These exciting things to do in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, will help you experience the birthplace of the Bluenose for yourself.
With colourful buildings, an idyllic maritime atmosphere, and the joyful waft of east coast music in the air, it’s hard to imagine that Lunenburg was once a hotbed for pirates, rum runners, and gangsters. Throughout the prohibition years, the small town of Lunenburg, on the southern shores of Nova Scotia, was a hotbed of illicit activity.
Flash forward the better part of a century, and Lunenburg is among the most sought-after places to visit in Nova Scotia. The town, dating back to the 1750s, is absolutely charming, with gorgeous hillside buildings painted in bright shades of yellows, oranges, and reds. And those looking for fun things to do in and around Lunenburg are treated to some of the province’s most sought-after experiences.
About Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Lunenburg is a destination blessed with experiences. It’s often considered one of Canada’s prettiest towns, and with a location, just an hour from the province’s capital of Halifax and about the same to world-famous Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg is a place that visitors love to settle down and relaxingly enjoy some Maritime living.
Lunenburg is a town that’s worth taking your time and slowing down for. Learn from the Maritimers and take a moment to enjoy this designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a population of fewer than 2,300 residents, this adorable fishing village is just one of two urban centres in North America to have achieved this prestigious status.
The land upon which Lunenburg now sits is the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq nation. During the 1620s, the land was settled by the French, who lived in harmony with the local Indigenous peoples, even intermarrying. This ended in 1753 when the British established the town of Lunenburg, forcing much of the local Acadian population out of what is now Nova Scotia.
The economy of Lunenburg was traditionally based on the extensive fishing industry, including housing the country’s second-largest fish processing plant. Lunenburg was devastated during the war of 1812 but flourished throughout the later 1800s. It was this period where much of the town’s bright, beautiful, and iconic local architecture dates from.
Best Things to do in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
With a colonial history dating back to the early 1600s and Indigenous history reaching thousands of years prior, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, is an absolute delight for history buffs. This small town of the south shores of Nova Scotia is brimming with beauty, culture, adventure, and some of the most gorgeous architecture in Canada.
This city has long been a destination for Nova Scotia road-trippers, and with all of the amazing things to do and places to visit in Lunenburg, no one should be surprised as to why. In fact, the amazing list of attractions in Lunenburg stretches beyond the town’s borders and into the surrounding area.
So let’s pull up our fishing boots, hoist the main sail, and get ready to explore the best things to do in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
Sail on Bluenose II
In the early 20th century, a Canadian legend was born. Built and launched in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, a schooner named “the Bluenose” took over the world with an undefeated racing legacy that lasted for 17 years. The ship cemented its position as a Canadian icon, and its image even graces our country’s ten-cent coin.
After a storied history, the rise of engines made the Bluenose obsolete. It was sold to a Caribbean owner to cargo throughout the mid-Atlantic. In 1946, while hauling freight near Haiti, the schooner struck a reef and sank beneath the waves.
Built in 1963, Bluenose II is an exact replica of the original Lunenburg schooner. The ship occasionally sails the world but spends much of its time docked near the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic on the Lunenburg waterfront.
You can relive the glory days of fishing with a two-hour sailing tour. Or you can explore the vessel when it is docked at the Lunenburg harbour.
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Lunenburg has one of the richest fishing history in all of the Canadian maritime. There are no better places to explore this than at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic.
Situated in, what was once a fish factory, on the Lunenburg waterfront, the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic tells the story of eastern Canada’s most lucrative industry. beautiful exhibits and photographs tell the story of traditional Mi’kmaq fishing, the wild days of privateers and historic fishing techniques, and how the industry has shaped Canada.
There are many interactive experiences, hands-on activities, and even stories told by retired fishermen. Visitors can even explore the ocean depths a the Marine Life gallery.
One of the best experience at the museum are the many fishing boats moored adjacent to the Fishing Museum of the Atlantic. Visitors will find the Bluenose II (when it’s not traveling the world), and they’ll also see the Theresa E Connor, Canada’s oldest salt bank schooner. museum staff, some of whom once sailed on similar vessels, are on hand to demonstrate traditional fishing methods and share what life is like on board.
Walk Old Town Lunenburg
Lunenburg is a town best explored on foot. Strap on your shoes and treat yourself to a walking tour past colourful historic buildings, the magnificent Old School Academy on Gallows Hill, and through Lunenburg historic centre.
Bring your camera because walking through Lunenburg presents some of Canada’s most jaw-dropping scenery. But be prepared because the town is very hilly, and the landscape drops dramatically from the main street down to the waterfront.
Walking the town centre is one of the best things to do in Lunenburg. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered one of North America’s best-surviving planned British colonial towns. Much of the town’s architecture dates back to the early 18th and 19th centuries. Wandering Lunenburgs 260-plus years of history is a must for any visit.
St. John’s Anglican Church
One of the best places to visit in Lunenburg is the stunningly beautiful wooden Carpenter Gothic church located on Duke St. between Townsend and Cumberland. This National Historic Site of Canada was built in 1754 after the British took over Lunenburg, and is the second oldest Protestant church in Canada.
The original church was tragically destroyed in a fire in 2001. But it was meticulously reconstructed almost exactly as the original was.
Pay attention to the strategically-placed stars on the church’s ceiling that are perfectly aligned to represent Lunenburg’s sky at the time of the birth of Jesus. The church also holds a crypt where important Lunenburg locals, including the town’s first minister, were buried.
