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Touring Nova Scotia

Virginia loves visiting new places and sharing them in travel articles here.

The Many Faces of Nova Scotia

The dramatic coastline of the Cabot Trail, the northernmost part of Nova Scotia.

The dramatic coastline of the Cabot Trail, the northernmost part of Nova Scotia.

Take a Trip to Beautiful Nova Scotia

Recently, I returned to Nova Scotia, which I'd visited once 30 years earlier. Again, the beauty of the scenery, the in-depth history, the wonderful seafood, and the friendliness of the people made it a delightful trip.

On the previous trip, I traveled with my sister. This time, my husband and I were the travelers. My sister let me know that she was extremely jealous of my trip. She would have loved seeing Nova Scotia again.

I'll share here my photos from the most recent trip and tell you what I saw. There's so much to see that we couldn't get to everything, so I'll have to go back another time and catch the places I missed.

Our Route to and From Nova Scotia

We started out from New Hampshire, drove north through Maine to catch the ferry from St. John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia. We kept hoping the ferry in Bar Harbor, Maine, would resume but it was out of commission for the summer of 2019. That would have taken us to Yarmouth, NS.

At the end of our NS touring, we took the ferry from near Pictou, NS, over to Woods Island, PEI.

There are other ways to get to NS, but the ferry saved a lot of miles of driving and was an enjoyable mini-cruise. You can dine onboard, relax in the lounges and watch the water through the windows. There was even live music on one; a fiddler played traditional Cape Breton tunes. It was quite a treat to hear.

Order the Seafood Every Chance You Get

You don't go to Nova Scotia to eat at McDonald's (though they have those there too). There are plenty of seafood restaurants where you'll find fresh-from-the-boat lobster, scallops, salmon, crab legs, haddock, etc.

The ferry arrived in Digby around 5 pm, so we hastened to Water Street where the restaurants were clustered along the harbor. On the advice of friends who were there last year, we ordered the seafood chowder at the Shoreline Restaurant. Then we shared a scallop platter. Too much food, but we indulged ourselves. There are other great seafood places there as well (The Crow's Nest, The Wheelhouse, or Dockside Restaurant).

Our Route Around Nova Scotia

The traffic is light almost everywhere you go, so driving was a pleasure compared to the crowded roads in the U.S. Be prepared for roundabouts. They use them a lot for intersections and even on off-ramps for limited access highways.

Here are our key stops along the way. Some of these are just via points, not sightseeing or overnight stops.

  • Digby
  • Annapolis Royale
  • Port Royale
  • Grand Pre
  • Windsor
  • Bedford
  • Truro
  • New Glasgow
  • Louisbourg

Annapolis Royal Is Steeped in Acadian History

Read the plaques along the boardwalk for the history of the Acadians at Annapolis Royal. Here's my husband next to a plaque about his 6th great-grandfather.

Read the plaques along the boardwalk for the history of the Acadians at Annapolis Royal. Here's my husband next to a plaque about his 6th great-grandfather.

Walking Tour of Annapolis Royal

We parked in a municipal lot adjacent to Lower St. George Street. You can stroll along seeing the shops and historic houses (the 1890 Old Post Office, the 1747 Adams-Ritchie House, the 1921 King's Theatre, the 1710 Sinclair Inn Museum, and more). There's a boardwalk along the Annapolis River that takes you down to the Town Hall.

Keep going to get to Fort Anne which has its own walking trail. It's an old star fort. A little further takes you to the Garrison Graveyard with graves from 1632 to 1755. You might want to drive to the historic gardens on Upper St. George Street.

Fort Anne

Part of Fort Anne at Annapolis Royal. There's an admission price to see inside exhibits, but it's free to walk around the grounds seeing other parts of the fort.

Part of Fort Anne at Annapolis Royal. There's an admission price to see inside exhibits, but it's free to walk around the grounds seeing other parts of the fort.

Cross the River to Port-Royal

Across the Annapolis River (follow Granville Road), you'll find one of the earliest European settlements in North America, the Port-Royal Habitation. This 17th-century French compound is a reconstruction of this settlement which was burned in 1613 by an English expedition from Virginia. The Mi'kmaq natives helped the French inhabitants to survive that winter after the loss of their buildings and supplies.

More Acadian History at Grand Pre

This is north of Annapolis Royal and Port Royal. It's a World Heritage Site due to the significant events that happened there. In the 1750s, the British rounded up the Acadian families who had lived there for generations. They deported them and burned their houses so they would not return. The Acadians had tried to remain neutral in the war between France and England, but the British did not trust them because they were French-speaking people.

Some were sent on long sea journeys to France, but others were sent in ships to the British colonies such as Maryland. Crammed in poor conditions in the holds of the ships, many became ill and died on the journey. Several ships sank with all aboard being drowned.

Some Acadians escaped the round-up and hid out in the forests in northern Nova Scotia. My husband's ancestor managed to get to New Brunswick where he started a new life.

Do You Have Acadian Ancestors?

From Grand Pre to Fort Louisbourg

We drove the next day leaving Grand Pre and heading to Fort Louisbourg. We bypassed Halifax, as on this trip we were concentrating on Acadian history.

Set Aside at Least Half a Day for Seeing Fort Louisbourg

You'll see barracks, powder magazine, a bakery, stables, homes, the governor's mansion, storehouses, a forge, and all the necessary buildings for a large outpost in a new land.

They have a number of activities by costumed performers that enhance the visit. One tells about the life of a soldier and demonstrates the firing of a musket. In the afternoon, there's an artillery demonstration with fife and drum. I recommend viewing that from the upper level for the best view. Have your camera in hand and ready so you can capture the firing of the cannon which gives an impressive boom and a big puff of smoke.

