If you're planning on taking your kids to Nova Scotia, there is a ton of stuff to do the whole family will have a blast doing. Four days travelling with my family around Nova Scotia was not enough time to explore everything the province has to offer. Here are the things we experienced on our short trip that my kids loved.
I like to get my bearings when I arrive in a new city. A gang of Halifax Twitter friends recommended that we head down to the waterfront and jump on the Harbour Hopper. We were not disappointed.
Originally produced as a war vehicle to transport troupes through land and water in the '60s, today this amphibious vehicle shuttled us around the historic streets of Halifax and then drove right into the Halifax Harbour for a very different view of the city from the water. The colour commentary was fun enough to keep my kids entertained and even (gasp!) learn something about the history of Halifax. Things got a little funnier when it started pouring despite the lack of protective tarp, turning the tour into more of an East Coast adventure.
Just because it's old doesn't mean it's not fun. Located two blocks from our hotel, the Halifax Citadel sits high up on a hill in the middle of Halifax. Hills mean climbing and running, which is what we all did up to the Citadel. Out of breath and laughing, we were greeted by a stone-faced guard who, like those at Buckingham Palace in England, is forbidden to smile. Of course, my kids tortured the poor guy with bad jokes in the hopes he would crack a smile. Entering the Citadel was like walking into history. Soldiers marched to bagpipers in the courtyard while we visited the barracks as they looked in 1856.
And then my kids literally rolled down the hill back to our hotel.
About 40 minutes drive from Halifax, Peggy's Cove is a picturesque hamlet filled with colourful weathered fishing sheds and boats. While the kids enjoyed poking around the tiny town, the lighthouse and granite coastline is the main event here. From an adult perspective, the setting of the huge, smooth grey granite rocky coast is magnificent to behold. For the younger crowd, this really is Mother Nature's Playground. My kids couldn't have been happier exploring the natural crevices and boulders as the ocean waves crashed just ahead. I spoke to some locals who told me tales about tourists getting washed into the ocean by huge waves crashing onto the rocks. With that in mind, I made sure my kids were always in my view and never let them get too close to the water.
We must have spent close to two hours climbing, exploring, and taking breathtaking photos.
My kids can only take so much sitting and learning. The horse and buggy tour through the town gave us the requisite historial stories about Lunenberg's colourful past dating back to the 1700's, including its designation as a UNESCO Heritage Site. What a gorgeous town, each house more charming than the next. My kids were particularly interested in the architectural features known as the Widows Wait and Widows Walk, where fishermen's wives could look out for their husbands to arrive home from the sea.
It was actually getting into a fishing boat where memories were made for our family. Rather than take a 3-hour Whale Watching tour on the off-chance we'd spot something, we decided to book a trip at the wharf (for a much more reasonable $65 for an hour) in a small fishing boat with Fred, a local fisherman. Weathered and very kind, Fred was like a character out of movie. He took us into the Lunenberg harbour where he taught us the art of fishing for flounder. He showed my kids how to shuck clams and use them as bait, how to cast and then catch the fish with a net. He even let the kids drive the boat. This wasn't a Disney version of fishing. It was the real thing and an experience we'll never forget.
I had no idea how intense the tides are in the Bay of Fundy. Or that you can jump into a zodiac and head into the insanely powerful tide, hang on for dear life, and have a blast. When I read about Tidal Bore Rafting Park, which sends fleets of zodiacs and experience guides into huge crashing waves, my head said no. But my kids said YES!!!
We were told to wear old clothes and shoes, tie our sunglasses to our heads, and put on a life preservers. We jumped into a zodiac with 4 other thrillseekers and a strapping university aged guide who grew up in the area. At first, things were calm and delightful as we powered up the river to a sandbar where the kids frolicked in the water and sand. Once the guides saw waves crashing in the distance, we were ordered to jump back into the boat and hang on — no matter what. Within minutes, we were in an angry maelstrom of crashing, silt-filled salt water waves that pounded our zodiac. The guides fearlessly drove the boat into HUGE waves, filling the zodiac completely with water — I mean COMPLETELY up to our waist!
Our intrepid boats never sank, and our guide kept buzzing around the angry river, while all of us in the boat screaming with terror (me) and excitement (everyone else). It just so happened that the day we were out there, the tide was at its highest. The sandbar we had frolicked on 10 minutes earlier was now buried under a raging river. After half an hour of craziness, we were taken to a quieter part of the river where everyone was invited to go mudsliding into the water. By the end of it, everyone was covered head to toe in mud and silt.
I have never, ever seen my kids have more fun than on this tour.
While I thoroughly enjoyed all the above activities, my idea of awesome fun is sometimes slightly different than my kids' idea of fun. If you're a mom like me and you travel to Nova Scotia with your family, prepared to be blown away by the stunning landscape, scenery, and architecture.
We visited Mahone Bay, a beautiful harbour town with quaint shops and lots of sweet restaurants filled with seafood. If you like shoe shopping, make sure you stop at The Mahone Bay Trading Co — I was shocked to find this fantastic shoe store in such a tiny town. We loved our dinner at Rebecca's Cafe, an eclectic little restaurant with a patio overlooking the harbour and a game shelf to keep the kids entertained.
The beautiful seaside town of Chester has the most stunning homes and reminded my me and my husband of those small seaside towns in Maine. We missed the last ferry from Chester to Tancock Island, but I hear this tiny island is like a trip back in time.
When you get to Lunenburg, stop by for a grown-up tasting at Ironworks Distillery, which makes vodka from apples grown in the Annapolis Valley on site. There's a variety of quirky fruit-flavoured liqueurs and rums all handcrafted from natural ingredients right on the premises which make great gifts.
In Halifax, we stayed at the brand spanking new Hampton Inn by Hilton and Homewood Suites by Hilton Halifax-Downtown which includes a full hot breakfast buffet and wifi. The location is great — a seven-minute walk to Halifax Harbour and three minutes to the downtown area or the Citadel.
When we visited Mahone Bay, we stayed at Atlantica Oak Island Resort and loved it. This place is made for families with a variety of family-friendly activities planned throughout the day. We practiced some archery during our stay. We stayed a large standard room with a pull-out couch, but they have also chalets and villas by the water which are great for larger families.
On our way to Tidal Bore Rafting we stayed overnight in the Annapolis Valley at the Old Orchard Inn, which has a spectacular view of the valley. While the rooms are nothing special, we were pleasantly surprised at the delicious home-cooked style means in the restaurant.
Located close to the ferry to PEI, our last night was spent in a cabin at the elegantly rustic Pictou Lodge Beach Resort. A destination since 1926, we felt at home as soon as we walked into the main log cabin building. The cuisine and service at their Oceanside Restaurant (housed in the main log cabin building) was spectacular. Make sure you make reservations if you want to dine there as it is very popular amongst tourists and locals. We can't wait to go back here for a longer stay.
Disclosure: As a guest of Destination Halifax and the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency some of the costs for my trip were complimentary.
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