Scenic routes, coastal access, the Bay of Fundy, and delicious seafood are just a few of the offerings that inspire people to travel to Nova Scotia. Throw in the adorable seaside towns and the abundance of hands on experiences and things to do in Nova Scotia – and you’ve got an incredible vacation destination.

When it comes to driving around Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail is constantly touted as one of the world’s best drives – it gets all of the attention. However, as a self-professed underdog lover – I want to let you know that there’s much more to Nova Scotia’s highways than Cape Breton.

Nova Scotia Scenic Drives

Nova Scotia license plate
Canada’s Ocean Playground – Nova Scotia

There’s a whole series of scenic driving routes throughout the island that deserve praise. Each are densely marked with their own logo which makes it easy to follow the route as it winds around towns, beaches, rural areas, and fishing villages.

When I started researching Nova Scotia for my mother-daughter trip, I knew right away that I wanted to do a Nova Scotia road trip driving holiday – but I didn’t just want to focus only on just the Cabot Trail. So with the help of Visit Nova Scotia, we were able to put together a complete Nova Scotia driving holiday that would take us on the majority of the scenic drives in addition to drive the Cabot Trail.

All we had to do was follow the route markers, and we were treated to the generous local hospitality and stunning views! This guide includes our driving routes, where we stayed, favorite restaurants, and things to do on this Nova Scotia road trip.

Plus, I’ve updated this for new lodging, restaurants, and experiences in 2021.

How Much Time do you Need in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Road Trip Routes
Things to Do on the:
Lighthouse Route – South Shore
Evangeline Trail – Annapolis Valley and Fundy Shore
Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island
Marine Drive and the Eastern Shore
Halifax Metro

How Much Time do you Need in Nova Scotia

The trip took us a little less than 2 weeks overall – including our time in Halifax. However you can adjust this for however much time you have. You can drive one or two of the routes if you only have a week and get a great feel for Nova Scotia’s culture – and you’ll get great seafood no matter what region you visit!

Nova Scotia Road Trip Routes and Things to Do

We started in Halifax Nova Scotia since that’s where most people arrive the island via flights. However, we took the train to Halifax from Toronto; stopping in Montreal. The Montreal to Halifax Nova Scotia Route is called the Ocean Route. This is a unique way to slow travel out to Atlantic Canada if you have the time – I can’t recommend it enough!

When I travel, I find the cheapest rental car rates at . Check out their prices for a Nova Scotia road trip!

One Item You’ll Find in Every Nova Scotia Region

There was one thing you could find on each of these scenic driving routes – colorful Adirondack chairs! They were everywhere – standing out like a bright beacon of color amidst an often gray, moody background.

During our 2 weeks driving around Nova Scotia this iconic chair was found everywhere along our routes. Some were new and brightly painted, some were plastic, and some had seen better days as the paint peeled due to neglect and the harshness of the Nova Scotia weather had taken it’s toll. However, no matter the condition, they were always gazing off towards some amazing tranquil views.

Things to do on the Lighthouse Route – South Shore

Not only did we see lighthouses, but we also got a great feel for the seafaring heritage of the area. The South Shore is also the site of the famous Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl. Every February – for the entire month – the South Shore throws a fantastically tasty event called the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl festival.

You see, February just happens to be the peak of the lobster season along the entire South Shore, so from Barrington (the Lobster Capital of Canada) to Peggy’s Cove and every port in between – you can expect all kinds of lobster celebrations.

My South Shore Highlights: Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, LeHave Bakery, Petite Riviere Vineyards, Lunenburg Fisheries Museum

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse

This route is full of lighthouses, with the most well-known one being Peggy’s Cove. We left Halifax Nova Scotia and headed for Peggy’s Cove to see the famous lighthouse and nearby quaint fishing village. We happened to get there as a big storm was arriving, so it was moody and bleak – perfect for photography.

Peggy's Cove Fishing Village on the Lighthouse Route in Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove Fishing Village

New in 2021 – Peggy’s Cove is undergoing a big project to add a beautiful new viewing deck. It will allow people to view the lighthouse and experience the waves and rocks in a way that is fully accessible and safe – making a visit to Peggy’s Cove even better if that’s possible!

peggys cove lighthouse
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse

We also stopped along the winding road to see beautiful water views and outlooks. We stayed in the fishing village of Lunenberg and hunkered down for the approaching storm.

