The Best Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia

The 15 Best Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is a crown jewel of the beautiful Canadian Maritimes. These eastern provinces all border the Atlantic Ocean and are remarkable for their coastal cities, which are sparse across most of Canada. Historic Halifax is the perfect destination if you want to explore this unique part of Canada!

As the capital city of Nova Scotia, Halifax possesses a rich history, which plays out in its many cultural establishments and beautiful architecture. It’s also surrounded by gorgeous fishing villages, islands, and lakes. Peggy’s Point Lighthouse is a major attraction just south of the city, while you’ve got green spaces, historic neighborhoods and avenues, and many museums and galleries dedicated to promoting the culture of the Maritimes right downtown.

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So, we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Halifax for you. Stick to these fun and unique Halifax bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this gorgeous part of the Canadian Maritimes!

The 15 Best Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia

1. Visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

One of the oldest institutions in Halifax, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has a history going back as far as 1908, with the current space having opened in 1988. One of the best things to do in Halifax for art lovers, this gallery is now home to a signature collection of Maud Lewis’s works, alongside beautiful works by Indigenous artists and maritime locals.

You’ll find the most complete collection of Maud Lewis’s works here, including her cottage home, which she painstakingly hand-painted and decorated. It’s now preserved as part of her legacy. 

Other permanent pieces include iconic works by Kent Monkman, alongside various local artists. While the focus is definitely on regional artistry, the exhibition feels large in its historical and stylistic scale.

If you want to see everything, the gallery will take up to four hours to fully enjoy, so plan accordingly! Make sure to swing by the gift shop and pick up a few of the lovely prints, souvenirs, and postcards for the art lovers in your life.


2. Stroll the Halifax Harbour Boardwalk

Best Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Halifax Harbour Boardwalk

The iconic Halifax Harbour Boardwalk is a mainstay bucket list item for visitors to Nova Scotia. This historic waterfront exudes the charm and beauty the Maritimes are known for. 

If you’re looking for unique Halifax activities, head to the boardwalk and you might come across dancers practicing their routines by the ocean, buskers of all kinds, and fishermen casting lines over the pier.

You’ll find plenty of seaside boutiques to pick up a gift or memento at, alongside restaurant patios, museums, and outdoor exhibits. Don’t miss the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, and if you have time, why not stop at a café during your visit?

The harbor is also the site of Pier 21, a safe haven for millions of immigrants to Canada for much of the 20th century. This historic site has been memorialized with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, dedicated to preserving its stories.

Also keep an eye out for classic Canadian treats like Beaver Tail pastries, cheese curd-laden poutine, and the seafood Halifax is known for. A trip to the boardwalk is the perfect place to indulge in decadent treats. All in all, the pier is a must on any Halifax bucket list, whether you’re in town for a romantic getaway, exploring with the family, or simply interested in the history of the Maritime provinces.


3. Surf at Lawrencetown Beach

Fun Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Lawrencetown Beach

The beautiful Lawrencetown Beach is located just outside the city of Halifax, but it’s worth the trip. The beach is known for being an amazing surfing destination on Canada’s east coast.

The Atlantic Ocean swells are ideal because of the shape of Nova Scotia itself – with the varying winds and movements of the waves, you’ll be able to find your ideal surf spot.

The best time of year to go surfing in Lawrencetown ranges from September through November. In the winter months, just pack a thick wet suit. The beaches will be empty and the waves will be incredible.

Meanwhile, the summers tend to be less predictable, while the waters are more temperate. If you’re not a surfing aficionado, beginners can hone their skills with lessons from a local surf shop, like the East Coast Surf School.

Even if you’re not a surfer, Lawrencetown Beach is a beautiful destination for an oceanside picnic or a midday dip (if you’re comfortable in strong currents). The beach is quieter than others nearer the city, with crystal-clear waters and full amenities. Just keep in mind that it is a little rocky, so bring your sandals.


