From Louisbourg to Mahone Bay, explore the top places to visit in Nova Scotia for an unforgettable getaway this year.
With over 13,000 kilometres of coastline and some of the most scenic drives on the planet, Nova Scotia is a wealth of adventure for travellers. From the epic tides of the Bay of Fundy to the 12 unique species of whale swimming along its shores, finding beauty in the province can be as easy as looking up from your feet. But if you’re looking for the absolute best places to visit in Nova Scotia, there are a few things to do that stand out above the rest, and We Explore Canada is here to guide you through them.
Whether you love lazy evenings watching the sunset, epic hikes, adorable fishing villages, or quiet restaurants serving up the freshest seafood you’ve ever tasted, you’ll find it all in Nova Scotia. Our guide to the top things to do in the province will have you mastering your travels like a pro.
Home to dramatic crashing waves and windswept shores, there is, perhaps, no town in the Canadian maritime that can invoke the solitude of Nova Scotia fishing life and reverence for the ocean’s power that Peggy’s Cove has managed to capture.
The Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is among the most recognizable landmarks in Canada. It also stands out as one of the most famous lighthouses in the world.
Its dramatic placement on the notoriously temperamental waters of the North Atlantic means that it can be both idyllic and restful and raging with anger, sometimes both on the same day.
Peggy’s Cove is a scenic two-hour jaunt from Nova Scotia’s capital of Halifax. It’s the final and most popular stop on the province’s stunning Lighthouse route that stretches from the colourful streets of Lunenburg.
The dramatic shores and unimaginably beautiful sunsets make Peggy’s Cove among the top places to visit in Nova Scotia. You can read more about Peggy’s Cove here.
Offering an unparalleled blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and cultural experiences, the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island isn’t just one of the most beautiful drives in Canada, it’s considered among the world’s best road trips.
The route, which takes travellers along a coastal route through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, explores towering cliffs, dense forests, and picturesque fishing villages. With stunning nature and beautiful towns on one side and the sparkling waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the other, the Cabot Trail is a delight for photographers, nature enthusiasts, and lovers of winding roads.
Each season brings a different flavour to the route. From the kaleidoscope of colours from blossoming wildflowers in the spring, the infinite shades of greens and blues during the summer, and the vibrant reds and yellows of autumn, there’s no bad time to drive the Cabot Trail.
This road trip is one of the best things to do in Nova Scotia for those who have a few days to spend exploring.
Halifax ranks among the best cities in Canada. The capital of Nova Scotia is the largest city in Atlantic Canada, but it has in no way lost its small-town charm. This exciting city boasts world-class pubs, incredible historic sites, and a festive atmosphere that permeates the air year-round.
Foodies are especially bound to find their passions fulfilled in Halifax. The city is famous for serving up some of the freshest seafood in Canada and is the birthplace of the Donair kebab, Canada’s unique take on a Mediterranean classic.
While you’re in the city, don’t miss a stop at the Halifax Citadel. This historic Parks Canada site towers over the city and features re-enactments, canon and musket re-enactments and more. Fisherman’s Cove on the Dartmouth side of the Halifax Harbour is one of the most picturesque waterfronts in the province. IT should definitely be added to your list of things to do in Halifax.
One of Canada’s most colourful cities, Lunenburg offers an infectious atmosphere. Sea shanties fill the air, and the bustling port is a delightful mixture of tour companies and authentic fishing boats. It’s hard to believe that this idyllic town was once a hotbed for pirates, rum runners, and gangsters.
Lunenburg can trace its modern history to the early 1600s. Before the hillside community was decorated with buildings painted in bright shades of yellow, orange, blue, and red, this town was one of the roughest communities in the Americas. Flash forward a few hundred years, it’s one of the best places to visit in Nova Scotia.
While old town Lunenburg offers a wonderfully refreshing East Coast vibe, one of the biggest draws of Lunenburg is its role as the home base for the legendary Bluenose II, an exact replica of what was once the fastest schooner in the world.
From whale-watching tours and the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic to the Salt & Shaker Deli and Ironworks Distillery, Lunenburg can satisfy your thirst for adventure as well as your grumbling stomach.
You can find our complete guide to Lunenburg right here.
Often referred to as the “Cradle of Canadian History,” Annapolis Royal is a must-visit place for those looking to explore the country’s culture and history.
Annapolis Royal rests on the shores of the Annapolis Basin, one of Canada’s most vital agricultural lands, with a fascinating story that dates back to the early Acadians, French settlers who were among the first Europeans to settle in the New World.
At the heart of Annapolis Royal is Fort Anne National Historic Site, Canada’s oldest national historic site. The site showcases the town’s pivotal role in Canadian history. Among other things to do in Annapolis Royal are the many art galleries, theatres, and musical performances held throughout the year.
The Historic Gardens are one of the town’s most iconic attractions. They add a colourful beauty to the rich green landscapes.
Annapolis Royal is a warm and welcoming community with gorgeous waterfront views and a serene atmosphere, making for a relaxing and inviting Nova Scotia getaway.
