NOVA SCO­TIA: TIME AND TIDES

Time and Tides

Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY SU­SAN MACCAL­LUM-WHITCOMB

Ten­u­ously con­nected to New Brunswick by a slim sliver of land, then teth­ered by fer­ries to P.E.I. and New­found­land, Nova Sco­tia acts as Atlantic Canada’s an­chor. Yet this small but mighty spot—the most pop­u­lous and pros­per­ous of the four sis­ter prov­inces—of­fers trav­ellers within the re­gion far more than a con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion. Its sen­sa­tional sights are must-sees in their own right.

A SEA-BOUND COAST

The scenery alone can make you want to linger in­def­i­nitely. After all, Nova Sco­tia is es­sen­tially sur­rounded by water, and ev­ery stretch of its 7,600-km (4,722 mi.) coast­line prom­ises ad­ven­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as oh-so-fresh seafood. Yet each also has its own dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter.

The Mi­nas Basin, for one, is a mag­net for mi­grat­ing shore­birds, hun­dreds of thou­sands of which de­scend each sum­mer to dine on its mud flats be­fore fly­ing to South Amer­ica. Nearby, the con­stant beat­ing of the Bay of Fundy tides un­cov­ers 300-mil­lionyear-old fos­sils in Jog­gins’ UNESCO-des­ig­nated cliffs. The South Shore, con­versely, is dot­ted with cen­turies-old towns and shel­tered coves once fre­quented by pri­va­teers; the East­ern Shore boasts pound­ing surf; and be­tween them is Hal­i­fax, home to one of the world’s largest nat­u­ral har­bours. Northum­ber­land Strait, mean­while, is no­table for warm, sandy strands, whereas much of Cape Bre­ton is marked by loch-like in­lets and rocky high­lands that drop dra­mat­i­cally to the sea. In­land, the ge­og­ra­phy is equally var­ied, which is why A-type va­ca­tion­ers can ex­plore the or­derly vine­yards of the agri­cul­tural heart­land and the won­drous wilds of the South­west Nova Bio­sphere Re­serve within a sin­gle day.

A STO­RIED PAST

Like its scenery, Nova Sco­tia’s man-made at­trac­tions cover a broad range, from mu­se­ums to amuse­ment parks, art gal­leries to golf cour­ses. His­toric ones, how­ever, are es­pe­cially plen­ti­ful here be­cause the re­gion once played a cru­cial role in the im­pe­rial plans of both Bri­tish and French forces.

The star-shaped Hal­i­fax Citadel, for ex­am­ple, is a lit­eral high­light of any trip to

the cap­i­tal city, and the metic­u­lously recre­ated Fortress of Louis­bourg lures his­tory lovers north to Cape Bre­ton. The An­napo­lis Val­ley, which con­tains some of the con­ti­nent’s old­est Eu­ro­pean set­tle­ments, has even more in store. Wit­ness Port-Royal, founded by the French in 1605, three years be­fore they es­tab­lished their base at Québec City (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/portroyal);

Fort Anne, a.k.a. “the most at­tacked site in Cana­dian his­tory,” orig­i­nally erected in 1629 as an An­glo coun­ter­bal­ance (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/for­t­anne); and gor­geous Grand-Pré, where po­lit­i­cally-neu­tral Aca­di­ans were forced into ex­ile for re­fus­ing to pledge their al­le­giance to the Bri­tish crown in 1755 (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/ grand­pre ).

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Since Mother Na­ture and Fa­ther Time hap­pily co­ex­ist here, there are many places where you can get a fresh per­spec­tive on the past while in­hal­ing fresh air. The Fundy Ge­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum, for in­stance, has a new tour that com­bines a Zo­diac boat trip with an ac­tual di­nosaur dig (fundy ge­o­log­i­cal.no­vas­co­tia.ca). And per­haps that’s Nova Sco­tia’s big­gest as­set: it of­fers the best of both worlds.

WHAT’S NEW?

The cool Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre’s new, larger lo­ca­tion of­fers fam­i­lies an added in­cen­tive to visit the Hal­i­fax wa­ter­front (www.thedis­cov­erycen­tre.ca).

The high-en­ergy Royal Nova Sco­tia In­ter­na­tional Tat­too amps things up even more this sum­mer in hon­our of its 40th an­niver­sary (www.nstat­too.ca).

The rib­bon has been cut on the Hal­i­fax Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, part of a $500 mil­lion down­town de­vel­op­ment (www.hal­i­fax­con­ven­tion­cen­tre.com).

