Maybe you came from my other Nova Scotia post on the ultimate list of things to do in Nova Scotia, or maybe you just stumbled across this post through your own search. Whatever the case is, I hope to provide you with tons of information on how I planned a 10 day vacation to Nova Scotia!
Hopefully you will find this post helpful if you are also are deciding to explore the East Coast, as I can’t explain enough about how amazing our trip was! And luckily I’m a planner so I can share my plans and tips with you all in the hopes to give you ideas and inspiration and to also save you loads of time with your own trip planning!
Our trip to Nova Scotia was back in 2017, however I can remember almost everything we did as it was such a fun-filled adventure and also (mostly) because I made a trip itinerary… yes… I’m that person when it comes to planning a trip. But, I’m so glad I made one as we were able to squeeze so much into our trip in the 10 days we had. If you want to travel around most of the coast, then you do not want to do less than 10 days. It felt very busy and I wished we could have stayed longer, as there is so much to see and do in Nova Scotia. However, with the time we had we were able to fit in just the right amount of sightseeing, activities and adventures. So keep reading to see where we spent each day, what we got up to, and where we ate!
Day One: Arrival
We flew from Hamilton, Ontario directly to Halifax, Nova Scotia and rented a car to tour around (see my tip below when it comes to car rentals)… I decided to plan the trip going clockwise around the province, starting towards the South Shore, up to the Bay of Fundy and Annapolis Valley, then heading to Cape Breton Island, and stopping in Sydney before ending up back in Halifax. It doesn’t really matter which direction you go, or if you want to spend more time in Halifax when you first get there, but I thought for us, this would work best for the activities we wanted to do and the things we wanted to see.
Travler’s tip: I have never rented a car before, but boy did I learn a few things from this trip about renting vehicles for travel. First thing, definitely plan to rent a compact car if possible, depending on how many people you’re travelling with, as it will be much cheaper in gas. Secondly, if you can, try to rent a car for only 7 days as it will also be much cheaper. Anything over 7 days, but under 14, they will charge per day which ended up costing us way more. I wasn’t sure if we would need one near the end once we were in Halifax (we really didn’t as you can walk everywhere) but didn’t want to have the inconvenience just in case, and plus we still would have needed it over 7 days anyways, however those extra few days added quite a bit more onto our final cost. Also, if you can plan it, try to rent a vehicle outside of the airport, as again, it is significantly more to pay for the convenience of picking up your rental at the airport opposed to going to a rental location outside the airport.
We spent the first night in Prospect, which is about an hour or so from the Halifax airport. I picked this location as I knew the next morning I wanted to head over to Peggy’s Cove bright and early, so it would save us some extra time the next morning instead of if we stayed in Halifax that night. By the time we got there and checked into our AirBnB, it was quite late. However, the AirB&B Host recommended a restaurant near Peggy’s Cove which was really the only thing close that would have been still open. We quickly drove over to Shaws Landing and had our official first East Coast meal – lobster rolls!
Day Two: Peggy’s Cove
Our first full day was spent in Peggy’s Cove during the morning, stopping in Mahone Bay in the afternoon, Lunenburg in the evening and ending in Upper LaHave for the night. Peggy’s Cove was absolutely amazing and was one of my favourite places we visited in Nova Scotia. It’s a quaint, little fishing village with tons of character, and of course is home to the most iconic lighthouse. We made sure to get there early in the morning to beat the crowds, as there tends to be lots of tour buses that arrive around 9:00-10:00am.
After we checked out the lighthouse, we ventured into the village where we grabbed a coffee at Beales’ Bailiwick and admired the unique scenery and stunning natural beauty that Peggy’s Cove has to offer.
I loved the old fishing bouys!
After we spent the morning exploring Peggy’s Cove, we continued our day heading towards Lunenburg. Before we got there, we stopped about 15mins away in a town called Mahone Bay where we grabbed a bite to eat and toured the colourful downtown.
When we were done in Mahone Bay, we headed over to Lunenburg for the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening. Lunenburg has a beautiful waterfront, with colourful shops and buildings nestled along the harbour shore. We checked out the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, which I wrote about in my other Nova Scotia blog post, and had some amazing fish n’ chips at Rum Runners Restaurant and Lounge. One of the best parts about the waterfront in Lunenburg was that the famous Bluenose II had made a visit and was docked right outside the fisheries museum.