Stop in Lunenburg – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We stopped in Lunenburg for the night; a picture perfect little fishing village on the South Shore. It’s a 260 year old town with a huge fishing history. When we woke up the next day it was pouring rain, but we didn’t let that stop us! We still went to see the Fisheries Museum and we also watched the Dory races – a local treat!

Lunenburg also is UNESCO World Heritage site! Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance, based on a rectangular grid pattern drawn up in the home country.

LaHave Bakery – a Local Favorite

The next day, based on advice from locals we continued along the Lighthouse Route to the LaHave Ferry. We rode the ferry across with a local who invited us for coffee on the other side at the LaHave Bakery – a must for those along the Lighthouse Route!

You’ll be welcomed by a big porch where you are tempted to just sit and watch the world go by for a while. In addition to being a bakery and coffee shop, LaHave Bakery is also a market where you’ll find fresh local produce and other goods.

LeHave Bakery Nova Scotia
LaHave Bakery

New in 2021 – In the nearby town of Pleasantville they have a new floating cottage that you can stay in as of 2021! The Ketch Floating Cottage is situated on a dock jutting out into the calm waters of the beautiful LaHave River – it’s a totally unique vacation experience! This is on my list for my next trip for sure.

Sip Wine with a View at Petite Riviere Vineyards

We also stopped in the little town of Petite Riviere to do some wine tasting at Petite Riviere Vineyards and checked out some other great little art shops.

Sip wine out on the large terrace overlooking the vineyards. Or try one of the ciders they’ve started making. The vineyard also hosts concerts in the summer. Plus, winery and vineyard tours are run every Wednesday through Sunday during the months of May-October.

Petite Riviere Winery
Petite Riviere Winery – stop for a tasting along the Lighthouse Route

The thing that stuck out to me on the Lighthouse Route was that the locals were so proud of their area – we sort of followed an unplanned trail of breadcrumbs along the route where locals had suggested we stop, visit, and eat at making this one of our favorite areas of Nova Scotia!

Where to Stay and Eat on South Shore

Accommodation: Lunenburg Arms  Read reviews of Lunenburg Arms
Ketch Floating Cottage

Restaurants: Petite Riviere Vineyard, The Knot Bar/Restaurant, Broadmore Café , LaHave Bakery

Things to do Along the Evangeline Trail – Annapolis Valley and Fundy Shore

This route skirts the Bay of Fundy and its miraculous highest tides in the world, as well as gives you a glimpse into the farming culture of Nova Scotia. The Annapolis Valley has an abundance of farm-fresh produce, farmer’s markets and fresh seafood that’ll leave your mouth watering! In fact, I think they should rename this scenic drive the Eating Trail – be sure to go hungry.

This is also your best way to see and experience the Bay of Fundy tides. Fundy has the highest recorded tides in the world where you can walk or dine on the ocean floor when the tide has dropped the height of a four-story building. This is a site to see!

My Annapolis Valley and Fundy Shore Highlights: Halls Harbour Lobster in the Rough, walking on the ocean floor, flower garden at Blomidon Inn, Seeing the boats slowly sink into the mud at low tide, eating scallops in Digby.

Visit Digby – the Scallop Capital of the World

Scallops Nova Scotia
Scallops with ginger and carrots

Our first stop was in Digby, known as the scallop capitol of the world. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from to feast on Digby scallops – just walk along the water and pick one that looks good to you. We sat outside at the Fundy Restaurant and watched the boats in the Bay of Fundy slowly lower with the tide as we ate our giant Digby scallops.

Digby wharf
Fishing boats in Digby tied to the wharf rise and fall with the tide.

Walk the Oldest Town in North America – Annapolis Royal

Annapolis Royal boardwalk on the Evangeline Trail
Boardwalk in Annapolis Royal along the Evangeline Trail

We went onward to the oldest town in the North America, Annapolis Royal, and enjoyed the small town, fort, and bay views. This is the perfect time to get out of your car and walk around the lovely boardwalk by the Bay of Fundy. Stop in the shops and enjoy all of the creativity; the town is a magnet for visual artists, craftspeople, performers and writers.

Visit Atlantic Canada’s Oldest Winery

We continued away from the Bay of Fundy through the fertile farming land of Annapolis Valley, enjoying the lush green fields and frequent wineries. Consider stopping at Grand Pre Winery – it’s Atlantic Canada’s oldest Farm Winery, owned and operated by the Stutz Family since 1994.

The landscape of the Grand Pre is also another UNESCO World Heritage Site!

