Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is one of the Atlantic Provinces of Canada.


The regions, main cities and other destinations of Nova Scotia
Minas Basin
Some of the highest tides in the world and the Joggins UNESCO World Heritage site
Northumberland Shore
Beaches with some of the warmest water north of the Carolinas
Halifax Region
The main tourist draw of the province with the historic city of Halifax and the iconic rocks and lighthouse of Peggys Cove
Annapolis Valley
A historic agricultural region with many small towns and villages
South Shore
Beaches and picturesque seaside villages like Mahone Bay and Lunenburg
Yarmouth and Digby
The far western tip of Nova Scotia where Acadian culture lives on; inland is the large protected Tobeatic Wilderness Area
Eastern Shore
The less travelled, wilder shore
Cape Breton Island
Celtic and French culture, and the scenic Cabot Trail


Other destinations


For a population just under a million Nova Scotia is remarkably diverse, Mi'kmaq, Scots descendants, black Nova Scotians, French Acadians, Annapolis Valley farmers, Cape Bretoners and Haligonians all forming distinct groups with their own unique quirks, culture and language. The novel "Rockbound" is written entirely in the South Shore dialect of the fishermen of that region, a fusion of Shakespearean English, German and unique local idioms.

Champlain named Nova Scotia "Acadie" and claimed it for France in 1604. French immigrants settled the area and became prosperous farmers and fisherman until officially expelled by the British in the mid 18th century - their lands especially on the South Shore to be repopulated with "foreign Protestants" meaning mostly Dutch and German. Many areas still retain a strong Acadian French culture, including the largest francophone municipality, Clare in Digby County and Argyle, in Yarmouth County. Nova Scotia hosted the World Acadian Congress in 2005. The Louisiana "cajun" is a slang adaptation of "Acadien" in the French. Longfellow's poem "Evangeline" celebrates the victims of the Expulsion, as does Zachary Richard's drum and voice song "Reveille". Because of the expulsion, French is far more commonly heard in New Brunswick.

Halifax, the capital, is one of the oldest cities in North America and was a critical sea link during World Wars I and II. The infamous "Halifax explosion" caused by collision of two ships in Halifax Harbour in 1917 was the worst man-made explosion on Earth until Hiroshima in 1945. Halifax today is an education and high technology center with over a dozen post-secondary institutions including Dalhousie University and substantial operations by major high-technology firms. Academics have unusual influence in Nova Scotia perhaps because of the concentration of them in the capital. Many have even written legislation.

Unless you are a winter surfer, or like to snowshoe, then it is probably best to visit Nova Scotia sometime June-Oct when the weather is warm, the skies are blue and the water may be less frigid. The main byways are along the coast, and a lot of small shops and restaurants are open around the coast during the summer months. Watch out for mosquitoes and horseflies in the summer, however, especially after a storm.

Get in

By plane

Robert L. Stanfield International Airport (IATA: YHZ), at Halifax, is the main international airport in the province. Flights can also be made to Sydney, via JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport (IATA: YQY), from Halifax, or periodically from Boston, Toronto, or other Maritime cities.

By car

Nova Scotia is part of the Trans-Canada Highway linking it with New Brunswick at Amherst. It is roughly a three hour drive from Moncton to Halifax and 3.5 hours from Charlottetown to Halifax.

By bus

Two bus companies — Greyhound Canada and Maritime Bus — provide inter-provincial bus service to Nova Scotia. They can be useful if your destination is along the Trans-Canada highway or the Truro-Halifax corridor, but service does not extend far elsewhere.

By boat

Ferry service is available from Prince Edward Island to Pictou, Digby to Saint John, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland to North Sydney.

Ferry service from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth ceased on December 15, 2009. A ferry from Portland to Yarmouth has been reinstated.

By train

VIA Rail provides service connecting Halifax to Montreal three times a week. The trip takes 22 hours and also stops at Truro and Amherst.

Get around

By car

Nova Scotia has a comprehensive road network, with three tiers of highways:

The Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 104 on mainland Nova Scotia and Highway 105 on Cape Breton) and Highway 102 form the backbone of the road network connecting most of the province's main centers with New Brunswick and the ferries to Newfoundland. Highways 101 and 103 connect Yarmouth to Halifax via the Annapolis Valley (Hwy 101) and the South Shore (Hwy 103).

The provincial tourism department has created a number of scenic routes that cover specific geographic regions of the province, such as the Lighthouse Route along the South Shore or the Glooscap Trail that covers the Minas Basin region. The routes are generally well sign-posted and good to explore if you want to focus on a specific region in-depth.

If driving, be aware of road conditions in the winter, especially away from major areas.


Peggys Cove lighthouse at sunset
Bras d'or Lake



Berries: having so much of the province in a natural state, there are many opportunities to pick wild fruit and berries. There are wild strawberries in the fields and along roads, wild blueberries, raspberries and cranberries (in coastal areas). Blueberry grunt is a blueberry baked with a sweet dumpling topping.

Deep fried pepperoni: a bar snack often dipped in honey mustard sauce.

Dulse: most of this seaweed is harvested at very low tides in parts of Nova Scotia. Locally it is dried and used as a snack.

Garlic fingers: similar to a pizza in shape and size and made with the same type of dough. Instead of the traditional tomato sauce and toppings, garlic fingers consist of pizza dough topped with garlic butter, parsley, and cheese, cooked until the cheese is melted. Bacon bits are sometimes added. They are typically eaten as a side dish with pizza and often dipped in donair or marinara sauce. They are presented in thin strips (or "fingers") as opposed to triangular slices.

Halifax donair: based on the Turkish dish döner, a pile of roasted, spiced beef (known as donair meat) with diced tomatoes and white onions covered in condensed milk sauce and wrapped in a pita. It is unique to the province and is available at almost every corner diner and pizzeria.

Hodge podge: a creamy soup of fresh baby vegetables; rarely found in restaurants.

Lobster rolls are common throughout the province.


Nova Scotia produces some very good wines. Most wineries offer free tours. Of particular note is Jost Winery along the Northumberland Strait north of Truro.

Try the local beers. Nova Scotia is best known as the home of "Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale," known locally simply as "Keith's" But there are many lesser known brews available as well. Not to be missed are the offerings of Propeller Brewery and Garrison Brewing as well as several microbreweries and brewpubs (such as the Rogue's Roost) .


Stay safe

In case of emergency, dial 911. Seat belts are mandatory for drivers and all passengers. Helmets are required by law for all motorcycle and bicycle riders. Radar detectors are illegal and will be confiscated if found by the RCMP. If you are hiking in grassy areas you should be aware that Lyme Disease is present in Nova Scotia and carried by ticks. Tie your pant legs or pull your socks over your pant legs and watch for ticks. In wilderness areas: there are no poisonous snakes in the province but coyotes are becoming bolder and a few people have been attacked.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.