Looking for the very best things to do in Nova Scotia? After extensively travelling the entire province from North to South, we've had many grand adventures.
This Nova Scotia travel guide will help you make the most of your East Coast Road Trip and offer unique ideas of what to see and do.
Things to do in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is our favourite province to visit on the East Coast of Canada.
We've had the pleasure of exploring most of the province and feel it is time to share our picks for the very best things to do in Nova Scotia.
Complete Nova Scotia Road Trip
Table of Contents
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Most trips to Nova Scotia will begin in Halifax. Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia and it is worth staying in the city for at least two or three days.
It has a bustling waterfront filled with attractions, restaurants and scenic views. The Canadian Museum of Immigration is the star attraction at Pier 21.
Here you'll see artifacts from the Titanic and a fascinating history of immigration to Canada.
Quick Highlights in Halifax include:
- Alexander Keiths Brewery Tour
- Halifax Citadel Hill. A fort founded in 1749
- Pier 21 - Canadian Museum of Immigration
- Halifax Public Gardens
Section 1 - Nova Scotia Things to do
The South Shore of Nova Scotia is often overlooked save for a quick stop at Peggy's Cove or Lunenburg.
Most people that visit Nova Scotia head north to the Cabot Trail, and it's a great choice, but there are other things to do in Nova Scotia too!
2. Peggy's Cove
Heading Southwest from Halifax, your first stop is Peggy's Cove located just 45 minutes from the city.
Peggy's Cove is one of Nova Scotia's most visited attractions and crowds can be huge here!
We recommend staying overnight in the area and visiting at sunrise.
Tour buses don't arrive until late morning, so if you get to the lighthouse early, you'll have it all to yourself.
See our video exploring Peggy's Cove
Peggy's Cove is a picturesque fishing village dating back to 1811.
The 100-year-old lighthouse attracts visitors from around the world to snap that postcard-perfect shot of the white lighthouse standing on the unique rocky landscape.
The 400 million-year-old rock stretching out to the sea, was created by molten lava bubbling up from the surface of the earth.
Note: Be careful! Don't walk too close to the water and never stand on the black rocks. People have lost their lives in Peggy's Cove by not heeding the warning signs. Rogue waves often come up on shore and if you are close by, you could be swept out to sea.
3. Peggy's Cove Boat Tours
If you do visit Peggy's Cove in the afternoon, a fun way to avoid the crowds is to hop on a Peggy's Cove Boat Tour.
It's interesting to see the lighthouse and shoreline from this perspective.
As you leave the harbour, everyone on shore takes notice as the Captain sounds the horn letting them all know just how much fun we are having.
The tour then takes you through the beautiful homes and plots of land with private beaches in the nearby inlet of West Dove. This area shows the prosperity the fishing industry brought to these parts.
And, if you want to try your hand at the wheel, the captain may let you steer the boat!
Where to Stay in Peggy's Cove: Oceanstone Resort
Where to Eat in Peggy's Cove: The Sou'wester Restaurant
4. East Coast Outfitters
Kayaking at Lower Prospect Point was our first time kayaking on the East Coast. It is the perfect introduction to sea kayaking.
Most people think of kayaking on the Bay of Fundy when visiting Nova Scotia, but the east coast has incredible scenery and quiet coves to explore.
This is an excellent day trip from Peggy's Cove or Halifax.
Watch our Full Video of Kayaking:
5. Mahone Bay
Mahone Bay is a must stop on any Nova Scotia Road Trip.
It has been named one of the prettiest small-town downtowns in Canada. It's easy to understand why.
An afternoon can be wasted walking the streets of Mahone Bay checking out the shops and cafes.
Make sure to stop by the Haskapa Berry Store to learn about this superfood. Try the Haskapa gin, it's delicious!
But the most famous landmark of Mahone Bay would definitely be the famous Three Churches. The three spires along the waterfront are a popular stop for photographers.
Lunenburg is one of only two urban centres in North America to have the honour of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is one of the most picturesque towns in all of Canada and is a spot that you must explore for a day or two.
Book a tour with Lunenburg Walking Tours to learn of the mariner history of Lunenburg and to discover its Victorian architecture.
Starting at the Lunenburg Academie, the walk takes you downhill towards the waterfront.
At the waterfront, you'll find restaurants, shops, and the Fisherman's memorial. It is a moving memorial dedicated to the fishermen and mariners that lost their lives through the years.
Lunenburg is famous for its painted houses creating a rainbow of. colours along the waterfront.
The pastel buildings all must adhere to a strict code to keep the town beautiful.
