May 9, 2022
Spending a week in Nova Scotia this summer? This itinerary will help you fill your days with unforgettable experiences across Canada’s Ocean Playground.
A week in Nova Scotia is like a week in your own personal slice of paradise. Here, you’ll find rugged coastlines, breathtaking views, bustling cities and towns, and moments of peace where it may just feel like you’re the only people in the world. That’s the beauty of Nova Scotia — there’s something for everybody here. If you’re looking for a few ideas on how to spend seven days in Canada’s Ocean Playground after arriving aboard The CAT high-speed car ferry you’re in luck! We’ve put together this itinerary just for you. Get ready for a week of the sights, sounds, and spots that make Nova Scotia such a special place to visit.
A quick note before hitting the road — The CAT arrives in Yarmouth from Bar Harbor in the early evening. Because of this, we’ll be kicking off our itinerary on your first full day in Canada. So grab a bite to eat, make your way to your accommodations, and get a good night’s rest — the fun begins in the morning!
Road trips are a Nova Scotian tradition, and if you’re anything like us, you appreciate taking the scenic route. We can’t think of a better way to start your Nova Scotia adventure than with a drive along the Lighthouse Route from Yarmouth to Mahone Bay. More than just a name, you’ll see over 20 lighthouses as you make your way along Nova Scotia’s rugged coastline. You’ll also have a chance to cross the LaHave river on the LaHave Ferry — a cable ferry in operation since 1832. Stop in at the LeHave Bakery for some delicious homemade sweets and fresh bread before getting back on the road.
Your first major stop is Lunenburg. Once you arrive, you’ll want to make your way on foot through Old Town and down to the waterfront. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lunenburg was founded in 1753 and remains a picturesque example of a planned British colonial settlement. Explore its narrow streets, snap photos of its colorful waterfront, and catch a glimpse of the legendary racing schooner, Bluenose II. Feeling hungry? Lunenburg is more than just a pretty town — it’s also home to some great eateries, including the Salt Shaker Deli, the Grand Banker Seafood Bar & Grill, the Savvy Sailor, and Lincoln Street Food.
From Lunenburg, continue along the Lighthouse Route to Mahone Bay to see one of Nova Scotia’s iconic sights: the Three Churches of Mahone Bay. Snap a photo from across the water — it’s sure to be beautiful. And speaking of iconic sights, from here, make your to perhaps Nova Scotia’s most famous attraction — Peggy’s Cove. This working fishing village is home to the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse — a light that has stood on the cliffs of the South Shore for over a century. Take a moment to relax and watch the waves in the early evening sun before making your way to Halifax to retire for the evening — you’ll be hitting the road again bright and early.
Grab a coffee and snack at Weird Harbour in Downtown Halifax before hitting the road (don’t worry, you’ll be back!). Your next three days will be spent driving the absolutely breathtaking Cabot Trail. The journey from Halifax to the start of the trail in Baddeck is about three and a half hours, so you’ll want to get an early start! Along the way, you’ll pass through Truro, the Hub of Nova Scotia, the picturesque university town of Antigonish, and more quintessential Nova Scotia destinations.
When you arrive in Baddeck, you’ll immediately be taken by this charming town on the shores of Bras d’Or Lake — the largest lake in Nova Scotia. This is a perfect spot to get out on the water for a kayaking tour. Beyond its natural beauty, Baddeck also has a strong connection to one of the most important inventors the world has ever known — Alexander Graham Bell. The man responsible for the telephone was a resident of the town, and you can learn all about him at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. Here, you’ll find an extensive collection of Bell artifacts, as well as replicas of the first telephone. It’s a fascinating look at a man whose hand truly helped shape the world as we know it.
While you’re in Baddeck, stop by Big Spruce Brewing — Nova Scotia’s first organic hopyard and on-farm craft brewery. Sample some local suds and grab some favourites to enjoy after arriving at your accommodations for the evening. And speaking of accommodations, we can’t help but recommend a night at the Keltic Lodge Resort & Spa. Located about 90 minutes north of Baddeck on Ingonish Beach in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park — the Keltic Lodge offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Smokey, a heated pool, plenty of wilderness trails, and nightly entertainment in the Highland Sitting Room. It’s the perfect place to cap off your second full day in Nova Scotia and your first night on the Cabot Trail.
If you’re a golfer, your second day on the Cabot Trail should start with a round at Highland Links — a spectacular course consistently ranked among the top 100 in the world. If golf isn’t really your thing, that’s fine! Make your way to Ingonish Beach for an early morning stroll and even a dip in the Atlantic! From here, it’s time to hit the road and take in the lion’s share of the Cabot Trail. Stunning is a word that hardly does justice to this stretch of road that makes its way up and down the rolling mountains of the Cape Breton Highlands. Along your drive, you’ll find plenty of beaches, fishing villages, cultural landmarks, restaurants, bakeries, and views that will stay with you for a lifetime.
For many, the true highlight of this road trip is hiking the Skyline Trail just outside of Chéticamp. This seven-kilometre looping trail takes you to the edge of French Mountain for a chance to take in a panoramic view of where the ocean meets the land. Simply put, it will leave you speechless. Be sure to have your camera ready. You’ll want proof that such an amazing place exists and that you’ve been there!
Back in your vehicle, you’ll want to make your way to Chéticamp next for some relaxing time spent exploring museums and craft shops. You may even want to purchase one of the fishing town’s famed hooked rugs as a souvenir. Then, make your way to Margaree Forks to spend the night under the stars with Live Life in Tents. This glamping destination alongside the Margaree River overlooks a nearby valley, combining the wonders of the great outdoors with a comfy bed and a roof over your head.
