The best Nova Scotia attractions

The best family activities to do in Nova Scotia, Canada

Peggy of the Cove is (dare I say) more fun for kids than Peggy’s Cove

Nova Scotia attractions

You know those vacations where after a night feasting on fresh lobster, you awake to the sound of the pounding surf, before venturing out to brave the waves of the steely grey Atlantic? When you’re surrounded by so much history, you’re just not sure how to take it all in, so you opt to step back in time and enlist your children in military adventure at a new world fort? No? Consider skedaddling over to Nova Scotia, where action and adventure await. Here are 5 top Nova Scotia attractions you won’t want to miss .

White Point Beach Resort

So many bunnies at White Point Beach Resort

City bike tour of Halifax

You’re likely going to land in Halifax and this pretty port city rich in history and culture is a worthy stop for several days. Get your bearings by gliding past historic monuments and leafy green parks on an I Heart Bikes tour. We opted for the city tour that showcases the best of Halifax within two hours. Our guide spun us around the Halifax Harbour pointing out the best fish and chippy and other local tips to make your stay more interesting. Cruise by the Titanic House, historic forts in Point Pleasant Park and meander your way into the inner city, where a swish new library butts up against the historic university. You can rent bikes without a tour, too! 

I heart bikes tour halifax

Bikes for all sizes on this tour

You may be famished afterwards, so be sure to stop by the Halifax Farmer’s Market located on the Waterfront right by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. It claims to be the longest continuously running market in North America (as does the Saint John New Brunswick City Market). It’s open everyday of the week and is a fab spot for a bit, plus to pick up local souvenirs.

twisted street lights

You’ll cruise past lots of cool public art and will learn their meaning.

Tours at Halifax Citadel

You can’t miss the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. Standing imposingly atop of hill, this majestic fort has overlooked the harbour since 1856. While it’s cool to suss out the Citadel’s star-shaped architecture, it’s even better to immerse your kids into life as a Red Coat (that’s a British solider, yo). During A Solider’s Life, kids are transported back to 1869, where they’ll be taught the skills needed to defend this strategic port. Kids learn some fancy foot drills, hammer out a diddy a field drum and raise the flag to send a coded message, all while getting an in-depth tour of the Citadel.

A Soldier's life

History is not a snoozer here.

Surfing close to Halifax, Nova Scotia

About a half hour’s drive from Halifax lies Lawrencetown Beach, home to some of the best surfing in North America. (And if you don’t surf, this lifeguard patrolled beach is tops for swimming, too.) There are plenty of surf schools to choose from, but we went with East Coast Surf School because when you have the opportunity to be taught by an Olympian, you take it. Olympic snowboarder Sarah Conrad taught Eve and I how to ride the waves (and more importantly, how to fall off our board properly). I won’t lie to you, the ocean here is colder than what you’ll find in say, California (about 17°C/63°F), but with the complimentary wetsuit, it felt surprisingly warm. The lesson included the surfboard rental for the day, which makes up for them not offering a children’s rate.

surfing in Canada

The east coast of Nova Scotia is a capital spot to learn how to surf (Photo credit: Wally Hayes)

Motorcycle Sidecar Tour in Nova Scotia

Not many parents would let their children hop on a motorcycle, but when they’re safely stowed away in a sidecar, well that’s another story. Breezy tours with Bluenose Sidecar Tours take tots older than five (and their parents) around the city and Southern Shore. We opted for the Lighthouse Route which stops at the infamous Peggy’s Cove. It was beautiful and all, but Peggy’s Cove wasn’t the best part. Eating at a local’s favourite fish shack, meeting a true Maritime character (Ivan Fraser from Peggy of the Cove Gallery in Glen Margaret) and stopping by less touristy, but equally stunning bays along the way made this tour a must do!

motorcycle sidecar tour

Tidal Bore Rafting in the Bay of Fundy

Don’t go on this adventure unless you really like to have fun. Over 100 billion tonnes of seawater surges in and out of the Bay of Fundy with each tide cycle, producing some of the highest tides in the world. There’s no better way to experience these tides then by riding them, so when the tide’s in hit up River Runners for a serious adrenaline rush. At first your raft goes head on gently with the waves and then the intensity really ramps up.

tidal bore rafting

Again and again the chocolate-coloured waves crash into your craft and often over your head. It might feel like you’re on an episode of Cold Water Cowboys. You’ll get completely soaked and will love every minute of it. After the topsy turvy wavey action, you’re encouraged to jump off the boat and take a swim. Yes that’s right, swimming in chocolate milk. In your clothes. In full rain gear. And don’t forget the rubber boots. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Have you ever visited Nova Scotia? What are your favourite activities to do there?