Lunenburg Whale Watching
With a brilliant harbour and access to the Atlantic Ocean, whale watching is always one of the best things to do in Lunenburg. Whale tours leave the Lunenburg harbour and often encounter a range of marine mammals, including minke, humpback, pilot, and fin whales. There are also dolphins, bluefin tuna, porpoises, and even sea turtles. You may even get a chance to see adorable puffins.
The best time to see whales in Lunenburg is between July and September. Aside from Lunenburg whale tours, adventurers can also enjoy some human-powered excitement by renting a kayak or joining a sea kayaking tour.
If you’re a fan of spirits and are searching for what to do in Lunenburg, we have a treat for you.
Situated in a former blacksmith’s shop that dates back to 1893, Ironworks Distillery sources local ingredients to produce some of Nova Scotia’s best liquors, including brandy, rum, gin, and vodka. Owners Pierre Guevremont and Lynne MacKay launched Ironworks Distillery in 2008, intending to support the local economy by using as many local products as possible and maximizing the number of jobs that their business could create.
Ironworks Distillery is open for guided tours and tasting delicious specialties, including vodka crafted from apples sourced from Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley or their award-winning rum. You won’t regret purchasing a few bottles to take home with you.
Stroll the Lunenburg Waterfront
If you only have a short time in Lunenburg, the Lunenburg waterfront should be your priority. The stunning marina and boardwalk are among the most beautiful places in Nova Scotia.
It’s here where you’ll find many of the best things to do in Lunenburg including the Fisheries Museum, the Bluenose II, and many yachts and ships that support the town’s fishing industry. The waterfront is also home to many of the best restaurants in Lunenburg as well as a number of quaint shops for those looking for gifts to bring home.
A walk the 100-metre boardwalk makes for a postcard-perfect backdrop to any visit to Lunenburg. At various times of the year you’ll also discover many of the towns festivals, night markets, schooner races, and marine parades.
Shipwright Brewing Company
At We Explore Canada, we’re always on the lookout for fantastic craft breweries across the country. Shipwright Brewing Company, located on the Lunenburg waterfront at the base of Montague St. is definitely one to check out.
Stop into their microbrewery to enjoy some small-batch brews that pair perfectly with the surrounding scenery. Enjoy a drink at the venue or grab a few to go.
You can check out Shipwright on Instagram to see what they’re brewing up now.
Enjoy the Lunenburg Food Scene
Attractions in Lunenburg go well beyond beautiful scenery and epic history. Lunenburg is one of Nova Scotia’s best foodie towns as well.
Because of the town’s importance to Canada’s fishing industry, it comes as no surprise that seafood is where Lunenburg shines, but there are many options for great places to eat.
Eat your way through Lunenburg with stops at the South Shore Fish Shack for some casual fish & chips or sit down at the Salt Shaker Deli, which has some fantastic lunch and dinner options.
If you need a pick-me-up, No 9 Coffee Bar has some caffeinated delicacies to keep you up and exploring. They also serve up some light breakfast tasters a well.
For something a little heavier, try the Grand Banker Bar & Grill. They have a great range of seafood, including one of the best seafood chowders you can buy.
Things To Do Near Lunenburg
The best things to do in Lunenburg don’t stop at the town’s border. The nearby Nova Scotia coastlines offer a wealth of experiences and attractions to explore.
Just ten minutes from Lunenburg is the idyllic coastal fishing village of Blue Rocks. Unlike Lunenburg and Halifax, Blue Rocks seem to lie outside of the commercial influence and are home to a handful of impressive art shops, a general store, and the impressive Oven’s Natural Park, which houses a large sea cave.
The seashore near Blue Rocks is beautiful. You’ll find a range of picture-perfect islands, fishing shacks, and stunningly-carved rocks in shades of blue, grey, and white.
Peggy’s Cove isn’t just the most famous lighthouse in Canada, it’s one of the country’s signature attractions. Perched upon dazzling rose-colored rocks above the dramatic and temperamental waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Peggy’s Cove is one of the best day trips from Halifax.
Peggy’s Cove is a 50-minute road trip from Halifax along the fast-moving RTE 333. You can make the journey quickly along the highway or take the scenic route along the Lighthouse Route through beautiful towns such as West Dover and Blind Bay.
If you want to do some hiking, there’s a great trail that connects Lunenburg to Mahone Bay. It is 10 km long, so you probably won’t be able to do it all, but if you rent a bicycle, you can ride the gravel path from one town to the other.
Just a 10-minute drive from Lunenburg, Mahone Bay is a great stop on your Lunenburg Itinerary. We stopped at Mahone Bay while driving from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg, but it is so close, you can pop over anytime.
Founded in 1745, Mahone Bay was named one of Canada’s best small towns. It’s famous for The Three Churches that line the waterfront. Not surprisingly, this scene is one of the most photographed places in Nova Scotia.
Oak Island, the home to one of Canada’s greatest mysteries, has been welcoming treasure-seekers for generations. The island came to mass fame when the reality TV show “The Curse of Oak Island” aired back in January 2014.
Eight seasons and dozens of episodes later, the show still explores whether infamous privateer Captain Kidd buried his treasure on the island. You can explore the mystery yourself during organized tours or with a stay at the Oak Island Resort on the mainland.
Are You Ready to Experience These Things To Do In Lunenburg For Yourself
There are more things to do in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, than meets the eye. From some of the province’s most stunning architecture to the scrumptious Lunenburg food and drink scene, and everything in between, you can find something for everyone on the south shores of Nova Scotia.
Many of these businesses and restaurants are anxious for visitors after a tough year. So let’s support local and make the most of your Lunenburg adventure.
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.