What continues to amaze me about visiting Canada is just how very unique and different each individual province is. While there are some similarities, the fact is that each one has some fairly amazing experiences to offer and that is certainly the case in Nova Scotia. My week spent exploring the province was everything I had hoped, from those stunning lighthouse scenes to experiences you can only enjoy in Nova Scotia. I have a lot to say about my time there, but I thought I’d start by sharing some of my favorite photos and experiences from my week in this gorgeous maritime province.
When it comes to travel there’s planning and then there’s luck – and in Halifax luck was in firm control. I was lucky enough to visit during the Rendez Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta. Halifax is one of the host ports for this 7,000 nautical mile transatlantic race and they were lined up along the waterfront for everyone to admire and even tour. More than 40 Tall Ships sailed Canadian waters to honor the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation and I personally couldn’t think of a better first introduction to this colorful city.
The coastline of Nova Scotia is dotted with beautiful lighthouses but none perhaps as postcard perfect as this one at Peggy’s Cove. One of the most photographed sights in Canada, as soon as I arrived I understood why. The unusual geology and rock formations along with the quintessential seascapes make it feel as if you’ve walked into a movie. And this was just the first of many stops as I meandered around the coast, experiencing the best of what the province has to offer.
I spent a full day driving along Nova Scotia’s scenic Lighthouse Route, meandering from one small fishing village to the next. There were a lot of highlights along the way, but one of my favorites was the first stop of the day in Peggy’s Cove. Folks have lived in this region of Canada for a long time, most of them traveling a long and arduous route from Europe all for the promise of a new and better life. We owe these intrepid souls an incredible debt of gratitude. The many towns and communities they founded not only in Nova Scotia but all along the Atlantic seaboard served as the base for future generations to move here and thrive. It’s a way of life that still persists to this day and the least we can do is visit and learn more about it.
I very quickly fell in love with the colorful town of Lunenburg. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for its remarkably preserved Old Town; the best surviving example of a British Colonial grid layout anywhere. But there’s so much more to the city than those famous 48 blocks as I quickly learned. The first thing I noticed were the elaborately designed homes everywhere. That’s a testament to when the town was one of the richest in the world back during the late 19th century thanks entirely to its cod fishing industry. Today tourism rules the day, but the beauty and charm of the city hasn’t gone anywhere. I can’t name one single thing I enjoyed most about Lunenburg – we just clicked for some reason. But I do know that it won’t be my last time in this colorful town by the water.
The mighty Bay of Fundy was at the heart of my experiences in Nova Scotia and I couldn’t think of a better first introduction than a two-day kayaking trip. Joining the local outfitters NovaShores Adventures I set out to enjoy the active side of the province, which I did in spades. The Bay of Fundy has the most extreme tides in the world – up to 56 feet – and exploring this natural wonder up close and personal was pure perfection. I’m not a roughing it kind of guy, but the adventure was just that, an adventure, and one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a long time. Featured here are the so-called Three Sisters. While we could kayak through them at high tide, during low tide all we could do was admire them from a distance – just one example of how extreme the tides are here.
As I have written many times in the past, camping is not my preferred way to spend the night. But sometimes it’s not just appropriate, it’s important to be out and alone in nature and this was certainly one of those times. Nova Scotia is a paradise for those who enjoy the outdoors, and one of the core experiences is doing something – anything – along the Bay of Fundy. After a day of kayaking we set up camp here, at Seal Cove. It’s one of many highlights found in Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, the largest provincial park in Nova Scotia. It was also the perfect place to enjoy a quiet evening in the wilderness. After an amazing camp dinner, I sat on a piece of driftwood and just watched the sun set. The sandstone radiated the orange hues and the beach was almost instantly transformed into a place of undeniable beauty. Later the moon and stars were my companions as I enjoyed a perfect evening enjoying the province in one of the best possible ways.
Fox Harb’r Resort
Sometimes we just need an opportunity to rest and relax and that’s precisely what I enjoyed the most about my brief stay at Fox Harb’r Resort in Nova Scotia. Opening in 2000, it’s one of just a few true luxury resorts in the province and based on my own experience that distinction is well earned. Owned by one of the co-founders of doughnut giant Tim Hortons, the entire property includes more than 1,000 acres along the pristine Northumberland Shore. As you can probably tell, water played a major role in my trip around Nova Scotia, but never in the same way twice. Maybe that’s what I’ve enjoyed most about this trip, the unexpected beauty found every day, including at wonderful retreats like the one at Fox Harb’r.
Bay of Fundy
So much of my trip to Nova Scotia was centered in, on and around the Bay of Fundy that I think it fitting my last stop was a visit to Burntcoat Head Park where the highest tides on the Bay occur. The Bay of Fundy is famous thanks to the fact that it has the highest tides in the world and it’s at this park where those ranges are the most extreme, usually around 40 feet but they can be as extreme as 50 – that’s the height of a five-story building. These differences also allow for some fairly unique experiences and it was at the park where I enjoyed a couple of them, including a remarkable dinner on the bottom of the Bay itself as well as an exploration of the tidal pools left behind at low tide. Every 13 hours more than 160 billion tons of water travel in and out of the basin, but it’s when the water levels are at their lowest that the real magic happens. Walking across the bottom of the Bay itself was an incredible experience I know I’ll never forget, looking up at suddenly dry islands and investigating the scores of tidal pools left in the water’s wake. With sunset approaching, it was also an incredibly beautiful experience and is one of the many things that make Nova Scotia completely unlike any other province in Canada.
Dinner on the Bay of Fundy
The last experience I enjoyed on my trip around Nova Scotia was perhaps the most amazing – a special dinner on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy. It’s not every day you get the chance to eat on the ocean floor and when I heard about this completely unique experience, I knew I just had to join. Every couple of weeks, the tides are such that it’s possible to enjoy a leisurely evening eating on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy when the water levels are at their lowest. With the most extreme tides in the world, it’s an experience no other place in the world can provide. The dining experience started a few years ago and has become a cult phenomenon, thanks entirely to the great people over at the Flying Apron Inn. Chef Velden and his team have created not only an amazing dining experience, but an entire afternoon of fun and great food that is unlike anything else I’ve experienced. While it would be enough just to say I ate on the ocean floor, to add in the delicious and refined dining experience made the evening that much more special. They’re sold out for this year, but be sure to look out for 2018 dates if you want to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.