Today I’m sharing my updated list of a bunch of cool things to do in Nova Scotia to give you an idea of how to plan for a Nova Scotia vacation this summer. After spending a month in Nova Scotia, I saw a lot of the province but with so much to explore I returned last summer to see more of this Atlantic beauty.
Although Nova Scotia is the second smallest province in Canada don’t be fooled into thinking you can see it all in a week.
In this post I’m giving you an idea of the variety of places to see in Nova Scotia. And here is a sample itinerary for a 10-day Nova Scotia road trip.
Where is Nova Scotia?
Nova Scotia is one of the maritime provinces of Canada located on the east coast, it’s known as Canada’s Ocean Playground. It is the perfect summer vacation spot for people who love the outdoors.
You’ll enjoy wonderful hiking, camping, fishing, beaches, and boating around Nova Scotia. Plus, delicious seafood and the warm hospitality of Nova Scotians.
Did you know that in Nova Scotia you are never more than 67 km (42 miles) from the ocean!
What time zone is Nova Scotia?
Nova Scotia is in the Atlantic Time Zone (UTC -4 hrs), which is one hour ahead of the USA and Canada Eastern time zone.
New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and most of Labrador (mainland of Newfoundland and Labrador province) share the Atlantic time zone with Nova Scotia. Newfoundland is a half-hour later (UTC -4.5 hrs) than Atlantic time.
Getting to Nova Scotia
There are non-stop flights to Halifax from Boston MA, New York City, and Newark NJ as well as many European cities such as London, Dublin, Paris, and Frankfurt. You can fly non-stop to Halifax from all major cities in Canada.
If you don’t mind making a stop or two your options for flying to Nova Scotia are plentiful – consult your favorite airline’s website. Or try Google Flights or Skyscanner to find the best options and prices for your flight to Nova Scotia.
When I visited Nova Scotia the first time, I drove all the way from Calgary. I spent 6 days driving across Canada but then I enjoyed a whole month in Nova Scotia and a month in Maine before heading down to St Augustine Florida to enjoy the beaches!
On my second visit I spent six weeks driving across Canada before arriving in Nova Scotia.
Okay, let’s see Nova Scotia!
Places to See in Nova Scotia
From white sand beaches and rocky coastlines to historic sites and local breweries, you’ll find that Nova Scotia has lots of cool stuff to do.
If you fly to Nova Scotia you will begin exploring the province from Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia.
One of the first things you should do in Halifax in summer is visit the waterfront in downtown Halifax.
The views are gorgeous, and you can visit the shops and restaurants. Enjoy some seafood with a seaside view!
Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
Besides learning a little bit about the history of Halifax you can also enjoy outstanding views of Halifax from atop the hill where the Citadel is located.
Halifax Public Gardens
Established in 1867, these Victorian era gardens are beautiful! You’ll find the Halifax Public Gardens in the heart of downtown Halifax.
This is a wonderful place to relax and walk the gardens or take part in one of the summer walking tours. Outdoor concerts are not uncommon during summer months at the gardens.
Point Pleasant Park
If you’re looking for a picnic spot in Halifax with wonderful views and a hiking trail through the forest, then Point Pleasant Park is a must visit site for you.
Alexander Keith’s Brewery
You’re probably a little thirsty after walking about the waterfront, Citadel, and parks. Now you should visit Alexander Keith’s Brewery to quench your thirst.
Head to Lower Water Street and have a pint at the pub where they’ve served beers for over 200 years!
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Also in the waterfront district, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the best place to learn about maritime history of Nova Scotia.
There are loads of artifacts, exhibits, and cool models of ships.
Halifax Farmer’s Market
Nova Scotia has an excellent climate for farming and gardening, and you can reap the rewards at the Halifax farmer’s market.
Fun Fact: Founded in 1750, Halifax Seaport Farmers Market is the oldest continuously operating farmer’s market in North America.
McNabs Island is the largest island in the Halifax Harbour. It’s part of the McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park.
For something unique to do in Halifax you can take a ferry to the island and explore the hiking trails. A nice escape from the busy city.
One of the most recognizable and most photographed spots in Canada, Peggy’s Cove draws many tourists to the iconic site.
If you want to see some of the best photographs of Peggy’s Cove and around Nova Scotia check out Acorn Photography.
One of the most picturesque towns in Canada is the pretty coastal town of Lunenburg Nova Scotia. Old Town Lunenburg is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
Grand Banker Bar and Grill is a great place for lunch or dinner in Lunenburg – I enjoyed beers and the Acadian Style Seafood Stew – delicious!
