In early September of 2019, we spent five idyllic days in this historic, vibrant fishing town.
Exactly The Kind Of Place We Enjoy
Some of the places we’ve most enjoyed in our travels have been small towns with a rich maritime heritage. Even better is if they’re walkable, photogenic, and have good restaurants featuring local seafood. Big bonus points for cool coffee shops, breweries or distilleries, interesting museums, local artists, and biking opportunities.
Lunenburg has it all, wrapped up in a small, colorful package.
We happened to be in Lunenburg over the 2019 Labor Day/Labour Day weekend. Just like in the States, it’s the last big hurrah of the summer season. But the town was surprisingly—and wonderfully—mellow.
Just 58 miles from our previous stop in Halifax, Lunenburg is tucked into Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Famous for its historic architecture and picturesque waterfront, it’s the best preserved example of a British colonial settlement in North America. For that reason, the town was declared a World Heritage UNESCO site.
Many of the historic buildings in Lunenburg are painted in vivid jelly bean hues, including fire engine red, saffron, lime green, and magenta. These wild colors are authentic Victorian choices, particularly in seaside towns. Apparently, ship captains painted their homes the same color as their ships, which made the ships easier to identify as they sailed into their home port.
We loved staying at the little campground run by the Lunenburg Board of Trade. It’s perched high on a hill, and just a five-minute walk to town (or longer, depending on how many homes you stop to admire along the way).
We strolled down the steep hill every morning, with our first stop at Laughing Whale Coffee Roasters for very good coffee. We then spent our days wandering and exploring (including perusing menus for meals out). In our travels, we love culinary adventures. We have been stuck at home with our own cooking for a VERY long time now.
For larger images, click on photos
Lunenburg has a handful of excellent restaurants, with seafood as the star attraction. Our meals at the Beach Pea Kitchen and the Salt Shaker Deli were fantastic. They really know how to do seafood right in the Maritimes. And they know how to plate it, too! Why do my attempts at plating never look this good? I need to practice. I’ll add it to my pandemic hobby list.
In our town meanderings, we stopped by Ironworks Distillery to check out the offerings. Housed in an 1893 marine blacksmith’s shop, their delicious spirits are crafted from local fruits and herbs. We came away with an excellent gin (infused with local juniper berries and balsam fir tips) and an apple brandy. We’ve been a bit wary of buying brandy since our experience in Kentucky a couple of years ago, where we bought a bottle of brandy that we thought was delicious at the tasting, but almost set our hair on fire when we tried drinking it at home. This one stayed smooth and delicious. Too delicious, in fact. It was gone in two weeks. We should have bought more.
In writing this post and adding links, I’m happy to see that all of these businesses have survived the trying times of the pandemic.
The Fisheries Museum Of The Atlantic
For a deeper dive into the connection that Lunenburg has to the sea, we spent several hours at the small but excellent Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The exhibits are well done, and the interpreters provide entertaining insights into maritime life. Did you know that a lobster can live at least 100 years and never stops growing? The largest lobster ever caught came from Nova Scotia, and was 3.5 feet long and weighed 44 pounds. That would take a big cooking pot.
Biking To Mahone Bay
Mahone Bay is a pretty little village not far from Lunenburg. We biked the Bay to Bay Trail, a 6.7 mile trail that winds through woodlands to the center of Mahone Bay. Lunch at Rebecca’s and afternoon coffee at The Barn Coffee and Social House made for a fun day of adventure.
Best of all were the sculptures along the forested part of the trail. The Riverbank Habitat Sculpture Project was created as a living public art installation designed as a safe place for small critters to rest and store food. The forms were inspired by the stacked firewood seen throughout the countryside. Eventually, the sculptures will break down and return to the earth.
Blue Rocks: An Authentic Fishing Village?
I had heard that Blue Rocks is an authentic fishing village, so I wanted to visit. In my opinion, it does not look like a working fishing village. If you want to see a true, unpolished working fishing town, come to Eastpoint, Florida, where we are now living. I’ll write more about that sometime.
However, Blue Rocks is lovely, with blue slate rocks that edge the ocean and picturesque fishing cottages. It’s about a 10-minute drive from Lunenburg.
Loves your travels….& pictures….
PS: Great retired lifestyle!