Bay of Fundy
While New Brunswick, specifically Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park and Fundy National Park, tend to get the bulk of the fame when it comes to the highest tides in the world, the Bay of Fundy coasts in Nova Scotia are just as fascinating.
The Bay of Fundy is a fascinating feature where the ocean tides can rise and fall by as much as 16 metres each day. Visitors can witness the dramatic tidal changes along the Nova Scotia shoreline along with several tidal bores and rivers.
Along the Fundy shores, towns such as Digby, Annapolis Royal, and Wolfville invite visitors to enjoy their warmth and hospitality while dining on local favourites such as scallops, lobster, and a plethora of local Nova Scotia wines.
Kejimkujik National Park
A hidden gem in the wilds of southwest Nova Scotia, Kejimkujik National Park is a peaceful oasis that draws outdoor lovers to its lakeside beaches and bountiful forests. While many visitors may think that this park is solely an inland one, it’s actually divided into two sections: Kejimkujik Inland, near the village of Caledonia and Kejimkujik Seaside on the coastal shores near Port Joli.
This natural treasure welcomes both nature enthusiasts and history buffs. The park was established in 1967 to protect a sprawling 404 square kilometres of pristine wilderness. It quickly established itself as one of the most cherished outdoor places in the Canadian Maritimes.
Kejimkujik National Park holds deep historical roots, with evidence of Mi’kmaq Indigenous presence dating back thousands of years. This intersection of nature and culture makes Kejimkujik National Park a captivating destination for those seeking an immersive and educational outdoor experience.
Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
Canada has been one of the greatest countries in the world in technological innovation, and the country has been at the forefront for more than a century. One of the greatest examples of the country’s innovation expertise lies at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.
Located in the charming village of Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site preserves the legacy of the renowned inventor of the telephone. The site offers visitors an opportunity to delve into Bell’s life and groundbreaking technological contributions through a remarkable collection of personal artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays.
One of the things that makes the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site one of the best places to visit in Nova Scotia is its beautiful location along the shores of Bras d’Or Lake. This stunning setting enhances the historical aspects of the property. You’ll find landscaped gardens, scenic walking paths, and gorgeous lakeside trails throughout the grounds.
While you’re there, don’t miss a visit to the town of Baddeck itself. The town features quaint shops, wonderful restaurants, and gorgeous views of Baddeck Harbour.
Yarmouth and the Acadian Shore
Located at the far southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, Yarmouth and the Acadian Shore offers a peaceful retreat where adventure is never more than a stone’s throw away. Discover dark skies, Acadian culture, and fresh, local food where every visitor is treated as an old friend.
Explore the life and art of renowned Canadian artist Maude Lewis and the tiny home in which she lived and made her world-famous paintings, or explore the gorgeous wooden churches dotting the scenic shoreline.
Don’t miss a ferry ride out to Digby Neck, where you can experience some of the best hikes in the province, as well as some of Nova Scotia’s best whale watching on Long and Brier Islands.
Yarmouth is one of the lobster capitals of Nova Scotia, but it’s not just the lobster that you’ll dine on. The entire southwest shore is home to some of the best food in the province. Digby is the scallop capital of Canada, and the unique Acadian flavours are out of this world. Rappie pie might not be the most beautiful dish in the world, but it’s a local favourite that every visitor needs to try for themselves.
One of the standout attractions in Yarmouth is the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives, which showcases the region’s fascinating maritime history, from its early French settlers to its role in shipbuilding and fishing industries.
Visitors can also explore the historic village of Pubnico, one of the oldest Acadian communities in Nova Scotia and known for its well-preserved architecture and cultural traditions.
Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail
Stretching along the dramatic Fundy shore, the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and rewarding destinations to explore in Nova Scotia. This rugged coastal trail offers an immersive and awe-inspiring wilderness experience that is perfect for those who love to add adventure to their Canadian travels.
The Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail winds along towering cliffs, through lush forests, and along pristine beaches for 52 kilometres. It offers hikers access to a diverse range of ecosystems, from dense woodlands to expansive seascapes. The remote and rugged nature of the trail makes it one of the best hiking destinations in Nova Scotia.
This scenic trail offers a testament to the unspoiled natural beauty of Nova Scotia. Its challenging terrain is a delight for experienced outdoors people but not so challenging as to discourage well-prepared newcomers. There are multiple campsites along the trail, allowing trekkers to move at their own pace and enjoy the pristine coastal wilds.
Known for its picturesque harbour, beautiful beaches, and historic architecture, the quaint town of Chester is one of the top places to go in Nova Scotia.
The town has a rich nautical history, and its sailing scene is one of the top in the province. Whether you’re looking to stroll along the scenic harbour with its colourful boats and yachts or catch a show at the Chester Playhouse Community Theatre, it’s easy to feel like a local in this small town.
Chester evokes a timeless charm that combines natural beauty, maritime history, and a vibrant community. Hop onboard a leisurely tour of the harbour or simply enjoy the moment with a meal at The Rope Loft, one of Chester’s top waterfront restaurants.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in mid-August, don’t miss the annual Chester Race Week, one of Canada’s largest keelboat regattas. The races draw sailors and spectators from far and wide, adding an exciting energy to the town.
