From beaches to wineries to historic sites, Halifax is a great road-trip base
By Trevor J. Adams
There’s a lot to see and do in Halifax, but on a glorious summer day, it’s hard to beat the allure of a road trip. Whatever your interest, you’ll find an attractive destination nearby.
Established in 1758, the Sambro Island Light is the oldest surviving lighthouse in North America. Located 6 km from Sambro Harbour on the western approaches to Halifax Harbour, tiny Sambro Island is a day trip that requires advance planning. Visitors love the rugged natural splendour of an isolated Atlantic isle, plus a glimpse into Nova Scotia’s early days. Find charter boats, kayak excursions, and aerial tours in our Tours Guide. The Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society also sometimes organizes summer tours: see facebook.com/pg/sambrolighthouse.
• About a 45-minute drive west of Halifax on Rte 333, you’ll come to the historic fishing village of Peggy’s Cove. Ramble amongst the homes, fish sheds, and small local businesses, and you’ll see fishermen preparing for their next excursion on the wild North Atlantic, just as their ancestors have for generations. Perched on the rocks above the ocean is the village’s iconic lighthouse, one of the most-photographed sites in Nova Scotia. Here you’ll also find The Sou’wester, a friendly family-restaurant dating back five decades. (The home-style gingerbread is a local favourite).
• Continue west on scenic Route 3 for about 130 kilometres, and you’ll make your way through the picturesque seaside villages of Chester and Mahone Bay. Your final destination on this itinerary is Lunenburg. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town is noted for its distinct historic architecture, and large assortment of world-class restaurants, galleries, and boutiques. It’s also the home port of the Bluenose II schooner, which graces the Canadian dime. While here, be sure to visit the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Meet retired fishermen and learn about the East Coast’s fishing heritage from a plethora of exhibitions and artifacts.
• Nova Scotia’s wild and rugged Eastern Shore is the perfect destination for hikers, kayakers, and beach lovers. About an hour’s drive east of the city on Hwy 107, you’ll come to Clam Harbour Beach. This giant sandy beach is a local favourite, offering spectacular ocean vistas, good (albeit a bit chilly) swimming conditions, and balmy ocean breezes. On Aug. 11, it hosts the Clam Harbour Sand Castle Competition.
• Also in this area, you find Memory Lane Heritage Village in nearby Lake Charles. This living-history village re-creates life in a 1940s-era rural Nova Scotian village, with several carefully restored buildings and expert guides and interpreters. It hosts special events throughout the summer, including the Atlantic Canada Harmonica Festival on Aug. 10. And while you’re there, try a traditional meal in the cookhouse.
WE THE NORTH
• Known as the “hub of Nova Scotia,” Truro is a natural stop for travellers heading to or from Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, or New Brunswick. On the way there from Halifax, stop in Shubenacadie to visit the Provincial Wildlife Park, home to 26 species of mammals, 65 species of birds, a wetland centre, scenic trails, and a 10-hectare picnic park.
• At the heart of Truro itself is Victoria Park, boasting some 160 hectares of old-growth forest, challenging hiking and biking trails, and two waterfalls, plus a playground, pool and waterslide.
• Harness racing used to be common throughout Nova Scotia. Today, the Truro Raceway, which dates back to 1865, is the last surviving track. See horse races most Friday evenings in summer. Visit truroraceway.ca for details.
• Heading northwest from Halifax on scenic Rte 1 will lead you to the fecund Annapolis Valley, with lush farms, orchards, and vineyards everywhere you look. En route, take a short detour into Ashdale and discover the charming little Meander River Farm craft brewery. It’s a great place to sample unique Nova Scotian beers and other farm products. (Hours vary; phone ahead).
• Back on track to the Valley, you’ll next come to Horton Ridge Malt and Grain in Hortonville. Sixth-generation farmer Alan Stewart provides hops for many local craft brewers and distillers, also offering unique beers in the on-site brewery. Up next is the Avondale Sky Winery & Restaurant in Windsor. In a restored church, this little gem of a spot offers a variety of wines, with tasty food pairings in the restaurant.
• As you continue, keep an eye out for the many markets and produce stands (often a simple table at the end of a farm driveway) selling seasonal local produce. And history buffs will want to make a stop at Grand-Pré National Historic Site to learn about Nova Scotia’s early Acadian settlers.
• The next major town you’ll come to is Wolfville. Just before you hit the downtown, you’ll come to Luckett Vineyards, one of the many wineries in this region. There’s a wine bar on site, and it hosts special events throughout the season. Also in Wolfville is Paddy’s Pub, a neighbourhood favourite brewpub serving house-made beers and hearty pub food.
Of course, this is just a small sample of all there is to see and do in Nova Scotia. Do you know a day-trip destination we should add to our itinerary?