More Places Along Our Route

  • Sydney
  • Neil's Harbor
  • Cheticamp
  • Judique
  • Antigonish
  • New Glasgow
  • Pictou

We Had Seafood on the Upper Deck of the Governor's Restaurant in Sydney

My husband had their mammoth lobster roll.I had the lobster won tons, which seemed a creative use of lobster.

My husband had their mammoth lobster roll.I had the lobster won tons, which seemed a creative use of lobster.

The view of the water from the upper deck.

The view of the water from the upper deck.

Allow a Full Day for Driving the Cabot Trail

This allows for stops to take photos along the way at the scenic overlooks. The road is winding, so you can't go really fast. There are interesting craft shops along the way. You'll need more time if you plan to take some of the hikes.

Driving the Cabot Trail Around Cape Breton

Be sure you have a full gas tank before starting out. The services are few on the route. Get an early start, as you don't want to be driving the roads after dark and miss all the scenery.

Stop at the visitor's center as you enter the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. They have bathrooms, brochures, and nice souvenirs like sweatshirts, postcards, etc.

We stopped at various overlooks to photograph the scenic coastline. Neil's Harbor makes a good stop too to see the fishing boats, a small lighthouse, and we ate our picnic lunch there.

Further on, we spotted a sign for a boardwalk that takes you through a bog. It was quite interesting to see the unusual plants there and to take a break from riding in the car.

There aren't many places to stay along the Cabot Trail, so plan on completing it in one day. There are some B and B's and a few small inns.

Scenes Along the Cabot Trail

Neil's Harbor

Neil's Harbor

An informative sign along the bog boardwalk.

An informative sign along the bog boardwalk.

Taking the Bog Walk

This is a short walk in a very open area. To protect the sensitive environment, they have a boardwalk to it is level and dry for easy walking.

Along the way are informative signs explaining about the unique plants you are seeing. We were quite lucky that a local resident was showing it to his visitors and pointing out the plants. We tagged along and picked up some information from him that we might have overlooked on our own.

Are You Planning a Trip to Nova Scotia?

We Stopped at Cheticamp on August 15 for Acadian Day

Cheticamp is a center for Acadian culture in the area. There were festivities throughout the town. We ate excellent seafood at Le Gabriel restaurant and listened to Cape Breton fiddle music. People danced and had a good time.

There are quite a few hotels there and bed and breakfasts, but we were lucky to get a room for the night. It was peak summer travel season and many places were full. We weren't sure how far we would travel each day and did not book ahead. This gave us flexibility in making stops but did cause anxiety when we saw lots of No Vacancy signs.

We stayed at the Auberge Doucet, an inn that served a great free breakfast cooked just for you. I chose scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, potatoes, and juice.

The inn was an old house on the hill with a view of the sea. The subtle gray walls were soothing, and the furniture provided plenty of surface space for opening up our suitcases, a table adequate for 2 people to use their laptops, and counter space in the bathroom. These aren't always available in B&B style lodging so we were lucky to find this.

Do stop at Les Trois Pignons, a cultural center/gallery in Cheticamp. On their wall, you'll see exquisite tapestries of Acadian history made in the traditional rug hooking methods that the area is noted for. They also have some rooms of historical information on the area.

The hosts helped us find our lodging for the night and even made a phone call to be sure they still had a room.

Don't Miss Les Trois Pignons in Cheticamp

After Cape Breton

As we continued down Highway 19 along the coast, we stopped at a beach to take photos. There were pebbles of all sizes and variations. I picked up a few to match with the brochure that I'd found at the National Park visitor's center. They will provide accents in my flower beds to remind me of our trip.

We hit Judique right at lunchtime which made a perfect stop for the free noontime concert at the music center. The fiddler played Cape Breton tunes and explained the background of that style of music which contains Irish, Scottish, and Acadian influences.

The Next Day, We Took the Ferry to Prince Edward Island

We didn't have time to see Halifax or to explore the southern end of Nova Scotia. We'll have to see those on another trip. Probably, we should have left PEI for another trip and just spent 10 days or two weeks in Nova Scotia.

We concentrated on just one aspect of their history on this trip, but there is so much more to see even if you aren't a history buff.

It's a delightful place to visit with terrific scenery and all that yummy seafood.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Virginia Allain

I Hope You Enjoyed Our Travels

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 13, 2019:

Jo Miller - Be sure to check ahead of time that the ferry from Bar Harbor is back operating. It was not available the summer of 2019 due to work being done on the harbor.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on September 13, 2019:

We were in Bar Harbor a few years back and thought about taking that ferry over. Have always regretted we didn't so may need to do another trip. I'd really like to go to Nova Scotia.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 11, 2019:

Yes, it sounds like you do indeed need to put it on your priority travel list. We missed a lot as we really needed more travel days to see everything.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on September 11, 2019:

Wow, a gorgeous collection of photos! My husband's family is from Nova Scotia. I've been all over Canada, lived in multiple places, my family has been to Nova Scotia, one of my sons as well, and yet I haven't been there! Told hubby not too long ago, that we're doing holidays in Eastern Canada next. Such a beautiful place.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 10, 2019:

I'm encouraging all my friends to go there next summer. Nova Scotia is really a special place.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 09, 2019:

I enjoyed reading this article very much. Your photos are lovely and the information is very interesting. It's sounds like you had a wonderful trip.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 08, 2019:

Looks beautiful. Will have to plan a visit someday. The seafood looks amazing.

Lorna Lamon on September 08, 2019:

Such a detailed and interesting article with a lovely collection of photos. There is certainly lots to see and do in this beautiful place which is definitely worth a visit. Thank you for sharing.

Liz Westwood from UK on September 08, 2019:

This is a great account of your trip. Your photos are top class and the information you give from your experience is very useful for anyone planning a visit to Nova Scotia. It's good to hear that there are still places where traffic is light.