Nova Scotia: Navy Blue and Ready for You
27 November, 2017
I went road tripping through Nova Scotia not too long ago, as part of a grand tour through the Canadian Maritimes, and I loved it. My only regret is not being able to stay longer and see more of the province.
My road trip to Nova Scotia took me to the capital city of Halifax, for 24 hours (16-17 July, 2015). Halifax was originally inhabited by the Mi’kmaq First Nations. In the early 1600s, French settlers arrived and established the colony of Acadia. The Halifax Harbour, named Jipugtug by the Mi’kmaq, is home to several small islands and is strategically located as the first inbound and last outbound port in eastern North America.
As my time in Halifax was so limited, I identified in advance a few key attractions I did not want to leave the city without seeing. I also arrived armed with a list of the best eats in Halifax, obtained from prior research (ie, interviewing a friend and former resident of the city). Read on to learn what I (wished I) did, and where I (wished I) ate during my trip to Nova Scotia (you’ll see what I mean in a second).
What to See in Halifax in 24 Hours
The first stop in Halifax, after checking in to my hotel and dropping off my bags, was the Citadel. The city of Halifax owes its existence to the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, which was built by the British military in 1749-1856 on a hill overlooking and defending the harbour below. As the fort grew over the years, so did the city built around the hill. The Citadel is named after King George II and officially called Fort George. Today, it houses an Army Museum, and witnesses a sentry change at the front gate every hour. The Citadel also sponsors ghost tours and 19th-century re-enactment interpreters, the 78th Highlanders and the Royal Artillery. The daily firing of the Noon Gun by the Royal Artillery is one of the oldest traditions in the world.
The Citadel takes a few hours to see, so I recommend spending an entire morning or an entire afternoon to make the most of your visit. Tickets are available onsite or here.
My next stop was a walk about the Halifax Harbour. The Halifax Harbour is named Jipugtug by the Mi’kmaq first nation (Chebucto in English) and is administered by the Halifax Port Authority. In addition to shippers and yacht owners, the ports are also serviced by the Canadian National (CN) railway, which provides train service from the Halifax Harbour to Montreal, Toronto, and a few U.S. Cities.
A walk about the harbour is very pleasant and a great way to discover history and culture through statues and public exhibitions and street musicians, while providing opportunities to pick up an ice cream for your troubles, along the way. A discovery of the Halifax Harbour is also a discovery of my good friend Theodore Tug Boat––not really my friend so much as a delightful, famous, little tourist boat that I would like to adopt as my friend. See him, photograph him, take a cruise around the harbour on him, there isn’t anything not to love about dear little Theodore Tug Boat.
A walk around the perimeter of the Halifax Harbour could take about an hour, give or take, if you start around Cogswell street and end around Inglis street and really take your time….
Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of Immigration
My last stop was a visit to Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of Immigration. Approximately 1 million immigrants and refugees arrived in Canada through Pier 21, which opened in 1928 and served as a primary immigrant reception center until its closure in 1971. So many Canadian stories trace back to the port of entry at Pier 21, and so many lives were reborn there, that it’s quite the emotional journey walking past the the harbour that brought the masses to Canadian shores by boat, past the exhibition of a model train that carried so many people away into the depths of Canada after their entry approval, and into the Canadian Museum of Immigration, where the lives and belongings of soon-to-be Canadians are traced out over more than 400 years in a detailed spider web of loss and love and tragedy and despair and hope.
A visit to Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of Immigration should keep you busy for about 3 hours. There is also a public market in the vicinity––a Seaport Farmer’s Market that is open every single day (10 am to 5 pm on weekdays, and 7 am/9 am to 3 pm on weekends). So if you plan to visit it, you can safely tack on an additional hour or two of dawdling.
What Else to See in Nova Scotia
I would have really liked to go to Cape Breton Island to the east and Peggy’s Cove, Lunenberg (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and the Bay of Fundy (one of the 7 Wonders of North America) to the west, but I didn’t have enough time. They will certainly be on my list (click on each link to discover why), if I get the chance to visit Nova Scotia again.
Where to Eat in Halifax in 24 Hours
The one place I ate during my brief visit to Halifax was Gahan House Harbourfront (other meals were either with friends in town or at my hotel). I really enjoyed it, as the service was good and it came with a nice terrace outside hugging the length of its periphery and a great view of the waterfront. I visited at night time, and while it does get a bit chilly at night in Halifax, even in the dead of summer, the view, the sounds of the surf, and the calm of the terrace (everyone else was indoors!) was definitely worth it.
Where Else to Eat in Halifax
If you have more time to try some of the local cuisine in Halifax, I’ve got you covered with my list of best eats that I procured from my Halifax-native friend, prior to my trip. My list of recommendations on the best places to eat in Halifax features the following gems:
- Coastal Café – breakfast and brunch
- Edna – dinner, and weekend brunch
- Agricola Street Brasserie – happy hour (4 pm to 6 pm) and dinner
- Stubborn Goat – brunch, lunch, and dinner
- The Bicycle Thief – lunch and dinner
I hope you find this article useful in planning your trip to Halifax. If you liked what you read, or you used any of the information here during your trip, please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!