With the nickname of Canada's ocean playground, it's hard not to dream of a trip to Nova Scotia. The good news is that it is actually dream-worthy.
From the sandy beaches of the south shore to the fields of the Annapolis Valley, the Maritime province is overflowing with gorgeous scenery. Then there's the small towns that look like they're out of a fairytale, and the ever-growing city of Halifax that's brimming with tasty restaurants and local shops.
There's no shortage of things to explore while in Nova Scotia, but the question is what to put at the top of the list. While there's a seemingly never-ending list of adventures within the borders of the province, you've got to start exploring somehow.
There are some things that you just can't miss out on, touristy or not. Since many of these spots are busier in the summer, visiting during shoulder season lets you enjoy them with fewer crowds. Make the trip in the fall to see everything surrounded by warm colours, or head over in the spring to get the first taste of sunny weather.
Pack your bags and head to Atlantic Canada, because all of this and more is there waiting for you.
Drive the Cabot Trail in the fall
Cape Breton Island is brimming with spectacular views, friendly people, and charming communities to visit, but the Cabot Trail is what makes this place world-famous.
If you're one of those people who like to steer clear of the classic tourist attractions, make an exception for this epic road trip loop around the island. Especially magical as the forest turns into a golden haze, this drive will have you hugging the coastline, where rocky cliffs shoot up out of the sparkling ocean that stretches out into the horizon — all creating the postcard view that dreams are made of.
Make sure to stop and do the Skyline Trail while in Cape Breton, for an extra bucket-worthy adventure.
The loop is 298 kilometres long and makes for a memorable adventure. You'll get to see what's arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the province by exploring this.
South Shore beaches
Some of the sandiest beaches of Nova Scotia are scattered up and down the south shore of the province. As you drive up the coastline it seems like each one is more beautiful than the next. With white sand and clear blue water, these spots make you feel like you're somewhere far away on vacation.
Swim in the sparkling water of Crescent Beach, stroll along the fine sand of Carters Beach, and take in the unbelievable views at Queensland Beach.
Between the picturesque shores are little towns that exude a fairytale-like charm. Wander from the beach to cute cafes and local shops all day long.
Spend the day in Lunenburg
One of those adorable small towns to stop at when you're on the South Shore is Lunenburg. Although it's the perfect pit stop on your beach vacation, it's also a destination all on its own at any time of the year.
The oceanside town has colourful buildings spotting the shoreline and picturesque streets you can wander through. Old Town Lunenburg is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, so a visit here is also steeped in history. You'll pass by buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries with beautiful architecture, making a trip here that much more special.
Explore the rich history of the town and wander around the charming streets here, stopping in at the local boutiques and restaurants along the way.
Walk along the ocean floor
The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the entire world, and you can experience the power of them at Burntcoat Head Park. Watch the incredible tide pull back and expose the ocean floor, which you can then stroll along.
The red-ish ground that is often underwater is a unique walking spot, with small water pools and tiny periwinkles all around it. Make sure to watch your step while visiting this spot so you don't disturb the nature here.
Come back six hours after your walk and you'll see the entire area covered by the ocean yet again.
Stroll along the Halifax waterfront
While the natural splendour of the East Coast is something to marvel at, a visit to the biggest city in the Maritimes is a must.
Halifax has managed to grow into a full-blown city with shopping, incredible restaurants, and booming businesses, while still maintaining much of its small city vibe.
You can walk along the Halifax waterfront boardwalk and see the bustling harbour and pass by some of the best restaurants in the city – all while breathing in the salty air.
Surf on the Eastern Shore
While the South Shore deserves a lot of praise, the often-overlooked Eastern Shore offers its own beauty and beaches.
The rockier beaches here have an East Coast charm to them that visitors will appreciate, and it's the perfect place to try out surfing.
Strong waves crash up on the smooth stones covering the shore of Lawrencetown Beach, where many surfers flock to. Lawrencetown Surf Co. is located here, so you can rent a surfboard, wetsuit (you'll definitely want one), and get lessons there.
Even if you're not into surfing the long windblown grass and winding boardwalk along the beach make for a stunning day trip nevertheless.
Visit Peggy's Cove Lighthouse
The lighthouses of the East Coast are on countless postcards, but Peggy's Cove is probably the most famous of them all.
The beautiful lighthouse, originally built in 1915, is made even more picture-perfect but its location — a little fishing village on the South Shore. Houses here are perched on the rocky shoreline, along with little dingy boast and buoys, all creating a classic East Coast scene.
Walk around the area and take in the majestic sight of the waves crashing up on the white rocks. You can walk along the rocks to take in the view, but beware as waves can come surprisingly high and the rocks may be slippery.
This spot is also about an hour away from Halifax, so it's the perfect say trip for anyone staying in the city.
Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.