-cliffs; its soundtrack would feature fiddles, drums and evocative piano scores; and its plot would be a spirited romp around themes of history, community and family.
I partnered with good connections & sponsors for my #MaritimeMia trip. With that being said, all opinions are my own. But if you know anything about me, you knew that already. I’m way too opinionated as it is. 😉 My sponsors are Collette, Caring Counts, Nova Scotia, Kitchen Door Catering and Halifax Distilling.
I had a unique view of Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Maritimes! Not only did I get to see it as a tourist, I had an insiders perspective due to my trip partner, Adam Purcell of Caring Counts, who is a Halifax resident (and his wife Sarah grew up there!) and Collette Travel.
I also experienced my very first guided trip courtesy of Collette Travel. The Maritime Coastal Wonders Tour encompassed the provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick (affectionately termed the “Drive-By” Province and it is anything BUT – you must not miss NB!) Look for separate blogposts coming soon. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia deserves it’s own post because… let’s face it… I traveled all of that lovely province as evidenced below!
Random Halifax Facts:
- Halifax has a strong connection to the Titanic sinking – surviving passengers arrived there after being rescued and many bodies washed ashore. There is a permanent Titanic Museum at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
- Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia and has the largest population east of Quebec City
- Halifax was founded in 1749 by Honorable Edward Cornwallis of England.
- The Halifax Explosion in 1917 was the world’s largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima. About 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 injured when the SS Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship loaded with wartime explosives collided with an empty Norwegian ship. It caught fire and 25 minutes later exploded. A tsunami and pressure wave also occurred and caused considerable damage. Boston still holds a place in Halifax’s heart for their rescue & relief efforts and Halifax sends a Christmas tree to the City of Boston every year.
- On Sept. 11, 2001, 40 planes from around the world landed in Halifax Stanfield International Airport, with a total of approximately 8,000 passengers and crew. It was the greatest number of aircraft accepted by any airport in the world that day. Nova Scotians housed many passengers as they waited to return home. It took five days before the flights started moving again and Halifax was the first major airport to have the diverted planes back in the air.
- Sidney Crosby, Captain of the NHL team Pittsburgh Penguins, was born & raised in Cole Harbour just outside Halifax. I’m still not sure who he is. 😀 #Kidding #Maybe
- The Cunard Steamship Line was founded in 1840 in Halifax
- Halifax boasts the second largest ice free natural harbour in the world after Sydney, Australia.
- 6 universities in Halifax – Dalhousie University, Mount Saint Vincent University, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Nova Scotia Community College and The Atlantic School of Theology.
The minute I landed in Halifax, I felt a strong energy – perhaps it’s from the many people who arrived there, excited to start their new lives. More so I think it’s from all the sorrow they have experienced and handled gracefully. As an intuitive, it’s one of my strong takeaways and one of the reasons I consider Halifax to be my sister city!
Full of culture, amazing restaurants, artists, entrepreneurs and history, you can’t visit Nova Scotia without dipping your toe & your whole body in Halifax. Here are a few of my favorite tourist spots & businesses.
Pier 21 & Canadian Museum of Immigration – think of it as the Canadian Ellis Island. Pier 21 is just a sight to behold! Over one million immigrants came to Canada through Pier 21 and it is the last surviving seaport immigration facility in Canada. Immigrant Museum – I’m thinking you should stop here first and get the same sensation as the many people who landed in this continent for the first time. Incredibly well put together & informative! Curator Marie Chapman has put together a hands-on experience including trunks, photos & videos.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic – This little museum packs a punch. I had never heard of the Halifax Explosion but once I did, I understood the temerity of this town. The incident occurred in 1917 and was the world’s largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima. About 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 injured when 2 ships collided, on carrying wartime explosives. Needless to say, it drastically changed the busy town. They also have a very comprehensive & interactive Titanic exhibit.
The Public Gardens on Spring Garden Road are a 17 acre oasis containing fountains, rare flowers, trees and the beautiful red gazebo. You can tell this is the place to be when the weather is warm, especially when live bands are playing in the gazebo.
The Halifax Citadel National Historic Site is the most visited National Historic Site in Canada. And I can see why – perched on a hill overlooking Halifax, you can see for miles. If the zombie apocalypse hits, I’m holing up at the Citadel. With a dry moat and secure walls, it WILL be the place to be. AND they still practice the firing of a gun (from the site) at midday which dates from 1856 and continues today.
Cole Harbour Heritage Farm & Museum: Located in a suburb of Halifax (which is also home to Sidney Crosby who I didn’t get to meet but I hear he’s famous for hockey) 🙂 – Definitely don’t miss this little gem – it’s a working farm and museum that also has a tea house/restaurant as well as a gorgeous garden. Perfect for families & ladies who lunch. Big shout of thanks to Councillor Lorelei Nicoll for the tour.
