10 Great Day Trips from Halifax
Whether you’re a born-and-bred Haligonian, or a visitor looking to make the most of your vacation, these day trips outside of the city are worth adding to your Halifax bucket list.
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
One of the world’s most photographed lighthouses—just one of the 160 that line the coast of Nova Scotia—this white-and-red icon has stood solitary and proud since 1915. Drive about 45 minutes southwest from downtown Halifax, then climb the rocks toward the light for a postcard-perfect photo. Afterward, check out the fishermen’s monument carved into 30 metres of granite, then wander the rustic fishing village here, walking the wooden wharves, still busy with lobster boats.
Don’t miss this love letter to the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse.
Rising from the sea in boldly painted reds and blues, Lunenburg is one of the oldest (and prettiest) towns in Nova Scotia. And with most of its buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, it’s also one of only two urban areas in Canada to receive UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition. There’s plenty to do for contemporary day-trippers, too, between sampling local seafood at the Old Fish Factory and having a sip at Ironworks Distillery. For the best views of the brightly-coloured town, a waterfront boat tour with Lunenburg Heritage Fishing Tours is a must.
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Raft the Tidal Bore
Home to a massive tidal bore, 160 billion tons of salt water roll up the Shubenacadie River every day, reversing its flow. Although it’s an awe-inspiring wonder observed from the shore, it’s an even wilder ride on the current itself. Located about an hour’s drive north of Halifax, you can join a reputable tour operator on a Zodiac, crashing through the roiling water on waves that can rise as high as four metres. Then, cool down with a glass of wine and a seafood tasting on a sandbar exposed by the massive tides—an elegant end to a thrilling day.
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Pictou and Melmerly Beach
Some two hours northeast of Halifax, the two-kilometre stretch of sand at Melmerly Beach Provincial Park is well worth the drive. Walk the boardwalks or swim into some of the country’s warmest water, averaging just under 20 degrees Celsius in the height of summer. On your return trip to the city, make a stop in the picturesque town of Pictou (above), grabbing fish and chips from the shack on the wharf and exploring the Ship Hector, a full-size replica of the wooden vessel that brought Scottish immigrants these shores back in 1773—a gruelling journey that took 11 weeks.
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An artsy village set near the waters of the Northumberland Strait which separate Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, a day trip to Tatamagouche will be a busy (and tasty!) one. Sample some maple syrup-infused dishes at Sugar Moon Farm and hand-dipped treats at Appleton Chocolates, grab a flight of micro-brews at Tata Brew Company, and ride the village’s road train to the museums and galleries around town. Even if you’re not staying the night, it’s worth checking out the Train Station Inn: a boutique hotel and restaurant built into a series of restored rail cars.
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McNabs and Lawlor Islands Provincial Park
Accessible only by water—charter boats or a water taxi will have you there in less than a half hour from downtown Halifax—these islands at the mouth of Halifax Harbour make an ideal day trip. Tour the national historic site at Fort McNab, which was built in the 1880s and later served a key role in both World Wars, then get your heartbeat up by hiking a stretch of the 22 kilometre trail system.
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Recognized as one of Canada’s most important wine regions, this verdant valley—sheltered by the basalt of North Mountain, and bordering the Bay of Fundy—enjoys a micro-climate perfect for growing everything from Chardonnay to Marechal Foch. Come for the views, and maybe the climb—you can look out from the top of 90-metre cliffs, then stay for a tasting (or two) at one of the abundant wineries.
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Ideally paired (pun intended) with a visit to the Annapolis Valley and its wineries, this small town is filled with boutiques, galleries, museums and cafes, as well as a very popular farmer’s market packed with local produce. Park, stroll, buy, sip—and if you want to stay a little longer before heading back to Halifax, Wolfville is home to dozens of B&Bs, many in charming converted Victorian homes.
For another unforgettable trip back in time, consider driving Nova Scotia’s Evangeline Trail.
A half-hour east of Halifax lies Lawrencetown—a charming village on its own, but in another class altogether for its impressive beach. Home to some of the finest waves in Atlantic Canada, this is an excellent place to learn how to surf, with a number of on-site surf schools providing everything you’ll need (including wet suit) to stand up on the board for that first thrilling time. After you’ve dried off, walk the boardwalk and the sand-and-cobble beach, and enjoy the view—Lawrencetown also a popular destination for bird watching.
A sheer headland rising some 60 metres above the water, Cape Split separates the Bay of Fundy from the Minas Basin, and is home to one of Nova Scotia’s most popular trails. Sprawling over 447-hectares, this provincial park is the perfect place to stretch your legs, lace up your boots and make the 13-kilometre round-trip hike to the tip of the Split, keeping your eyes open for whales far below.
After you’ve tackled these day trips from Halifax, add these great Canadian road trips to your itinerary.