Out of Canada's ten provinces and three territories, Nova Scotia is the second-smallest. However, it may be small but it is equally as mighty.
Nova Scotia has a unique history, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of culture. It's a place where there's lots to see and do, so you'll want to plan a detailed itinerary to get all of attractions in.
If you're thinking of visiting this unique province, there are a few top tourist destinations to check out. Let's take a look at the top five tourist destinations in Nova Scotia.
Dichotomy of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is a mosaic of environmental ecosystems. It's made up mainly of two different ecosite groups: the Acadian Forest group and the Maritime Boreal group.
The Acadian Forest group is the ecocide group that makes up most of the province. These ecosites are found inland, in the warmer parts of the province.
The Maritime Boreal ecosites are found primarily along the Funny and Atlantic Coasts. You'll also find these areas in the Cape Breton Highlands. These areas are characterized by relatively cool and moist climates year-round.
In these ecosites you'll find some pretty unique wildlife. The whitetail deer and the northern goshawk are two animals that grace the province and call it home.
In terms of plant life, you'll find sugar maple, yellow birch, spruces, and hemlocks. There are also lots of Lady's Slippers scattered around the province.
Now that you know what the environment is like, let's take a minute to talk about the history of Nova Scotia. Although the island was inhabited by Vikings for thousands of years, it wasn't until the 17th century that the island was really founded.
In 1621, a group of Scottish settlers came to the area and set up a town. However, the town was pretty unsuccessful, and after just a few years, turned into a place of war.
The reason for this is that the French government wanted control of Nova Scotia thanks to its easy access to the Atlantic Ocean. The province was passed between the French and the English until 1713 when England finally gained permanent power over the area.
Following the period of war, the area prospered thanks to its fishing and forestry industries. It didn't see much more political unrest until the days of the American Revolution when loyalist neighbours from the South flocked to the neutral province.
After the revolution, the area continued to prosper. In the 19th century, changing trade patterns impacted the area's economy negatively, but not for long. By World War I the area had once again become an important trade hub for passing goods between the Americas and Europe.
Today the area is characterized by the technology and gas drilling industries. It's also known for tourism, which is perhaps why there are so many amazing tourist destinations in Nova Scotia!
Getting Around Nova Scotia
Getting around Nova Scotia is easy thanks to the fact that the government has placed a strong emphasis on making the area accessible. Despite the fact that the area's transportation systems have changed over the years, it's still a place that's easy to get around.
If you're visiting the area, you'll need to know where to go and how to get around. Let's take a look at what you need to know about the location and transportation in the area.
Nova Scotia is located on the Eastern end of Canada and is situated in the Atlantic Ocean. The province is situated on the Eastern seaboard and is connected to the mainland through the Nova Scotia Peninsula.
Aside from the main part of Nova Scotia, you'll find Cape Breton Island. This piece of the province is separated from the rest of the area by the Strait of Canso.
Cape Breton Island isn't the only island in the province. Nova Scotia also contains several smaller islands that surround the area and are located farther out to sea.
There are two major airports in Nova Scotia, one located in Halifax and the other located in Sydney. Most foreign visitors fly into Halifax while domestic flights travel between the two airports to make it easy to get around the province.
Aside from air travel, the province has plenty of public transportation. The provincial bus system, the Maritime Bus, runs around the entire province. Halifax, Sydney, and the Bay of Fundy all have their own bus and ferry systems, too.
There are tons of major roadways throughout Nova Scotia for car travel, shuttles, and motorcycles. The roads connect the area to the rest of mainland Canada, making it easy to get wherever you want. If you rented a car you'd be able to travel around almost everywhere quite easily.
Finally, rail travel has long been a part of the culture in this province. You can ride the Via Rail across the province, taking you to and from Amherst and Halifax.
1. Cape Breton Highlands National Park
One unique spot in Nova Scotia that you won't want to miss is Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The park is located off the northern part of Nova Scotia and offers stunning mountain views along the seaside.
One of the main things visitors like to do in the area is go on one of the many hiking trails. There are 26 hiking trails in the park, eight of which are loops.
There's a good mix of trails, meaning that no matter what your hiking ability is you'll be able to find something that fits your level. There are three difficult trails and ten moderate trails. The rest area easy strolls for anyone who doesn't want to huff and puff around the park.
Apart from hiking trails, there are tons of other amazing activities to participate in, including:
- Canoeing and boating
- Cafés and Restaurants
- Mountain climbing
- Bird and wildlife spotting
- Cross country skiing
No matter what activities you like to participate in you'll be sure to find something to do at this park!