What a lovely little village! Nova Scotia has never been on my travel to-do list, but I may have to rethink that. I would want to visit when it’s warm, though, so September looks perfect (judging by the blue skies and short sleeves in your pictures).
Janis, our entire trip to the Maritimes was one of the highlights of our travels. We were there from July to mid-September, and the weather was gorgeous! Of all the Maritime provinces, Nova Scotia was our favorite.
We miss the culinary part of travel also. What an interesting place on the edge of the world.
Deb, we’re looking forward to visiting restaurants and breweries again one of these days, hopefully before too much longer. But we’ll still opt for outdoor dining!
Thanks for taking me back to one of our favorite towns. Lunenburg is just too perfect to be real. Love all your photos of the colorful buildings, pretty maritime scenery, and delicious looking food/fun cafes. And what an enormous benefit to RVers to have that campground located so close to the downtown. It must have made the booze tasting that much more fun!
I also love the living art project! I wish I had known about that before we got there. See? This is why I need you to go places first to plan our trips for us. Otherwise, we miss all kinds of good stuff. Anyway, it’s fun to discover these one-of-a-kind projects in these beautiful locations.
I’m glad you guys enjoyed your visit. It really is your kind of place!
Laura, we really enjoyed staying in the campground and walking to town. I remember asking you if you thought five days was too long to visit Lunenburg, and you said we would find plenty to do. You were right! It was the perfect balance of interesting things to do and just wandering around, which we love. I want to go back to the Maritimes…
I have my phone propped in the bedroom window in order to get WiFi and read your new post. Hooray for travel posts! It sure looks pretty — and tasty — up there. I’m glad you checked and were able to report that all those places hung on during the pandemic. That’s been something on our minds, too, as we plan new adventures. I can see why you want to go back — it sure looks like it had all your favorite things!
Joodie, I was very happy to find that all of the places that we enjoyed so much in Lunenburg have survived the challenges of the pandemic. Hopefully, things will soon begin to open up and we can resume something of a normal life. You know how we enjoy our cultural and epicurean indulgences, LOL!! Many more travel posts to come…I want to write about all of our adventures before we get back to more travels!
O Canada! How I pine for the Maritimes. We never had enough time in Nova Scotia, except for Kejimkujuk NP, and I’m fully expecting a blog post about it from you at some point. But those sweet little villages require TIME. Oh…and also letting us cross that damn border.
Gretchen, we loved the Maritimes, too. Even though we were there for more than two months, we could easily have stayed longer. We spent only part of a day in Kejimkujuk NP and were wishing we had stayed there for a few days. It’s on our next time list!
Sigh….so perfect. I look forward to those days again, eating in restaurants, talking with strangers, entering small shops confidently, seeing new and different places. Soon, I hope.
We’re hoping better days are right around the corner, Sue. All of those small things we took for granted…it will be such a joy to have them returned to us!
Such a lovely treat to visit this quaint village with you. Everything about it looks and sounds perfect. What a beautiful site you had as well! Love the art pieces in the woods. I’m so hoping our travels this summer will return us to many of these things we enjoy. Definitely looking forward to seafood on the coast!!
Jodee, we had a great site in the campground. The sites were close together but for most of the time, there was no one next to us and we had a wonderful view. Plus, the location is ideal for walking to town. Enjoy your summer travels on the west coast and have some Dungeness crab for us!
Well, that settles it…
We’ve been thinking about next summer’s RV trip and talked a lot about Maine and Nova Scotia. After reading this post, the deal is sealed. We owe you a bottle of brandy for the gentle nudge. Hope all is well. Stay cool down there! Joe
Joe, you and Helen will love visiting Nova Scotia! And Maine, of course. I have more posts coming up about our travels in the Maritimes and Maine. We would go back anytime. So far, spring has been glorious here in Florida…cool days, nice breezes, and sunshine! But we know what’s coming, haha. Hope you guys are having good weather, too.
Oh, it’s been too long reading your missives…we also enjoyed Mahone Bay, cool little town tucked around the water. Reflections of 7 church steeples just made me smile…. OH for the open road again…we are with you….
Julie, Mahone Bay was lovely! I wish we had gotten a better photo of the churches reflected in the bay, but the light wasn’t right when we were there. But the biking was fun. Writing the blog keeps the fires stoked for future adventures. :-)
Lunenburg looks like my kind of place, especially if it’s within walking distance of the campground. Oh, how I am so ready to get back on the road again! We have another Southern California trip coming up in June, and we’ll hit some of our favorite spots on our way back north, but no trips to Canada. :(
Hope it isn’t getting to hot and humid in Florida. We’re still just barely in the 50s!
