Picking up where we left off on Prince Edward Island, our next stop was Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia. It’s a delightful small maritime city with all of the things we enjoy when we’re in city adventure mode. Along with lots of interesting attractions and a terrific local restaurant scene, it’s a wonderful town to explore on foot.
We liked it so much, we stayed for a week in late August. (Just to be clear, that was August 2019…we’re traveling only in our memories right now.)
On The Way To Halifax: Five Islands Provincial Park
On the way to Halifax from our adventures on Prince Edward Island, we stopped for a couple of restful nights at Five Islands Provincial Park. Here, 300-foot sea cliffs overlook the Bay of Fundy, home of the highest tides in the world.
At low tide, it looks as though someone pulled the plug on the basin, and the tide retreats as much as three miles. It’s fun walking on the seabed—but you definitely want to keep an eye on the tide and get the heck out of there before it comes charging back in.
We loved our campsite that looked over the bay. Or mudflats, depending on the time of day.
Click on any photo for a larger version
A Week In Halifax
Less than a two-hour drive across Nova Scotia brought us to Halifax. Shubie Campground is perfectly located for exploring Halifax, which is a good thing, considering that it’s the only game in town. It gets bonus points for having a network of beautiful walking and biking trails in next-door Shubie Park.
Judging from the photos on their website, I suspect this campground is insanely busy during the height of summer. It’s the kind of place we ordinarily avoid like the plague. Sure enough, shortly after we pulled in on Friday, two SUV’s with a dozen little kids arrived, set up tents a few feet away from our rig, and built a roaring bonfire.
Me to Eric: “Nooooooo!” I started plotting an escape. Eric to me: “We just got here. I am not hitching up and leaving.” Which made sense, given that we had nowhere to go. (It’s a good thing one of us can be a reasonable person when the other is not.)
Come Sunday, the park cleared out. And we were having so much fun in Halifax that we extended our stay from four nights to a week.
Exploring The Halifax Waterfront
The most interesting things to do in Halifax are concentrated around the downtown area, which includes a scenic 2.5-mile waterfront boardwalk. It’s a vibrant place day and night, with art, music, and great cafés and restaurants. We walked the boardwalk several times during our week in Halifax, enjoying all that the city has to offer. People really seem to enjoy living here. I can see why.
The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market is at the south end of the waterfront. Established in 1750, it’s the oldest farmers’ market in North America. We found local produce, eggs, seafood, and even beer from our favorite Nova Scotia brewery we discovered while on Cape Breton Island.
The Maritime Museum Of The Atlantic
One of the big attractions in Halifax is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the oldest and largest maritime museum in Canada.
Of all of the memorabilia relating to Atlantic Canada’s many nautical activities, the display of items from the Titanic is what brings most people here. Halifax—700 nautical miles away—was the closest major port to the sinking ship, and cable ships, accustomed to the dangerous seas, were dispatched on a search and rescue mission.
The museum houses an extensive exhibit of artifacts from the doomed ship, including an original teak and rattan deck chair preserved behind glass and a replica that you can sit on. Along with the deck chair, there’s a collection of wreckwood mementos created from fragments of the Titanic and kept by the families of mariners who were involved in the recovery efforts.
With a prime location high on a hill overlooking the harbor, the British established their military fortification here in 1749, and the town of Halifax grew up around it. The Citadel is a lively place, with tours, cannon firings, and reenactors in traditional dress uniforms. Kilts are popular in Nova Scotia, which makes sense, given that it was established as New Scotland. Those fancy horse hair pouches they wear? Traditional kilts don’t have pockets.
Art Gallery Of Nova Scotia
Intrigued by the large folk art painting we discovered on the waterfront, we visited the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where we enjoyed more of the colorful work of Maud Lewis. Stricken with crippling juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, she had no formal art training and lived most of her life in poverty. Because canvas was too expensive, she painted on anything she could find, including almost every surface of her tiny house—walls, doors, bread bins, dustpans.
In her later years, Maud became one of Canada’s most beloved and well-known folk artists. The museum has a wonderful collection of her art, including her tiny house, which was moved to the museum in its entirety. It reminded me of the “Little Room” of artist Walter Anderson in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, one of our favorite artists that we’ve discovered in our travels.
Halifax Public Gardens
A short walk from the downtown area is the lovely Halifax Public Gardens. Established in 1867, the 16 acres of gardens are a green oasis in the middle of the city and are a unique example of Victorian gardens. It’s very formal, and very constrained, as were the Victorians. No out-of-control flower beds here. But the eclectic and accepting spirit of Halifax comes through—check out the Pride Flag flower garden below.
The food in Halifax is fabulous. Everything, everywhere. A delicious lunch outdoors overlooking the harbor at The Bicycle Thief; an excellent seafood chowder, kale salad, and local beer at Two Doors Down; and breakfast at a cozy little neighborhood cafe gave us a good taste of what the city has to offer.
We enjoyed the atmosphere and breakfast at the Dilly Dally Cafe so much that we ate there twice. I love little cafes with mismatched china. Especially if they also serve amazing avocado toast with perfectly ripe avocados, crisp bacon, and excellent gluten-free bread.
A Day Trip To Peggy’s Cove
Everyone told us that we must go to Peggy’s Cove. The lighthouse there is one of the most photographed spots in all of Canada, which means there are people crawling all over it, all of the time. It’s pretty, and it’s busy.
Don’t tell anyone, but Polly’s Cove, right next door, is much more beautiful (at least, to our way of thinking). There’s no lighthouse, but there are also no people, and the 2.5-mile loop coastline trail is spectacular. We enjoyed a peaceful hike there and then drove a mile to Peggy’s Cove to take our obligatory photo of the lighthouse (which is not a great photo because we weren’t there at the right time for good light). But there are picturesque colorful wooden shacks and dinghies at Peggy’s Cove, and we enjoyed photographing those.