One of the best destinations in Nova Scotia lies on the northwest shores of the province along the Fundy Shores. The town of Digby is a popular spot, not just for its scenic beauty and vibrant food scene, but it’s also where many visitors first step foot in the province after taking the Bay Ferries from Saint John, New Brunswick.
Digby has earned the nickname “The scallop capital of the world.” This small town is where scallops were first commercially fished commercially back in the 1920s. And it’s still where you’ll find some of the freshest and tastiest scallops anywhere.
One of the best places to dine in the city to experience unique takes on Maritime food and a genuine experience of the region’s fine musical tastes is the Sydney Street Pub and Cafe. The Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa is second only to Fox Harb’r Golf Resort for some of the best golfing in the province. It also has incredible dining experiences and accommodations.
Whether you want to learn to dig clams, shuck scallops or dine on a Rappie Pie, Digby is one of the top places to visit in Nova Scotia for foodies. But life here doesn’t just revolve around the dining table. Digby is the entrance to the fabulous Digby Neck, where some of the best hikes in Nova Scotia are located.
You also won’t want to miss the Balancing Rock, a natural sea stack sculpted by the tides.
Considered one of Canada’s most beautiful towns, Mahone Bay is a photographer’s dream and one of the most idyllic destinations in Nova Scotia. The town is known for its postcard-perfect scenery that combines historic churches, maritime ambiance, and a vibrant local art scene. Its trio of picturesque churches, known as the “Three Churches of Mahone Bay,” anchors the town’s beauty.
One of the top draws of Mahone Bay is the town’s thriving arts scene and unique boutique shopping. The town is home to numerous art galleries and artisan shops that showcase the work of talented local artists and craftspeople.
Visitors can explore handcrafted jewelry, pottery, and artwork while enjoying the warm hospitality of the town’s residents. The Mahone Bay Centre, a cultural hub, hosts various events, workshops, and exhibitions.
Mahone Bay is also wonderful for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s an ideal spot for sailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The nearby Oak Island, famous for its mysterious treasure legends, is a short boat ride away and adds an element of intrigue for history buffs and adventure seekers.
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
One of Nova Scotia’s true gems is the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, located on the shores of Louisbourg Harbour on Cape Breton Island. This interactive and engaging fortress invites visitors to step into the shoes of French and British settlers, soldiers, and Indigenous Peoples who fought over the land in the 1700s.
The attention, detail, and historical accuracy of the site are phenomenal. It features fully restored buildings, period-appropriate costumes, and engaging reenactments that help bring this vital point in Canadian history to life.
Wander among the bustling buildings, meet with blacksmiths and bakers, and dine on authentic French cuisine at the onsite restaurant. Once you’ve had your fill, make your way up to the battlements and drink in views of the rugged Cape Breton coastline. There are guided tours and interactive programs available for visitors.
With a rich cultural scene and a well-rounded blend of traditional Nova Scotia experiences, the town of Antigonish is one of the best places to visit in the province. The town features a youthful energy thanks to the local St. Francis Xavier University, an institution that feeds the town’s thriving art scene and academic culture.
Just two hours from Halifax, Antigonish is a hub for arts, music, and culture. The town is home to the oldest Highland Games outside of Scotland. The event, which takes place yearly in early July, draws tens of thousands of visitors. The Highland Games celebrate Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage with pipe and drum competitions, Highland dancing, and unique athletic events.
The town’s historic Main Street is lined with quaint shops, galleries, and cafes, offering a wonderful chance to explore local crafts and indulge in delicious local Maritime cuisine. Don’t miss a stop at the Steinhart Distillery, located right across from the Arisag Lighthouse. They produce a delightful award-winning gin that shouldn’t be missed.
Antigonish is surrounded by lush forests and pristine lakes. The region also features several scenic hiking trails. These outdoor wonders make it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts as well. Among the draws is Keppoch Mountain, a nearby nature reserve that has become one of the best places to travel in Nova Scotia for mountain biking.
Are You Ready To Explore Nova Scotia Yourself?
Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s most stunningly beautiful countries. From the gorgeous lighthouse route to the magic of the Cabot Trail, it’s a delight to explore from end to end. These wonderful places to visit are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to travel in Nova Scotia, and any visit is bound to uncover even more hidden gems.
Read some of the fascinating Nova Scotia facts before you go so you’ll have an even better understanding of the history, culture, and magic of one of the country’s maritime wonders.
Do you have a favourite attraction or restaurant in Canada? Head over to the We Explore Canada Facebook Community and join the conversation! You’ll find an amazing group of people passionate about travel in Canada who love to share their local secrets.
Kevin Wagar is a founder and editor of We Explore Canada. He has been working in the travel media industry since 2015 when he founded his family travel website Wandering Wagars – Adventure Family Travel.
Over the years Kevin has developed a deep love for his home country and aims to showcase the incredible experiences and amazing small businesses found within it.