The Best Things to do in Nova Scotia, Canada

The 15 Best Things to do in Nova Scotia, Canada

Nova Scotia is a Canadian Maritime province brimming with rich history, natural attractions, and off-the-beaten-path charm. Between its fascinating local culture and the many unique activities to choose from, you’ll find a lot to love on your visit to Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia has a history of being a major French and Acadian settlement outside of Quebec, and that translates to French-speaking areas, unique cuisines, and European-style architecture scattered throughout the province. This heritage, still very much alive, makes Nova Scotia a distinct part of the Maritimes and Canada as a whole.

Take a trip to Nova Scotia, and you can have a grand adventure in some of the most secluded corners of North America, experience living history in charming historic towns, or spend your days by the sea. 

From the fishing harbors of the South Shore to the busy streets of Halifax, there’s so much going on in this dynamic province. Even off its coastline, you can find gorgeous vineyards, river rapids for extreme rafting, the highest tides in the world, majestic humpback whales, and plenty of ghost stories to consider as you settle into a quiet cabin under the stars.

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 Nova Scotia for you. Stick to these fun and unique Nova Scotia bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this gorgeous Maritime province!

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Nova Scotia, Canada

1. Shop the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market

Best Things to do in Nova Scotia: Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market

Dating back to 1750, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market is North America’s longest continuously-running market and one of the top Nova Scotia attractions. With a history spanning over 270 years, the market is both an amazing place to spend an afternoon and a testament to Nova Scotia’s community and heritage.

This open-air haven is located in Pavilion 23, part of the bustling Halifax Seaport District. If you’re planning on visiting the waterfront for the museum or boardwalk, there’s no reason not to check out the market if you’re there on a weekend. The market is open on Saturdays from 8 am to 2 pm and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm.

Over 100 vendors are at the market on any given day. Watch out for seasonal events, like a scavenger hunt through the market, a holiday giving tree, and even live music!

Whether you’re drawn in by history, culinary delights, or simply the joy of connecting with local creators, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market promises an immersive experience that resonates with the culture of the Maritimes.


2. Tour the Annapolis Royal Graveyard by Candlelight

Cool Things to do in Nova Scotia: Annapolis Royal Graveyard

Nestled within the charming town of Annapolis Royal, the Annapolis Royal Graveyard is more than just a memorial ground; it’s an adventure through time. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Nova Scotia, take a tour, and you’ll be able to wander the rows by candlelight, led by an experienced guide.

This candlelit graveyard tour is one of the most popular Nova Scotia activities, and fittingly, even some of Canada’s prime ministers have done this tour! For those who have always wondered about the stories behind the dates and names on tombstones or the particular artwork and sculptures in cemeteries, there’s nothing quite like this tour.

For even more immersion into Annapolis Royal’s heritage, you can go on tours through the National Historic District with a seasoned guide or explore the original landing site of the Acadian settlers in Nova Scotia.

If you visit Annapolis, don’t miss out on the wineries, either. Grand Pré Wines offers some of the most well-known and well-loved wines in the area, which you can enjoy directly at the winery.


3. Check Out the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

Unique Things to do in Nova Scotia: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic offers a look into the very essence of Nova Scotia’s seafaring history. Located in the historic town of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll have much to discover both inside the museum and all around it.

The museum’s exhibits cast a wide net, showcasing the evolution of the Maritime fishing industry. You can marvel at intricate models of fishing boats and tools of the trade in the First Fishers exhibit.

Take part in the interactive Life in Fishing Communities exhibit, where you can even learn a new skill like hooking a mat or quilting. You can also relax and watch a film in the museum’s Ice House Theatre.

The highlight of the museum is definitely the restored schooner, going by the name Theresa E. Connor. You can also chat with the guides who embody the “old salts” who sailed the Atlantic.


4. Explore Peggy’s Cove

Fun Things to do in Nova Scotia: Peggy's Cove

Peggy’s Cove is a beautiful fishing village located along Nova Scotia’s South Shore, and taking a trip to check out the iconic Peggy’s Point Lighthouse is easily one of the best things to do in Nova Scotia.

The picturesque village is filled with classic East Coast-style fishing huts painted in bright colors and set in a stunning landscape. The cove is a designated nature preserve, with wild beauty around every corner. The village is also still an active fishing site, so you’ll be able to spot colorful fishing boats off the shore if you go during lobster season.

Nova Scotia Bucket List: Peggy's Cove

Other must-sees in Peggy’s Cove are the William deGarthe Art Gallery and the Fishermen’s Monument. And make sure to try the lobster mac and cheese at the Sou’Wester restaurant before you go!

See the Beautiful Peggy’s Cove


5. Go Whale Watching Off the Coast of Cape Breton

Nova Scotia Things to do: Cape Breton

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Nova Scotia, embark on an unforgettable maritime expedition along Cape Breton Island’s rugged coastline and do some whale and seal watching! One of the best places in Canada to spot marine life, this is something you absolutely have to add to your Nova Scotia bucket list.

