There are tons of fun things to see and do while you’re in Nova Scotia, which is great when you have a leisurely week or two to spend in Canada’s ocean playground. But sometimes you only have a few days to spare, maybe a long weekend — so what’s the best way to load up your itinerary with interesting things?
How about scheduling affordable Nova Scotia day trips and having a fun-filled maritime blast? Here’s my picks for some really enjoyable day trips.
How to use this information
There are quite a few day trip destinations listed below and probably more than you can visit in three days. Prioritization is the key — which things do you want to see and do the most?
So the day-trip ideas are organized by region so that, once you know which Nova Scotia day trips interest you, you can plan your itinerary to combine destinations that are close to each other.
But remember: it’s not always about how many destinations you can pack into a day — sometimes it’s just about pacing yourself and having a leisurely, enjoyable time.
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Nova Scotia day trips in Halifax Central: close to home
If you’re going to plan Nova Scotia day trips, you need a home base so that you know you can travel to your destination, enjoy your time there, and then drive back for the evening. For this story, we’re going to assume that Halifax is the hub for your Nova Scotia day trips. This has some advantages:
- Halifax is relatively central to the province and there’s lots of day-trip destinations within reach.
- There’s also lots to do IN the city, meaning you can pack one of your days with lots of fun attractions without using up a lot of travel time.
On the downside, some great Nova Scotia areas will be too far away for easy day trips, such as Cape Breton, the northern part of the Highlands, the western part of Northumberland, and even the southern part of the province. Perhaps we’ll cover Nova Scotia day trips in those areas in future posts.
1 – Step back in time to the 18th century at the Halifax Citadel
Halifax has great places to explore for day trips that won’t take a great deal of travel — starting with the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.
The Citadel is a fort that was built by the British in 1749 (and then rebuilt in the 1850s) to protect Halifax and the harbour from invasion by the French. Today, it’s a popular tourist destination with guided tours, a museum and gift shop, a changing of the guard ceremony, cannons firing, and an evening guided ghost tour.
And… if you’re keen to get a taste of life as an 18th-century soldier at the fort, you can book a spot in the soldier for a day program (actually three hours): wear an 18th-century uniform, fire a musket, and take part in a full-scale military exercise. It’s fun and a great way to learn about Nova Scotia’s history.
Other destinations in Halifax include the Titanic Museum, the Alexander Keith’s brewery, the waterfront, and the Halifax Public Gardens.
South Shore: full of exciting and picturesque destinations
The South Shore of Nova Scotia is packed full of exciting and picturesque destinations for Nova Scotia day trips — there’s no shortage of things to enjoy.
2 – The most iconic lighthouse in Nova Scotia is at Peggy’s Cove
The Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, built in 1915, is also known as Peggy’s Point Lighthouse and is likely the most photographed destination in Canada.
There’s a new 14,000 square-foot viewing platform across from the lighthouse which is completely accessible, but you can still walk over the rocks to get up close and personal with the lighthouse — close enough to touch it if you want.
STAY SAFE: if you choose to walk across the rocks (as we did), keep your distance from the crashing waves — they can easily catch you by surprise on the slippy rocks and sweep you off your feet.
The safest way to enjoy the view is to make sure you are walking on dry, white rocks and not on the dark slippy ones. Signs are posted to show you how far to safely walk, so please heed them.
The lighthouse is adjacent to the classic picture-post-card fishing village of Peggy’s Cove. Its exactly what you’d imagine: colourful houses perched on a wave-washed and wind-swept Atlantic coastline. Its still an active fishing community despite being designated as a preservation area.
In the village, the Peggy-of-the-Cove Museum features work by author and photographer Ivan Fraser, and the deGarthe Gallery and Museum focuses on the Finish sculptor William deGarthe who carved a monument to Nova Scotia fishermen into a wall of rock.
If you get hungry, the Sou’Wester Gift & Restaurant is right on the grounds and you can dine in full view of the lighthouse and the ocean and buy those Peggy’s Cove souvenirs for the folks back home.