Walking around the waterfront in Lunenburg you may see the Bluenose II which you can walk aboard for a visit or book a cruise.
Local Art and Crafts
Also in Lunenburg watch out for the fella making knots at his sidewalk shop Knot For Sale.
You’ll find lots of local arts and crafts in Nova Scotia. Visit the farmer’s markets in cities and small towns to sample local food and crafts.
Nova Scotians create some amazing arts and crafts – perfect souvenir gifts for friends and family.
Blue Rocks for Kayaking
When I found out that I could go kayaking at Blue Rocks I drove from Lunenburg one afternoon to check it out. It was too late to rent a kayak, but I inquired about reserving a time later in the week.
Blue Rocks is a serene and gorgeous seaside community. Pay a visit during both low tide and high tide if you have the time.
I went kayaking at Blue Rocks with Pleasant Paddling – read my full blog post. Prices may have changed since I went last summer so check their website for latest prices and available time slots.
Parrsboro is a cute and artsy town on the North Shore of the Minas Basin in Cumberland County.
Known for the Fundy Geological Museum, Ottawa House-by-the-Sea Museum, and Ship’s Company Theatre, Parrsboro is an excellent spot for a weekend getaway on the North Shore.
Joggins Fossil Cliffs
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Joggins Follis Cliffs is an easy day trip from Parrsboro.
Take a guided tour or wander the coastline on your own and visit the museum exhibits to learn about geological history.
Lighthouse on Cape d’Or
For a truly unique stay in Nova Scotia, you can book the Lightkeeper’s Guest House at Cape d’Or.
Alas, it was already booked when I visited but there’s a cool hike from the parking area to the Cape d’Or Lighthouse and spectacular views along the coastline.
Five Islands is a scenic provincial park on the Bay of Fundy that features five islands, of course.
You can reserve a camping spot or visit for the day and enjoy walking on the Bay of Fundy at low tide. Be sure to visit Five Islands Lighthouse and walk the nearby trail.
Victoria Park Truro
Truro is in central Nova Scotia, about 1 hour’s drive north of Halifax. You can’t miss Victoria Park, an urban park with natural woodlands, river and waterfall, hiking trails, picnic spots, and playgrounds.
Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre
Also, not to be missed in Truro is the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre where you can learn the history and traditions of the Mi’kmaq people.
Nova Scotia is in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People, the Indigenous peoples of the Northeast region of North America.
Cape Split is a somewhat strenuous hike (12 km/7.5 miles) in the Cape Split Provincial Park. Recently updated to a loop trail, it offers spectacular views of the rocky coastline and crashing waves.
There’s plenty of space to have a picnic at Cape Split before you make the return hike to the trailhead. When I visited in 2021, they were still working on one of the lookouts but there are several excellent viewing points along the trail.
Beautiful Bridgewater in the South Shore region of Nova Scotia was my home for a month one summer, back in the before times.
I like to stay in neighborhoods where I can walk to restaurants, pubs, grocery store, farmers market, and staying in downtown Bridgewater gave me a wonderful walkable neighborhood.
One thing I loved about Bridgewater is that I could take day trips all around the South Shore and Valley region and the Bay of Fundy. There are a lot of beautiful beaches in Nova Scotia and some great hiking and kayaking too.
On the South Shore is a 2 km (1.2 mile) white sand beach called Crescent Beach, due to its shape. It connects the LaHave Islands to the mainland.
Crescent Beach is popular for surfing and paragliding when the winds are good.
One unique thing about Crescent Beach is that you can drive your vehicle on the beach, something I hadn’t seen since I was in Texas!
Take the cable ferry across the LaHave River and spend a day exploring the lovely LaHave Islands.
You can visit the LaHave Islands Marine Museum and go kayaking at LaHave Islands.
And you can even stay overnight at LaHave Islands. Enjoy a glamping adventure for a truly unique experience in Nova Scotia.
Have you heard about the Money Pit? If you’ve watched the History Channel you may remember the show The Curse of Oak Island. You can visit that island!
Visit the Oak Island Interpretive Centre and take a walking tour of Oak Island.
Fort Point Lighthouse Park
Fort Point Lighthouse is in Liverpool, a small town on the South Shore region. The lighthouse is a unique shape compared to most lighthouses.
