February 3, 2021
Whether you’re planning a visit to Halifax in the summer, winter, or just a quick day trip, there is so much to see and do! Before making your way to Nova Scotia’s capital city, here are 10 fun facts to inspire your next visit to Halifax:
If you’re making your way to Halifax, you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to one of the cities most beloved parks, Point Pleasant. This 75-hectare wooded park boasts oceanfront views and lush forests, just 2.5km from downtown. The site contains 39km of easy, winding trails and wide paths, many of which are wheel-chair accessible. This is the perfect spot to get some fresh air and keep your eyes peeled for some seriously cute dogs. Located on the Halifax Peninsula’s southern tip, the land Point Pleasant Park sits upon is rented from the British Government for one shilling a year (less than 10 cents). Despite being a rental property, Point Pleasant isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon — Halifax currently has a 999-year lease on the land.
From taxis to buses, there is no shortage of ways to get around in Halifax. However, the Halifax Transit Ferry is certainly the most unique way. This harbour ferry service has been connecting the city of Halifax to neighbouring Dartmouth for 269 years. The operation served as a vital link to transport food and products between the two locations until the Angus L. MacDonald bridge opened in 1955. There are currently five ferry vessels residing in the harbour, with the two newest additions having been named by Haligonians! The Vincent Coleman and the Rita Joe were named after a city-wide ferry naming contest in 2018. The names honour local heroes Vincent Coleman, a Halifax train dispatcher who saved countless lives during the Halifax Explosion, and Mi’kmaw poet and songwriter, Rita Joe.
At just over 4km, the Halifax Waterfront features one of the world’s longest continuous boardwalks. With non-stop harbour views, captivating port activity, and shops aplenty, you’ll never run out of things to do on the waterfront. Stop by a cafe and grab a warm beverage before settling on a bench or hammock to watch the boats sail through the harbour. From here, you can also jump aboard the Halifax Transit Ferry to Dartmouth or the Harbour Hopper for a tour around the city.
If you’ve visited Halifax, you’re probably aware that a cannon goes off at noon every day. And if you haven’t visited yet, well, consider this your heads up that a cannon goes off at noon every day! The Noon Gun fires from the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, and has been a local tradition since 1857 — a tribute to Halifax’s history as a significant stronghold of the British Military. Today, the gunners still dress in the 3rd Brigade Royal Artillery uniform of 1869 to fire the cannon every day (except for Christmas day). As the most visited National Historic Site in Canada, you’ll often find Haligonians hanging out on the vast green spaces of Citadel Hill. P.S. Don’t be embarrassed if you get caught off-guard by the noon cannon — even locals still get surprised when it goes off!
It’s no secret that ice skating is a huge part of Canadian culture, and maritime culture specifically. On January 3, 1863, the country’s first covered ice rink was opened in the Halifax Public Gardens. The wooden, arched roof rink allowed patrons to visit year-round with natural ice for winter activities and a wooden floor to allow for dancing and roller skating in the warmer seasons. The rink wasn’t open to the public, however. Memberships were limited and only available to a small network of shareholders, their families, and friends. Today, 158 years later, Haligonians and visitors alike can glide around the outdoor Emera Oval on the Halifax Common. The Oval is free to the public and operates year-round with ice and inline skate rentals available!
Despite being located roughly 300km offshore from Halifax, Sable Island remains part of the Halifax Regional Municipality. The remote island boasts breathtaking landscapes and is home to hundreds of species of unique flora and fauna, including the most well-known inhabitants, the Sable Island horses. Over 550 wild horses roam here among the Sable Island dunes. It’s believed they are descended from Acadian horses left on the island en route to Boston. Want to visit yourself? Reaching the quaint 1.5km wide and 40km long island is no easy feat — the only way to get there is by small plane or by sea aboard multiple boats.
When it comes to iconic Maritime landmarks, Peggy’s Cove is undoubtedly at the top of the list. In fact, the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world! And it’s not just the lighthouse that is photogenic. With colourful houses perched along a narrow inlet and boats docked on the wharf, the picturesque village leading to the lighthouse is the quintessential East Coast landscape. The legendary lighthouse isn’t just a great photo opportunity either. It remains active — guiding local fishermen to shore daily. Want to capture the beauty of this lighthouse for yourself? Peggy’s Cove is just a 45-minute drive from the City of Halifax.
Pirates in Halifax? You heard that right. Perched in the middle of the Halifax Harbour, Mauger Beach on McNab’s Island was previously known as Hangman’s Beach. Unfortunately for some swashbucklers, this name was quite literal. This is where the Royal Navy used to hang pirates and leave them on display as a warning to any would-be buccaneers who arrived in Halifax. Piracy was a rampant issue along the east coast in the 1800s, and the British Empire’s authorities in Nova Scotia thought this type of display was a suitable deterrent. Any ship entering the Halifax Harbour during this time had to pass by the pirate display. Interested in getting up close and personal with the Hangman Beach history (now pirate-free)? During the summer in Halifax, you can visit McNab’s Island aboard the Halifax Transit Ferry.
With endless farms, land for harvesting, and seafood aplenty on the East Coast, the local farmers’ markets have long been the best place to discover the region’s freshest food and goods. The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market was created in 1750 and has been serving locals and travellers alike for over 270 years. This makes it the longest continuously operating farmers market in North America. The market has called several locations across the city home over the years. Still, no matter where it is, a wide assortment of fresh local produce, flavoursome food vendors, and artisan products are never far behind!
If you’ve been standing on the Halifax pier dreaming of the Emerald Isle, then the luck of the Irish is on your side. This fair city is actually closer to Dublin, Ireland than it is to Victoria, British Columbia. With Halifax being one of Canada’s most eastern cities, Ireland is only a hop, skip, and a jump away across the Atlantic Ocean at 4169km. To stay in Canada and head West to Victoria would be a 5805km journey. Unfortunately, we don’t offer ferry services to Dublin (but we can dream!), so you will have to make the trek across the Atlantic via air.
One thing’s for sure, we love Halifax (and that’s a fact)! Do you have a favourite Halifact? We’d love to hear it! Share it with us on Facebook! For more tips and ideas on exploring the region, be sure to visit our Explore the Maritimes blog today!