This year, I made an internal pact to explore more of my home and native land: good ol’ Canada! While living abroad for most of my young adult life, I haven’t been able to scour the vast pockets of my very own country.
With a recent relocation to Toronto, I have made it my mission to discover as much of my motherland as possible.
From my new home base, I’ve unearthed parts of Ontario, Quebec and the West Coast of Canada, yet last weekend was the first time I’ve ventured to the East Coast.
Luckily, I had a local guide to help plan my itinerary, tell me which tourist traps to avoid, and which ones were “must-sees.”
After work on Friday, I flew Porter Airlines from Toronto to Halifax (yay for their sale prices and free mini wine bottles). With a pit stop in Ottawa and some plane delays, I arrived well past sunset and dove headfirst into the Nova Scotia nightlife.
Halifax boasts the highest number of bars per capita in the country, which is both convenient and dangerous. With my limited schedule, I was easily able to check out three different venues as most bars are contained within a small radius.
- Stillwell: If I had to choose, this would be my #1 pick with their modern décor and rotating tap of craft beers from around Nova Scotia. It’s located on Barrington Street but they also have an outdoor Beergarden (with twinkle lights!) on Spring Garden Road.
- Durty Nelly’s: It’s an authentic Irish-style pub with live music at the corner of Argyle and Sackville Street that’ll make you feel right at home in the maritimes.
- The Stubborn Goat: Great gastropub on Grafton Street known for their creative tapas and delicious cocktails.
An hour’s drive from Halifax, Peggy’s Point Lighthouse (built in 1915 for any history buffs) is the most famous of the 160 historic lighthouses in the province. Located in a quaint little fishing village, Peggy’s Cove is the epitome of East Coast charm with its vast views of the Atlantic and wave-washed boulders hugging the shoreline. I could have spent hours playing on the rocks and breathing in that ocean air. Tip: Arrive early to soak in the serene scene before the crowd floods in.
Continuing our drive along the South Shore, we stopped for lunch in Lunenberg. With its colourful clapboard homes and historic harbour, this whimsical place quickly stole my heart.
The South Shore Fish Shack for fish and chips is a must. Mmm, still dreaming about it – so fresh! (I hear their “Lobster bun” is good too). They give you an electronic lobster (naturally), to alert you when the food is ready which you can enjoy on their patio overlooking the tall ships moored in the water. Keep an eye out for the Bluenose II schooner when she’s not out at sea; the original Bluenose is featured on the Canadian dime.
After a stroll along the boardwalk and by The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, make sure to try Moon Mist ice cream. A pastel swirl of banana, grape, and bubble gum flavours, it tastes as delicious as it looks. They only make and sell it on the East Coast and let me tell you, the withdrawal is real.
On the way back to Halifax from Lunenberg, we stopped in at my friend’s cottage on Lake Mush-a-Mush for a quick hug, swim and a short boat ride. I would have loved to have visited for longer but with only 36 hours we had to keep moving in order to fit everything in on the itinerary.
Back in Halifax, we tried to have dinner on the patio at The Bicycle Thief along the waterfront, but since it was too busy (they don’t take reservations for the patio), we went to LaFrasca on Spring Garden instead. Both are Italian restaurants and come highly recommended. You can’t go wrong with either!
I had the best time celebrating a 60th birthday with a group of Nova Scotians (the accents got thicker as the night went on) after watching a live viewing of The Tragically Hip’s last ever concert on their Farewell tour in Grand Parade Square. It was a surreal experience and an epic moment in Canadian history.
That was all the time I had left before dashing to the airport. My first ever visit to the East Coast of Canada, with only 36 Hours in Nova Scotia, was exceptionally memorable and definitely won’t be my last. Another great reminder of how truly beautiful Canada is.
Things I would do on my next visit (or if you have more than 36 hours!):
· Peruse The Halifax Central Public Library (it’s an architectural beauty!)
· Picnic in Point Pleasant Park
· Visit the Highlands in Cape Breton with its rolling hills and stunning seascapes