Learn about other lighthouses along the south shore, some of which may also be suitable for Nova Scotia day trips.
3 – Take a guided sea tour around Oak Island and the Money Pit
Oak Island is known across the globe for its “money pit”, spotlighted on the History Channel’s ‘Curse of Oak Island’ reality TV show which first aired in 2014.
In 2022, the privately-owned island and the guided tours/ interpretive center has been closed to the public because of the discovery of First Nation Mi’kmaq artifacts in the southeast corner of the Island. As a result, officials have restricted search activity and access to the area.
However, Salty Dog Tours continues to run their Oak Island Daily Chartered guided sea tours out and around the islands of Mahone Bay, including Oak Island, which you can add to your list of great Nova Scotia day trips.
4 – There’s a full day of fun and food in Lunenburg — AND the Bluenose II
The colorful, bustling maritime South Shore town of Lunenburg makes for one of the most interesting Nova Scotia day trips.
You’ll enjoy the busy waterfront and pastel-painted 18th- and 19th-century buildings, and (if you catch her in port) you’ll be enamored with the famous Bluenose II schooner — the successor to the original Bluenose that’s pictured on the Canadian dime.
Lunenburg is often noted as one of the most beautiful towns in Canada. In 1995, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its preservation of local culture. While walking around the town, it’s not hard to visualize what it was like 100 years ago (apart from the tourists holding smartphone cameras!)
Family fun includes the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and a horse-and-buggy tour around the town. For the adult set, there’s the Ironworks Distillery, located in a renovated 1893 marine blacksmith’s shop. They produce vodka, gin, rum, and fruit liquors made using locally-grown produce.
There are many excellent restaurants with fresh seafood, including our favorites: The Grand Banker Seafood Bar & Grill, the Smoke Pitt BBQ, and the Bayport Pub. There’s also lots of art galleries and souvenir shops.
If you’re lucky and the Bluenose II schooner is in port (and you’ve booked in advance), you can take a two-hour sail around the harbor or you can be a “deckhand-for-a-day” learning about schooner safety, how to anchor, how to fashion nautical knots, and about the ship’s history. You might even get a turn at the wheel!
Be sure to confirm their schedule as weather can change their plans quickly (call 1-902-640-3177 or check the Bluenose Facebook page).
It’s easy to lose track of time in Lunenburg and enjoy your entire day just taking in the beautiful small-town maritime sights.
Annapolis Valley South: history, gardens, and wineries
The Annapolis Valley is a beautiful and history-filled valley that stretches along the Bay of Fundy on the western side of the province from Yarmouth all the way north to the Minas Basin.
5 – Nature is calling you to scenic Kejimkujik National Park
The Kejimkujik National Park in the Annapolis Valley makes for one of the most fantastic nature-oriented Nova Scotia day trips (not to be confused with the Kejimkujik National Seaside Park at the southern end of the province).
The name comes from the Mi’kmaq word meaning approximately “land where fairies abound.” (The Mi’kmaq are among the original inhabitants of the Atlantic region.)
The park offers stunning views of unspoiled natural forest, lakes, and rivers and offers plenty of outdoor activities. Visitors can hike on one of the 15 hiking trails, paddle down one of the rivers, or even go for a swim in one of its lakes.
It’s home to a variety of flora and fauna, making it a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And, with a little luck you’ll see some interesting animals such as fox, deer, or turtles as you hike along the trails.
So if you are looking for Nova Scotia day trips in nature or an adventure-filled outing, the Kejimkujik National Park is sure to please — the perfect place for a relaxing wonder-filled day.
6 – Learn about 15th-century French settlers and Mi’kmaq culture at Port Royal
The Port Royal National Historic Site is where French settlers established the first permanent European settlement north of Florida in 1605. They called the spot Port-Royal, in recognition of the French king who had granted them a monopoly for the area’s fur trade.
