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5 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nova Scotia

Written by Chloë Ernst and Lura Seavey

  1. Cabot Trial

Cape Breton's scenic Cabot Trail A 300-kilometer scenic drive rings the northwest coast of Cape Breton Island and Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is a coastal route, where the highest mountains in Nova Scotia dramatically meet the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Cliffs, beaches, viewpoints, and a twisting road give countless photo opportunities, and this is a very popular motorcycle tour route. Many small communities and attractions line the route, including a variety of local artisans and unique shops. Hiking is one of the popular things to do. There are also many excellent hiking trails, and tourists can either hike on their own or hire a local guide to show them the best spots. Cabot Trail unofficially begins and ends in Baddeck, home to the father of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell. Autumn is a favorite time to drive the Cabot Trail owing to the region's vibrant fall colors.

2. Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cover

About 43 kilometers southwest of Halifax, the fishing village of Peggy's Cove has a back-in-time feel. Peggy's Point Lighthouse, one of Canada's most photographed lighthouses, sits on the foggy Atlantic Coast marking a perilous point. Stark, wave-battered granite bluffs surround the lighthouse, and tourists should exercise extreme caution if exploring the rocky shoreline. Fishing wharves and boathouses line the shore of this active fishing community, and colorful heritage homes and art galleries line the winding road.


This is an extremely popular day-trip destination from Halifax, so be prepared for crowds of tourists, especially near the lighthouse.


3. Fortress of Louisburg National Historic Site

Living history at the Fortress of Louisburg National Historic Site

The Fortress of Louisburg National Historic Site is a living history museum, which recreates mid-18th century fort life with more than forty historic buildings, costumed guides, and working establishments. Rebuilt on the site of a 1713 French fort, enormous defensive walls surround the town, some of which were up to 35 feet thick when constructed.


The reconstructed site is now filled with a cast of costumed interpreters who go about daily life, from domestic to military. Visitors can watch servants cook and taste authentic hot chocolate and fresh baked bread, see the merchants hawk their wares, and feel the ground shake as soldiers fire the cannon and their muskets.


Tourists looking for a more immersive experience can choose to spend the night here in a reproduction tent or period home — a truly unique experience for couples looking for a memorable romantic getaway.


4. Halifax Citadel National Historic Site

The clock tower on Citadel Hill, Halifax

Overlooking downtown Halifax, this hilltop fortress is the remnant of a British garrison that was first established in the 18th-century. Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, which itself was built in 1856, never saw a battle.


Today, the warren-like tunnels, powder magazine, and barracks have been preserved, and living-history guides give tours. There are reenactments and fortress guards with interpreters dressed in British reds, complete with musket salutes and the sound of bagpipes.


The road leading up Citadel Hill is popular for its city and harbor views, and it passes the Old Town Clock, which Prince Edward commissioned in 1803.


5. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

The exhibits and displays at this museum bring the maritime history of the province and the North Atlantic to life, showing visitors the role the sea has played in all facets of local life. Using photographs and personal tales of survivors, excellent multi-media exhibits chronicle the 1917 collision of two ships in the harbor, which caused the Halifax explosion.


Museum collections include more than two hundred model ships, from old sailing craft to ocean liners, freighters, and naval ships. Another part of the museum is in an old ship chandlery, where items were bought to outfit ships for sea. There is also an extensive exhibit on the recovery efforts after the Titanic sank, Halifax being instrumental in rescue operations. On display are items found on the sea during rescue and later recovered, telling the tale of the ship and the people on board.


Also part of the museum are several craft moored in Halifax Harbour, including Queen Victoria's Royal Barge, a gift to the museum by Queen Elizabeth II. Another historically significant ship is the HMCS Sackville, a corvette class known for bouncing around like a cork in heavy seas, which saw duty during the Battle of the Atlantic in the convoys that kept Britain alive. CSS Acadia is also open for touring as part of museum admission; it's now retired after long years of service in the Arctic and North Atlantic, charting the ocean floor.

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