A Spur-of-the-Moment Trip to Nova Scotia Created Memories to Last a Lifetime

Sharing an adventure on the east coast strengthened this father-son bond.

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Hacketts Cove, St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia
Photo: Dave Sanders
Hacketts Cove, St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia.

A trip to Nova Scotia—on the toss of a coin

In the summer of 2013, my 22-year-old son, Rob, was finishing up his summer job and about to head off for his final year at Sheridan College. Rather on the spur of the moment, my wife suggested Rob and I take a trip together. We flipped a coin to decide our destination, heads for the East Coast, tails for the West. We caught a flight to Halifax.

There was no shortage of intriguing things to do on our trip to Nova Scotia. In Halifax, we toured the Citadel, the exquisitely preserved outpost of defence originally established in 1749. I would certainly choose to be inside in the event of battle rather than attempt an assault from the outside!

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is certainly a must-see and a lovely spot to stroll through. Rob particularly enjoyed the Titanic exhibit and the many brilliant ship models throughout. My father-in-law had served on the frigate Antigonish during World War II and the tour of the HMCS Sackville served as a reminder of the hard work, risk and camaraderie that Canadian veterans had shared during those difficult times.

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Wooden boats in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia
Photo: Dave Sanders
Wooden boats in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.

Endless discovery

Pier 21 is an equally thought-provoking site. It is easy to place yourself in the shoes of the recently arrived immigrants who had left their birth nations. Many arrived seasick and with little money, large families and probably-oversold dreams of the new land. The odds of ever returning to see their parents and homes again were remote. Rob and I discovered that my paternal grandfather had arrived in 1872 on the steamer Quebec at the tender age of seven. He then moved to settle in Exeter, Ontario, where he went on to establish a newspaper and a canning factory. Our final stop in Halifax was to quench our thirst at Alexander Keith’s Brewery. A souvenir bottle opener continues to be operational several years on.

Here are more Halifax attractions worth adding to your itinerary.

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Trip to Nova Scotia - Peggy's Point fishing nets
Photo: Dave Sanders
Fishing gear on the docks at Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.

A photographic paradise

Next up on our trip to Nova Scotia was Peggy’s Cove—it was much smaller than I had envisioned. A photographic paradise of big skies, crashing waves and iconic lighthouses, it was very Canadian in that it was also devoid of the multi-layered commercialism found in similar U.S. vacation spots. A short distance away is the Swissair Memorial Site—a moving sight. Disasters viewed on TV always seem remote and distant but when standing at the site, running your fingers over the stone etched with names of the victims of Flight 111, you realize how fleeting life can be. A reminder to use our time well.

The next day, we were off to Lunenburg. We spotted a beautiful little island surrounded by Nova Scotia seaweed, but the tide was wrong and the light awkward for picture-taking, so I made a mental note to stop by on our way back.

Discover more great day trips from Halifax.

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Bluenose II restoration in Lunenburg
Photo: Dave Sanders
Bluenose II restoration in Lunenburg.

Treasured memories

I’ve always had an affinity for the Bluenose since doing a Grade 7 history project on it. The working schooner held cod—and the dreams of Canadians. It captured the International Fisherman’s Trophy for the first time in 1921, and many more times in subsequent years. The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic details the journey, and the film showing the graceful ship cutting through the waves is a treasured memory. A quick trip to the site of the Bluenose II undergoing refitting reminded me of a certain precocious 12-year-old being ordered to get down from the rigging when the ship visited Montreal for Expo ’67. (Here’s what happened to the original Bluenose.)

On the return trip, Rob and I stopped for a splendid lobster supper in St. Margarets Bay, which is on the border between Halifax and Lunenburg. We also stopped again at that tiny island I had spotted. This time, the tide was out and the light was perfect. It was an easy call to snap a photo. That picture graced my office wall for several years until one of the nurses needed a wedding gift on a somewhat emergency basis!

It was a great trip. The college years are often busy times for both fathers and sons. Life sometimes gets in the way of connecting with our kids—a one-on-one trip to Nova Scotia is highly recommended.

Check out more Nova Scotia pictures that’ll have you packing your bags.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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