After we visited Lunenburg we made our way back to our AirBnB for the night, which was located in Upper LaHave, which is about 12 mins from Lunenburg. The AirBnB we stayed at for the night was absolutely amazing as we had the opportunity to stay aboard on a schooner! The schooner, or better known as Tillicum, was docked out in Burns Cove, which connects to the LaHave River. I’ve never slept on a boat before and knew I could not pass up this opportunity! Tillicum offers all the amenities you would need for a comfortable night on the water and the hosts, Russ and Heidi, were lovely, showing us the ropes on how get to and from Tillicum from the motor boat. If you’re interested in learning more about Tillicum and spending a night out in the water, click here to check out their website!
Day Three: Whale Watching
The next morning we got up bright and early and headed towards Digby, which is where we stayed the night. It’s about a two hour drive from Lunenburg so by the time we checked into our AirBnB we had most of the day to spend. The highlight of this day (and possibly the whole trip!) was whale watching off of Westport in Brier Island. After taking the two ferries to get the island, we headed over to Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises, paid for our tickets, got suited up and hopped onto a Zodiac boat and headed out onto the ocean. It took about 20 minutes to see our first whale. I honestly wasn’t sure if we’d see anything, but eventually we saw a burst of water shooting into the air, so our tour guide quickly steered the Zodiac over in that direction. Soon enough we were within arms reach of three humpback whales. It was absolutely amazing!
Before our whale watching tour, we stopped at the Balancing Rock Trail in Tiverton, which is on the way to Brier Island. Although the trail was long, the view at the end was spectacular. Not to mention, the famous balancing rock was quite the sight to see! After the hike and after we had seen the whales, it was getting later into the evening by the time we got back to Digby. It seemed that most restaurants closed rather early in the evening, but luckily we were able to get a bite to eat at the Roof Hound Brewing Co. before it closed. They have a great selection of craft beer and pizzas.
Day Four: Bay of Fundy
Before we left Digby towards our next stop, Wolfville, we checked out the Prim Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is nothing special (I don’t even think I took a photo of it…) but the view overlooking the bay is what makes it. We hobbled down the rocky shoreline to get a closer view.
After leaving Digby, we made a stop in Annapolis Royal where we toured the Fort Anne National Historic Site and walked around the downtown core, stopping at Bistro East for lunch. I devoured some very tasty scallops, as I missed trying scallops in Digby (Digby is known for their scallops)!
Since we were in Nova Scotia during Canada’s 150th birthday, all the national parks and museums were free. Fort Anne also has a nearby stretch of land featuring two red Muskoka chairs that overlook the water, which made for a perfect photo opt!
We also made a little pit stop in Kentville where we hiked the ravine trail.
We of course also made sure we stopped along the Bay of Fundy to see the tidal waves. We decided to stop along Halls Harbour where we were able experience seeing the low tide.
After we walked around Halls Harbour, we drove about 15 minutes towards the Blomidon Look-Off which is home to the most amazing view of the Annapolis Valley. It’s a great little spot for photos.
Later that day, we headed to our AirBnB in Wolfville for the night and had an amazing dinner at the restaurant Troy which is right downtown Wolfville. The food was tasty and the atmosphere was great, and they have an awesome patio to enjoy in the warmer weather.
Day Five: Baddeck
This day was the long stretch (4.5 hours) as we made our way from Wolfville to Cape Breton Island, spending the night in Baddeck. Baddeck is situated on the northern shore of Bras d’Or lake in Cape Breton Island and is home to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Museum. We stopped in the museum but wished we could have stayed longer as it was near closing time by the time we got there. It was actually really interesting and I would definitely suggest taking the time to see it if you are in the area.
Later that night we decided to try out a lobster dinner at Baddeck Lobster Suppers. Obviously we could not pass up trying a lobster dinner while in Nova Scotia and we were not disappointed!
After the lobster dinner, we walked along Baddeck’s board walk and watched the gorgeous sunset.
Day Six: Cape Breton Island
The next morning we packed up our bags and headed along Cape Breton Island’s famous Cabot Trail. We went clock wise around the Trail, making a few pit stops along the way before we ended the day in Cheticamp.