4. Indulge in the Nova Scotia Lobster Trail

Halifax, Nova Scotia Bucket List: Nova Scotia Lobster Trail

Nova Scotia is an international hub for lobster fishing, which takes place year-round off its shores. If you’re looking for delicious things to do in Halifax, you’ll be able to partake in some of the freshest lobster in the world via the Nova Scotia Lobster Trail!

Destinations in and around Halifax include the beautiful waterfront Cable Wharf restaurant, the Sou’Wester at Peggy’s Cove, and Evan’s Fresh Seafoods in Dartmouth.

Must do things in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia Lobster Trail

The Lobster Trail is a fun way to visit some of Nova Scotia’s best restaurants. For every stop you make on the trail, you’ll receive a stamp. Collect enough and you might even win a few prizes.

The culinary explorers among us should definitely check out the Good Cheer Trail, laden with local breweries, wineries, and distilleries, and the Nova Scotia Chowder Trail.

If you’re a real lobster aficionado, visit during February and head to Barrington, Nova Scotia, for the annual Lobster Crawl festival. Nova Scotia’s South Shore is the best place on the island to find seafood, and that’s peak lobster season.


5. Enjoy the Halifax Public Gardens

Best Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Halifax Public Gardens

Nestled in the heart of town, the Public Gardens hold a timeless allure, and visiting them is one of the top Halifax activities. Victorian aesthetics and flourishing flora complement the city’s historic downtown buildings.

Strolling through the ornate iron gates at the entrance, you’ll encounter a symphony of colors, fragrances, and beautiful garden architecture. The meticulously maintained grounds are a testament to horticultural artistry. 

Marvel at the geometric flowerbeds, the charming gazebos, and the serene ponds and bridges. This is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll, where you can enjoy a peaceful moment or a carefree picnic among the blooms.

The beautiful Horticultural Hall Plaza is the centerpiece of the gardens, containing a beautiful swan fountain and trellised side buildings. Informative plaques dotted throughout the park provide fascinating insights into the gardens’ rich history and the significance of various plant species.

Whether you’re an avid gardener, a nature lover, or simply someone who appreciates the simple pleasure of a leisurely stroll, these gardens are a haven of natural beauty and tranquility in Halifax’s vibrant downtown.


6. Kayak around Georges Island

Cool Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Georges Island

Halifax’s stunning coastline is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, and kayaking is an immersive way to soak in its natural beauty. If you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Halifax, you can even embark on expeditions from the Halifax Harbour to the beautiful Georges Island.

Harbour Watercraft Tours & Adventures operates kayaking, Sea-Doo, and boat tours. We love the curated experiences they offer, many of them going all the way to Georges Island and around the most picturesque parts of the waterfront.

Georges Island is a history-lover’s dream and one of the top Halifax attractions. It’s home to Fort Warren, an incredible historic site that dates back to the American Civil War. 

The fort was a staple of Canada’s coastal defense network, and the stone and granite structure was built to last. While the fort is no longer operational in its original capacity, it welcomes curious visitors into its sprawling bakery, grounds, and the underground tunnels. 

Whether you decide to boat, kayak, or take the ferry out to the island, there’s much to enjoy out on the water. Fisherman’s Cove is also an amazing spot to check out if you’ll be exploring Halifax’s waterways. It’s a charming village laden with colorful clapboard houses and a boardwalk. McNab’s Island is also nearby, if you’re doing a day trip!


7. Explore the Citadel National Historic Site

Fun Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Citadel National Historic Site

The Citadel National Historic Site is another one of the most iconic Halifax attractions that offers a captivating journey into the city’s past. Be transported to a different era as you explore this impressive fortress.

Encounter costumed interpreters who bring history to life with their stories and reenactments. Get fascinating insights into daily life for soldiers stationed here and the role the citadel played in the city’s development.

Make use of the higher elevation of the hill and fortress to see panoramic views of the downtown that has sprouted up around it. There’s nothing quite like standing on top of the ramparts of the Citadel National Historic Site!

The interactive exhibits, guided tours, and engaging demonstrations make this an excellent place to visit for history enthusiasts, families, and anyone curious about Canada’s past.