The rules are working because this town is beautiful.
The Bluenose makes its home in Lunenburg and if you are lucky, it might be in from one of its tours around the country.
The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is located right on the waterfront and cannot be missed.
Where to Stay in Lunenburg - Lunenburg Arms Hotel
Where to Eat in Lunenburg - Fleur de Sel
7. Blue Rocks
On your way out of Lunenburg, take a detour to the Blue Rocks for a morning picture of the fishing village.
Blue Rocks is a quiet and picturesque village on the water. Nothing says "East Coast"more than fishing lodges lined upon the pier overlooking shimmering rocks in the bay.
8. LaHave Bakery and Ferry
When doing a road trip through Nova Scotia, be sure to use the LaHave Ferry. It is one of the last remaining cable ferries in the country.
It's just a quick 5-minute journey, but it is wild to see a cable pulling a ferry across the river.
While in LaHave, stop in at the bakery for some sweets.
The Victorian era building sits on the waterfront serving fresh baked goods and coffee. It's the perfect place to stock up on road trip goodies.
Watch Complete Video of Things to do in Nova Scotia's South Shore
9. Crescent Beach
The water may be cold, but Crescent Beach is a beautiful setting. Plus it's the only beach in Nova Scotia that you can drive on.
At 2.5 km long, you can easily find a spot all to yourself to enjoy a picnic or do some sunbathing before moving on.
Liverpool is home of the Privateers.
Privateers were private citizens who were commissioned to "carry on all forms of hostility permissible at sea." They patrolled the waters of Nova Scotia during the war of 1812.
And had full permission from the government to seize ships.
Learn about its history while spending a few days exploring.
There's kayaking along the Mercy River and plenty of hiking along the shore.
Liverpool houses The Four Point Lighthouse which is free to visit and is the 3rd Oldest Lighthouse in Nova Scotia.
Located along the lighthouse route, it is a popular stop.
Where to Stay in Liverpool: Lanes Privateer Inn
Where to Eat in Liverpool: La Vista Restaurant in Lanes Privateer Inn
As you continue along the Lighthouse Route, the next stop is Shelburne.
You may not have heard of Shelburne, but it is the third largest natural harbour in the world!
During the American Revolution, 300o Loyalists settled in Shelburne from New York City making it at one time the fourth largest community in North America!
It's a quiet destination now, but you can still visit the Shelburne Waterfront Heritage District and the Shelburne County Museum that highlights the Loyalist history of the area.
Yarmouth is the major urban centre of the area with ferries operating from Portland Maine.
The Cape Forchu lighthouse is the star attraction of Yarmouth and is Nova's Scotia's second most visited lighthouse after Peggy's Cove.
What makes this special is that it is free from crowds. It may be popular, but when we were there, we saw only two other people!
We didn't find a lot of other things to do in Yarmouth and instead preferred our stay outside of town at Ye Olde Argyle Lodge.
Where to Stay near Shelburne and Yarmouth: Ye Olde Argyler
Ye Olde Argyler was a full service lodge in a beautiful setting. They ofer kayaking trips from there too!
Section 2- Things to do in Nova Scotia
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is home to the world's highest tides. It moves 100 billion tons of water every 6 hours! That is more than all of the fresh water rives combined.
The tides can reach 16 metres (52 feet) with an average range of 35 to 55 feet. And the horizontal range can be as much as 5 kilometres in places.
It is amazing to witness a bay filled with water at one moment of the day and then return to see it barren and dry the next!
A visit to the Bay of Fundy is not to be missed! There are a few different ways to experience it.
Working our way up from Yarmouth, we stayed the night in Wolfville before heading on to Explore the Bay of Fundy.
Wolfville is a great place for exploring the up and coming wine region of Nova Scotia.
Where to Stay in Wolfville: Blomidon Inn
13. Burntcoat Head Park
Burntcoat Head Park is Nova Scotia's answer to New Brunswick's Hopewell Rocks. It is here that you can walk on the ocean floor during low tide at the Bay of Fundy.
For three hours on either end of low tide, there is a window where visitors can explore rock formations and sea beds that are normally covered in water.
This 3-acre park has hiking trails, a lighthouse and an interpretive centre making it a great way to spend an afternoon.
14. Tidal Bore Rafting
If you are looking for an adrenaline-filled adventure, Tidal Bore Rafting at the Shubenacadie River is an action packed way to experience the high tides of the Bay of Fundy.
We went with River Runner's rafting adventures and had an amazing time riding the waves as the 100 billion tons of water flowed with force into the river creating rapids and whirlpools.