Doug Belding Fine Art – Doug is a self-taught artist who really made my trip special by painting a creation for me onsite during my tasting dinner at Kitchen Door Catering (Doug and Patty are BFF’s from high school). He doesn’t have a gallery but if you are headed to Halifax – look him up & get one of his paintings. Personally I’m eyeing one of the Chubby Chicks paintings as the next Belding for my home.
Food & Booze
TONS of great seafood, of course, but I also had some great italian, pizza and beer. Speaking of which, did you know Halifax has more pubs per capita than any other city in Canada. Click on the links below for my full review and photos.
Kitchen Door Catering – In addition to being amazing catering professionals who craft delicious food, they also have great pre-made meals, deli sandwiches & more. Then there is the cooking classes and their community work. You have to check them out – Patty Howard is the owner and she and her staff really go all out. We had a tasting dinner there and quite frankly, it ruined any chance for me to find a better lobster roll or bowl of chowder during the rest of my trip. #UptownProblems
Halifax Distilling – Owners & founders Arla & Julie have put together an amazing place right in the heart of Downtown Halifax. Gold, Black, Spiced & Cream – all the rums you can think of! The spot is perfect for a night out, live music or private parties. All of their rums are fantastic & made in house – Julie is a 4th generation distiller – her great great great grandfather was a distiller in North Carolina!
Caring Counts – The social media guy that made most of the cool stuff on this trip. Working with Adam Purcell is the prime of example of “collaborations that work”. Adam introduced me to all his favorite businesses and friends. He also creates AMAZING content for his clients. His tagline: “We get people to care so you can sell them sh#t” LOVE IT. It was his connections that made my trip so special. I have a separate post about the Power of Connection, Caring Counts & Good People – there needs to be way more of this in the world! Adam embodies that!
Indian Harbour / Peggy’s Cove
Peggy’s Cove is one of Nova Scotia’s most visited villages. A small fishing village with an authentic seafaring history and rugged coastal scenery since the original settling families landed in the 1800s. Only a short drive from Halifax, this area is gorgeous, wild & also steeped in history. It’s an amazing spot that graces the entry of St. Margarets Bay. The Lighthouse draws a ton of people. You can’t actually go up in the lighthouse but climbing on the surrounding rocks will suffice. Protip: soak up some quick meditation time like I did with a quick sit down near the water. Just don’t walk out onto the black rocks in the water. It’s stupid, dangerous, and will draw ridicule from the locals. #Dont
The tiny William E. deGarthe Memorial Museum is adorable & also has amazing carving: a “lasting monument to Nova Scotian fishermen” on a 30-metre (100-feet) long granite outcropping situated behind his house in Peggy’s Cove along the South Shore.
SwissAir Memorial – A lovely & simple homage to the flight that crashed in 1998. Another tragedy that Nova Scotia bears with grace.
Oceanstone Seaside Resort File under – #ICantEven. I was in the Maritimes for three weeks and this lovely spot stole my heart. Oceanstone Resort – – this is truly an iconic experience. Lovely little cottages & guest houses all nestled up onto a beautiful beach with a view of the cutest damn lighthouse you’ve ever seen. Perfect for weddings & events but book far in advance – everyone wants to be there! You can read my full review here
Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park: this little spot is idyllic – approx. 20 miles from Halifax – the drive is wooded, wild and spectacular. This is a popular spot for all during the summer. Even on a cloudy day, it’s dreamy.
Lunenberg – A UNESCO World Heritage Site – with its narrow streets and unique architecture. Oh my gosh, what a delightful seaside town. Complete with multi-colored houses, fabulous restaurants and home to the Bluenose II a replica of the fishing schooner Bluenose. Built in 1963 as a promotional yacht for Oland Brewery, it became Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador in 1971.
Mahone Bay – A quiet & peaceful waterside town that boasts 3 iconic churchs next to one another. A bayside lovely town that’s great for architectural sightseeing – the homes & shops are movie quality! Mahone Bay is also home to the original studio for Amos Pewter – they have several stores throughout the Maritimes. Everything absolutely fabulous when it comes to pewter.
Annapolis Valley & Bay of Fundy
65 miles north of Halifax is the Annapolis Valley and Bay of Fundy and.. lemme tell ya, it’s a green and lush delight.
Digby – If you take the Ferry to Prince Edward Island, you won’t be disappointed by your journey from this amazing spot. First off the ferry is TOP NOTCH. It was definitely luxury – tons of seating, several spots to grab something to eat, wifi, TV/movies & more. The ride between New Brunswick and Digby is approx. 2.5 hours and a great way to relax!
And don’t forget.. Digby scallops – AND they are collected sustainably!
Wolfville: We stopped for lunch in this lovely little town so I only had about 2 hours there. Sad face that I didn’t have more time but while there I strolled the Wolfville’s Rail Trail which boasts a piano in a gazebo as well as an oversized lifeguard chair. If you’re old enough to remember Edith Ann from LaughIn, you’ll get this reference. The town sits on an inlet that’s part of Mina’s Basin so you get the Tidal Bay effect as well. Everything about this town is cutie patootie. That’s code for: adorable.