New in 2021 – They’ve developed the family farm house into a new Inn – so now you can stay at the winery! In addition, they’ve also added a Chef’s Table Dining where up to 10 guests seated at the Chef’s Table interacting with Chef Jason Lynch as the meal is being prepared.

Eat a Hall’s Harbor Lobster – a Hidden Gem

Next we turned towards the rocky coastline to have some fresh lobster in Hall’s Harbor. Here you can watch the boats in the harbor sink slowly towards the dirt bottom. As we sat there and ate the tide must have went down about 6 to 10 feet. I couldn’t help but think about how fisherman must have to time their work very carefully in this odd environment.

Lobster in the Rough
Me and my lunch…before the green mile.

When we arrived at Hall’s Harbor in Nova Scotia not only were we in for a beautiful view eating outside with harbor views of the Bay of Fundy, but we were also ready to try their famous Lobster in the Rough.

Pick your fresh lobster directly out of the tank, hand it over to the chef, grab a beer and wait outside for your cooked lobster to arrive! This is an iconic Nova Scotia lobster experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Hall's Harbor lobster Nova Scotia
Mom enjoying her lobster outside at Hall’s Harbor.

Want to learn more about Nova Scotia Lobster? Check out my article on where and when to find lobster on Nova Scotia including how to cook it!

Walk on the Ocean Floor At Scott’s Bay

We took a detour off the Evangeline Trail and went towards Scott’s Bay where we could take a walk out on the ocean floor during the Bay of Fundy low tide – a unique perk of this area!

We planned for the low tide and drove to Scott’s Bay – a little fishing community near Wolfville that a local had recommended we see. The drive out there was pretty solitary – but totally worth it!

Scott's Bay along the Evangeline Trail Nova Scotia road trip
Scott’s Bay and the Bay of Fundy

We went up and over a foot bridge and stared out along a vast open space of rocks and glistening wet sand on the other side. There it was – the ocean floor exposed, just waiting for us.

New in 2021 – you can not only walk on the ocean floor, you can dine on the ocean floor! Check out these special one of a kind dinners dining and foraging ingredients at low tide with a local chef.

Photo courtesy of Visit Nova Scotia

Stay in a Historic Sea Captain’s home in Wolfville

We then went back inland to charming town of Wolfville to stay at the Historic Blomidon Inn – a historic Sea Captain’s home turned into a B&B. After a long day of driving we enjoyed the flower garden and some pampering at the Inn. No need to venture out for dinner as the Inn served one of the nicest dinners we had in all of Nova Scotia.

Blomidon Inn Nova Scotia
Blomidon Inn Wolfville Evangeline Trail
Flower Garden Nova Scotia
Blomidon Inn Flower Garden and walk

Where to Eat and Stay in the Annapolis Valley and Fundy Shore

Accommodation: Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa, Read reviews of Digby Pines
Blomidon Inn Read reviews of Blomidon Inn
Grand Pre Winery Inn

Restaurants: Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound, Blomidon Inn Restaurant, Fundy Restaurant in Digby, Grand Pre Winery Chef Dinners

When I travel, I find the cheapest rental car rates at . Check out their prices for a Nova Scotia road trip!

Things to do on the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island

The Queen of all of Nova Scotia’s driving routes – the Cabot Trail – is typically littered with superlatives such as best, greatest, and most scenic. It certainly deserves praise as it provides a whole different feel of Nova Scotia than the other routes. The road hugs the cliffs and winds around forests on the Northwest side, and the Eastern side provides a rocky coast dotted with fishing villages and beaches.

Cabot Trail Nova Scotia scenic drive
Cabot Trail Cliffs

There are plenty of scenic lookouts along the Cabot Trail giving you many photo opportunities or just a place to sit and take in the magnificent views.

My mom and I split our Cabot Trail drive across 2 days. That way we had plenty of time to enjoy everything on Cape Breton. However, if you only have one day check out this perfect Drive the Cabot Trail one day itinerary I did a few years later.

Cabot Trail Road Trip view
Cabot Trail – the views that make it one of the world’s best drives

My Cape Breton Highlights: Those incredible views, Middlehead hiking trail, watching sunset, experiencing the celtic culture, and the non-touristy White Point Harbor fishing village for a real taste of authenticity.