About the Author:

I’m a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust. Whether it’s luggage, time or just life, I cram as much as possible into small compartments. Warning: Contents may shift during flight. My life is one bumpy ride! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

24 Comments

  1. Sue 10.08.2015 at 10:03 - Reply

    Hope this encourages more people to go east. From NB originally so all this is familiar. Maritimes are so great. I impressed you did that rafting tour- looks scary. Have done it once in Quebec and that was enough 🙂

    • Jody 10.08.2015 at 12:03 - Reply

      I thought the rafting would be scary too, but it so wasn’t. It’s not like you have to follow the river course to finish it, you just bang into as many waves as you feel comfortable. It’s actually A-OK for 5-years old and up. Thanks so much for commenting. I’m originally from NB, too!

  2. Miranda 10.08.2015 at 22:14 - Reply

    I’ve been to Nova Scotia once – for a wedding near Truro. The day after we checked out the Bay of Fundy, though not on rafts. That looks a little too treacherous for me. The surfing on the other hand, I’m a pro at popping up and promptly falling off. These are all great recommendations Jody, if my family and I get out there to visit my friend who was married in Truro, I’ll definitely check some of these out.

  3. Emiel 10.08.2015 at 23:30 - Reply

    We have never been up there. We are actually thinking about visiting the US after our first and only visit back in 2011 (NYC). The sidecar and the rafting looks really great! And I believe you when you say rafting is ok for a 5 year old…although it looks quite scary with that chcocolate colored water (why is that?). Of course we would definitely hop on that bicycle…we are Dutch 🙂

    • Jody 17.08.2015 at 06:37 - Reply

      I think the water is brownish because of the power of these tides. So much water is flowing in and out with every tide cycle that it stirs up so much silt.

  4. Kyla Cornish 15.08.2015 at 10:13 - Reply

    Those chocolate waves make me hungry. p.s I love bike tours!!!!

  5. Merry120 15.08.2015 at 10:48 - Reply

    I’ve never been to Nova Scotia but it is on my list. Every time I see pictures (and hear about the lobster) I think “Why haven’t we made it there yet?”

    • Jody 17.08.2015 at 06:36 - Reply

      I was just the same!

  6. Sarah Ebner 16.08.2015 at 08:00 - Reply

    Oh, this sounds great for a family holiday – and that bit out of the ordinary, which always appeals to us! Love the idea of cycling around Halifax and the kids trying the motorcycle ride especially.

    • Jody 17.08.2015 at 06:35 - Reply

      Yeah, it really was. I was surprised, too by the diversity offered.

  7. Robin 16.08.2015 at 19:36 - Reply

    Does Halifax have lots of large sculptures like that? That would be so fun to make it a photo scavenger hunt for kids.

    • Jody 17.08.2015 at 06:35 - Reply

      Halifax is upping the game with their public art. There’s lots of cools stuff around the city that would be perfect for a scavenger hunt!

  8. I have been dreaming of Nova Scotia (the Maritimes in general) since childhood. I cannot wait to finally get there! I’d totally do the tidal bore rafting – looks so fun!

    • Jody 17.08.2015 at 06:34 - Reply

      It really was. I think all families would love it!

  9. Nancie 17.08.2015 at 06:38 - Reply

    I’m from Nova Scotia, and I love your post. I’m dying to see the new library. Although the old library with Sir Winston Churchill outside brings back fond memories. I graduated from that university. I’m always thrilled to read about what’s on offer for our visitors. The next time I’m in town I am definitely going to check out the motorcycle tour.

    • Jody 18.08.2015 at 07:17 - Reply

      Thanks, Nancie. It’s so great to hear from a local. Apparently Winston Churchill really didn’t want any statues of him put up as he didn’t want to be a pigeon target, but there are so many of them outside that library!

  10. Kirsten 17.08.2015 at 09:25 - Reply

    I cannot believe all the amazing things there are to explore in Nova Scotia! We would love to visit and the surfing looks amazing as well as the rafting adventure. So many fun things for families. Maybe next summer!

    • Jody 18.08.2015 at 07:18 - Reply

      Well if you’re American and our loonie stays where it is, it’ll be super cheap. I’m envious of all the Americans in Canada right now.

  11. Colleen Lanin 17.08.2015 at 13:33 - Reply

    Sounds like quite the adventure! I especially like the sidecar tour idea.

  12. Tonya 18.08.2015 at 06:42 - Reply

    Nova Scotia has been on my list of places to visit for the past couple years. Hoping to make it one day. It looks and sounds lovely.

  13. Allison 19.08.2015 at 15:02 - Reply

    I think the Sidecar Tours would be a must if we went!

  14. Corinne 22.08.2015 at 06:16 - Reply

    What an amazing trip! SO need to head out east.

  15. Amie O'Shaughnessy 24.08.2015 at 13:07 - Reply

    On the bucket list!

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