Top five local adventures in Halifax
I was recently in Halifax for the first time taking part in a tourism conference and was extremely impressed with this East Coast capital. A bustling port town with one of the world’s deepest harbours, the waterfront is lined with hip cafes found in beautiful brownstone buildings that mix seamlessly with modern LEED marketplaces.
The city itself stretches out and is made up of 200 small communities, each with their own flare. Although my time there was short and I most certainly did not get the chance to explore each of these charming communities, I wanted to highlight some of the best local adventures in Halifax as discovered by myself or some of Canada’s top travel professionals.
1. Sail the Bluenose II
Canada’s most iconic boat, featured on our 10 cent dime, has a history tied to Halifax.
Built using Nova Scotian spruce, pine, oak, and birch in the early 20th century and used as a fishing and racing schooner, the original Bluenose was built for speed and won many races in the 1920s International Fisherman’s Trophy in the seasons after Atlantic fishing finished. The boat was nearly unbeatable until fishing schooners became all but obsolete in comparison to the motor vessels and racing schooner-yachts of the 1930s.
Unfortunately, the famed boat wrecked in 1946 while serving as a working vessel in Haiti and was a thing of legends until the building of the replica Bluenose II in 1963.
These days, anyone can be a deckhand for the day and imagine what it would be like to sail the high seas onboard a famous tall ship.
2. Cycle the City
Set between an ocean seascape is an urban center that is relatively new. While the M’ikmaq First Nations people have inhabited Halifax for thousands of years, Europeans arrived with the French in the early 1600s. So where are the 17th century buildings? Nearly all gone thanks to the historic Halifax Explosion.
The maritime disaster happened in December of 1917 when two vessels collided, one loaded with explosives. What happened next was the largest man-made explosion before the use of nuclear weapons in Japan. Much of Halifax was leveled, in fact, everything within the 800m radius was destroyed. It also ended up being the largest blinding event as hardly a window within the city survived, causing a sea of glass to ride the pressure wave of the explosion that also snapped trees and caused fragments of the destruction to spread for kilometers.
We followed a local Halagonian (Halifax resident) along the port city’s smooth seawall to farmer’s markets, a gorgeous seaside park, into Victorian-style neighborhoods, paused in a historic fort and cruised throughout one of the six university grounds in the city. Halifax is often dubbed the ultimate university town, as 10% of the population is a student in this city.
Before my trip, I was a bit nervous as Halifax is known to be quite hilly, but with the help of our trusty guide from I Heart Bikes, we were able to navigate the backstreets and avoid any unwelcome hill climbs.
3. Sip the delish wines
Sadly Canada isn’t regularly thought of for our wine regions. But for what it lacks in awareness, it makes up greatly in taste.
Rivalling the Okanagan and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Halifax’s wine region has a history dating back to the 1600’s and was one of the first areas in North America to cultivate grapes. With lush wine valleys located nearby to the Atlantic, the cool ocean breeze along with rich soil creates fresh wines with crisp notes that pair perfectly with the abundant seafood of the region.
Sip your way through vineyards and cellars to discover why the East Coast could be the next big thing for white wine connoisseurs.
4. Lobsters, lobsters and more lobsters
Truth be told, I had no idea eating lobster was such work until I cracked my way through a classic lobster dinner.
If you search the shorelines of Nova Scotia, you’ll undoubtedly spy one of the countless lobster traps that the large creatures enter before being kept alive long enough to make it to your plate. Considered the lifeblood of many Nova Scotians, it is said that if you haven’t eaten a lobster from this part of the world, you haven’t really eaten a good one before.
So with melted butter and about 45 napkins, I dug into my boiled crustacean by cracking its shell and thanking myself for wearing the obligatory lobster bib.
The classic lobster dinner was delish, but lobster mac & cheese? Genius.
5. A Peggy Cove Photo tour
Found in the rural community of St Margaret’s Bay is Canada’s most photographed lighthouse – Peggy’s Point Lighthouse. One of 160 lighthouses found within Nova Scotia, Peggy’s Cove is home to wave-washed granite boulders and a quaint fishing village.
In 1914, the octagonal white tower with the red beacon replaced the 1868 original kerosene lamp lighthouse erected in Peggy’s Cove and is still maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard to this day.
Standing 15m tall, this lighthouse is one of Canada’s classic coastal scenes not to be missed in Nova Scotia.