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Five Things to Do in Nova Scotia Without Leaving the Shore

​As the second smallest province in all of Canada, Nova Scotia is a quaint, charming locale that has much to offer, especially for those that love the water.


As the second smallest province in all of Canada, Nova Scotia is a quaint, charming locale that has much to offer, especially for those that love the water. Whether on the mainland peninsula or traveling between one of the 3,800 islands that lie off the coast of Nova Scotia, the water is never more than 40 or so miles away. As such, boating excursions, fishing, whale watching, and island tours are immensely popular with tourists and locals alike. But just because water activities are popular does not mean that landlubbers are out of lack. Quite to the contrary, options on the land abound. When traveling to this East Coast gem, try one of these five things to do in Nova Scotia that keep you on the land.

1. Visit a Winery

With warm summers, long autumns, fertile soil and abundant land, Nova Scotia is a premier wine destination in North America. Locals have known this for centuries and have been growing grapes and producing wine since the 1600s. Currently, there are over 800 acres of vines in Nova Scotia and 16 incredible wineries to choose from. Whether it is a crisp, refreshing white wine or a full-bodied red you seek, check out one of these wineries:

  • Sainte Famille Wines - Home to the oldest vines in Nova Scotia, this winery is renowned for its Old Vines Marechal Foch, a rich red wine that is full in body and deep in flavor.
  • Jost Vineyards - As the longest and largest operating vineyard in the Atlantic region, this winery is full of history and innovation. At this winery, you can enjoy varietals ranging from maple wine to Rose and Nova Scotia’s signature wine, Tidal Bay.
  • Domaine de Grand Pre - Atlantic Canada’s oldest farm winery, this establishment offers deep history and a quality product. You can tour the winery, visit the onsite museum and enjoy the award-winning restaurant and even taste some of the exciting wines - some that are more traditional and many that are highly innovative.
  • Benjamin Bridge - If you enjoy a glass of sparkling wine, this winery is one not to miss. There are several different sparkling wines offered here, yet all offer well-rounded flavors. The winery also offers an array of white wines and Rose.

2. Explore Cape Breton Highlands National Park

A majestic natural site where the mountains meet the Atlantic, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is one of the top things to do in Nova Scotia. This park offers beautiful scenery from every angle, with forested canyons, rugged cliffs, and dramatic ocean views beckoning. The best way to explore here is on foot, and to do so, there are nearly 30 different hiking trails to choose from that cover the park’s 235,000 acres. Walk along easy trails that wind through the low valleys, allowing you to see the rare flora and fauna that can be found in this park, or more hike challenging courses that take you up onto the cliffs to overlook the water. Some other popular activities in Cape Breton Highlands National Park include bird watching, photography, camping, cycling, snowshoeing, skiing, animal spotting and golfing on award-winning courses.

Those visitors that have a few days to dedicate to the region can reach this park by traveling along the world-famous Cabot Trail. The views from this trail are some of the most scenic in the world, and well-placed lookouts allow you to take it all in en route to the park. After passing through Cape Breton Highlands, the Cabot Trail continues around Cape Breton Island, making the total journey along this iconic passage approximately 185 total miles.

3. Hit the Greens

Meaning “New Scotland,” Nova Scotia is, of course, a premier destination for golf lovers. Here, you can look forward to a unique mixture of courses, including seaside links, fairways in the city and forested golf courses where the natural landscape adds both beauty and tests even the most experienced golfers. Two of the most iconic courses in all of Nova Scotia are Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links, both located on Cape Breton Island. These award-winning golf courses are ranked as numbers 9 and 43, respectively, on Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses and feature dramatic coastal scenery and challenging courses that echo the feel of Scotland’s famed greens. Of course, you could try your hand at one of the 75+ other golf courses in Nova Scotia, as well. Here are some of the most beloved:

  • Highlands Links Golf Course - Cape Breton Island
  • Glen Arbour Golf Course - Halifax Metro Area
  • Truro Golf and Country Club - Truro
  • Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa - Bay of Fundy and Annapolis Valley
  • Osprey Ridge Golf Club - South Shore
  • Eagle Crest Golf Course - Centreville
  • Osprey Shores Golf Resort - East Shore

4. Tour the Fortress of Louisbourg

The largest reconstruction project of its kind in North America, the Fortress of Louisbourg offers a unique experience that transports you back to the 18th century. Louisbourg was founded on Cape Breton Island by the French in the early 1700s and was fortified to protect from British invasion. The settlement was invaded and destroyed by the 1760s and was left in a state of disrepair until Parks Canada and the Fortress Louisbourg Association stepped in and made this site a must-see while in Nova Scotia. Today, you can tour the Fortress of Louisbourg and immerse yourself in what life would have been like in 1744. During the summer months, reenactors, ranging from merchants to soldiers, roam the streets in traditional garb, work, play and live life just as inhabitants would have done centuries ago.

During your time at the fortress, embark on guided or independent tours; dine at the restaurant, which serves authentic lower-class fare from the 1700s; take part in dancing, cooking and military drill demonstrations; sample the goods at King’s Bakery; shop at one of the onsite stores and more. The Fortress of Louisbourg is a family-friendly site that engages visitors of all ages.

5. Spend the Day in Halifax

As the capital city of Nova Scotia, Halifax is an epicenter for culture, amenities, and entertainment. The city is chock-full of unique stores, Michelin-star rated restaurants, fascinating museums and family-friendly attractions. The craft beer scene is thriving in Halifax, and as such, there are tons of breweries to tour and taste at. There are festivals and events all throughout the year, as well as an abundance of historic sites to explore. Additionally, while in Halifax, take time to see:

  • Halifax Citadel Hill National Historic Site
  • The Halifax Waterfront, including the world’s longest downtown boardwalk
  • Halifax Public Gardens
  • Halifax Central Library
  • The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
  • St. Paul’s Church
  • Fairview Lawn Cemetery, including the graves of those aboard the Titanic

Nova Scotia has a stunning natural side that collides abruptly with its picturesque villages and inviting cities. Whether you seek great seafood, water experiences or deep history, there is something for you in Nova Scotia. Get acquainted with this diverse Canadian province on an exciting rail tour with Vacations By Rail. Contact one of our Rail Specialists to find the Eastern Canada rail tour that suits your travel desires.

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