8. Shop in the Historic Hydrostone District

This gorgeous northern Halifax neighborhood is a hub for unique eateries and boutiques. If you’re looking for things to do in Halifax, wide avenues, plenty of greenery, and cultivated gardens make this a lovely place to stroll, dine, and shop.

Named for the fire-resistant stone many of the buildings are constructed from, this European-style neighborhood is filled with historic row houses and heritage charm. It’s the perfect place to visit if you want to get away from downtown Halifax.

The Hydrostone Market is the neighborhood’s primary commercial area. Check out cool shops like Lady Luck Boutique or The Lemonade General Store & Co. for one-of-a-kind gifts, home decor, and other interesting finds.

You’ll also want to check out the pastry shops around the market – Julien’s Patisserie serves up artisanal baked goods and locally roasted coffee in a Parisian-style interior. And if you want a sommelier-worthy wine list, just walk over to The Ostrich Club!


9. Ride on the Halifax-Dartmouth Ferry

Must do things in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Dartmouth Ferry

Dartmouth is a city located right across the harbor from downtown Halifax. Known as the City of Lakes, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to kayak, swim, or canoe when you visit!

Getting to Dartmouth is easy. The Alderney ferry leaves right from Halifax Harbour, and it takes only 15 minutes to reach downtown Dartmouth.

Halifax, Nova Scotia Bucket List: Dartmouth Ferry

Once you land, consider taking the Dartmouth Harbourwalk Trail, which connects the Dartmouth and Woodside ferry terminals and intersects plenty of other trails as well. Cycling the trails on Dartmouth is a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Visiting on a Wednesday or over the weekend is ideal, since the famed Alderney Landing Market is only open a few days a week. Depending on the season, operating times might change, too. But the market is one of the must-do things in Halifax if you’re looking for special gifts, local produce, or other artisanal treats.


10. Relax in the Halifax Central Library

What to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Central Library

If you’re searching for relaxing Halifax activities, there’s no place quite like a library to stay and rest a while. The Halifax Central Library is conveniently located in the downtown core, and its striking architecture will probably capture you long before you step through its doors.

As one of Halifax downtown’s most iconic landmarks, it’s worth stopping by just to snap a few photos. Step inside, and you’ll find great places to lounge – plush contemporary chairs, study nooks, and spaces for public readings.

Soaring floor-to-ceiling windows line the library’s entry hall, while bridges crisscross the upper stories, making for fascinating angles to peer at and easy navigation through the stacks.

While the building itself is a work of art, there is also plenty of art thoughtfully placed throughout the library, mostly by local artists. The Halifax Central Library is definitely worth a visit while you’re downtown – especially if you’re interested in the culture of the Canadian Maritimes.


11. Take a Ghost Walk through Downtown Halifax

Halifax, Nova Scotia Things to do: Ghost Walk

There’s nothing quite like a ghost walk to get acquainted with a city on an entirely different level – and Halifax is no exception. With a history strewn with drowned sailors, mysterious ghosts, and tricky devils, embarking on a ghost walk is easily one of the most unique things to do in Halifax.

The Halifax Ghost Walk is a guided tour that will immerse you in chilling stories of haunted landmarks, ghostly apparitions, and unexplained phenomena. It’s an immersive experience that delves into the city’s rich past, replete with vivid accounts of the macabre. From haunted graveyards to eerie alleys, each stop on the tour is infused with an aura of suspense and intrigue.

Tours are a good length, at an hour and 45 minutes, and start at 8:30 pm, making them a great post-dinner outing. Plus, you’ll still have time for a nightcap afterward to settle the nerves!

This particular tour is hosted by a skilled individual guide. Keep in mind that advance reservations are required, and tour dates may not always be available. All that means is that this unique experience definitely belongs on your Halifax bucket list.


12. Check Out the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Best Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

While you’re exploring the beautiful Halifax waterfront, stop by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. This immersive museum commemorates the port of entry for almost one million immigrants to Canada during the 20th century.

This national museum is located on Pier 21, a historic site in itself. The immigration facility was in operation from the 1920s through 1971, and after its closure, efforts began to memorialize the site, which finally reopened as the museum you see today in 1999.