The award-win­ning Light­foot & Wolfville Vine­yards now boasts a scenic 4,645 sq.-m (50,000 sq.-ft.) hos­pi­tal­ity cen­tre (www. light­footand­wolfville.com).

Syd­ney’s Hearth­stone Inn un­veiled five taste­fully themed rooms, each cel­e­brat­ing a must-see Cape Bre­ton at­trac­tion (www. hearth­stone­hos­pi­tal­ity.ca).

The pop­u­lar White Point Beach Resort is turn­ing 90 and will cel­e­brate with a num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing the 90th An­niver­sary Wed­ding Vow Re­newal Cer­e­mony in Septem­ber—with 90 cou­ples (www.white­point.com).

CITY LIGHTS

If you need an ur­ban fix, Hal­i­fax—re­cently ranked as a “Des­ti­na­tion on the Rise” by TripAd­vi­sor—is the place to go. Although this is Atlantic Canada’s largest, most cos­mopoli­tan city, its tourist cen­tre is con­ve­niently com­pact, and most ma­jor at­trac­tions—the Hal­i­fax Citadel, the His­toric Prop­er­ties, the Mar­itime Mu­seum of the Atlantic and the Cana­dian Mu­seum of Im­mi­gra­tion at Pier 21 among them—are all within blocks of its huge nat­u­ral har­bour. Tempt­ing shop­ping, din­ing, and nightlife op­tions are close at hand as well. After strolling around the bustling wa­ter­front board­walk, you can take a leisurely har­bour cruise or fol­low the lo­cals’ lead and hop a com­muter ferry for a quick cross-har­bour trip (www.dis­cov­er­hal­i­faxns.com).

Syd­ney, tech­ni­cally part of the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, is Nova Sco­tia’s only other ur­ban cen­tre. Lo­cated on the Is­land’s east coast, it has its own wa­ter­front board­walk and a smat­ter­ing of her­itage build­ings. More­over, it makes a handy base for ex­plor­ing at­trac­tions in nearby Glace Bay, in­clud­ing the Mar­coni Na­tional His­toric Site which is ded­i­cated to the Ital­ian ra­dio pi­o­neer who es­tab­lished a tran­sat­lantic mes­sag­ing sta­tion there in 1902, and the Cape Bre­ton Min­ers’ Mu­seum where you can don a hard hat and de­scend into a coal mine. The Fortress of Louis­bourg Na­tional His­toric Site is 45 min­utes away by car (www.cbrm.ns.ca ).

THE GREAT OUT­DOORS

Nova Sco­tia has been dubbed “Canada’s Ocean Play­ground,” and since you’re never

more than 67 km (42 mi.) from a coast, en­joy­ing on-the-water ac­tiv­i­ties is easy. Boat­ing is a top draw, which is no sur­prise con­sid­er­ing op­tions in­clude sail­ing on Bras d’Or Lake, and pad­dling in Ke­jimku­jik Na­tional Park and Na­tional His­toric Site—re­trac­ing routes Na­tive Mi’kmaq used for thou­sands of years. Scuba div­ing and deepsea fish­ing are also pop­u­lar; ditto for surf­ing, a fun if some­what frigid al­ter­na­tive on the East­ern Shore. Look­ing for some­thing truly unique? Ex­pe­ri­ence the rush of raft­ing on the Shube­nacadie River, where a ti­dal bore whips up big waves.

Land­lub­bers, of course, needn’t feel left out. Choices for bik­ers and hik­ers abound. The former love to pedal on the 119-km (74-mi.) Rum Run­ners Trail con­nect­ing Hal­i­fax and Lunenburg; while Cape Bre­ton High­lands Na­tional Park, which alone has 26 trails, is an ideal place for the lat­ter to lace up their boots. If golf is your game, world-class cour­ses span the prov­ince. Stand­outs range from tra­di­tional favourites like High­lands Links and Fox Harb’r Golf Resort, to new stars like Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs, ac­claimed sis­ter cour­ses.

HER­ITAGE AND CUL­TURE

Nova Sco­tia is Latin for “New Scot­land” and de­scen­dants of its Scot­tish set­tlers make much of that con­nec­tion—par­tic­u­larly on Cape Bre­ton Is­land, where you can take a class or buy a kilt at North Amer­ica’s only Gaelic col­lege (www.gaelic­col­lege.edu), raise a glass at the con­ti­nent’s first sin­gle malt whisky dis­tillery (www.gleno­radis­tillery.com), tour the Celtic Mu­sic In­ter­pre­tive Cen­tre (www.celtic­mu­s­ic­cen­tre.com), then dance your feet off at one of the sum­mer ceilidhs (tra­di­tional Gaelic-in­flected par­ties) held Is­land-wide. The prov­ince, how­ever, isn’t en­tirely draped in tar­tan.

