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.
The tourist information centre at the Halifax waterfront.
Halifax - the provincial capital and largest city in Nova Scotia. East Coast base for the Canadian Navy and a major Atlantic port, home to several major universities, with plenty of opportunities for travelers to experience local history, culture, food and drink.
Sydney - the largest community in Cape Breton, and heart of the Industrial Cape Breton region.
Tobeatic Wilderness & Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve. The largest protected wilderness area in Atlantic Canada. The Tobeatic is a large natural area that spans five counties and more than 104,000 hectares of central southwestern Nova Scotia. Nine major rivers flow from the Tobeatic and over 120 lakes are found within the wilderness area. The wilderness area is available to the public for canoeing, birding, and other outdoor pursuits for the enjoyment of nature. The Tobeatic features numerous species of interest including the last native population of moose, black bear, southern flying squirrel, Blanding's turtle, Eastern ribbon snake, Bald Eagle, brook trout, Lady Slipper orchids, and various carnivorous and non-chlorophytic flowering plants.
Brier Island in the Bay of Fundy. Brier Island is a unique destination situated off the end of ancient basalt formation (Digby Neck) jutting out into the world famous Bay of Fundy. This area is rich in marine life (Whale Watching, Atlantic flyway for migrating birds and has a resident seal colony) The area has been long visited by naturalists who regularly spot rare and endangered plants. Rock hounds will be impressed with the many types of rock formations and can find quartz, agate jasper, amethyst and even zeolite. An area truly unspoiled, off the beaten track and deeply steeped in maritime tradition. (Home of the famous Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail solo around the world in 1895 on the Spay a 37’ sloop.) Brier Island offers many trails to explore both easy and challenging for hikers on short or extended visits. The island is accessible by two short ferry rides from the end of Digby Neck.
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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 seasonally from 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'sOcean 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.
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:
Highways 1 to 99: Original main roads connecting all regions of the province. Typically two-lane roads, passing through towns and villages along the way. Speed limits are 50km/h (in towns) to 90km/h, and many roads have paved shoulders making them suitable for cyclists.
Highways 101 to 199: Expressways providing fast (but generally boring) travel options across the province. They often parallel similarly-numbered highways 1 to 99, i.e. 1 and 101 are parallel routes through the Annapolis Valley. Many of these highways are four-lane divided roads, although in more rural areas they are improved two-lane roads. Speed limits are normally 90km/h to 110km/h. Although wide enough for cyclists, the speed of traffic and regular hills may make them less desirable for some.
Highways 201 to 399: Minor highways throughout the province. Some "highways" are simply a series of local roads that share a common highway number (see local roads below re: condition).
Local roads: Paved and unpaved roads of varying conditions. Depending on when they were last maintained, some paved local roads may be in worse shape (potholes, etc.) than the unpaved roads. It's reasonable to assume that all local roads shown on the provincial highways map are passable with a passenger car, except following major storms.
Scenic routes are identifed by specific signs (e.g. Cabot Trail, Sunrise Trail, etc.). These provide suggested routes to see as much of Nova Scotia's beautiful scenery as possible.
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.
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.
Peggys Cove Lighthouse, 35 km SW of Halifax on road 333 is a lighthouse on rounded rocks. The lighthouse is a post office, there is a restaurant and tourist information but otherwise it is just big rocks with a dozen small house and 60 people living there. Outside Peggys Cove on the 333 there are plenty of B&B's and restaurants.
Swissair Memorial, close to Peggys Cove on the 333.
Pedal and Sea Adventures Bike tours along Cape Breton's The Cabot Trail, Lighthouse Route, and Evangeline Route, along with Best of Both Coasts tour, and a Lunenburg Adventure tour. Also offers one- and two-day biking and kayaking tours, and bike rentals in the HRM.
Tidal Bore Rafting Experience the highest tides in the world by riding on the tidal bore wave in a raft. Exhilarating fun, even when the moon isn't full!
Rob's Rock Mineral & Rockhounding Shop, 677 West Main Street, Kentville (Take Hwy 101 West from Halifax), ☎ (902) 678-3194, . Nova Scotia has some of the best rocks and minerals in the world. Rob's Shop is an excellent place to discover these treasures.The Bay of Fundy is an excellent place to rockhound. From Parrsboro down to Brier Island. There is a great online catalog for folks who can't visit the areaedit
Freewheeling Adventures, 2070 rte 329 (The Lodge, near Hubbards), ☎ 902-857-3600, . Bike, multisport, and seakayak tours, guided or self-guided, in the best corners of Nova Scotia. Van support, inns or camping, with best food possible. Rental equipment and delivery also available. edit
Victoria Park, Truro. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or a place to play, Victoria Park has so much to offer. The Victoria Park Pool is a centrepiece of this stunning recreational area. This 1,000-acre, very special place in Truro came into being in 1887 and attracts countless visitors each year to its wooded trails, swimming pool, picnic areas, waterfalls, ball field, playground, outdoor stage and more. During winter months, visitors enjoy walking, snowshoeing, skating and cross-country skiing in The Park. It’s truly a year-round facility.A great place to walk the dog. edit
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.
Shaws Landing 6958 Highway 333, West Dover, tel: +1 902-823-1843, email:Ian@ShawsLanding.ca, . Just a few km towards Halifax from Peggys Cove. The Scottish Swiss chef makes excellent seafood in a beautiful setting. Try the blueberry garlic shrimps. No liquor license.
Sutherland's Diner, 2808 Main St. Shubenacadie on the 102, Tel: +1 902-758-0114. Sandwiches, fish & chips, burgers at low prices.
The Chickenburger, Bedford Highway, . Drive up and eat in malt, chickenburger and burger shop since 1940.
Dining at Trout Point Lodge, 189 Trout Point Road (Off East Branch Road off Hwy. 203), ☎ 902-761-2142, . 7:30PM. The kitchen at Trout Point Lodge brings to fruition savoury creations by drawing from traditional cooking techniques combined with fresh local ingredients. The Dining Room's fare intertwines wild mushrooms & plants, produce from local growers as well as the on-site gardens, and the ethical selection of the North Atlantic's freshest seafood to create a unique dining experience in daily-changing prix-fixe menus. Trout Point cuisine reflects place and time without undue emphasis on food styling. The art is in the preparation of the food, with flavour given top priority. The chef-proprietors started as some of Louisiana's first organic farmers, and draw inspiration from substantial time living in places as diverse as Rome, Granada, Central America, and China. A hallmark of Trout Point's cuisine is the use of the Lodge's own in-house ingredients: --House cold-smoked salmon, scallops, trout, and swordfish; --Home-made cheeses like chevre, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella; --Vegetables, herbs, and salad greens from the Lodge's ever expanding gardens; --Desserts, ice creams, sorbets, and artisal breads made daily.edit
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.