The Mi’kmaq people, who had lived in the region for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived, welcomed the French and the two cultures formed a friendship and an alliance.
The settlement’s early buildings, including the closed-in quadrangle known as the Habitation, were reconstructed and opened to the public in 1941.
You can watch reenactments showing the daily lives of the settlers and how they lived. In the summer, you can learn about Mi’kmaw culture in the wigwam and hear Mi’kmaw songs, tales, and legends.
7 – Day trips to Nova Scotia’s wine country
For those who enjoy the finer things in life, Nova Scotia day trips to wine country is a must.
The picturesque Annapolis Valley (north and south) is home to more than two dozen wineries, producing everything from crisp whites to rich reds. Visitors can tour the vineyards, sample the wines, and learn about Nova Scotia’s unique wine-producing history.
While you’re at the south end of the valley, there’s the Bear River Winery located in the village of Bear River. This is where Nova Scotia’s first vines were planted back in 1611 by French settlers. The winery is in a renovated 1883 barn atop the vineyard and features a tasting bar and wine shop.
Close by, at the Annapolis Highland Vineyards you can sample some of the local vintages. The winery is located in the heart of the Annapolis Valley, surrounded by rolling hills and fields of apples and grapes. Visitors can take a tour of the facility, learning about the wine-making process, or simply enjoy a tasting in the on-site restaurant.
Any one of the Annapolis Valley wineries would be perfect Nova Scotia day trips, and it’s a great way to sample some of the best wines that the province has to offer.
8 – Annapolis Royal and Fort Anne
Nova Scotia has no shortage of charming small towns. Annapolis Royal, once the capital of Nova Scotia, is definitely one of them.
Nestled along the Annapolis River, Annapolis Royal is home to Fort Anne, a National Historic Site. Visitors can explore the fort’s many exhibits and even take part in reenactments when they’re scheduled.
The grounds are situated on the banks of the picturesque Annapolis River and the views are simply breathtaking. Visitors can explore the fort’s well-preserved earthen walls and take a guided tour of the buildings and the grounds.
Picnicking is also a popular pastime at Fort Anne and there are plenty of picnic tables and benches scattered around the park.
There’s also a candlelight graveyard tour in the evening — feeling brave…?
If you’re looking for something to do after exploring the fort, be sure to check out the nearby shops and restaurants including the Annapolis Brewing Company and its award-winning craft beers and ciders right across St. George Street from Fort Anne.
For those interested in Nova Scotia’s rich history, the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens are a must-see. The gardens are located on the site of the former Port Royal Habitation, which was established by French settlers in 1605. Visitors can explore the sprawling gardens and learn about the area’s rich cultural heritage.
Annapolis Valley North: the Bay of Fundy, the Tidal Bore, cider, and more wineries
The north side of the Annapolis Valley has beautiful and rugged coastlines with cliffs and beaches, exciting nature-based destinations, apple orchards and cider distilleries, university towns, and more.
9 – Exciting rafting in the Bay of Fundy tidal bore
Looking for an activity that’s a little out of the ordinary? Consider a tidal bore rafting tour in Shubenacadie.
Shubie River Wranglers or Fundy Tidal Bore Adventures offer rafting trips like no other – rafting over the world-famous tidal bore on the Bay of Fundy, which is created when the incoming tides from the Bay of Fundy rush into the the current of the Shubenacadie River.
Thrill-seekers ride a Zodiac-type boat over the massive waves of the highest tides in the world, something that’s been compared to a roller coaster ride. One minute you’ll enjoy a tranquil float on the calm waters and then suddenly the water is churned into raging rapids.
The best time to go is during Nova Scotia’s “tidal bore season” from late May to early September.
10 – Grand Pre, Wolfville, and Minas Basin
Nova Scotia offers a beautiful landscape and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, but it also has a rich history that is waiting to be explored.
