There are many things that I love in life – my family and friends, writing, a great cup of coffee – but there is one thing that I don’t just love, I crave: adventure. Whether it is checking out a new farm to table restaurant in our city or flying halfway across the world, adventure fills my heart with joy. Last week I returned home from a weeklong adventure in Nova Scotia, and although my adventure took me far away from my home, I love adventures of all sizes, near or far.
Mike and I have been all over the world together. Life has taken us to South Korea, Japan and the Philippines as well as Scotland, England and Alaska (and countless other places). While the number of stamps in our passports continues to grow, we have recently found ourselves wanting to put our passports away and explore more of our own country.
This is what brought us to Canada’s East Coast. We flew out to Halifax for a few days followed by a road trip through Cape Breton Island. If you’ve never been to Nova Scotia before, I can’t express enough how badly I wish for you to make it one day. The people, the landscape, the food – all of it invites you in and grabs ahold of your heart.
I could go into lengthy detail about all the things we did and saw, but instead, I’m going to limit myself to my top recommendations of things to do while in Halifax and Cape Breton Island.
It was really hard to pick just a few of my favourite things to do in Halifax. There are so many amazing things I didn’t mention like the Seaport Farmer’s Market and Pleasant Park. Honestly, whatever you do in Halifax, you are guaranteed to have a fantastic time.
Trace back your ancestry at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
First of all, if you are thinking “I’m not interested in museums”, this one is different. Canada’s culture has been shaped by our diversity and inclusivity as well as our ability to overcome adversity. The museum does a beautiful job at capturing it all. If you’re pressed for time, I’d recommend first heading to the Refuge Canada exhibit for a powerful and emotional experience.
After visiting the museum, you can sit down with a staff member who will help you trace back your ancestry for free! I was able to go back five generations (and possibly more!). It’s an emotional experience to see your family history flash up on a screen right before you and one you definitely can’t miss!
Go for a jog around The Oval and the Halifax Commons
One of the best ways to explore a city is to do it the way the locals do. The Halifax Common is a big, urban park in the middle of the city, right at the foot of the Citadel. With new buildings on one end and old ones on the other, you get an insider’s view of the city’s rich history. *Bonus – after your jog, take a walk up the hill for a visit to the Citadel. Even if you aren’t interested in the history, the views of the city are fantastic.
Relax in an Adirondak Chair along the Harbour front
Obviously, a trip to Halifax can’t be complete without a walk along the Harbour front. Not only are the views breathtaking, but this is where you can find some of the city’s best food spots. When you get tired of walking, grab a seat in one of the colourful chairs along the pier and savour the moment.
Sample a flight of beers from Garrison Brewing to go with your pizza-to-go from Tomavino’s
Garrison Brewing doesn’t serve food, but they are more than willing to allow you to bring in your own! Next door is a great little pizza place called Tomavino’s that has the best pizzas! Get one to go and take in into Garrison to enjoy alongside a flight of beers. The staff there are so friendly and great at making recommendations. Ask for the PB & J – a mix of their Nut Brown and Raspberry Wheat – a surprisingly delicious experience!
Enjoy a drink and a treat on the rooftop patio at the Halifax Central Library
Your first thought might not be to visit a library while on vacation, but this is no ordinary library. The open-concept, modern design is both beautiful and functional. Head to the top floor to visit the rooftop garden and patio. Sip on a cold beverage and a homemade baked good from Pavia Gallery while you take in the views of the city from above. This is truly a beautiful experience.
**If you have a car, take a drive to visit Peggy’s Cove.
Peggy’s Cove is an adorable coastal town famous for its rocky coast line and beautiful lighthouse. It’s only about a 40 minute drive from downtown Halifax and the drive is just as beautiful as the destination.
Some of my favourite restaurants and cafes:
The Bicycle Thief– amazing food in an amazing location (be sure to make reservations in advance!)
Coastal Café– Best breakfast in Halifax!
The Java Blend– try their Chair Tea Latte – so yummy!
Compass Distillers– try a flight of gin and take home a bottle of my favourite, Gin Wild!
A Mano– delicious Italian food all made by hand
Cape Breton Island
Take in a scenic drive along the Cabot Trail
You can’t make a trip to Cape Breton Island without driving along the Cabot Trail at least at some point. But the best way to explore the island is to drive the entire loop. The whole trip takes just over 4 hours without stopping, but you’re going to want to stop along the way to enjoy some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever have and take pictures of the beautiful scenery. It’s safe to plan for about 6 hours for the whole trip, but it’s really up to you. Explore it over the course of more than one day or all at once – however you do it, you’ll love it all the same!
Explore the edge of the world along the Skyline Trail
This hike is not for the faint of heart! On this trail you’ll experience it all: deep, forested paths, grasslands thriving with moose and surreal, ocean views. The shorter path takes about an hour an a half round-trip, but be sure to leave extra time for photos and to take in the sights that you thought only existed in postcards.
Enjoy the solitude of the Gypsum Mine Trail
Less popular with the tourists, this hike is shorter in distance, but makes up for it in breathtaking views. The old mine is now a lake where locals and tourists can cool off with a quick swim. Be sure to hike up the hill for a sight that you’ll definitely want to remember forever.
Venture off the Cabot Trail to Meat Cove
While driving along the Cabot Trail, there are lots of opportunities to go off the path and explore other areas of the island. One of those places is Meat Cove. Not only can you get amazing Seafood Chowder at The Chowder Hut, but seeing the cliffs meet the ocean is enough to give you chills. Be sure to pack a bathing suit for a swim in the ocean or even just to lounge on the giant rocks that line the coast.
Indulge in a lobster dinner just about anywhere along the trail
If you’re there in the summer, you are sure to find fresh lobster all over the island. Whether you’re looking for a fancy sit-down dinner or a casual lobster roll, the lobster in Nova Scotia is probably the best you’ll ever have!
If you make a trip to Nova Scotia, be sure to share some of your own favourite places!