Grand Pre National Historic Site, Wolfville – another fantastic museum dedicated to the history of the Acadians, Nova Scotia’s early French settlers. Theirs is a story of pioneer life, tragedy, and triumphant survival. Today’s Acadians are descended from the first European settlers in Nova Scotia. Second only to the Mi’kmaq they have the deepest roots of any founding culture in the province. The museum is dedicated to storytelling and artifacts but don’t miss out on the grounds. They are stunning and the church is lovely.
Annapolis Valley is also wine country which has a cool climate bears an uncanny affinity with the Champagne region of France. I had the privilege to visit 3 amazing wineries in one day. Each were very unique, certified organic and amazing in their own right.
Benjamin Bridge – Located in the heart of the Gaspereau Valley on the Bay of Fundy, this vineyard was inland, slightly hilly, exclusive and lovely. Brent was our very gracious and knowledgeable host and we tasted several of their premiere wines (including the fabulous Nova 7, a rose delight) and then strolled the grounds, wine glass in hand, feeling very fancy. Even more impressive: their 2008 Brut Reserve now being served at celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant
Lightfoot & Wolfville. – This is a brand new sparkling facility with an amazing view of the Bay of Fundy. Lightfoot is another lovely family owned operation. Michael & Jocelyn Lightfoot have a roomy & delightful new retail spot that I’m sure will be THE place to be for tastings, weddings & events.
Check out our fun tasting video with Corie Lightfoot!
Tasting #1 Lightfoot & Wolfville #NovaScotiaDrinks Nova Scotia
Luckett Vineyards – the busiest of all 3 vineyards, it was quite the location as well. Another family owned vineyard, it’s a bustling retail spot that also boasts a restaurant with a fabulous view of the Bay of Fundy. And… an original English telephone booth. Visitors to use the old rotary dial-up phone to call their family or friends anywhere in North America. And I did! Luckily my boyfriend actually picked up when I called.
Cape Breton Island & The Cabot Trail
At this point I’ll just have to quote Visit Nova Scotia for their spot on description:
Cape Breton Island is ranked as the #1 Island in North America by Travel + Leisure magazine and home to the Cabot Trail which was ranked in USA Today’s 10 Best Motorcycle Trips, MSN Travel’s 10 Most Underrated Attractions, and Zoomer’s 7 Greatest Road Trips. You may want to check your brakes before heading to Cape Breton. The world-renown Cabot Trail, with its dramatic coastal views and highland scenery, can be rather steep. Not to mention you’ll want to stop a lot while on the island.
Dang, that’s the TRUTH! Oh and it also boasts the Bras d’Or Lakes, Canada’s only inland sea.
The Cabot Trail is a 300 kilometre (186 mile) highway that offers spectacular coastal views, highland scenery and warm Celtic and Acadian hospitality. Rocky beaches, sweeping vistas, forests & winding mountain roads… all in one place!
Cape Breton Highlands National Park is located at the upper part of the island and is just breaktaking. I swear I could see the trees waving at me as we drove through – the entire forest is untouched and I’m fairly certain also majestic and magical. Random fact: Many car companies feature the spectacular roads of the Cabot Trail along this particular route in their commercials- I can see why!
One more thing: Cheticamp Cathedral – breaktaking!
Gaelic College – A lovely school in a stunning setting on the Cabot Trail – we were greeted by a bagpiper in full tartan and then treated to stories, music and the longstanding Celtic history in the Maritimes. school devoted to the study and preservation of the Gaelic language, arts and culture. Definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to connect with their Scottish heritage and overall incredibly informative!
Oh, and we did THIS: “milling frolic”… sat around a table and beating a large loop of woollen cloth in rhythm while singing a Gaelic song – it’s like the original rap! We also had a demonstration of Kilt Making – that is NO joke. They took it seriously now and they still do! I gained such an appreciation for it.
Alexander Graham Bell – more than you ever thought you’d want to know about AGB – this guy was ahhmazing. Way beyond the invention of the telephone. He helped achieve Canada’s first powered flight with the Silver Dart, produced the world’s fastest boat, invented advanced recording technology, designed giant kites and (get ready for this one) he did extensive research regarding sheep, twins and.. Extra nipples. You can’t make this stuff up.. AGB & his amazing wife Mabel summered in Baddeck for years and was very active in the community. Don’t miss this museum – so many great artifacts & a ton of information.
Inverary Resort – You’ll feel like you are on the movie set of “Dirty Dancing” – the property is beautiful & set next to Baddeck Bay with a great view of Kidston Island (which has two lighthouses on either end). The grounds are gorgeous, dotted with all lodging building and lovely landscaping.
Nova Scotia & Halifax is an easy hop-skip to get to with direct/daily flights from NYC area via Delta (JFK Airport) and United Airlines (Liberty Airport, Newark) and, of course, easy drive times from the northern atlantic states. GET THERE!
Check out Visit Nova Scotia for all the great places to visit!