Canada is enormous, a fact quickly verified after just a quick glance at the map. Not unlike the U.S., it’s thanks in large part to its size that each province offers something different, something totally unique from their neighbors, and that was certainly my experience while visiting Nova Scotia. This Maritime province has long been famous for its seafood and even Titanic history, but after spending a week exploring as much as I could of this truly gorgeous part of the world, I realized there’s much more to Nova Scotia than Bay of Fundy oysters. Working in partnership with Visit Nova Scotia, after returning home I realized that I have a lot to say about my time up north, but I first wanted to share some experiences that may surprise you. Experiences that aren’t just fun and exciting, but which you can only enjoy in Nova Scotia.
My trip to Nova Scotia started with a bang thanks to a very unusual dinner on a very unique island. Enjoying a perfect spot in Halifax Harbour, Georges Island would seem to provide locals and tourists alike with ideal views of the city. And it does, but unfortunately most of the time people aren’t allowed to visit. First established as a fort in 1750, Georges Island has seen its fair share of history from housing Acadians during the Expulsion to serving as a fort during the American Revolution to protect against privateers. I wasn’t there just for the history though, I was there to enjoy a fun evening of music, food and fun. This summer, Taste of Nova Scotia offered two very special dining events on the island, highlighting some of the best provincial wines, beers, spirits and of course food. It was a fun evening of camaraderie and good cheer and since the government hopes to open the island to the public in the next few years, a great first foray into what the visitor experience on the island will be like.
The coastline of Nova Scotia is dotted with beautiful lighthouses but none perhaps as postcard perfect as the 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. Sure, the East Coast of Canada and the US may have plenty of lighthouses, but I can’t believe any are as picture perfect as the one at Peggy’s Cove. It’s not just about the lighthouse though, exploring the local community I discovered beauty around every corner, from the fishing boats waiting in harbor to the colorful homes dotting the hillsides.
Kayaking on the Bay of Fundy
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 the extreme tides.
UNESCO Town of Lunenburg
Sometimes you just click with a new place, and that happened almost immediately for me in 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 – it was just the general atmosphere – but I do know that it won’t be my last time in this colorful town by the water.
Relaxing at 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.
Tidal Bore Rafting
My last full day in Nova Scotia was spent enjoying the gorgeous Bay of Fundy in different ways, starting with the thrilling experience of tidal bore rafting. It’s a little hard to explain, but there exists in the world one place where the unique convergences of the tidal waters create waves on the river, which rafts can then surf through. It’s sort of like white water rafting but not. That’s essentially what tidal bore rafting is in plain language, but it doesn’t even begin to explain how much fun it is. Crashing through the raging waters, getting wet is guaranteed but it’s all in good natured fun and by the end of the experience, everyone walks away drenched, but with a big smile on their faces.
Dining on the Ocean Floor
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.