Inside the lighthouse is a visitor center and exhibits. Walk up the narrow staircase for more exhibits.
The park surrounding the lighthouse is tree lined and features benches where you can look out onto the water and watch for seals.
The seaside village of Chester, on the Mahone Bay, is an excellent location for kayaking in Nova Scotia.
When you’re hungry head over to Seaside Shanty Restaurant (open Thursday to Sunday) in Chester Basin for a cup of chowder and a lobster roll. Sit outside right by the water!
Big Tancook Island
From Chester you can ride the passenger ferry to Big Tancook Island. Starting in summer 2022 the passenger ferry is scheduled to be replaced with a car ferry if all goes as planned.
This is a quaint and quiet getaway; you won’t find much going on at Big Tancook Island. Tancook Island is a place to relax and enjoy a slower pace.
Walk the trails, shop for souvenirs, and do some beachcombing for sea glass. Bring a picnic lunch or visit the café, which also offers bicycle rentals.
Graves Island Provincial Park
Head to East Chester and drive across the short causeway to Graves Island for a beautiful coastal walk or picnic by the sea.
Do you like camping? You can bring your tent and camp overnight on the island. They have bathrooms and showers at the campground. You can book your reservation on the Provincial Parks website.
Mahone Bay is a picturesque small town on the South Shore. Visit the Mahone Bay Museum and check out the local boutiques and gift shops.
Pop into the Saltbox Brewery for refreshments and sit on the patio to enjoy the sunshine.
Ovens Natural Park
When I read about the sea caves at the Ovens Natural Park, I knew it would be a nice walk along the coastline.
You can pan for gold on the beach, go kayaking, and camp at Ovens park. Read my full blog post about visiting Ovens Natural Park here.
Hirtle’s Beach Gaff Point Hike
Gaff Point at Hirtle’s Beach is my favorite hike in Nova Scotia so far. I almost didn’t visit Hirtle’s Beach, but when I found out about this beautiful coastal hike, I made time to go.
This trail is not particularly suitable for younger kids or people with mobility issues, but they will enjoy the beach.
Read more about Gaff Point hike and watch my video of the various types of terrain you’ll experience during the hike.
Carters Beach is the most beautiful beach in Nova Scotia. There isn’t a lot of parking near the beach so go early in the morning during a weekday if you want the best chance for a place to park.
Please respect the residents nearby and do not park in their driveways or in their yards! Evidently this has been a problem in the past.
Photos of Carters Beach could fool some people into thinking you are in the Caribbean or some other tropical locale. There are three sections of the beach and it is all spectacular.
Other South Shore beaches near Carters Beach are Hunts Point and Summerville, both are free. Another beach close to Carters is the White Point Beach Resort but you must pay to visit.
Kejimkujik National Park
There are two separate parks to Kejimkujik National Park – there’s the coastal part called Kejimkujik National Park Seaside and the inland park about 95 km (59 miles) away.
The inland park is part of Kejimkujik National Historic Site. I did not have a chance to visit this park, but I drove to the Kejimkujik seashore park, on a stormy day. Will have to make time to go back to both parks next time around.
The hike out to Harbour Rocks at Kejimkujik seaside from the parking lot is about 2.5 km (1.6 miles) and takes about 45 minutes to walk out and back. You’ll probably want to spend some time watching the waves or looking for birds and seals on the shoreline.
For a longer hike take the Port Joli Head trail loop trail which starts at the same trailhead as Harbour Rocks then veers off to Boyds Cove and follows the coastline up to Harbour Rocks. Port Joli Head hike is 10.6 km (6.6 miles) total.
Cape Sable Island
I loved the drive from Bridgewater to Cape Sable Island (not to be confused with Sable Island) and made a few stops at other beaches along the way, and Kejimkujik seaside park.
On Cape Sable Island you can visit The Hawk, the most southerly community in Nova Scotia. There’s a beach at the Hawk – featuring a coastal petrified forest.
On the way back I stopped at JBs Steak and Seafood in Barrington, just across the causeway from Cape Sable Island. I ate a wonderful meal of bacon wrapped scallops and a bowl of chowder, then walked around by the water.
There’s some big lobster sculptures your kids will love, and picnic tables at the park next to the water, great place to enjoy your meal outdoors.
Annapolis Valley Vineyards
The Annapolis Valley is known for their wineries so you should visit at least one of these vineyards to try a few Nova Scotia wines.