Cool Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

During your visit, you’ll encounter rich first-person accounts of people’s journeys to Canada, set alongside artifacts like archival photographs and keepsakes. The museum also addresses darker moments in Canada’s history and immigration policy.

Special exhibits capture particular immigration stories, often focusing on a time period or group. Others are more focused on art installations that touch upon related themes. A visit to this museum is absolutely one of the best things to do in Halifax if you’re interested in Canadian history, diversity, or culture in general.


13. Ice Skate in the Halifax Oval

Fun Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Halifax Oval

The Halifax Oval is one of the best places to skate in all the Maritime provinces. This outdoor rink is bigger than three NHL hockey rinks, large enough for over 1,000 skaters to enjoy at the same time.

What makes this rink extra-special is that it’s refrigerated, meaning you’re even able to ice skate in temperatures as high as 10°C (50°F), meaning you can enjoy outdoor ice skating on sunny, breezy days in the fall and early spring, rather than only in winter. During the summer months, the rink is still open to rollerblading and cycling, so it’s definitely still worth a visit if you’re feeling outdoorsy.

Unique Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Halifax Oval

If you’re looking for family-friendly Halifax attractions, special events are held in the rink during every season. You’ll find that the rink is liveliest during the prime skating season around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so if you’re visiting for the holidays, put this on your Halifax bucket list!


14. See the Titanic Exhibit

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a great stop if you’re interested in Halifax’s nautical history. The most well-known exhibit here features the Titanic, as Halifax is where the victims of the tragedy were laid to rest after being recovered from the site.

The “Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship and Halifax” exhibition covers what staying on the Titanic was like and includes artifacts like deck chairs, letters, and other flotsam collected from the site, so you can truly envision the space, from the captain’s quarters to first-class. If you’re interested in other bits of Titanic history, many of the victims were buried in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, so you might plan a visit there as well.

“Explosion in the Narrows” is another noteworthy exhibit that reveals the devastation of the 1917 Halifax explosion, which decimated the city and spurred decades of rebuilding and redesigning the Halifax we know today. You might also look for “Ta’n me’j Tel-keknuo’ltiek,” which focuses on the Mi’kmaw people of the Maritimes.


15. Snap a Photo at Peggy’s Point Lighthouse

Halifax, Nova Scotia Bucket List: Peggy's Point Lighthouse

A short drive from Halifax, you’ll find one of Canada’s most famous lighthouses and one of the top Halifax attractions: Peggy’s Point Lighthouse. You’ll also find the village of Peggy’s Cove nestled on that same bit of shoreline, bursting with fishing town charm.

Peggy’s Cove is a picturesque escape where Maritime traditions thrive against a backdrop of craggy granite cliffs and rolling waves. The lighthouse, with its stark white and red exterior, stands out amidst the endless blue of the ocean and the skies, making for postcard-worthy snaps.

Must do things in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Peggy's Point Lighthouse

In the Peggy’s Cove Preservation Area, you’ll find beautiful, undeveloped coastal barrens strewn with the massive boulders that ancient receding glaciers left behind. This is a must-see if you love untouched natural landscapes.

Other local attractions in Peggy’s Cove include the Coastal Heritage Trail, which will guide you through some of the most beautiful areas on the coast, and the William deGarthe Gallery and Museum, where you’ll find the artist’s collection of paintings heralding a bygone era of Nova Scotia’s history.

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Halifax. What’s your favorite thing to do in Halifax?


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Author

  • Valerie Wheatley

    Val grew up in Portland, Oregon but moved to Oahu on a whim back in 2013. She sold her house and all of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket. Since then she’s taken two around-the-world trips and has visited 60-ish countries while living out of a duffel bag.

    Val started documenting the Wandering Wheatleys travels back in 2013 as a way to update friends and family about her whereabouts and to relay humorous daily interactions. The only readers were her mom and her mother-in-law but that didn’t stop her!

    These days you’ll find Val dreaming up future trips, creating new travel content, managing a team of amazing travel enthusiasts, and chasing around her two adorable but naughty kids.

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