Cape Breton Highlands National Park Camping
There are plenty of camping opportunities at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, too. Choose from campsite with facilities or opt for backcountry camping to truly go off the grid.
There are seven different campgrounds at the park. The campsites with facilities have oTENTiks to rent, which are a cross between a cabin and a tent.
If you want to bring an RV, that's an option too. The park has designated RV spaces for those who want to bring their own trailer.
2. Kejimkujik National Park
Outdoor lovers will also adore Kejimkujik National Park, not just Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This beautiful national park is both a park and a historic site where you'll find petroglyphs and other remnants left behind by ancient indigenous groups.
In the park, you'll find a plethora of outdoor activities, including:
- Bird watching
- Interpretive trails
- Volunteer opportunities
- A playground
- Canoeing and kayaking
- Backcountry hiking
- A beach
- Dog walking trails
- Photography spots
Since the area is a known historic spot, there are also regular special events hosted in the area. Enjoy checking out these cultural demonstrations and seminars to learn more about the history of the area.
You can also try one of the sixteen inland hiking trails or check out the two seaside trails in the park. With one difficult trail, eight moderate trails, and six easy trails, there's something for everyone at this park.
Kejimkujik National Park Camping
Wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life? Why not go camping in Kejimkujik National Park!
The area offers tons of camping opportunities, with backcountry spaces that only offer flush toilets as well as RV areas for you to pull up to. No matter what type of camping you enjoy, you're sure to find something here.
Plus, the area also offers several rentable spots with roofs. Choose from cabins, oTENTiks, oasis pods, and even yurts to make for a memorable camping experience.
3. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is located in Halifax and is open from 2:00pm - 9:00pm on Thursdays or from 10:00am - 5:00pm Friday through Sunday. It only costs $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for children, and $7 for students with ID.
You can also pay for family packages if you're planning to go as a group. Family packages cost $25, and kids under age 6 are able to visit the museum for free.
The museum features several changing exhibits, but you'll love checking out their art by indigenous peoples, the family gallery, folk exhibits, and several modern art exhibits.
A few featured artists at the gallery include:
- Matthew Collins
- Deanne Fitzpatrick
- Jacques Hurtubise
- Maud Lewis
- Kent Monkman
- Ursula Johnson
- Jordan Bennett
Aside from checking out the featured artists and galleries, make sure to head to the café and gift shop in the area. You can also engage in several events that the gallery hosts from time to time.
4. Point Pleasant Park
Point Pleasant Park is a large, forested historic park that's located on the southern tip of Halifax. The park has over 30km of winding trails with wide paths that are great for hanging out with the family.
Along the paths, you'll find ruins of cultural buildings with signposts about the history of the area. You can also view old, parked cannons and view several memorials along your route.
If you don't want to go walking or hiking, you can take a dip in the public beach. There are washroom facilities and picnic benches making it a great place to bring the family for an afternoon in the water.
Plus, beautiful Victorian gardens adorn the park. They're a unique place to learn how to start your own Victorian garden or to simply check out the stunning plants and herbs growing there.
There are also biking trails throughout the park that you can check out. Or, you can treat yourself to a performance by the Shakespeare by the Sea Theatre group! You'll love the lively performances of classic narratives.
5. Halifax Citadel
One unique tourist destination to visit in Nova Scotia is the Halifax Citadel. The Citadel was built in 1749 and sits atop a hill overlooking the city's harbour. It's a military fort that was once used to protect the city.
What's interesting and unique about the citadel is that it's one of the older areas in the province. It marks a key point in the formation of the province, making it a significant place to visit to learn about Canada's history.
There are tons of fun things for you to do at the Halifax Citadel, including self-guided and guided tours. You can also take a ghost tour of the area if you want to get spooked!
Aside from tours, there are plenty of walking trails and dog-friendly areas. The citadel has an army museum that you can check out to learn more about the area's use in wartime.
Plus, there are family experiences that allow you to be a soldier for a day. Or, you can take a tour of the area that teaches you about distilling spirits and how significant that was for the citadel in the past.
Pack Your Bags and Head to Nova Scotia Today!
Your trip to Nova Scotia will be filled with vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and rich history. You'll love how kind the locals are, how fresh the seafood is, and how many activities there are to do in the national parks!
Before you zip off to check out Point Pleasant Park or the Halifax Citadel, however, make sure you have a travel insurance policy in place. Get in touch with Insurdinary and we'll get you a free quote.