The Grand-Pre National Historic Site is a perfect example. This site commemorates the Acadian deportation, which began in 1755. Visitors can explore the ruins of the village of Grand-Pre, walk along the dykelands, and learn about the culture and history of the Acadian people.
The Statue of Evangeline and the Memorial Church were unveiled in 1920 and 1922 respectively, and connect the story of Evangeline, a fictional Acadian character from the epic poem “Evangeline: A tale of Acadie“, to the history of Grand Pre. The poem, by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is said to be a thinly-veiled historical account of the deportation of Acadians from Nova Scotia.
Not far from Grand Pre is Wolfville, a picturesque university town that has a charming main street and plenty of boutique shops and cafes. Stop by one of the local wineries for a wine tasting, or a restaurant serving up fresh lobster, crab, and shrimp, or get your nature fix by making use of the many hiking and biking trails in the area.
If the wineries are at the top of your bucket list, you can take the day-long Magic Winery Bus tour on a old-style British double-decker bus. There are two Nova Scotia tours to choose from – be sure to book ahead.
The Blomidon Look-Off (aka the Canning Lookoff) is located on top of North Mountain not far from the village of Canning. The lookoff offers panoramic vistas of the farms and apple orchards in the Annapolis Valley below. The region also offers a number of scenic hiking and cycling trails, making it the perfect place to spend a day exploring the local countryside.
Other attractions close by include Blomidon Provincial Park on the shores of Minas Basin where you can hike to the top of Nova Scotia’s highest point, Blomidon Mountain and view the stunning views of the bay.
On the road to (or from) Grand Pre, you can find the Blue Beach Fossil Museum in Hantsport. The museum offers beach tours (between one and two hours) to explore 350-million year old footprint-beds, fossils of fish, plants, and much more. Scientists think that Blue Beach is one place on earth where the first vertebrates (creatures with backbones) left the sea to live on land.
The North Shore, also called the Northumberland region, boasts amazing views of the Bay of Fundy and the tidal bore, great seafood and beaches, and fossil museums.
11 – 350 million years of fossils and dinosaur bones
If Jurassic Park was one of your favourite movies, you’ll love the 350-million year trip waiting for you on the shores of the Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy. There’s two fossil destinations in this region to choose from:
Joggins Fossil Cliffs where 15km (9mi) of shoreline cliffs contain plant and animal fossils covering the past 300 million years. The highest tides in the world wash against these cliffs every day exposing new fossils for visitors to find on the beach below.
The Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro, where you can learn about the geology, fossils, minerals, and the oldest dinosaur skeletons in Canada. With guided beach walks, you trace the footsteps of Canada’s oldest dinosaurs. A dynamic exhibit gallery explains the area’s landscapes during the Triassic and Jurassic periods.
And while you’re in Parrsboro:
- Witness those high tides with some 100 billion tons of water rising and falling twice each day.’
- Take a one-mile hike across Partridge Island, which offers magnificent views of Cape Split, Spencer’s Island, and Cape Blomidon.
- Catch a performance at the Ship’s Company Theatre featuring professional live theatre and a concert series all summer long.
- Learn about research into harnessing tidal energy at the nearby Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE).
12 – At least one of your Nova Scotia day trips has to have seafood
Tatamagouche promises you an easy day trip from Halifax with a bowl of one of the best seafood chowders in Nova Scotia at the end of the journey!
The Chowder House Cafe, known for its seafood chowder, is at the centre of the bustling Main Street along with an award-winning craft brewery, a bustling farmer’s market, handmade chocolates, fresh baked goodies, and bike rentals.
Even though we’re focusing on Nova Scotia day trips, if you decide to stay over in Tatamagouche, check the Train Station Inn, a former railway station with several renovated boxcars and a caboose that you can spend the night in!
12 Nova Scotia day trips to build an exciting vacation on
So there you have it! Twelve exciting Nova Scotia day trips that you won’t want to miss. Nova Scotia has something for everyone, so get out there and explore!