Listen to the Celtic Culture at the Gaelic College

The next morning another storm had arrived in force and we couldn’t even see the coastline! We continued our drive along the now stormy Cabot Trail giving us a whole new respect for Mother Nature’s force. We stopped at art galleries and the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts to see bagpipe, fiddle, and other demonstrations – a great rainy day stop.

They also have a lovely gift shop with unique souvenirs.

Note: Music demonstrations are only held in the morning once a day – so get there early! Check the schedule here. You’ll also find MANY places on Cape Breton offering live Celtic music at restaurants and bars.

Find the Best Views in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

This is one of the crown jewels of the drive around Cape Breton. This National Park has a number of wonderful hiking trails, restaurants, small towns, and so many incredible coastal views!

One of my favorite and most clever uses of the Adirondack chair in Nova Scotia was by the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in their “Red Chair Challenge”. The mission was to find and sit in ten red chairs scattered around Cabot Trail. At each chair there’s a unique view of the landscape and seascape.

Red chair challenge Cape Breton Highlands
The Red Chair Challenge – we found one perched on top of a waterfall in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Mom and I were excited to see how many we could find, but honestly finding the chairs was much more of a challenge than we expected! We only found one – we saw it from a distance and then had to figure out how to hike to it. When we did finally figure out the way, the view was indeed breathtaking placed on top of a waterfall.

Watch for Whales on Skyline Trail

This hiking trail will have you oohing and aahing as you suddenly leave the forest area behind and are high on top of a headland cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A boardwalk with stairs leads you down to a viewpoint with benches.

There are many places to whale watch in Nova Scotia – but the Skyline Trail is one of my favorite whale watching spots! Keep your eyes peeled for whales down below and enjoy the view.

Enjoy an Ingonish Beach, Hike, or Gondola

This community on the northeast coast of Cape Breton Island is known for its beaches, hiking, and it just recently launched a gondola. This stunning part of the Cabot Trail is worth a stop.

The Middle Head hike is a perfect way to get out of the car and stretch your legs. This is a 2.4 mile easy hike out the narrow peninsula separating two ocean bays. It ends on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Read about some great Cape Breton hikes for all levels that I did while visiting.

Cabot Trail hiking
Middle Head Hike

My mom and I actually stayed in a cute little cabin at the Keltic Lodge and enjoyed this elegant historic lodge with it’s live music and incredible restaurant. After a dinner fit for royalty at the Purple Thistle, we enjoyed celtic music at the lodge.

Keltic Lodge Cape Breton
Keltic Lodge Cabin

New for 2021 – Go to great heights on the new Ingonish gondola ride. Try out the new 8-person gondola, the first in Atlantic Canada, which will take riders from the bottom of Cape Smokey 320 vertical meters to the top in 4 minutes.

Try Fishcakes for Breakfast

Charlene’s Bayside restaurant in Whycocomagh is known for serving up the best chowder on Cape Breton and they serve it up for breakfast along with a fish cake and a homemade biscuit. The atmosphere at Charlene’s is like having breakfast in your grandmother’s house, and who doesn’t love that!

Cape Breton Charlenes bayside
The East Coast breakfast!

Stay in a Tiny House with a Big View

New in 2021 – the Cabot Trail Tiny Homes have some of the best views on the Cabot Trail. On one side you have the breath-taking view of Margaree Harbour and the beautiful Cape Breton highlands on the other. Each tiny house is equipped with a deck from which to see the gorgeous sunsets over the water. There is also a shared outdoor campfire and a beachfront for swimming or launching kayaks or canoes. 

Photo from Visit Nova Scotia

Play on a Top Ranked Golf Course

The Cabot Cliffs Golf Course is the ranked 19th in the world’s top 100 golf courses, so why not stop and get in 9 holes. And if you can, do an entire 18 as the last 3 holes of the course are some of the most spectacular views I’ve seen! And be sure to bring plenty of extra balls to replace all of the ones you are going to lose off the cliffs!

Hole 16 Cabot Cliffs
The famous Cliff Hole – Hole 16

And if your pocketbook can afford it – get a room at the Cabot Cliffs resort too – it’s pure luxury.

Visit the Fishing Village of White Point Harbor

At the north end of Cape Breton just slightly off the Cabot Trail you’ll find White Point Harbor. This isn’t a tourist town…this is a fishing village of days gone by. Park by the docks and take a little walk around the town. You will find a few local fisherman there and a piles of lobster traps, but this sleepy little town has virtually no tourism and that’s what makes it so great. And the views aren’t bad either.

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