Fabulous seafood, scenic coastal drives, a rich maritime history and First Nations culture are among the many reasons why we loves returning to Nova Scotia.
Lobster used to be so inexpensive in Nova Scotia that it was once served in the province’s prisons. I am back in one of my favourite destinations and, if I am not careful, restaurateurs here may feel robbed. As one of four judges in the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl Festivals’ Lobster Roll Challenge, I’m tasked with sampling and scoring lobster rolls during a blind tasting.
Alain Bossé, a personality here with the moniker ‘The Kilted Chef’, has coached us in how to score the rolls – flavour, presentation and their ‘wow factor’ are key criteria.
Lobster rolls are nothing if not versatile: they are served with soup, crisps, salad and chips. Some zing with spices while others allow the lobster flavours to dominate. Participants pace nervously as the scores are totted. Captain Kat’s Lobster Shack, located in a community in the southwest part of the province that is the self-acclaimed Lobster Capital of Canada, is declared the winner – cue an eruption of joyful shouts.
More than just a sandwich, a lobster roll can be everything from a chef’s signature dish to a long-used family recipe – and it’s a must-have treat when in Nova Scotia.
What to sell
Nova Scotia is two-thirds of the size of Scotland but home to less than a million people. Consequently, locals joke that they were social distancing long before it was fashionable. Self-drive tours offer numerous opportunities to visit points of interest while minimising interactions with others.
Pausing along the 103-mile coastal route between Debert and Apple River is a way of enjoying circular hikes, beaches and other points of interest in the Cliffs of Fundy UNESCO Global Geopark (fundygeopark. ca). It tells the story of the prehistoric supercontinent Pangea and was designated Nova Scotia’s sixth UNESCO site in 2020.
Along with another UNESCO site, Joggins Fossils Cliffs (jogginsfossilcliffs.net), it attracts geology enthusiasts and photographers. “I used to not talk about my favourite hidden gem, Summerville Beach Provincial Park, just outside of Port Mouton.
“It’s an incredible white-sand landscape, with a storied First Nation and European history, in an area known for its hospitality; it’s my favourite area in Canada,” says
Geordie Mott, owner-operator of Picture Perfect Tours (pictureperfecttours.ca), who is keen to highlight one of Nova Scotia’s 20 provincial parks.
Georges Island National Historic Site in Halifax Harbour (discoverhalifaxns. com) opened last year. Once a prison and internment camp, the fortress is the sixth property in the Halifax Defence Complex likely to appeal to military history enthusiasts. Boats cross to the island though adventure-minded travellers can kayak over, an experience offered by local operators.
Nova Scotia’s rich seafaring heritage can be experienced during a stop at a fishing village, such as Blue Rocks, and at Halifax’s Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
In 2021 celebrations are being held to mark 100 years since the launch in Lunenburg of the Bluenose (bluenose100.ca), a fishing and racing schooner that proved itself unbeatable in the International Fisherman’s Trophy.
Lunenburg is the home port of Bluenose II and in normal times visitors can explore her decks, go for a harbour cruise or even sign up to be a deck hand for a day.
The Bluenose story is told in a revamped exhibition at Lunenburg’s Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (fisheriesmuseum.novascotia.ca). Nearby, the Big Boat Shed, which was the site of the rebuild of the Bluenose II in 2016, hosts exhibits and workshops. Visitors can stop to watch skilled craftsmen building a new sailing vessel.
“Nova Scotia is the perfect destination for a long overdue vacation and is just a short flight away from the UK,” says Patricia Pardy, Market Development Specialist, Tourism Nova Scotia. “We have over 13,000 km of coastal scenery, tonnes of fresh seafood and hundreds of outdoor activities that we can’t wait to share when it is safe for people to travel again.”
Peggy’s Cove: On the scenic Lighthouse Route west of Halifax, Peggy’s Cove is home to Canada’s most-photographed lighthouse. It will reopen this summer with upgrades to its visitor facilities, including a new viewing deck with views of the iconic landmark and surrounding rocks.
Kejimkujik NP: Visitor facilities and trails have also been upgraded at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (pc.gc.ca), a dark sky preserve. Five heated Ôasis accommodation units, resembling lunar landing craft, overlook the lake.
Keji’s o’TENTiks – a cross between a rustic cabin and a tent – now have heating. From the spring eight o’TENTiks can be booked at Grand-Pré National Historic Site, which tells the story of the settlement and expulsion of Acadian people of French descent.
Wine and dine: Nova Scotia is one of three wine regions in Canada. The Annapolis Valley is home to over a dozen awardwinning wineries, including Domaine de Grand Pré (grandprewines.com). This spring, the Inn at the Winery will open, offering six rooms with views of the Annapolis Valley.
A wine tasting here includes Tidal Bay, an aromatic white wine that is the first wine appellation for Nova Scotia. Guests can stay at the winery after enjoying the chef’s table dining experience or a meal at their onsite restaurant, Le Caveau, voted one of the best winery restaurants in the world.
Halifax hotels: The five-star, 109-room MUIR (muirhotel.com) plans to open at Halifax’s waterfront Queen’s Marque development this summer. Featuring a guest-only art gallery, it will be Nova Scotia’s first Marriott Autograph Collection property. Last year the 262-room Sutton Place Hotel (suttonplace.com) opened at Halifax’s state-of-the-art convention centre.
Travellers concerned about social distancing can take their pick of new boutique cottages, chalets
and accommodation on water.
They include Ketch Cottage (vrbo.com) floating on the La Have River near Lunenburg, Valley View Cottages (valleyviewchalets.ca), overlooking Margaree Valley in Cape Breton and Vicar’s View
Lighthouses (vicarsview.com) at Baddeck.
Where to book it
Frontier Canada – 020 8776 8709
The tailor-made 14-night Lighthouses and Hidden Treasures tour explores places of interest across the province. Priced from £2,450pp, the tour includes return flights between Heathrow and Halifax, accommodation and 12 days’ car hire.
Six of the best
Scenic drives: Themed flexible driving routes offer frameworks for self-drive holidays. The Cabot Trail is rated among Canada’s best scenic routes, offering outstanding views of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Rock solid: Fundy Geological Museum on the Bay of Fundy tells the story behind dinosaur fossil finds around Parrsboro. Guides lead beach tours showing dinosaur footprints and sharing legends of the Mi’kmaq First Nation.
Ferry old: North America’s oldest saltwater ferry service crosses Halifax Harbour, offering impressive, value-formoney views of the city skyline.
Living history: Costumewearing reenactors revive bygone times at Sherbrooke Village, the Halifax Citadel and Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Sites.
Drink up: Sample craft beer, cider, spirits, mead and wine along the Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail which showcases artisanal producers and their products while giving visitors a chance to win prizes.
Whale watching: Twelve whale species can be seen in Nova Scotia’s waters. Operating on the Bay of Fundy from Tiverton, Ocean Explorations Zodiac Whale Watching Cruises offer knowledgeable insights into the creatures and their habitat.
The Writer – Stuart Forster
Stuart has used the lockdown to learn how to make short videos. He’s also created fresh posts for his blog, go-eat-do.com, including tips on how to spend 48 hours in Halifax and ideas for exploring Nova Scotia beyond the province’s capital.