Discover Nova Scotia, an Atlantic Canada gem just six hours from Heathrow

Calm waters off Lunenburg (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)Calm waters off Lunenburg (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)
Calm waters off Lunenburg (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)

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Give yourself long-lasting memories with a road trip around this ocean-kissed wonderland

As orange streaks sliced through the dawn sky, a tall grey heron on knitting needle legs stood motionless before stabbing his rapier beak into the dark waters and scooping up a silver fish.

This was early morning breakfast for just one member of the teeming wildlife that would justify Nova Scotia being the next candidate for a magical Attenborough TV series.

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Bursting with old-style charm as well as the world’s finest seafood and the friendliest of people who just love the British, this magical Canadian province, just six hours from Heathrow, has it all.

Peace and utter quiet at the lakeside (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)Peace and utter quiet at the lakeside (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)
Peace and utter quiet at the lakeside (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)

“I jus’ love your accent,” said a smiling shop assistant, as I stocked up with toiletries at the Atlantic Superstore in Halifax, the historical and cultural capital, where most flights land and road adventures start and end.

My week-long tour from there with a couple of friends became a surf ride through big waves of the creamiest of chowder, the freshest of lobster and shrimps, as well as tender wagyu beef and fine local wines – all enjoyed in an atmosphere of laid-back allure and the rhythm of the ever-present seas.

And it wasn’t just about scrumptious food (although you can forget any Slimming World diet plan completely while you’re there!). There were also laughs aplenty, adrenaline rushes, cultural and historical fascination and musical moments that all make the place a hit with visitors of all ages and interests.

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Our first night on foot along the harbour boardwalk and downtown revealed Halifax to be a blend of elegant 18th-century townhouses alongside ultra-modern glass and steel towers. There, we wandered round the new Queen’s Marque Cultural District to find a local busking band playing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah outside Atlantic Canada’s first luxury boutique hotel, The Muir.

A lone heron fishing at Lunenburg (picture: James Ruddy)A lone heron fishing at Lunenburg (picture: James Ruddy)
A lone heron fishing at Lunenburg (picture: James Ruddy)

Nearby, diners at the classy Drift restaurant were downing such delights as pork belly and scallops in what is fast becoming known as a culinary love letter to the province’s land, people and history.

But it was in our hired people carrier out on the open road that the region truly revealed itself, amid huge forests, roaring rivers and waterfalls as well as pretty painted towns, filled with the quaintest of hotels, the liveliest of bars and eateries and those smiling people.

It’s a place to make some everlasting memories, from our hysterical laughter as we bounced through the world’s only tidal bore raft ride on the wild Shubenacadie River to our walk round the world’s most photographed lighthouse at the salt-worn fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, where a Scottish bagpiper was playing a lament for the tourists.

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His kilted presence was a reminder that the culture of Nova Scotia (it translates from Latin to New Scotland) is a human cocktail that bubbled up many centuries ago starting with the indigenous Mi’kmaq people who were followed by the French and then the British.

Peggys Cove on a sunny day (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)Peggys Cove on a sunny day (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)
Peggys Cove on a sunny day (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)

Before the Canadians gained their independence from the colonists, the Scots, Irish and Germans all added to the heady mix, which we found everywhere, from the food and language to the many comfortingly familiar place names like Yarmouth, New Glasgow and Berwick and even in such comical peculiarities as Balls Creek and Sober Island.

At the colourfully-painted Lunenburg fishing village, which could have dropped out of an 1800s time machine, we discovered from our guide that the skilled Protestant German settlers who were invited to live there by the British were preferred to the ‘lazy, drunken Londoners’ who had been causing mayhem and doing so little work for so long in Halifax.

Mind you I found an expat British couple (both from my home city of Nottingham) quaffing the fine local pale ale when I dropped in for a pint at the Shipwright brewery’s taproom on Lunenburg’s main street.

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Next day, came another familiar connection when we called for a tasting at one of the Province’s leading wineries, Luckett’s, in Wolfville, overlooking the beautiful Gaspereau Valley, and saw the amazing fully operational British red phone box, which founder Pete Luckett, another Nottingham-born expat, erected amongst his vines a few years ago and created a marketing explosion that made his ‘Phone Box’ red wine a best-seller across the country.

Lively Argyle Street in Halifax (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)Lively Argyle Street in Halifax (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)
Lively Argyle Street in Halifax (picture: Tourism Nova Scotia)

Such iconic moments came throughout our circular road trip and as early as day one when we visited Halifax’s maritime museum to see its extensive exhibition on the 1912 Titanic liner sinking, as 300 of the bodies were brought there and half of those buried in local cemeteries.

Another historic interlude came on a Mahone Bay guided boat tour which featured the History Channel’s long-running show The Curse of Oak Island. We watched as excavators and archaeologists strived to find buried treasure – rumoured to be from pirates or even the ancient Knights Templar - in a quest that has been under way since the 18th century. As we headed for home, we were happy in knowing that we had discovered our own treasure in Nova Scotia’s natural beauty, history and in the openness of its priceless people.

It is one of those rare places where you really do make forever memories - so many that, as you are leaving, you are already yearning to return.

Travel facts

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For a wealth of travel information and itineraries, go to and

Where to stay: The Westin Nova Scotian from £204 per night; The Rum Runner Inn from £130 per night; The Quarter Deck Resort from £160 per night; The August House from £148 per night

How to get there: Return flights to Halifax, Nova Scotia from London Heathrow cost from £555 with Air Canada

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