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Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia in Canada.svg
Flag of Nova Scotia.svg
Quick Facts
Capital Halifax
Government Canadian Province
Currency Canadian Dollar ($) (CAD)
Area 55,283 km2
Population 921,727
Language Official:English
Spoken regional:French, Gaelic
Religion Presbyterian 27%, Roman Catholic 26%, Baptist 19%, Episcopal 14%, Methodist 10%, Lutheran 1.3%, and Congregationalist 0.65%
Electricity 120V/60Hz (North American plug)
Time Zone UTC-4

Nova Scotia [5] 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.


Towns and Cities[edit]

Other destinations[edit]

  • 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.


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.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

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.

By car[edit]

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.

By train[edit]

Via Rail Canada's Ocean [6] 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.

By bus[edit]

Scheduled bus service between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is provided by Maritime Bus [7] with connections from Quebec. For more structured bus trips there is also Out Here Travel [8] a backpacker focused hybrid bus transport / tour company which picks up passengers in the Halifax among other places.

By boat[edit]

Five ferry services connect to Nova Scotia:

  • Nova Star Cruises [9] between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. One sailing daily May to October only.
  • Bay Ferries [10] between Saint John, New Brunswick and Digby, Nova Scotia. One or two sailings daily year round.
  • Northumberland Ferries [11] between Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island and Caribou (Pictou), Nova Scotia. Three to nine sailings daily May to December only.
  • Marine Atlantic [12] between Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and North Sydney, Nova Scotia. One to three sailings daily year round.
  • Marine Atlantic [13] between Argentia, Newfoundland and North Sydney, Nova Scotia. Three sailings per week June to September only.

Get around[edit]

By car[edit]

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.

By train[edit]

Via Rail Canada's Ocean [14] stops in Amherst, Truro and Halifax 3 days per week.

By bus[edit]

Scheduled bus service in Nova Scotia is provided by Maritime Bus [15]. Routes served include Halifax - Kentville, Halifax - Bridgewater - Lunenburg, 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.

See[edit][add listing]

Peggys Cove lighthouse
  • 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.
  • Cape Breton highlands (especially in the Fall)
  • Citadel Hill, located in downtown Halifax.
  • The Southern Nova Scotia Biosphere, Tobeatic Wilderness Area, and Kejimikujik National Park in the southern half of the province--the largest protected wilderness area in Atlantic Canada
  • Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, the largest reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town in North America.
  • Beaches of the South Shore, along the south shore of the province there are some absolutely gorgeous beaches. Carter's Beach has crystal clear (but very cold) water with white sand, often with dozens of sand dollars visible in the water. Green Bay, Summerville Beach and Rissers Beach are also popular.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Pedal and Sea Adventures [16] Bike tours along Cape Breton's Cabot Trail and Lighthouse Route, along with Best of Both Coasts tour. Also offers bike rentals in the HRM.
  • Tidal Bore Rafting [17] 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!
  • Golf. Wherever you are in Nova Scotia, you're never far from a golf course. World class courses such as Cabot Links in Cape Breton bring in wealthy golfers from abroad, while public courses with very reasonable rates can be found all over, most with rental clubs available.
  • Rob's Rock Mineral & Rockhounding Shop, 677 West Main Street, Kentville (Take Hwy 101 West from Halifax), (902) 678-3194‎, [1]. 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 area  edit
  • Freewheeling Adventures, 2070 rte 329 (The Lodge, near Hubbards), 902-857-3600, [2]. 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 [18] 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, and outdoor stage. During winter months, visitors enjoy walking, snowshoeing, skating and cross-country skiing in the park.
  • Hiking, [3]. Nova Scotia is heaven for outdoor recreation lovers. lists plenty of outdoor activities in or near Halifax.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

Berries: having so much of the province in a natural state, there are many opportunities to pick wild fruit and berries. There are wild strawberries in the fields and along roads, wild blueberries, raspberries and cranberries (in coastal areas). Blueberry grunt is a blueberry baked with a sweet dumpling topping.

Deep fried pepperoni: a bar snack often dipped in honey mustard sauce.

Dulse: most of this seaweed is harvested at very low tides in parts of Nova Scotia. Locally it is dried and used as a snack.

Garlic fingers: similar to a pizza in shape and size and made with the same type of dough. Instead of the traditional tomato sauce and toppings, garlic fingers consist of pizza dough topped with garlic butter, parsley, and cheese, cooked until the cheese is melted. Bacon bits are sometimes added. They are typically eaten as a side dish with pizza and often dipped in donair or marinara sauce. They are presented in thin strips (or "fingers") as opposed to triangular slices.

Halifax donair: a pile of roasted, spiced beef (known as donair meat) with diced tomatoes and white onions covered in condensed milk sauce and wrapped in a pita. It is unique to the province and is available at almost every corner diner and pizzeria.

Hodge podge: a creamy soup of fresh baby vegetables; rarely found in restaurants.

Lobster rolls are common throughout the province.

  • Shaws Landing 6958 Highway 333, West Dover, tel: +1 902-823-1843, email:[email protected], [19]. 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, [20]. 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, [4]. 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
  • vegan soup.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

The drinking age in Nova Scotia is 19.

A "cool-climate" wine region, Nova Scotia produces some excellent wines, particularly in the Annapolis Valley. Most wineries offer free tours. More detail can be found at [21].

Nova Scotia may be best known as the home of "Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale," known locally simply as "Keith's" [22] but owned by international brewery owner InBev (known in Canada as Labatt's). Nova Scotia is becoming known for its many craft breweries, which are listed at [23].

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Stay safe[edit]

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.

Get out[edit]

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