- Domaine de Grand Pré in Grand Pré
- Luckett Vineyards in Wolfville
- Benjamin Bridge Winery in Wolfville
- 1365 Church Street Vineyard & Winery in Port Williams
- Avondale Sky Winery in Newport
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy at Burntcoat Head Park is extraordinary! Truly amazing and awesome to view the biggest tides in the world.
You get to walk a mile out on the ocean floor during low tide. Returning a few hours later you’ll see the area flooded with water. Bay of Fundy is well worth a visit!
If you want to get a little closer and experience the tides from out in the water, try one of the Tidal Bore rafting experiences.
There are two main tidal bore rafting places: Fundy Tidal Bore Adventures and Shubenacadie Tidal Bore Rafting Resort.
While you wait in between low and high tides at Burntcoat Head Park I suggest making the short drive over to Walton Nova Scotia to visit the Lighthouse and enjoy a meal at the Walton Pub. Read my full post about visiting Walton Lighthouse.
Annapolis Royal is an attractive town with many historic buildings and the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.
On Saturday’s in summer be sure to visit the Farmer’s Market downtown and then walk over to Fort Anne National Historic Site.
Another pretty town in Nova Scotia that I love visiting is Wolfville, on the shores of the Minas Basin. Take a walk downtown to visit the boutiques and cafes.
On my first visit I attended the marvelous play Mona Parsons – War Story at the Al Whittle Theatres.
Mona Parsons is the only Canadian woman imprisoned by the German army during World War II. She led a remarkable life – read her biography here. Mona Parsons lived in Wolfville after the war.
Wolfville is a lovely place to walk around visiting the shops, restaurants, and enjoying the local hiking trails.
Summer is the perfect time to visit the Tangled Garden in Grand Pre, a short drive from Wolfville.
Prepare for a magical garden experience as you wander the flower and tree lined pathways with water features, benches, sculptures, and a labyrinth. You’ll receive a map of the gardens so you can find your way around.
You can also visit the shop for specialty jams, jellies, chutneys, and an array of herb infused vinegars and oils.
Grand Pre National Historic Site
From Wolfville take a short drive to Grand Pre National Historic Site. This site is a memorial to the Acadians who once lived and farmed in the area. After their expulsion by the British in 1755 they journeyed for years, with many settling in South Louisiana in the area around Lafayette.
Longfellow’s epic poem The Legend of Evangeline is the story of newlyweds separated during the expulsion. There is a statue of Evangeline at Grand Pre and another one in St Martinville Louisiana.
Lawrencetown Beach is where to go when you’re looking for fun outdoor summer activities. The beach is great for surfing and beachcombing.
And you can access the Atlantic View trail from the same parking lot as Lawrencetown Beach.
Bring a picnic lunch and you’re set for a great day outdoors.
Acadian House Museum
On the Eastern Shore in Chezzetcook take a scenic drive to the Acadian House Museum.
This small museum, built in 1850, offers tours of the house with informative and educational stories of the Acadians. View artifacts and see the traditional living quarters.
Visit the tearoom after your tour.
On the Eastern Shore region about 45 minutes’ drive from Halifax enjoy a relaxed pace in the community of Musquodoboit Harbour.
How do you pronounce Musquodoboit? MUS-kə-DOB-it
Saturday is a good day to visit the Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum and the Musquodoboit Farmer’s Market.
Across the street grab some fish and chips at Harbour Fish N’ Fries and dine outdoors at one of the picnic tables.
The longest beach in Nova Scotia is Martinique Beach on the Eastern Shore. Enjoy 5 km (3 miles) of white sandy beach.
Martinique Beach is super popular for surfing and surf lessons, along with beachcombing and watching the waves.
Clam Harbour Beach
Also on the Eastern Shore, Clam Harbour Beach is in Clam Harbour Beach Provincial Park. This white sandy beach is less crowded than Martinique Beach but just as beautiful and equally good for surfing.
There’s also a coastal hiking trail that you can access from the beach, watch for the signage.
Explore more beautiful beaches on the Eastern Shore.
Taylor Head Provincial Park
I think Taylor Head Provincial Park is one of the prettiest places to visit in Nova Scotia in summer.
It’s about a 90 minute drive from Halifax and you should put it your Eastern Shore road trip list.
The Taylor Head Beach is gorgeous and maybe it gets crowded sometimes but it wasn’t during the times I visited.
There are hiking trails with stunningly beautiful coastal views so you can enjoy the beach and have a good hike. That’s a perfect summer day for me!
