Part 2 of our road trip is now live. In it I share our favourite markets, goooood coffee and much more.
We are home from a 2600 kilometer (1600 mile) summer road trip around the previous undiscovered (to me) province of Nova Scotia and have lived to tell the tale! Actually, we thrived, despite our jam-packed itinerary which put us in a new town nearly every night with a host of sights and tastes in-between.
I’m excited to share a few of the highlights with you in a couple of posts as I attempt to put into words the rugged beauty of the coast, the quaint towns and the and generous people who occupy them. Experiencing this portion of Canada opened my eyes to the true diversity that our country offers. I eagerly drank in the coastal beauty and ate up the local fare. Both were spectacular.
As we sank into our own bed last night, surrounded by duffel bags and laundry, Danny asked if I had a favorite part of the whole 12-day trip and I really couldn’t narrow it down to a single experience or place. Each day was an adventure and brought a magnificent new vista; each town offered their take on seafood chowder and lobster rolls. I never tired of either!
Rather than retrace our steps around the province, I’ll feature my top twelve highlights from our Nova Scotian adventures, delivered in two posts.
1. The Cabot Trail
It’s been named one of the world’s top road trip destinations and only a few miles in it is easy to see why. Dramatic cliffs rise out of a deep blue sea along the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island, carpeted by trees as far as the eye can see.
Not one fast food establishment or equivalent eyesore can be viewed from the road; instead the trail brings you to one charming village after another, all with quaint churches and colorful, simple houses.
The road is lined with delicate wild roses, blooming purple thistles and clusters of raspberry brambles. It is well maintained and clearly marked. Plenty of lookouts are scattered throughout the route, but you will still want to pull over and snap a photo at nearly every turn.
Views, secluded beaches and gentle towns are not all that the Cabot Trail offers, wildlife sightings are another reward of taking the scenic route. In one short afternoon of driving (and boating) we were treated to close encounters with three mild mannered moose, a bald eagle, and -most exciting- whales!
We had a fantastic experience with Captain Mark’s Whale Watching, who got us very close to a pod of twelve or so pilot whales. At one point we were completely surrounded by these majestic creatures. Amazing!
The Cabot Trail views are renowned, and quite unequaled in all of Canada. We can’t wait to return again, perhaps in the fall when the leaves turn their many colors.
For someone born on the Prairies and raised in the mountains, the attraction of lighthouses is not lost on me. No two are alike and they are all as beautiful as their surroundings.
Peggy’s Cove rivals them all and is Nova Scotia’s most photographed lighthouse. I’ll share more on Peggy’s Cove in my next post – we left the area and immediately began researching real estate in the area. We loved it, and it wasn’t just because of DeeDee’s ice cream!
Neil’s Harbor Lighthouse
And should you come across a lighthouse that also has an ice cream shop inside like this one in Neil’s Harbor, well, what could be better? For two boys, not much. We also enjoyed marvelous ocean views from the patio of this lighthouse.
3. Boats & Wharfs
I couldn’t get enough of all the colorful boats and sprawling wharfs and marinas that each town boasted. They always provided an enchanting setting for an after dinner stroll, or even an early morning walk, when the water is as still as glass.
We even found the Canadian icon Bluenose II in Lunenburg, although she was in the dry dock for repairs. Still, pretty cool.
4. Best Culinary Delights
Nova Scotia is a haven for the enthusiastic eater. We ate seafood daily in the form of crab cakes, lobster rolls, chowder, fish tacos, and the ever-so-accessible fish n’ chips.
Although I could easily go on for another thousand words about our good eats, I’ll just give some highlights!
- Best Scallops: Delicate and perfectly seared, served with a host of seasonal vegetables, at Brooklyn Warehouse in Halifax. (They had the best burger too)
- Best Fish & Chips: Shaw’s Landing, just outside of Peggy’s Cove offered fried haddock so delicate I could have consumed a couple of portions myself. (Note: they also had one of my favorite views from the trip)
- Best Oysters: a half-dozen Malpeque slurped at Edna in Halifax.
- Best Cocktail: Basil Lemonade: pear eau de vie, gin, basil, honey, green peppercorn syrup, lemon juice, sparkling water – poured at Fleur de Sel in Lunenburg.
- Best. Plate. Ever: A seared halibut with a fragrant lobster risotto at Edna in Halifax. Outstanding.
- Best Lobster Roll: The Rusty Anchor on The Cabot Trail served up the top lobster rolls of the trip, with toasted buttered buns and whole lobster claws for a perfectly memorable bite. Another killer view here, too.
- Best Crab: At the very memorable Beggar’s Banquet at Point of View Suites. Steamed Snow Crab with a side of melted butter.
- Best Calamari: Served up tender, hot and crispy at Front and Central in Wolfville. (Update: this restaurant is now closed)
- Best Mussels: A Pint and a Pound (beer & mussels) at Salt Shaker Deli.
- Best Shrimp Cocktail: At the utterly adorable Salt Shaker Deli in Lunenburg
- Best Chowder: We ended our road trip n a high note with an epic seafood chowder at Front and Central in Wolfville.
- Best Breakfast: Eggs Benedict at Digby Pines Resort and Spa
- Best Take Out Dessert: Blueberry, Rhubarb and Apple pies from Boulangerie la Vendéenne via the Lunenburg farmers market.
- Best Plated Dessert: Strawberry Soup at Fleur de Sel in Lunenburg
- Best Ice Cream: Wild Nova Scotia Berry at Dee Dee’s Ice Cream in Peggy’s Cove. (Also at Halifax Seaport Market)
Taste of Nova Scotia has put together a fantastic edible guide to the province.
5. Wild Beaches
One only has to swing off the highway to discover a beach, and if you miss the turn, you can usually drive another five to ten minutes and find another one. It’s a perfect way to take a break from the car and catch an afternoon nap, like Clara did in her little red pop-up tent.
Most beaches we enjoyed all to ourselves. Dogs and children splashed together, while I prepared a picnic lunch. Take note, future road trippers, a map doubles as a table cloth to hold your lunch.
6. The Fortress of Louisbourg
As fascinated as my children were, I could have stayed all day exploring this most memorable spot: an 18th century fortified French town – North America’s largest historic reconstruction – adeptly brought to life by costumed artisans at work.
We sampled authentic solder’s rations – I believe Clara gnawed on a crust of the bread for the better part of half an hour-, our hearts leapt as the cannon was fired, and we roamed around the fort in wonder. The Fortress of Louisbourg is about as family-friendly as it gets and well worth the visit.
Part 2 is coming soon! I’ll share more about Halifax, our favorite little towns, farmer’s markets, and goooood coffee. Stay tuned.
Disclaimer: This post was partially sponsored by the Nova Scotia Tourism Board. Yep, they helped us get around the province and made terrific suggestions for our itinerary. I am grateful for their partnership in helping our family explore this amazing province and bring our experiences to you.
Beaches, wharfs or seafood chowder. What would draw you to visit Nova Scotia?