20 things to do in Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia (or New Scotland) is one of the Canadian maritime provinces. With a stunning rugged coastline and a fascinating history, there’s more than enough things to do in Nova Scotia to make your visit an enjoyable one. Whether it’s driving along the coastline and visiting colourful fishing villages, to playing golf or exploring historical forts, Nova Scotia is a province that has something to please everyone. Here are some things to do in Nova Scotia you’ll love. 

Nova Scotia, Canada

Things to do in Nova Scotia

1- Drive the Cabot Trail

things to do in nova scotia
Photo: Jim Byers

Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail is rightly praised as one of the great drives on the planet.

The road surges and rises and falls along towering cliffs and takes you past romantic, empty beaches and cute coastal towns like Mabou and Ingonish.

2- Explore Lunenburg

things to do in nova scotia

A trip from Halifax to Lunenburg also is tough to beat.

Take the side roads and explore the peninsulas around Mahone Bay as well as the colourful streets of Lunenburg, which has wildly painted businesses.

This is one of the cutest places to visit in Canada.


The town, one of the best Nova Scotia attractions, has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site, and some folks call the painted buildings the “UNESCO FRESCO.”

While in Lunenburg, be sure to try the award-winning chowder with smoked seafood at Salt Shaker Deli.

All killer, no filler.

3- Visit Peggy’s Cove

Peggy’s Cove is a picturesque and colourful fishing village that you’ll instantly recognise, as it’s one of the most photographed places in Canada. 

One awesome way to experience Nova Scotia is a tour with Bluenose Sidecar Tours, where you ride in the sidecar of a Russian-built motorcycle and get fun tours of Halifax or down to Lunenburg or scenic Peggy’s Cove.

4- Visit the Bay of Fundy

A drive along the Bay of Fundy also is hugely rewarding, with quiet roads and a gentle landscape that would be ideal for motorcycles or traditional cyclists.

The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world.

Walk along the beach and make sure you snap a picture of the Hopewell Rocks, which are also called “Flowerpot Rocks”. 

5- Drive the Annapolis Valley

Ditto for the Annapolis Valley, covered with small towns and fruit orchards.

The Annapolis Valley grows some pretty good wines.

Luckett Vineyards sits high on a hill overlooking the town of Wolfville, an adorable university town an hour or so north of Halifax.

There’s a cute British phone booth in one of the vineyards to go along with commanding views of the nearby bays.

The wine is good but not amazing.

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6- Listen to music at Cape Breton 

Cape Breton is tough to beat for fans of live music.

You can wander into pubs such as the Red Shoe in Mabou (mostly summer months) and find spectacular local talent.

Also popular with local musicians is Glenora Distillery, where the whisky is just so-so but the rooms lovely and the music wonderful.

The last time I was there I saw a terrific violin player and a pianist joined by a guy of about 80 who was a master of rhythm with the spoons, which he was clacking on his legs and even his forehead with a jangly tone and a huge grin on his face. 

7- Eat seafood in Halifax

things to do in nova scotia
Eating a big seafood meal is one of the satisfying things to do in Nova Scotia. Photo: Christina Pfeiffer

Halifax is famous for seafood, so order a seafood meal at the famous Five Fisherman Restaurant.

Halifax is also known for its donair shops, where you can get slices of meat served in a pita with gooey, white sauce.

I personally don’t like the sauce but the meat is good and filling and cheap.

They’re quite useful after a night out at the pub in Halifax, of which there are a gazillion and three.

More sophisticated palates can aim for the intimate and lovely Press Gang, where you’ll get fantastic scallops and other seafood in a building dating back to 1759.

High-end Italian lovers flock to Du Maurizio on the waterfront.

I love Morris East in Halifax for a great brunch at reasonable prices. 

8- Discover Acadian culture at Port Royal

Nova Scotia was one of the centres of Acadian culture in the New World.

Port Royal was Canada’s first permanent European settlement, founded by the French in 1605.

You can tour a French-style village to learn about life in the area, a rough and tumble existence if there ever was one.