Cape Breton Cabot Trail
Fulfilling a decades long dream to visit Cape Breton, I fell in love with the Island. One of the main tourist attractions is the famous Cabot Trail in Cape Breton.
You can drive the whole Cabot Trail in about 6.5 hours, but you’ll want to stop along the way. There are lots of villages and coastal towns in Cape Breton.
From seaside to mountain tops you can explore the beauty of Cape Breton at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Popular tourist attractions are whale watching tours, hiking, boating, fishing, and enjoying the beaches. And of course trying out all the delicious seafood!
Cheticamp is an Acadian fishing village and popular tourist destination on the Cabot Trail. Learn about Acadian culture, hike the Acadian Trail, take a fishing trip, or go whale watching.
For evening entertainment in Cheticamp check out the live music at the Doreyman Pub & Grill or Le Gabriel Restaurant & Lounge.
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
This French fortress on Cape Breton Island is a significant historic site. Take a walking tour of the Fortress of Louisbourg, visit the Mi’kmaw Interpretive Centre, hike the nearby trails, or watch the cannon firing demonstration.
The Skyline Trail is the most well-known of the Cape Breton trails. This trail is super popular at sunset but less crowded at sunrise. There’s a fairly good chance you’ll see a moose while hiking through the woods.
I stayed for three nights in Cape Breton – one night in Pleasant Bay.
Whale watching is one of the top attractions in Pleasant Bay each summer.
A short scenic drive from Pleasant Bay will get you to several beautiful hiking trails including Skyline Trail, MacIntosh Brook, and Lone Shieling Trail. All of these are easy family friendly hikes.
Another unique experience in Pleasant Bay is the Gampo Abbey, a Buddhist Monastery.
Cabots Landing Provincial Park
There are lots of beautiful coastal drives in Cape Breton. On my way from Pleasant Bay to Ingonish I took the scenic route up to Cabots Landing Provincial Park for a walk on the beach.
Cabots Landing is a small park with a lovely sandy beach and picnic tables.
One of the highlights of my Cape Breton road trip was driving up to Meat Cove – the northernmost community in Cape Breton.
I hiked a boardwalk trail through the forest to the beach then ate lunch on the deck at the Chowder House.
You can camp at Meat Cove where you’ll have jaw dropping gorgeous views.
Along the Cabot Trail make a stop at Neil’s Harbour, a fishing village with a lighthouse that is now an ice cream shop!
Ingonish Beach is unique because it’s an oceanside beach but it’s also next to a freshwater lake. The beach features huge cobblestones worn smooth by the ocean.
I stayed two nights in Ingonish close to the beach and enjoyed hiking the nearby trails.
Jack Pine Trail
Breathtaking views (without much work to get there) are yours to experience at Jack Pine Trail in Cape Breton.
This scenic trail starts out through the forest and features a boardwalk and several lookouts with benches. Enjoy the stunning views of the rocky Atlantic coastline.
Broad Cove Mountain
Broad Cove Mountain is an excellent short hike with a view of Broad Cove, and red chair for you to enjoy the view.
A short drive from Ingonish, the Broad Cove Mountain trail is 2.6 km (1.6 miles) round trip hike through the forest. Bug spray is not a bad idea for this one, especially near dawn or dusk.
Middle Head Trail
Middle Head Trail is an excellent moderate hike with amazing views. The trailhead is at the Keltic Lodge Resort & Spa, close to Ingonish Beach.
If you love hiking, you’ll want to put this on your Nova Scotia do to list.
Alexander Graham Bell Museum
In Baddeck, visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. This is an interesting and fun museum for kids of all ages.
Take a walk outside for some beautiful views of Baddeck Bay.
Cape Breton Ceilidh (Kitchen Party)
A ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is a kitchen party where everyone is welcome to play music and sing. It’s a music jam featuring Cape Breton fiddle music.
When you visit Cape Breton, you don’t want to leave without experiencing a good Cape Breton party.
And that completes my list of 60 amazing things to do and see in Nova Scotia during summertime.
More Places to See in Nova Scotia
Some of the places on the list for my next Nova Scotia road trip this summer:
Clare, Digby, Yarmouth, Pictou, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Amherst, Tatamagouche, Inverness, Dingwall, Guysborough, Canso, Isle Madame, Margaree Harbour, and Sydney.
There are probably several other places I missed, let me know what’s on your list of best places to see in Nova Scotia.
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