This marks your final day along the Cabot Trail, as you’ll complete your loop and find yourself back in Baddeck. Stroll around town (maybe checking out the things you missed the first time you were here), then hit the road for a less travelled, though still stunning, drive along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. Known as the Marine Drive, this journey starts in Mulgrave, just outside Port Hawkesbury. Marine Drive will take through bustling fishing communities and highlight some of our province’s hidden-gem beaches like Clam Harbour. If you have your heart set on more hiking, make your way to Taylor Head Provincial Park, where you’ll find 14 km worth of interconnected hiking trails. You’ll also find several museums along Marine Drive, including the Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum (opening July 1, 2022), Old Hall Wilderness Heritage Centre, and Sherbrooke Village Miners Museum.
At the end of the Marine Drive, you’ll find yourself in Dartmouth, part of the larger Halifax Regional Municipality. An up-and-coming hotspot, Dartmouth is a great place to spend the rest of your day sampling the best of what Nova Scotia has to offer. Several breweries call Dartmouth home, including North Brewing Co., Brightwood Brewery, and New Scotland Brewing Co. You’ll also find plenty of great eats here — try The Canteen, Yeah Yeahs Pizza, Humble Pie Kitchen, or the Wooden Monkey. After a night on the town enjoying the best in food and drinks, hit the hay. Tomorrow is a day spent in Nova Scotia’s capital city.
Now that you’re back in Halifax after your quick stopover, you’ll see everything this charming city has to offer! For an authentic local experience, start by riding the ferry into town from Dartmouth to explore the Halifax Waterfront. This bustling destination is full of local shops, services and restaurants. It’s also a great spot to people watch. In fact, you could spend hours sitting on the docks watching folks go about their day — but there’s plenty more to see and do! Halifax is home to one of Canada’s most popular historic sites, Citadel Hill. You can tour the Citadel to learn about its storied history from costumed performers who really bring the fort to life. Oh, and don’t forget to stick around for the noon gun. This cannon blast has become part of the daily routine for many Haligonians, but it still packs a wallop!
Elsewhere in Halifax, you’re sure to find something for everyone. Check out a Wanderers FC soccer game if you’re a sports fan. And for a truly unforgettable experience, join the team’s biggest supporters in The Kitchen. Here, you’ll spend as much time singing, dancing, and chanting along with the locals as you will watching the exciting match taking place on the pitch. If history is more your thing, check out the Museum of Natural History or the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia — where you’ll find the home of legendary folk painter Maud Lewis completely restored for you to view. Nature lovers will love strolling through Point Pleasant Park, and those with a soft spot for the dramatic will want to check out a play at Neptune Theatre. As your day winds down, grab a patio table at one of the many restaurants along trendy Argyle Street, or venture to the city’s bohemian North End for a pint at Stilwell Freehouse and a meal at Brooklyn Warehouse.
From the big city to the small towns of Annapolis Valley, today you’ll be travelling to Wolfville to explore Nova Scotia’s wine country. The vast majority of Nova Scotia wineries are located in the Annapolis Valley, and most are situated around the town of Wolfville, including Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards, Domain de Grand Pre Winery, Luckett Vineyards, L’Acadie Vineyards, and Gaspereau Vineyards. And here’s the great news, you can visit all of these wineries aboard the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus! Beyond the Magic Bus, you’ll find plenty of other vineyards to do a customized wine tour of your very own. Consider adding Blomidon Estate Winery, Benjamin Bridge Vineyards, Bent Ridge Winery, and Avondale Sky Winery to your list.
You’ll also find plenty of incredible restaurants along Wolfville’s Main Street, including the Library Pub, Joe’s Food Emporium, and Church Brewing Co. In Port Williams, you’ll find The Port Pub Bistro and The Noodle Guy — which has really made a name for itself in recent years.
And if you’re looking for a fun way to cap off your night in the Valley, head to the Valley Drive-In in Cambridge. This throwback to the golden age of cinema runs every weekend, showing a mix of new and classic movies that everyone will love. Head to the canteen for some fresh popcorn and enjoy the show from the comfort of your car. We give the Valley Drive-In two thumbs up!
It might be hard to believe, but just like that, your week in Nova Scotia is coming to a close — and what a week it’s been! You’ve been from end to end of this beautiful province. You’ve explored natural wonders, tasted East Coast culture, and probably seen more lighthouses than you could possibly count! But there’s still one more day of adventure left, and we’re heading back to where your journey began, the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores. Here, you can take a trip back in time to learn about Acadian culture at the Historic Acadian Village of Nova Scotia. Or, visit the W. L. Sweeney Fisheries Museum to hear the stories of men and women who lived their lives on the sea. Make a stop at the Firefighter’s Museum of Nova Scotia for a glimpse into the history of a brave profession, and visit the Living Wharves to see if you have the skills to become a professional fisherman.
On your last night in the province, make it one to remember with a visit to the Deep Sky Eye Observatory. Located in the heart of North America’s first official UNESCO Starlight Reserve, this observatory offers out-of-this-world views of the skies above. You’ll see distant planets, galaxies, and millions of stars lighting up the sky. For an even closer view, take a look through the observatory’s HD telescope — it’s truly a magical way to cap off your vacation.
Spend one final night in Yarmouth, and then it’s time to board The CAT and return to Bar Harbor with enough memories to last a lifetime. Remember, this is only one of the many different ways you can spend a week in Nova Scotia! If you want, you could extend your vacation even further by travelling to PEI aboard MV Confederation or MV Holiday Island. Or maybe check out New Brunswick aboard MV Fundy Rose. No matter how you decide to spend your vacation in the Maritimes, one thing’s for sure — it will be the time of your life.