9- Explore Fort Anne

Just across the bay in Annapolis Royal is Fort Anne, which has been controlled over the years by the French, Scots, British – and now tourists.

10- Discover the Fortress of Louisbourg

The fortress of Louisbourg is on the east coast of Cape Breton Island and is impressive because it’s the largest reconstruction project in North America. 

It’s a glorious fort dating back to 1713 and is said to be the largest reconstruction project in North America.

11- Visit the Grand Pre National Historic Site

There’s a marvellous museum near Wolfville at the Grand Pre National Historic Site, which traces the sad story of the Acadians and their expulsion from Canada to places like Louisiana and the Caribbean.

Here you’ll find a statue to Evangeline, the Acadian heroine made famous in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

12- Tour of Nova Scotia’s distilleries

things to do in nova scotia
Photo: Christina Pfeiffer

Halifax has a couple of great breweries, including Garrison Brewing (try the Tall Ship Amber Ale) and Alexander Keith’s, a historic spot where you can take a cheesy but fun tour.

Down in Lunenburg, you can try locally made vodka, rums, eau de vie and other spirits made at Ironworks Distillery.

13- Go surfing 

There’s very good surfing in Nova Scotia, albeit in water that’s a tad cooler than you might like.

Bring a wetsuit (even in summer) and dive right in at Lawrencetown Beach, a short drive from Halifax.

14- Go kayaking in Nova Scotia’s bays

Folks interested in something a bit less strenuous can ply hundreds of kilometres of coastline in canoes or kayaks.

Especially pretty – and gentle – are the bays up around Pictou.

Also nice are the rocky bays around Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, which are well protected from Atlantic Ocean gales.

Not a lot of tourists make it up there, but Kejimkujik National Park in the province’s interior offers lovely hiking and water sports opportunities.

15- Sail in a schooner around Halifax harbour

There are a ton of great tours you can take of historic Halifax harbour, including rides on a gorgeous schooner.

things to do in nova scotia

One of North America’s best golf courses opened a few years back in the town of Inverness, a former mining centre.

Called Cabot Links, it’s a true links course (and the only one in Canada) that is a ton of fun and quite challenging, especially when it’s windy (and it usually is).

There’s an 18-hole layout called Cabot Cliffs with three finishing holes that are the best in North America.

Simply stunning.

There’s a great hotel on-site with excellent food, too.

A couple of hours away, on the other side of Cape Breton, is Highlands Links, a fantastic course that’s near the ocean.

It’s not a true links layout but it was designed by Canadian Stanley Thompson, a true master.

Stay the night at the old-style Keltic Lodge.

17- Visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax

things to do in nova scotia
Photo: Christina Pfeiffer

Many victims of the Titanic disaster are buried in Halifax, mostly at Fairview Cemetery.

You’ll find the gravestone of a J. Dawson.

It’s not the chap played in the movie by Leonardo DiCaprio, but that doesn’t stop folks from laying flowers on the grave.

It’s a very touching spot, especially for the graves of small children killed in the famous wreck.

You’ll also find Titanic artefacts at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax. 

18- Attend the Savour Food & Wine Festival

things to do in nova scotia
Discovering the tastes of Nova Scotia is one of the delicious things to do.

Picture this: over 70 exhibitors showing off their finest in food and drink.

Chefs galore were doing what they do best: putting gorgeous food together and plating it with the flourish of an artist.

For the next two hours, we watched chefs mince, chop, fold, sauté, season, and serve food with plenty of panache and pizzazz.

19- Join a local food tour

Where to eat in Halifax

Get the inside scoop from a local guide; meet chefs and shop-keepers on a food tour of Halifax.

It’s a fun way to make friends and discover the personalities behind the delicious creations.

From pizza demonstrations and vegan kitchens to Italian, Greek, Lebanese and Thai, a Halifax food tour 


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Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia

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Jim Byers
I was a reporter for 32 years at the Toronto Star, the largest daily paper in Canada and one of the biggest in North America. I spent most of his career covering politics and sports, including the Toronto Blue Jays and also six Olympic Games from Sydney in 2000 to Vancouver in 2010.