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Trip Ideas

7 Must-See Spots in Nova Scotia

One of Canada’s most enchanting maritime provinces, Nova Scotia is the dream destination for any respectable outdoorsman. Marrying a landscape that spans tide-eroded cliffs, cavernous river canyons, and impenetrable forests with unfathomably friendly locals (you’re certainly not in NYC anymore), the region has tons worth exploring. Here, just a handful of our favorite Nova Scotian scenes.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

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Halifax

A thriving art and theater scene, copious craft brews, a historic waterfront with Victorian-era gardens, and a largely youthful population (it is a college town, after all) are the components at the core of Halifax’s laid-back culture. Hit up the Seaport’s Farmers’ Market, one of the oldest in North America, to chat up convivial locals as you browse fresh produce, homemade pastries, and handcrafted jewelry, then stroll the three-mile boardwalk that hugs the waterfront for salty sea breezes and panoramic views. If you’re looking to unpretentiously wine and dine, drop by the Lower Deck, a college-kid-favored maritime spot that serves up regional suds and authentic Atlantic Canadian specialties—aka a mean fish and chips. Want to keep the night going? You can't go wrong with Alexander Keith’s Brewery in the heart of the city. Founded by three-time Halifax mayor (and OG Canadian celeb) of the same name, the 19th-century joint specializes in small batch brews and if you're curious how they come together, you can hop on an immersive tour led by a guide in period-appropriate garb.

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Cabot Trail

If you know us, you know we kind of have a major thing for road trips, and the Cabot Trail, in northeastern Nova Scotia is a true standout (think: a road worthy of a Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercial). At 186 miles, the ultra-scenic coastal route runs through Victoria county and Inverness county, crisscrossing through Scottish settlements, Acadian fishing villages, and dense old-growth forests before cutting through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and clinging to steep oceanside cliffs. FYI: You’ll want to keep an eye out for moose, black bears, bald eagles, and humpback whales (they’re known to go airborne in the Gulf of St. Lawrence).

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Old Town Lunenburg

Though it was founded back in 1753, the British colonial port town of Lunenburg remains largely the same well into the 21st century. Wander through the vibrant harbor-side settlement and you’ll still find moored fishing schooners, salt-licked boathouses, and expertly-restored, primary-colored clapboard houses. While you're in the neighborhood, there are some must-see sights, namely the highly-ornamental, gothic St. John's Anglican Church and Ironworks, a traditional micro-distillery that calls a heritage blacksmith’s shop home.

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Peggy's Cove

Out on Nova Scotia’s Bluenose Coast, along the eastern shore of St. Margaret's Bay, you’ll find Peggy’s Cove, a rural fishing village rife with quaint cottages, fresh seafood (don’t miss out on the lobster and haddock—but seriously), Canadian artist-featured craft shops, and more than 160 lighthouses, including the iconic, circa-1915 Peggy's Point. Located just 26 miles from downtown Halifax, the charming hamlet makes for a perfect day trip, all you have to do is hop on Highway 333 and motor down the road for half an hour before you land on the wave-worn rocky harbor.

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Cape Breton Highlands Park

Cape Breton Highlands Park—Atlantic Canada’s first national park—is often referred to simply as “where the mountains meet the sea.” But to give you a bit of a bigger picture, the park is home to ancient plateaus sliced by river canyons, lush old-growth forests inhabited by rare plant and animal species, and rusty red cliffs which border the rugged Atlantic coast. You can traverse the area on two or four wheels following the seaside Cabot Trail or on foot as you traverse one of 26 trails which afford sweeping views of your choosing.

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Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site

You can hike, kayak, swim, and camp the day away in Kejimkujik National Park’s vast coastal wetlands and forested wilderness, but the real magic happens after the sun sets. As Nova Scotia’s only designated Dark Sky Preserve, the park is unparalleled when it comes to prime stargazing spots; since the area is free of any artificial light pollution, you’ll be able to witness—in great definition—the sky light up as tens of thousands of stars start their nightly dance.

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Bay of Fundy

Nestled between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia—not far from Maine (their very friendly southern neighbor), the Bay of Fundy is known mainly for its record-breaking tides, varied whale population, and flowerpot shaped rocks. Admire the dramatic tide-carved coast on a scenic drive, explore the mammoth Hopewell Rocks (along the bay's upper reaches near New Brunswick) during low tide, or go on a whale watching tour to marvel at humpbacks, minkes, and pilots as they breach; activity wise—you really can't go wrong.

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