Cape Breton is renowned for its diverse waters, a playground for the ocean’s most majestic inhabitants. Set sail, and you’ll soon find yourself in the midst of a marine spectacle.

You’ll have a variety of tour companies to choose from, like Capt. Mark’s Whale and Seal Cruise and Oshan Whale Watch. You might set sail on a nimble raft, a classic schooner, or a smooth-sailing zodiac boat.

You could spot humpback whales gracefully breaching the waves with their bellies or tails. Pilot whales, finbacks, humpback whales, and minke whales are the most common sights.

You might also catch seals sunning themselves on the rocks. Regardless, the experience is exhilarating and one of the best ways to explore the Atlantic Ocean and Nova Scotia’s connection to the sea.

Discover Cape Breton Island


6. Take a Walking Tour Through Picturesque Lunenburg

Best Things to do in Nova Scotia: Lunenburg

Nova Scotia is home to one of two urban townships officially classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the beautiful Lunenburg being an 18th-century time capsule. Replete with colorful row houses, cobblestone streets, and plenty of unique shops, visiting this gem is easily one of the best things to do in Nova Scotia.

The iconic Old Town should be your first stop for a look at the historic architecture that makes Lunenburg a must-see destination in Nova Scotia. With Lunenburg Walking Tours, you can have the full experience of the city with a local guide. 

A variety of tours are offered, from ones that focus on the town’s architecture and history to tours that highlight the area’s spooky history and resident ghosts to excursions that take you along the waterfront, where you can enjoy the sea and learn more about the city’s historic fishing industry.

Of course, you don’t want to miss the great seafood in this oceanside town or the charming nautical souvenirs you might find here.

Explore Lunenberg


7. Catch a Show at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax

Best Things to do in Nova Scotia: Neptune Theatre

With a storied history dating back to 1915, the Neptune Theatre is one of Canada’s oldest performing arts institutions and has had past lives as a vaudeville house, repertory space, and movie theater.

Now, it’s one of the most iconic Nova Scotia attractions, serving as Halifax’s premier destination for stage plays, musicals, touring acts, and concerts. It’s also a theater school and a center promoting arts and culture in the city at large. All this benefits the patrons since there’s always a lot going on at the theater.

Between independent local productions to theater classics like A Christmas Carol, along with modern Broadway shows, you’re sure to be able to find a show that suits your mood.

Conveniently, the theater is located in the heart of downtown Halifax, meaning you’ll be in the dining and entertainment center of the city – perfect for a double-feature day or a dinner-and-the-theater outing.


8. Touch the Ocean Floor at Burntcoat Head Park

Best Things to do in Nova Scotia: Burntcoat Head Park

At Burntcoat Head Park, you can experience the enchantment of a place where the world’s highest tides meet the rugged beauty of the Atlantic coastline. You’ll find this natural wonder nestled along the shores of the Bay of Fundy, an area renowned for its dramatic tidal shifts.

One of the most unique things to do in Nova Scotia, there’s nothing quite so captivating as waves that reach the top of the cliffsides to a low tide so shallow that you can touch the ocean floor – it’s a surreal experience!

You can even view the rise and fall of the tides from the beautiful Burntcoat Head Lighthouse, which offers amazing panoramic views of the bay. If you’re visiting Nova Scotia, a trip to Burntcoat Head Park is a must and makes for an unforgettable sight!


9. Go Tidal Bore Rafting on the Shubenacadie River

Cool Things to do in Nova Scotia: Shubenacadie River

The high tides of the Bay of Fundy fuel the rapids of the Shubenacadie River, a national favorite site for tidal bore rafting. If you’re into watersports, you should definitely add tidal bore rafting to your Nova Scotia bucket list. As the ocean tides reverse the river’s currents, you’ll experience a rush of rapids that can go up to 13 feet high!

With Rafting Canada you can easily hop on a raft with an experienced guide. You’ll even be able to tailor your trip to your comfort level, ranging from regular to extreme.

For the complete experience and one of the most adrenaline-pumping things to do in Nova Scotia, check out their Fundy Tides and Fireside Adventure trip. This overnight experience will see you braving the rapids before enjoying a gourmet lobster lunch on the river sandbar, complete with local wine selections. End your day with a rum tasting under the stars, then settle into a rustic cottage right by the river.

Tidal bore rafting is not an experience to be missed if you’re looking for fun, adrenaline, and adventure in Nova Scotia.


10. Experience Regional Flavor with a Wine Tasting

Unique Things to do in Nova Scotia: Wine Tasting

Near Annapolis Valley, you’ll find the renowned Domaine de Grand Pré, a boutique winery specializing in unique Nova Scotian varietals you won’t find elsewhere. If you’re a gourmand, this is a must-visit winery. The wines produced here are tailored to Nova Scotia’s particular climate, and the varieties offered might surprise you!

