Though Nova Scotia is a land tied intrinsically to boating and the sea, the best way to see it today is by car. The province is divided into six tourist areas: Fundy Shore and Annapolis Valley, Northumberland Shore, Cape Breton Island, Eastern Shore, South Shore, and Yarmouth and Acadian Shores.
The provincial government's Web site includes interactive software that lets you plan your route easily. With 11 scenic driving routes, it is easy to investigate everything from Halifax (the capital) to historic forts, superb parks and nature reserves.
The scenic drives are at their best when they take you along the province's ever-changing coast—you'll see working ports, beaches, nautical museums and replicas of historic vessels.
Although there are plenty of activities to discover along the way, you may find that your favorite thing to do is simply drive and look: This is a startlingly beautiful land, full of lush fields, green mountains, ocean vistas and magnificent, rocky shores.
Nova Scotia appeals to travelers who appreciate rugged seaside scenery and small towns. Those who don't have a great interest in the outdoors or who don't like occasional cool, foggy weather will find the province less to their liking. The Halifax Regional Municipality offers those who enjoy cities a vibrant atmosphere, world-class theater, music and sporting events, excellent restaurants and a downtown suitable for walking.
Nova Scotia is located at the far southeast edge of Canada, separated from the American state of Maine by the Bay of Fundy. Glancing at a map you might think it's an island, but the province is actually a peninsula, connected to the province of New Brunswick by the 17-mile wide Isthmus of Chignecto. To the north are Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and to the east is the Atlantic Ocean.
The terrain ranges from rolling hills and mountains to fairly level farmland. There are excellent beaches, rugged coastlines, lakes, rivers and forests. No spot is more than 35 mikes from the sea. The province includes Cape Breton Island, which has been described by international media as one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
Cape Breton Island is a hotbed of Celtic music. Some of the biggest names include members of the Rankin family, the Barra MacNeils, the Cottars and Natalie MacMaster. Every October, the finest Celtic musicians in the world go to Cape Breton for the annual Celtic Colours Festival.
The term "Bluenose," a nickname for the people of Nova Scotia, stems from the blueberry dye once used by the women of Lunenburg to dye the wool for fishermen's mittens. The dye was not very colorfast, and the fishermen in their small dories soon became well-known for the brilliant indigo shade of their noses.
It's a nice place to visit, but you might want to live there. Scientists have found people are more likely to live to be 100 years old in Nova Scotia than anywhere else in the world, although nobody knows exactly why.
Nova Scotia's flag, the blue cross of Saint Andrew against a white background, is one of the world's oldest flags: It dates from the 1620s.
Tides in the Bay of Fundy are the world's highest, rising and falling up to 52 ft. They are so high that when the tide comes in, it forces a wall of water (known as a tidal bore) to rush up rivers that feed into the bay. Shubenacadie, on the Shubenacadie River, is one of the best places to witness this natural phenomenon. According to a local saying, the whole province tips slightly when the tide rushes in.
Nova Scotia has strong Titanic connections, with 150 victims of the 1912 disaster buried in Halifax cemeteries, and parts of the 1997 movie filmed in the province. But if you visit the large group of graves at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, don't confuse fact and fiction. People have traveled from around the world to see the tombstone inscribed J. Dawson, assuming it marks the grave of the movie's hero (and fictional character) Jack Dawson, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. The grave actually belongs to James Dawson, who shoveled coal for the engines on the Titanic.
Don't leave Nova Scotia without eating plenty of fresh, local seafood. Choices include lobster, crab, clams, scallops, mussels, oysters, salmon (fresh or smoked), cod, haddock, halibut, swordfish and Solomon Gundy (herring pickled with onion and spices). Other dishes worth trying include Lunenburg pudding (a type of sausage), fresh sauerkraut, Acadian gingerbread, oatcakes, bread (especially the soldiers' bread of Louisbourg) and rapure (an Acadian meat pie).
Dos & Don'ts
Do ask for advice or instructions of any kind. Nova Scotians find this extremely flattering and will go out of their way to help.
Don't paste American flag decals on your clothes or gear. Locals see this as arrogant and will shun you.
Do share a kind word about the beauty of the place; it melts a Nova Scotian's heart.
Don't flash money around. It doesn't matter where you're from, Nova Scotians see this as crude and distasteful.
Do speak more softly than you're used to speaking. Nova Scotians recoil at speech that can be heard by anyone else except the two of you.
Do shop at the Saturday morning farmers market in Annapolis Royal in summer or at any of the other farmers markets throughout the province. Halifax's Farmer's Market, for example, has been held since 1752.
Don't be surprised to see auto headlights on in the daytime. Canadian law requires daytime running lights on all cars.
Don't overdress—with few exceptions, Nova Scotia is an informal place. Cowboy hats and western boots are particularly frowned upon.
Do be careful walking on the rocks and cliffs at the beaches, as sudden high waves and slippery footing can be a dangerous—even fatal—combination. Be aware of tide times when walking on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. The dangerous tides can rise 1 ft/0.3 m per minute, and the current is very strong.
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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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