After all, events like Fes­ti­val aca­dien de Clare (www.fes­ti­vala­ca­di­en­de­clare.ca/en) and the Musique de la Baie con­cert series (www.yarmouthanda­ca­di­an­shores.com/en/things-to-do/view/musique-de-la-baie) are tune­ful tes­ta­ments to the strength of fran­co­phone cul­ture here. Mi’kmaq com­mu­ni­ties carry on the legacy of this land’s orig­i­nal res­i­dents through pow­wows and other spe­cial pro­grams (www.no­vas­co­tia.com/ex­plore/cul­ture/mik­maq-cul­ture), while con­tri­bu­tions made by new ar­rivals are cel­e­brated at the mov­ing Cana­dian Mu­seum of Im­mi­gra­tion at Pier 21 (www.pier21.ca).

MUST SEE, MUST DO

Feast on fresh seafood. Lob­ster . . . scal­lops . . . salmon: from wa­ter­front shacks and road­side fast food restau­rants to fine din­ing rooms, you’ll find seafood top­ping menus ev­ery­where (www.tas­te­ofno­vas­co­tia.com).

Ogle Lunenburg’s Old Town. Hun­dreds of her­itage build­ings have earned this port com­mu­nity’s down­town core recog­ni­tion from UNESCO (www.ex­plore­lunen­burg.ca).

Ex­plore the Fortress of Louis­bourg Na­tional His­toric Site. Turn back time to the mid-18th cen­tury at North Amer­ica’s largest his­tor­i­cal re­con­struc­tion (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/ louis­bourg).

Snap a pic­ture at Peggy’s Cove. It’s al­most oblig­a­tory to visit this sea­side ham­let where one of the world’s most iconic light­houses sits atop a slab of wave-blasted rock (www.peg­gyscov­ere­gion.com).

Fol­low the Good Cheer Trail. On the first win­ery, cidery, craft brew­ery and dis­tillery trail of its kind in Canada, you can sip bev­er­ages from 50-plus lo­cal pro­duc­ers (www.no­vas­co­ti­a­c­uli­nary­trails.com).

WWI con­cluded 100 years ago, and the Hal­i­fax Citadel Na­tional His­toric Site com­mem­o­rates it through themed ex­hibits (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/hal­i­fax­ci­tadel).

SCENIC DRIVES

The Cabot Trail de­liv­ers one of the most dra­matic drives any­where. The 300-km (186-mi.) road runs straight through Cape Bre­ton High­lands Na­tional Park and, in places, rises and falls like a roller coaster as it fol­lows the Atlantic coast.

Hug­ging the South Shore for 339 km (211 mi.), the Light­house Route boasts over 20 post­card-per­fect bea­cons, in­clud­ing those at Peggy’s Cove and Cape Forchu. Charm­ing towns like Ma­hone Bay and Lunenburg make ideal stopovers.

The 291-km (181-mi.) Evan­ge­line Trail con­nects Yar­mouth and Mount Uni­acke. Named for Longfel­low’s tragic nar­ra­tive, Evan­ge­line: A Tale of Acadie, it show­cases the scenery that in­spired his set­ting.

FAM­ILY FUN

An­i­mated by buskers, glass-blow­ers and tour-boat op­er­a­tors, Hal­i­fax’s work­ing wa­ter­front has proven kid ap­peal. Along it lies the Mar­itime Mu­seum of the Atlantic (mar­itimemu­seum.no­vas­co­tia.ca), the Cana­dian Mu­seum of Im­mi­gra­tion at Pier 21 (www.pier21.ca), plus the new, hands-on Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre (www.thedis­cov­ery cen­tre.ca). When hunger hits, re­fuel at the Hal­i­fax Sea­port Farm­ers’ Mar­ket (www. hal­i­fax­farm­ers­mar­ket.com).

953,900Hal­i­faxwww.no­vas­co­tia.comHal­i­fax Stan­field In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 35 km (22 mi.) from down­town

FREE­WHEEL­ING AD­VEN­TURES, CAPE BRE­TON IS­LAND • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA

TOWN CLOCK, HAL­I­FAX CITADEL • DIS­COVER HAL­I­FAX

HAL­I­FAX CEN­TRAL LI­BRARY • DIS­COVER HAL­I­FAX

CELTIC COLOURS IN­TER­NA­TIONAL FES­TI­VAL, CAPE BRE­TON IS­LAND • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA

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