Nova Scotia  is one of the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Nova Scotia consists of a very large peninsula (known as the "mainland"), connected to the province of New Brunswick by a narrow strip of land, and includes Cape Breton Island, which is now joined to the mainland by the Canso Causeway.
Nova Scotia was one of the original four provinces that became part of Canada in 1867, and as of 2011 had a population of 922,000 people, of whom 44% live in the capital city, Halifax. "Nova Scotia" is Latin for "New Scotland", and Scottish settlers brought culture and traditions that continue to this day, albeit now mixed with the cultures of native Mi'kmaq and settlers from numerous other places.
Nova Scotia is a relatively compact and densely populated province (by Canadian standards), so unless you are traveling along the length of the province from the southwest tip (Yarmouth) to the northeast (Cape Breton Highlands National Park), distances are not excessive.
Towns and Cities
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.
Locals of many desirable areas exaggerate the cold, storms, pests, etc., in order to discourage tourists from moving in permanently. This tendency has declined in recent years as the population has aged. Nova Scotia's South Shore is one of the rare "Blue Zones" in the world where an unusually high percentage of people lives to over 100 years old. The province highlights this fact in some of its immigration ads.
Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ) is the main airport in the province, with service from various parts of Canada, the United States and Europe. Regularly scheduled flights are also made to Sydney (YQY) in Cape Breton from Halifax and Toronto.
Nova Scotia has only one primary road connection, the Trans-Canada Highway (#104 in Nova Scotia, connecting to #2 in New Brunswick). The Nova Scotia border is about 55km southeast of Moncton, New Brunswick.
Via Rail Canada's Ocean  travels from Montreal, Charny (Quebec City) and eastern New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. Unfortunately this service now only operates 3 days per week and takes about 22 hours to get from Montreal to Halifax. Sleeping cars are available, but relatively expensive.
Four ferry services connect to Nova Scotia:
Ferry service from Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth ceased in 2009. There is replacement ferry service by Novastar Cruises confirmed at this time, but it is scheduled to resume in May 2014. It will leave at 8pm from Maine and arrive at 7AM the next day. The return journey will be 9am from Nova Scotia and arrive at 5PM. No pricing information is available yet.
A car is necessary to see most destinations of interest to tourists outside of the Halifax area.
The provincial highway system is divided into different sets of roads:
The layout of the highway network in Nova Scotia is very simple. Starting at Yarmouth, highway 101 takes the Annapolis Valley to Halifax, while highway 103 goes along the South Shore. Heading from Halifax, highway 102 goes to Truro. At Truro, one can opt to go to Amherst and New Brunswick or to New Glasgow and Cape Breton via highway 104 (the Trans-Canada Highway). On Cape Breton Island, the Trans Canada Highway becomes highway 105 to the Newfoundland Ferry at North Sydney, and on to Sydney itself via highway 125. Alternatively, highway 104 (and then 4) travel south of the Bras d'Or Lakes directly to Sydney.
Be aware of road conditions in the winter, especially away from major areas. Highway 104 crossing the Cobequid Mountains (on either side of Truro) often experiences challenging winter conditions.
Via Rail Canada's Ocean  stops in Amherst, Truro and Halifax 3 days per week.
Scheduled bus service in Nova Scotia is provided by Maritime Bus . Routes served include Halifax - Kentville, Halifax - Truro - New Brunswick, and Truro - Sydney. For destinations outside of these routes, privately-run shuttles (minivans) operate along some routes, e.g. Halifax - Yarmouth.
Donair, based on Turkish dish "Döner", a pile of roasted, spiced beef (known as donair meat) with tomatoes and onions covered in a sweet, white sauce and wrapped in a pita. This variation on the doner is unique to the area and is available at almost every corner diner and pizza place in Nova Scotia. Folks from New England (and perhaps many other areas of the US) will compare a donair to a gyro - biggest difference is a sauce that is much sweeter than the sauce found on a gyro.
Dulse, most of this seaweed is harvested in Nova Scotia. Locally it is dried and used as a snack.
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) .
Throughout the years, many high profile cases of racism against Black Canadians have occurred in Nova Scotia giving it the title of "The Mississippi of the North". The province in Atlantic Canada continues to battle racism with an annual march to end racism against people of African descent.