Choose from a sparkling brut rosé, a special Nova Scotian-style brut, a classic chardonnay, or even a sparkling Riesling, all of which are hard to find outside of the province. The vineyard even produces apple brandy and ice ciders.

Fun Things to do in Nova Scotia: Wine Tasting

The ideal way to experience these wines is with a delicious food pairing at Le Caveau, the vineyard’s fine dining restaurant, which emphasizes farm-to-table ingredients. And if you don’t want to leave after all that, you don’t have to! Staying in the winery’s gorgeous inn is one of the coolest things to do in Nova Scotia.

Of course, Nova Scotia is filled with quality wineries, all of which are special in their own way. Don’t miss out on these stunning vineyards!


11. Indulge in Locally-Made Maple Syrup

Nova Scotia Bucket List: Maple Syrup

Canada as a whole is known for its maple syrup, which is a national export, but Nova Scotia makes very good, organic, and all-natural varieties. A staple food since the mid-1500s, maple syrup has long been used as a natural sweetener by Canada’s Indigenous people and later on by the European settlers of the area.

Maple season is at most only six weeks long, during which time Nova Scotia’s small-batch producers are hard at work in sugar shacks and caring for the orchards. Maple syrup produced in Nova Scotia is graded and regulated according to stringent standards, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting: artisanal-quality goods.

Sugar Moon Farm is one of the most popular sugar shacks, offering amazing syrups for sale, along with eye-opening tours and unique dining experiences.


12. Take the Rails to Trails Cycling Tour

Must do things in Nova Scotia: Cycling Tour

There are dozens of amazing cycling trails spread throughout Nova Scotia, some of which will take you past defunct railroads, the beautiful Atlantic coastline, and untouched forests and marshlands. The Trans Canada Trail goes through Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, so you can experience a part of Canadian history as you pedal on.

There are also gorgeous seaside trails like Pennant Point Trail and a convenient (and gorgeous) trail just outside Halifax: Beechville Lakeside Timberlea Trail. And these are just a handful!

Cycling Nova Scotia has the details on everything you’d want to know about cycling the province, including routes, tips, insurance, and race calendars. If you like combining cycling with other fun activities, you might try one of the brewery rides that dot the province, which will take you to breweries boasting special bike parking and experienced cyclists to mingle with.


13. Try Creamed Lobster on the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores

You can find delicious lobster all over Nova Scotia – the region is famed for its fishing industry. But you’ll only be able to find creamed lobster in Yarmouth and Acadian Shores.

This beautiful, secluded area sits at the southwest tip of Nova Scotia. It has a long and unique heritage as a French-speaking part of the Maritimes, being home to the largest community of Acadians in the region. Check out a local restaurant like Red Cap for a taste of homey Acadian comfort food, like rich and delicious creamed lobster or rappie pie.

You might even participate in the classic Acadian lobster-fishing industry on a real lobster boat for a fresh perspective on seafood.


14. Take a Trip to Sable Island

What to do in Nova Scotia: Sable Island

If you’re a nature enthusiast, a trek to Sable Island is one of the most unique things to do in Nova Scotia for some adventure. This incredibly isolated island lies in the far southeast, offering the kind of untamed backcountry that’s difficult to find in all but the most remote locations.

The island is famed for the herds of wild horses roaming its hills and shores. Grey seals also congregate on its rocky outcroppings, as the island is a major breeding site. You might also spot flora and fauna that simply don’t exist elsewhere.

The island is far offshore, and it can only be accessed via land and air during the early summer through fall. Parks Canada also limits the number of visitors the island receives, making a trip out to the island a truly special, exclusive adventure.

Aside from the beautiful sights, you’ll experience the joy of true solitude while roaming the grassy plains or looking for the shipwrecks just offshore. You can even enjoy the sights from above with a helicopter tour!


15. Tour the Fortress of Louisbourg

Nova Scotia Things to do: Fortress of Louisbourg

The Fortress of Louisbourg was once a bustling French colonial town, serving as a major port, military base, and mercantile center. After a catastrophic siege in the 1700s, the fortress was completely destroyed. Now, its reconstruction is an integral part of Canada’s history.

About a quarter of the original town now stands atop the original foundations, a living museum of early French settler life in Nova Scotia. Plus, an ongoing archaeological effort has unearthed hundreds of thousands of archival documents, plans, ruins, and other precious artifacts.

The fortress also could not have become what it was without the Mi’kmaw people, who supported the fortress and contributed greatly to its defense and development as a major trade center.

Visiting the painstakingly reconstructed historical buildings, homes, and businesses, including a stable, bakery, and artillery forge, is one of the best Nova Scotia activities for history lovers. This is a truly one-of-a-kind Nova Scotia experience.

The fortress is nestled along Cap Breton Island’s rugged coastline, and you can access it via car or by air. To truly explore the fortress and town, plan to spend a full day going through the buildings, chatting with costumed history interpreters, and even hiking the plains and trails nearby.

Explore the Louisbourg Fortress

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


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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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