Road trips are a quintessential family summer vacation. Each year, families hit the open road, an agenda of activities and adventures in hand, and a multitude of destinations loaded into their GPS. That includes our family! We enjoy the experiences, the open road, the changing venues as we wind our way through our road trip destinations. So where did this particular road trip take us? The Canadian province of Nova Scotia!
Why Nova Scotia? Why not! It has all the makings for a fabulous road trip experience. With its historic villages and fortresses, jaw-dropping vistas and a plethora of outdoor, beachfront and whale-watching adventures, Nova Scotia has action the entire family will enjoy. Come along for the ride and see for yourself! Check out highlights of our own Nova Scotia family road trip.
Waterfronts-n-Museums in Halifax
The first stop on our Nova Scotia road trip is Halifax. This historic harborfront town is the perfect launch point for any Nova Scotia vacation, and it’s waterfront boardwalk is the place to be! Spend the day wandering the boardwalk, soaking in all this port town has to offer. Check out the tall ships gracing the nearby marina. Meander through its eclectic shops and galleries in search of just the right souvenir.
Learn about Nova Scotia’s seafaring history at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Stop for lunch on the boardwalk, enjoying local fare like poutine, a decidedly Canadian concoction of french fries and cheese curds covered in gravy. Head down to Fisherman’s Cove and a 200 year old restored fishing village. Savor the flavors at Alexander Keith’s original 1820 brewery.
Walk up Citadel Hill to the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, where the fortress keeps watch over the surrounding harbor much as it has since the British built it many years ago. Witness live armament demonstrations and re-enactments, where the 78th Highlanders and Royal Artillery sport the same uniforms as was worn in the mid-1800’s.
Wild-n-Rugged in North Cape Breton Island
Yes, there is plenty of action to keep a family busy in Halifax. But it’s time to move this family road trip along to our next destination, northern Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton Island is home to some of the world’s most spectacular coastal scenery, much of which is unmarred by modern development. No wonder it’s so popular with Nova Scotia vacationers!
Cape Breton Island is a fabulous nature-loving family vacation destination. But you’ll need more than a day or two to full appreciate all this incredible outdoor adventureland has to offer. From easy peasy hikes to adventurous biking tours, coastal beaches and Atlantic Ocean whale watching, there’s something for everyone to enjoy each day on Cape Breton Island.
Wind through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where dazzling dramatic coastal views are spread out before you. Experience the famed Cabot Trail, with coastal hikes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and bog trails with reconstructed crofter’s homes. Cape Breton Highlands National Park is simply stunning, and The Cabot Trail is one of National Geographic’s Top 50 Drives Of Lifetime. Both are experiences not to be missed when in Nova Scotia.
So much to see and do in Cape Breton! Our five days here were filled with dramatic coastal drives, adventurous hikes, coastal bike rides, ocean kayaking, Atlantic Ocean beach combing and whale watching. Lots of adventures to be packed into five days, but we did it! Read more about our Cape Breton adventures at 7 Family Favorite Moments on Cape Breton Island.
Military History-n-Hiking in Fort Louisbourg
Next up on this family road trip adventure is historic Fort Louisbourg, along Cape Breton Island’s eastern shores. Witness first hand how this restored 1744 French fortress grew from a tiny fishing port into one of the most extensive European forts built in North America. This place is simply fabulous, and well worth spending two days here.
Today, Fortress Louisbourg is again a vibrant, thriving 1744 community. Explore 18th century life in a remote military outpost, where soldiers co-mingled with fishermen, merchants bartered with sailors, and families came to raise their children. Experience nearly 300 year old history come alive right before your eyes at Fort Louisbourg!
See how a merchant’s family may have lived. Watch a blacksmith practice his trade in an authentically restored smithy. Witness a woodworker building a new fishing boat, a baker pounding bread dough, or a knife maker creating a new blade. Explore the armory, and watch soldiers practice their drills. All in an 18th century day’s life in Fort Louisbourg.
When you’ve had your fill of history, head out for a hike along one of Fort Louisbourg National Historic Site’s several hiking trails. Imagine again the lives of those 18th century settlers who once called this rough and rugged stretch of coastline home. It’s a perfect ending to a Fort Louisbourg experience! Read more about our time here at Frozen In Time – A Day at Fort Louisbourg.
Maritime History-n-Hiking in Lunenburg
Today we are off to picturesque Old Town Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located about an hour southwest of Halifax, it’s an easy day trip for visitors based in Halifax, and is our last destination on this adventure-seeking Nova Scotia family road trip.
Old Town Lunenburg was established in 1753 as a planned British colonial settlement, and has retained much of it’s original character from that time. Many of the original 18th century waterfront buildings have been preserved, providing a colorful backdrop for the nearby harbor. Explore the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, complete with aquarium and wharf-side sailing ships open for exploration, for an in-depth experience of this historic fishing port.
Seafood is on the menu in Lunenburg, and the Old Fish Factory Restaurant above the museum is the place to eat! After lunch, work off your meal with a hike. There’s plenty of hiking opportunities just outside Lunenburg, providing one last adventure before heading home. Not sure where to go? Just ask a local! You might discover an off-the-beaten path through a dense copse of trees that eventually leads to a trail that skirts the Atlantic Ocean shoreline!
Overview of A Nova Scotia Road Trip
Perhaps the most challenging component of planning a Nova Scotia road trip is simply choosing what to do! With so many shores to explore, so many off-the-beaten paths to hike, so much history and culture to experience, it’s a challenge to experience all Nova Scotia has to offer in a typical family vacation timeline.
The key to a successful road trip is logistics, and planning a Nova Scotia road trip is no exception. Here’s an overview of our Nova Scotia road trip to help jumpstart your own Nova Scotia vacation plan. Note: We flew into Halifax and rented a car for this adventure.
Days 1-2: Explore Halifax.
Day 3: Drive to Cape Breton Island. Stop at Arisiag Provincial Park enroute.
Days 4-7: Hike, bike, kayak, whale adventures in northern Cape Breton Island.
Day 8: Say good-bye to Cape Breton. Drive to Fort Louisbourg.
Day 9: Experience Fort Louisbourg. Hike a nearby trail.
Day 10: Drive to Halifax via Five Islands Provincial Park.
Day 11: Meander around Old Town Lunenburg. Hike a nearby trail.
Day 12: Depart for home!
Want more ideas for planning your own Nova Scotia vacation? Check out Nova Scotia’s Top 25 Attractions, and you’ll see just how much there is to do in this fabulous corner of Canada.
As with any vacation with limited time to explore, we were not able to experience all that Nova Scotia has to offer. Our twelve days here were focused on Halifax and Cape Breton Island. Our limited time meant forgoing the Bay of Fundy as well as southern Nova Scotia. Though we did have a brief low-tide experience of The Bay of Fundy via Five Islands Provincial Park on our way back to Halifax!
Have You Been to Nova Scotia?
No matter your age or fitness level, outdoor adventurer, history buff or both, Nova Scotia offers something for everyone to enjoy. Our favorite moment in Nova Scotia? Well, it’s hard to choose just one! Each day brought a plethora of different experiences and good family fun. Though our hike to Money Point and our day at Fort Louisburg are perhaps our most favorite moments of our time spent exploring Nova Scotia.
Have you been to Nova Scotia? Where did you go? What was your favorite experience? Would you go back for more adventure? Do share!
All images by C.Biederman