When you pay a visit to the Maritimes, there’s a lot to take in. From lighthouses and scenic drives to National Parks and national landmarks like the Bay of Fundy, there’s so much to explore! There’s also a lot to learn. The Maritimes are a hotbed of history and culture waiting for you to discover at our many museums and galleries. Whether you’re learning more about natural history at museums in Halifax, seeing work by your favourite artist in New Brunswick, or visiting the area that inspired a literary icon on Prince Edward Island, you’ll uncover something new for everyone in the Maritimes.
Let’s take a look at a few of our favourite galleries and museums in Halifax and across the Maritimes.
Located in Halifax, the Natural History Museum is a can’t-miss stop for those interested in the history of Nova Scotia. The museum is focused on collecting and cataloging items of cultural significance to the region, as well as promoting Nova Scotia’s natural wonders and landscape. Of course, you can’t mention the Natural History Museum without acknowledging its famous resident, Gus the Tortoise. This 96-year old gopher tortoise has called Nova Scotia home for over 70 years, and is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Truly, no visit to the Museum of Natural History is complete with stopping to say ‘Hello!’ to Gus.
As Canada’s largest (not to mention oldest) maritime museum, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a must-visit for those interested in stories from the high seas! Since 1948, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has been collecting and interpreting Nova Scotia’s marine history. As you make your way through the museum, you’ll learn more about the golden age of steamships, as well as the Canadian Navy convoys of World War II and their involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is also home to an exhibit detailing that impact of the 1917 Halifax explosion (as we’ve written about before) and a fascinating look at the role Nova Scotia played in lending a helping hand in the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
Between 1928 and 1971, Nova Scotia’s Pier 21 in the Port of Halifax was the gateway to Canada for over one million immigrants. Today, their stories and journeys are shared at the Canadian Museum of Immigration. Atlantic Canada’s only national museum, Pier 21 offers an inspiring look at the generations of people who have made their way to Canada and the positive impact they have made—and continue to make—on our country. Try on period costumes, hear first-hand accounts from newcomers through archival footage and artifacts, imagine yourself crossing the ocean in a replica of a ship’s cabin, and test your knowledge to see if you know enough to pass a citizenship test! You can even trace your own family immigration history at the Scotiabank Family History Centre.
Art lovers will definitely want to spend some time during their maritime adventure at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS). Affectionately known as “The Agnes,” the gallery is home to more than 17,000 works of art—including a carefully curated collection of works by Maud Lewis. Perhaps the most well-known and unique piece of art on display in the AGNS is the home where Maud Lewis spent most of her time painting alongside her husband, Everitt.
How is that possible? Good question! After Maud and her husband passed away, the tiny home became the property of the Provincial Government of Nova Scotia. The AGNS was put in charge of maintaining and caring for the home and set out to completely restore it. When the restoration was complete, the house was put on permanent display in the AGNS, allowing fans of the legendary folk painter to see where she lived and worked for themselves.
In addition to the main gallery, the AGNS also has a satellite location in Yarmouth—known as The Western Branch—making it a perfect first stop for visitors arriving aboard The CAT in the summer months. Together, these two locations promote powerful works by regional and international artists alike, and definitely should be seen as you make your way through the Maritimes.
Not far from where the Fundy Rose docks, you’ll find the New Brunswick Museum—a space dedicated to expanding the understanding of the province’s natural environment and cultures. Here, you’ll have a chance to browse art galleries highlighting the work of local, national, and international artists. Then, check out the Wood, Wind, and Sail exhibit, where you can learn all about New Brunswick’s shipbuilding history. Fans of sea creatures won’t want to miss the Hall of Great Whales, where you’re guaranteed to do some amazing whale watching! Offering something for the entire family, the New Brunswick Museum will undoubtedly be a highlight of any trip to Saint John.
For many, it’s impossible to mention Prince Edward Island without thinking about L.M. Montgomery and her Anne of Green Gables stories. An iconic PEI treasure, Montgomery’s tales of the precocious red-haired Anne Shirley continue to inspire new readers and writers every year. Fans of these beautiful tales will find a lot to love when they arrive at Green Gables Heritage Place in Cavendish. Here, you’ll have an opportunity to visit the Green Gables house, explore several museums, brave the Haunted Woods, and learn more about L.M. Montgomery—as an author, and a person. This is the area that inspired so many of Anne (with an e!)’s adventures and is sure to be a delightful stop for fans both young and old.
There’s so much waiting for you to discover at our Maritime museums and galleries. You can see art from all over the world, learn about our region’s role in game-changing world events, and even trace your own family history back through the generations. When you’re planning your upcoming trip through Atlantic Canada, be sure to also take a trip through our thrilling history.