Driving along the Cabot Trail was probably one of the top highlights of the trip. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Lush green trees, mountain tops and beautiful oceans views are what surround the Cabot Trail. It truly is one of the most scenic drives in the country.
With so much to do and see, we easily could have spent the entire length of our trip out here. The land is not only known for its stunning coastline, perfect beaches, and adventure-filled trails, but it is also rich in the Acadian culture.
The highlight of this day was hiking along the Acadian Trail in Cape Breton Highland National Park. After a long hike climbing 365 metres above the Cheticamp River, we were awarded by a gorgeous view of the Acadian coastline. Thank-goodness there were benches along the trail, as it was a fairly challenging hike, with lots of rocky paths and steep hills. However the 3-4 hour hike was worth it with the stunning panoramic views.
Day Seven: Skyline Trail
The next day we continued our drive around the other side of Cape Breton Island where we eventually ended our night in Ingonish. To start off the day, we got up super early and headed over to the Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highland National Park, which is probably one of Nova Scotia’s most popular trail in the province. At 8.2km, it took us probably around three hours to hike the loop. However it was totally worth it! The birds-eye view off the cliff that overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence was breathtaking.
As if hiking the Skyline Trail wasn’t enough, we also went on another hike later that evening along the Middle Head Trail, which starts off near the Keltic Lodge. It’s a lovely trail with a picturesque view of the North Bay and Gulf of St. Lawrence, however I definitely recommend wearing good hiking shoes. There were lots of tree roots covering parts of the trail resulting in a few accidentally trips along the way!
To end our day, we also stopped a local beach nearby.
Day Eight: Sydney & Louisbourg
Our eighth day in Nova Scotia was spent continuing our drive down the rest of Cape Breton Island and making our way over to Sydney. We made some stops along the way to break up our drive. One of our stops was at North River Kayak in Baddeck. They have kayaking tips ranging from 1/2 day to 5 days, paddling along the Cape Breton sea coast. We opted for the 1/2 day, where we had a guided tour of the St. Ann Bay’s region and paddled to a secluded beach nearby, stopping for a light lunch prepared by the tour guide.
Later that evening when we made it to our next stop in Sydney, we decided to check out the Fortress of Louisbourg, a National Historic Site of Canada. Even if you’re not all that interested in history or historic sites, I guarantee that you will find this place interesting! There’s so much to see and do while you are here. Walking around the grounds of the fortress, you will be taken back to time to the 1700s where you can take tours, interact with the actors, watch a canon fire, and even camp under the stars inside the fortress. We loved it so much that we went back the next morning as we definitely did not have enough time by the time we got there. If you can, I would suggest planning one full day here as there is so much to explore.
Day Nine & Ten: Halifax
The end of our trip was nearing as we headed back down to Halifax for the last two days. By this time, we were quite exhausted! As I am writing this blog post, I’m actually amazed at how much we had seen up until this point. By the time we got to Halifax, we were pretty content to just walk around the waterfront and sightsee. Our days spent here were fairly low-key. Also the weather wasn’t the nicest either. We had lucked out with sunny warm weather up until this point as it was a bit cooler and rainy. However, you will still find lots to see and do along the waterfront. There are also lots of great restaurants and bars nearby to check-out, such as The Bicycle Thief, Durty Nelly’s, and Lot Six…. just to name a few!
There’s lots to see along the waterfront. For starters, you can hit up the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 to learn more about Canada’s longest standing ocean immigration terminal. You may be surprised to learn about your family history! After that you visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. They have an exhibition on the Titanic which was really interesting!
One of the last places we visited in Halifax was the Citadel National Historic Site. The Citadel is located in the downtown core of Halifax and allows you the chance to explore the walls of the fortress, take guided tours, and watch live re-enactments.
And that pretty much wraps up our trip to Nova Scotia! As busy as it was, I wish we could have seen even more. Nova Scotia is by far one of the best trips I’ve ever been on (and ever planned). I can’t wait to go back! If any of you are planning a trip out East, I hope that this posts helps with your planning. Make sure to check out my other Nova Scotia blog post here where I wrote about some of the must-see and do things when in Nova Scotia. Also, here is a link to the Nova Scotia Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide (and other guides)! I definitely suggest downloading a copy to help with your planning.