Les, we’re having gorgeous weather here! The daytime temps have been in the 60s-low 70s with low humidity, plenty of sunshine, and wonderful breezes. Of course, we know hell is on the way, LOL. But we’re sure enjoying it now. Your upcoming travels sound great!
Thank you for the lovely stroll through charming Lunenburg. That large white three story wooden building is very impressive and extraordinary that it is still standing, and in such apparent beautiful condition. Clever of you to start the walk at the coffee shop, that is exactly what Ben would want to do.
Nice to read that the town’s businesses have not been shut down to the point of no return as a result of the pandemic. No doubt some brighter days ahead for the town. Love the colors of course!!
Peta, I also thought that it is extraordinary that the academy is still standing. So many wooden homes and buildings in Lunenburg have survived for 200 years or more! It’s a very sweet town, with a lot to offer—including that wonderful coffee shop. I was very glad to find that the businesses have survived this terrible year.
I love the photos and the chance to learn more about Canadian history and geography. (I had to Google Lunenburg to figure out where it is!) But my favorite things about this post is the curt dismissal of Blue Rocks. I think travel posts are made more interesting and more useful when writers mention the things they didn’t like along with all the fun/amazing/wonderful things. Nova Scotia is definitely going be a future destination for us, whenever we are able to travel again, and your posts will guide our way!
Haha, I’m so glad you appreciate ‘truth in posting,’ Shannon! I also appreciate real information in travel posts, not just glorified travelogues where everything is fantastically wonderful. Of course, in our travels, we’ve found that the majority of things we do really are wonderful. But some things are hyped that aren’t worth the effort, and there are other hidden gems that are worth searching out. Blue Rocks wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I think of as an ‘authentic fishing village.’ You know exactly what I mean about Eastpoint and Apalachicola!
What a gorgeous area and a sweet place to explore. The wooden sculptures along your bike ride are so neat, reminds me of Andrew Goldsworthy’s work.
I always felt that Hans and I do not eat out very often, but after a year of not eating out I cannot wait to do so! Fortunately almost as soon as we have our second shot and wait the obligatory two weeks, we will head to San Diego…where there are a lot of outdoor dining options!
Lisa, I had the exact same thought about the wood sculptures along the bike path. They were beautiful, and exactly like something Andy Goldsworthy would create!
Although we mostly prefer to eat at home, too, we always enjoyed our culinary adventures in our travels. We’ve been stuck with our own cooking for a very long time now, haha. So great to hear that you have your vaccines and will soon be making a trip to San Diego. We have great memories of many terrific meals there!
What a great post! You just make me wish I were there. The view from your campsite is amazing and that you walk to town is a big bonus in my mind. I love a campground where I can do things I love without driving anywhere. Biking to another village is also very cool. That one looks especially great. I wonder why we’re so much more conservative with our house colors here in this country. Those bright colors in Lunenburg look outstanding.
Sherry, staying in a campground within walking distance to such a sweet town is our idea of a perfect location. Or we’re also happy being out in the middle of nowhere, as long as it’s a beautiful location. The bright colors in Lunenburg are really fun! We have some houses here on St. George Island painted in wild colors, too. Our neighbors in Oregon would have a fit if we painted our house one of those colors, LOL.
Lunenburg sounds like our kind of place. In addition to all you listed, on a calm sunny day, it would have reflections. Interesting tidbit about boats and houses being painted the same color. So, another place to add to our “visit” list for when Canada opens up.
Erin, I’m sure you and Mui would enjoy all that Lunenburg has to offer, and you would love how photogenic it is! As you said, the reflections in the water are beautiful on a calm day. One of these days things will open up again…
I would not mind going back to Lunenburg and this time take a kayak or a boat ride across. That way I can take a postcard pic of the most colorful and bold coastal town we had been.
Thanks for taking me back there, although it is now just a memory for both of us since this was a visit two years ago:)
ML, those are good memories, aren’t they? We loved all of our Maritime adventures, and would happily return for more time there. And yes, next time in Lunenburg, a sailing trip would be a great way to enjoy the colorful harbor.