The Best of Lunenburg
Five Reasons You Need to Go to the Most Beautiful Small Town in Canada
UNESCO World Heritage Site. National Historic District. Port City of the Year. Most Beautiful Small Town in Canada. Whatever you want to call it, one thing’s for sure: Lunenburg is a must go!
In fact, you may have already seen this former shipbuilding and rum-running port town, even if you’ve never been to Nova Scotia. That’s because Lunenburg has played a motion picture-perfect role in numerous movies and television series—most recently in Netflix’s series, Locke & Key. But why limit your Lunenburg explorations to the silver screen when you can experience it live and in living colour?
Go to Town
Established in 1753, Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. And because of the preservation of its 18th-century wooden architecture and colonial buildings, Old Town Lunenburg is one of only two North American urban communities designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Meander along the vibrantly coloured waterfront, browse the many charming boutiques and galleries, and take an authentic stroll through history with Lunenburg Walking Tours. (They also offer culinary adventures and haunted walking tours, in case your interests are more aligned with gourmands or ghosts.)
One place that leaps out among Old Town Lunenburg’s many striking waterfront structures is the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. This distinctive bright-red building commemorates the fishing heritage of the region. Here, you can learn about life at sea from retired fishermen, check out the exhibits, take in films and demonstrations, and explore the museum’s wharf-side vessels.
Lunenburg was also once a major shipbuilding centre, producing ships such as the Bluenose—the celebrated fishing and racing schooner whose image has graced the Canadian dime since 1937. However, if you’d like to see a life-size version, the ship’s replica, the Bluenose II, is docked next to the Fisheries Museum. When in port, you can go on a harbour cruise or even be a deckhand for a day. And if you’d like to do a little fishing yourself, Heritage Fishing Tours offers customizable excursions that can combine fishing, bird watching, and a picnic on the water.
Given its maritime heritage and spectacular location on the Atlantic Ocean, it’s no wonder that Lunenburg is home to a lot of really good restaurants specializing in succulent seafood. You could spend days here, trying to determine who serves up the best lobster roll, fish and chips, seafood chowder, mountain of mussels, saddlebag of scallops… the list goes on.
Some of our favourite seafood restaurants include the Salt Shaker Deli, The Half Shell Oysters and Seafood, and Beach Pea Kitchen & Bar. And if you want to combine a little turf with your surf, go to the Grand Banker Bar & Grill for The Lunenburger: six ounces of hand-formed fresh local ground beef, smoked mozzarella, smoked bacon, baby spinach, garlic aioli, generously topped with Nova Scotia lobster and tarragon butter sauce, and topped off with a bacon-wrapped scallop. De-fish-ious!
Go on a Rum-Running Adventure
Ironworks Distillery is one of the few places in the world where you can walk in and feel it’s totally okay to say, “Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum to go!” Housed in a 19th-century blacksmith’s shop that once produced ironworks for both Bluenose I and Bluenose II, this artisanal distillery honours the same love of traditional methods and attention to detail by making premium spirits, one batch at a time and handcrafted from natural ingredients that are locally sourced whenever possible. (For example, Ironworks’ vodka is made from Nova Scotia apples, and their gin includes “rosehips from a hedge down the street”.)
Pop in to Ironworks for a tour and a taste of rum, gin, vodka, as well as more off-the-beaten-vine selections like sweet apple brandy and blueberry liqueur. And if you want to continue on the rum-running theme, then hit the Rum Runners Trail. This 119-kilometre multi-use trail runs along a former rail bed, connecting Lunenburg to Halifax. It’s perfect for cycling, trekking, and exploring nearby parks, beaches, and coastal communities.
Go Start Planning
With its scene-stealing backdrops, colourful waterfront, and vibrant shops, galleries, and restaurants, Lunenburg is a beautiful place to visit year-round. However, if you’re thinking about visiting between May and October, you should start planning now, as accommodations can fill up quickly. Here are the Lunenburg drive times from our three ferry terminals in Nova Scotia:
From Digby: Once you disembark the mv Fundy Rose in Digby, it takes 2 hours to drive to Lunenburg.
From Yarmouth: If you’re taking The CAT from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth, it takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Yarmouth to Lunenburg.
From Caribou: If you’re taking the mv Confederation or mv Holiday Island to Caribou, it also takes 2.5 hours to drive to Lunenburg.