One minute you are walking on the riverbed floor and the next you are rushing into the rafts to grab the waves as they come in. It's the most fun you'll ever have on the Bay of Fundy.
Read all about it at Rafting the World's Highest Tides
Watch our video: Tidal Bore Rafting
We also stayed in a cottage owned by River Runners, making for a full day of adventure ending with a barbecue and relaxation nearby.
15. Kayaking Three Sisters
The Three Sisters on the Bay of Fundy cannot be missed. Here is where you see huge sea stack jutting out of the ground.
When the sea is low, they are huge, but when the tide comes in, you can kayak through them.
A two-day adventure with Nova Shores Adventures out of Advocate Harbour takes you out to a secluded beach on the Bay of Fundy where you camp for the night.
Being able to witness the transformation over the hours with your own eyes, is a sight to behold.
See our Video:
We arrived at camp at low tide, but we had to pull our kayaks hundreds of metres up on shore because, within a few hours, it would all be underwater.
Having the chance to hike around formations like elephant rock and sea caves at one time of the day and then hopping in our kayaks to explore the Three Sisters and those same formations the next is an experience we'll never forget.
16. Cape Chignecto Provincial Park
If kayaking and camping isn't your thing, you can still view the Three Sisters from above.
The 5.5 km trail system (3.4 miles) follows an easy trail to state of the art wooden viewing platforms offering views of the Three Sisters.
But you will also see amazing views of sea cliffs, Eatonville Harbour and beaches.
The scenery from this trail is awe-inspiring and when we visited, there was nobody else there!
Where to Stay in Advocate Harbour near Three Sisters: Driftwood Park Retreat
Section 3 - Things to do in Nova Scotia
The Cabot Trail is Nova Scotia's top road trip, but another trail to explore, it's the Ceilidh Trail. Ceilidh Trail is the cultural centre of Nova Scotia and a perfect addition to your Cabot Trail Road Trip.
Here you will learn about fishing traditions and Celtic heritage.
17. Lobster Tour
Take a Lobster Tour in Port Hood to learn how lobsters are caught.
Gillis Lobster Tours and Charters will take you out on an actual lobster boat to check traps and see what its like to run an operation in Nova Scotia's main fishing industry.
There are many rules for catching and keeping lobsters. You'll learn about conservation, what size is legal to catch, how they are stored and how small lobsters can simply swim right out of the traps.
When it's all done, try your hand at mackerel fishing (you can catch and release or take a few home for dinner) and make a stop at Port Hood Island.
18. Glenora Distillery Tour
The Glenora Distillery is the first single malt whisky distillery in North America.
Take a tour of the distillery to learn how the whisky is made and have a taste to see what you want to buy.
The locals claim that the Glenora Stream is so clean and fresh it is said to be the water of life.
The pure water makes for perfect spirits!
19. Celtic Music Interpretive Centre
Before you travel Cape Breton Island, check out the Celtic Music Centre to learn of the history, culture and music of the Island. It will give you a better understanding of Nova Scotia's heritage and you can chat up the locals when you pop into a pub for a pint.
Enjoy these beautiful scenes from Cape Breton Island
There are daily performances, interactive exhibits and demonstrations.
20. Lobster Boil
When in Nova Scotia, you must try lobster. They have perfected serving lobster every way imaginable. From lobster poutine, to lobster bisque, and lobster soup.
But the best way to enjoy fresh Nova Scotia Lobster is with nothing at all.
If you get the chance, set up shop at a local eatery and enjoy a lobster boil with lobsters straight out of the ocean. No butter, no salt just pure clean meat.
Section 4 - What to See in Nova Scotia
There is no doubt that the Cabot Trail is one of the top things to do in Nova Scotia.
Rated as one of the best road trips in the world, visitors flock to the trail to witness its breathtaking views, enjoy its world-class hikes and take in the scenic lookouts along the drive.
We wrote an in-depth guide to the Cabot Trail, but here are some of the highlights below that you can see. Be sure to check out the full guide.
Tip: Drive counterclockwise along the trail for the best views and to be on the outside lane for views.
Baddeck is an important stop on the Cabot Trail because it was home to Alexander Graham Bell's summer house.
Built on the site of his cottage named “Beinn Bhreagh”, Gaelic for “Beautiful Mountain.”
Learn about his famous inventions like the telephone and his work with Hellen Keller
22. North River Kayaking
Whenever we visit Nova Scotia, we always try to put a kayaking trip on our itinerary. A good stop on the Cabot Trail for kayaking is the North River.
