Yarmouth has been attracting visitors to its coastline for centuries. Literally. Some believe that Leif Ericson stopped off near here (some even go so far as to think that he left behind a stone carved with ancient runes; visit it at the Yarmouth County Museum & Archives to decide for yourself), and it's a fact that French explorer Samuel de Champlain visited during his travels.
Maritime pursuits have played a massively important role in the town's history and culture; it’s known for its role in the shipbuilding and lobstering industries. The signature opulent Victorian architecture around town was built for the wealthy captains and shipowners during seafaring's height in the Maritimes. A stroll down Yarmouth's Main Street shows off some prime examples. A road trip from Halifax to Yarmouth provides the complete Nova Scotia experience!
The Citadel is not the only thing to see in Halifax. Start your trip by exploring this maritime city. Believe it or not, one of the main attractions is the Central Library! It’s an impressive example of modern architecture, and a visit would not be complete without grabbing a coffee from one of its two cafes and enjoying it on the rooftop patio. After the library, take a stroll through the beautiful Public Gardens or enjoy the views from the water on a short ferry ride. Finish your day with a show at the Neptune Theatre, which runs quality productions of both classic and new plays and musicals.
Once the primary defence of the city of Halifax, the citadel exists now as a living museum. Take a tour to learn how the fort’s defences worked and experience a 19th-century soldier’s life. See the sentry change every hour, and watch reenactors march and conduct drills on the parade grounds. Serious military history buffs can become a soldier for the day. Get outfitted with a 78 Highlanders’ uniform, drill, and learn to fire a rifle in the three-hour Soldier for a Day Program. Try to be there at noon for the daily cannon-firing.
Now head your way to Peggy’s Cove, home of Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, which rivals Cape Forchu as one of Canada’s most photographed lighthouses. Soak up the atmosphere in the quaint fishing village, and maybe pick up a souvenir or two. Before you go, pop into the deGarthe Gallery and Museum. A Finnish artist who spent most of his life in Canada, deGarthe spent many summers in Peggy’s Cove, painting the locals. His Fisherman’s Monument, although only half-completed at the time of his death, is worth a stop.
You’ll want to reach Hirtle’s Beach bright and early! The limited parking means the earlier you arrive, the better, but the white sand, crashing waves, and few tourists make this beach a must-see. Known as a “living beach” because it moves and shifts with the ocean, this is a coastal paradise. If you’re feeling energetic, hike to Gaff Point for gorgeous ocean views.
Next stop is a decadent meal at one of the best restaurants in not only Nova Scotia, but in all of Canada. Inside this beautiful clapboard cottage is an intimate, unparalleled dining experience. Most customers recommend the tasting menu, and advise you plan on a luxurious two and a half hours to enjoy it. Tasting menus are available by reservation only, so call ahead. If you can’t face getting back in the car after such a meal, good news! You won’t have to, because there’s a private guest suite upstairs! Perfect for a romantic getaway, you can book your room and your meal at the same time.
Kejimkujik is a Mi’kmaq word believed to mean “place where fairies abound.” It’s a name easy to understand when you see the beauty of the old-growth forests, the rare wildlife, and the petroglyphs of an ancient culture carved along the waterways. The park has been designated a Dark Sky Preserve, so plan to camp overnight for a dazzling display of stars. There are miles of hiking trails and miles more of lakes and rivers. Take a canoe through waterways that have been traversed not only by the Mi’kmaq, but by the Archaic and Woodland Indians that came before them. The entire park has been designated a National Historic Site and is monitored by an aboriginal patrol staff to maintain its preservation.
Built by the French in 1605, Port-Royal was one of the first European settlements on the continent. The French settlers allied themselves with the indigenous Mi’kmaq and survived for several years. But internal politics as well as external conflicts with the British led the habitation to destruction and abandonment by 1613. It was reconstructed in the early 20th century, and visitors today can see the settlement as it once stood. Costumed interpreters demonstrate the daily lives of the early settlers, with exhibitions on building and the medicinal properties of local plant life, as taught to the French by the Mi’kmaq. Hear more about the Mi’kmaq culture as well, through their songs, games, and stories during the summer hours.
The Balancing Rock is one of Nova Scotia’s great natural wonders. A towering column of basalt precariously balanced over St. Mary’s Bay, it has to be seen to be believed. The hike down is easy to moderate, but be warned there are 250 stairs down the cliff, which means 250 stairs back up! The majority of the trail is a well-kept boardwalk through the woods, and it opens up to a spectacular view of the ocean.
See where the French-speaking and English-speaking cultures of Canada collide in the historic maritime town of Yarmouth. Although the French-speaking Acadians were pushed out during the Great Expulsion in the mid-eighteenth century, their culture still runs strong here. Yarmouth was a major port and ship-building hub throughout the 19th century and is currently home to the largest lobster-fishing ground in the world. Take a self-guided walking tour to see beautiful sea captain homes, cathedrals, and fascinating museums, such as the Firefighters’ Museum of Nova Scotia. Take a picnic to the Cape Forchu Light Station, one of the most photographed lighthouses in all of Canada, or pick up a souvenir at the Waterfront Gallery, a co-op of more than thirty regional artists. Catch your own lobster with the Living Wharves experience, where you’ll learn all about being a fisherman. And speaking of food, don’t miss out on the purely Acadian experience of rappie pie at a local greasy spoon such as The Dinner Plate.
Starting in one major port and ending in another, there’s plenty to see and learn about Nova Scotia’s seafaring history. This road trip explores it all, from naval strategy to ship-building, from scenic lighthouses to aboriginal waterways. The sea is a major part of Nova Scotian culture, and you won’t want to miss any of it.
In the Canadian Dream, it's our experiences that make us richer. That's why we're encouraging all Canadians to get out and experience everything that Canada has to offer. You don't have to go far. Incredible, engaging experiences are all around us, all you have to do is start exploring.