North River Kayaking offers half day, full day and overnight tours and we had so much fun with them.
The trip starts on the North River giving you a chance to get used to kayaking before heading out along the coast.
It's the guides that make the trip and North River Kayaking's guides are fantastic. We ate lunch on a secluded beach while listening to stories of growing up in the area.
If you are travelling along the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, this is a must stop.
Section 5 - Hikes of the Cabot Trail
23. Skyline Trail
The most stunning hiking route on the Cabot Trail is without a doubt the Skyline Trail.
The Skyline Trail is the most popular hike on the Cabot Trail so crowds can be a problem, but we suggest getting around this inconvenience by hiking it early in the morning or at sunset as we did.
The hike is a 7.5 km loop and we suggest giving yourself at least 2-hours to take n the view and make stops. Moose are often spotted along the trail.
The trail itself is quite easy and well market with an excellent boardwalk leading down to different viewing points.
See our full hike along the Skyline Trail to plan your visit.
Where to Stay - Island Sunset Inn at Margaree Harbour
24. Uisge Ban Hike
Another hike we enjoyed was heading out to the Uisge Ban Waterfall.
Located just outside of Baddeck Uisge Ban (pronounced Ishkaban) is an easy 1 1/2 km stroll to a beautiful waterfall.
It goes through a mossy forest meandering along a running stream.
If you are in the area visiting Alexander Graham Bell's House, be sure to stop here.
25. Middlehead Trail
The Middlehead Trail is a popular hike on the Cabot Trail. It is located just beyond the historic Keltic Lodge at Ingonish Beach.
The 3.8 km (2.4 miles) loop follows a long peninsula stretching to the Atlantic Ocean.
The peninsula separates to bays of Cape Smokey and Ingonish Island.
Time: 1 - 2 hours
26. Ingonish Beach - oTENTNIK
The Keltic Inn looked like an amazing place to stay, but being on a road trip, we stayed at an oTENTNIK on Ingonish Beach.
oTENTNIKs are run by and can be booked through Park's Canada.
They are the perfect accommodation for families on a Nova Scotia Road Trip, or for couples (sleeps up to four adults or 2 adults four children) looking to spend some time outside, but not ready to rough it too much.
Everything you need for camping is supplied, so if you want a night or two of camping, but don't have the gear, this is the way to go.
The only thing you need to bring is a sense of adventure and a sleeping bag.
Tents sleep six people and are stocked with sleeping pads, camping chairs, propane stove, cooking gear and plates and bowls.
It makes for a great introduction to camping in Canada.
27. Lantern Walk
While staying at Ingonish Beach, we joined the after dark lantern walk.
This really was a special tour that takes you through the history of Ingonish and Cape Breton.
Ghost stories are told, complete with actors hiding in the woods and voices chanting in the forest.
It is magical and you can almost feel the spirits joining along for the walk.
Section 6 - Things to do in Nova Scotia
Visiting Guysborough was truly a highlight of our time in Nova Scotia when it came to meeting the people. We didn't spend nearly enough time here and could have extended our trip.
This understated destination is not on a lot of Nova Scotia Itineraries, but something tells me it will soon be very busy.
We started our trip at the Authentic Seacoast Distillery where we hopped on the golf carts to explore the golf course located on the water.
It was then time to tour the state-of-the-art distilling and brewing facility where we learned how they make their award-winning spirits and craft beer.
It's a lovely spot to spend a few days.
You can rent a bicycle and take a spin on the TransCanada Trail and pick up a picnic lunch at the Harbour Bakery or Skipping Stone Cafe to take with you for the day.
This town is such a special part of Nova Scotia.
Everyone was welcoming and we were even invited over to a family's house for dinner.
29. Coastal Adventures Eastern Shore Kayaking
A Nova Scotia road trip is never complete without a great adventure and our tour ends with a kayaking tour with Coastal Adventures.
The Eastern Shore offers impressive kayaking along the rugged shore.
Taking you through sea stacks and sea caves, exploring islands and hiking along beaches.
Owner Dr. Scott Cunningham is the author of Sea Kayaking Nova Scotia and runs Atlantic Canada’s foremost sea kayaking operation.
Book your kayaking tour now.
Nova Scotia is a province filled with adventure, culture and impressive scenery. It is one of our favourite places to visit in Canada and we hope that you add it to your Canadian travel itinerary too!
You won't be disappointed!
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Have you been to the East Coast of Canada? What are your favourite things to do in Nova Scotia?