Scenic routes, coastal access, the Bay of Fundy, and delicious seafood are just a few of the offerings that inspire people to travel to Nova Scotia. Throw in the adorable seaside towns and the abundance of hands on experiences and things to do in Nova Scotia – and you’ve got an incredible vacation destination.
When it comes to driving around Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail is constantly touted as one of the world’s best drives – it gets all of the attention. However, as a self-professed underdog lover – I want to let you know that there’s much more to Nova Scotia’s highways than Cape Breton.
Nova Scotia Scenic Drives
There’s a whole series of scenic driving routes throughout the island that deserve praise. Each are densely marked with their own logo which makes it easy to follow the route as it winds around towns, beaches, rural areas, and fishing villages.
When I started researching Nova Scotia for my mother-daughter trip, I knew right away that I wanted to do a Nova Scotia road trip driving holiday – but I didn’t just want to focus only on just the Cabot Trail. So with the help of Visit Nova Scotia, we were able to put together a complete Nova Scotia driving holiday that would take us on the majority of the scenic drives in addition to drive the Cabot Trail.
All we had to do was follow the route markers, and we were treated to the generous local hospitality and stunning views! This guide includes our driving routes, where we stayed, favorite restaurants, and things to do on this Nova Scotia road trip.
Plus, I’ve updated this for new lodging, restaurants, and experiences in 2021.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
How Much Time do you Need in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Road Trip Routes
Things to Do on the:
Lighthouse Route – South Shore
Evangeline Trail – Annapolis Valley and Fundy Shore
Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island
Marine Drive and the Eastern Shore
How Much Time do you Need in Nova Scotia
The trip took us a little less than 2 weeks overall – including our time in Halifax. However you can adjust this for however much time you have. You can drive one or two of the routes if you only have a week and get a great feel for Nova Scotia’s culture – and you’ll get great seafood no matter what region you visit!
Nova Scotia Road Trip Routes and Things to Do
We started in Halifax Nova Scotia since that’s where most people arrive the island via flights. However, we took the train to Halifax from Toronto; stopping in Montreal. The Montreal to Halifax Nova Scotia Route is called the Ocean Route. This is a unique way to slow travel out to Atlantic Canada if you have the time – I can’t recommend it enough!
When I travel, I find the cheapest rental car rates at RentalCars.com . Check out their prices for a Nova Scotia road trip!
One Item You’ll Find in Every Nova Scotia Region
There was one thing you could find on each of these scenic driving routes – colorful Adirondack chairs! They were everywhere – standing out like a bright beacon of color amidst an often gray, moody background.
During our 2 weeks driving around Nova Scotia this iconic chair was found everywhere along our routes. Some were new and brightly painted, some were plastic, and some had seen better days as the paint peeled due to neglect and the harshness of the Nova Scotia weather had taken it’s toll. However, no matter the condition, they were always gazing off towards some amazing tranquil views.
Things to do on the Lighthouse Route – South Shore
Not only did we see lighthouses, but we also got a great feel for the seafaring heritage of the area. The South Shore is also the site of the famous Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl. Every February – for the entire month – the South Shore throws a fantastically tasty event called the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl festival.
You see, February just happens to be the peak of the lobster season along the entire South Shore, so from Barrington (the Lobster Capital of Canada) to Peggy’s Cove and every port in between – you can expect all kinds of lobster celebrations.
My South Shore Highlights: Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, LeHave Bakery, Petite Riviere Vineyards, Lunenburg Fisheries Museum
Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
This route is full of lighthouses, with the most well-known one being Peggy’s Cove. We left Halifax Nova Scotia and headed for Peggy’s Cove to see the famous lighthouse and nearby quaint fishing village. We happened to get there as a big storm was arriving, so it was moody and bleak – perfect for photography.
New in 2021 – Peggy’s Cove is undergoing a big project to add a beautiful new viewing deck. It will allow people to view the lighthouse and experience the waves and rocks in a way that is fully accessible and safe – making a visit to Peggy’s Cove even better if that’s possible!
We also stopped along the winding road to see beautiful water views and outlooks. We stayed in the fishing village of Lunenberg and hunkered down for the approaching storm.
Stop in Lunenburg – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
We stopped in Lunenburg for the night; a picture perfect little fishing village on the South Shore. It’s a 260 year old town with a huge fishing history. When we woke up the next day it was pouring rain, but we didn’t let that stop us! We still went to see the Fisheries Museum and we also watched the Dory races – a local treat!
Lunenburg also is UNESCO World Heritage site! Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance, based on a rectangular grid pattern drawn up in the home country.
LaHave Bakery – a Local Favorite
The next day, based on advice from locals we continued along the Lighthouse Route to the LaHave Ferry. We rode the ferry across with a local who invited us for coffee on the other side at the LaHave Bakery – a must for those along the Lighthouse Route!
You’ll be welcomed by a big porch where you are tempted to just sit and watch the world go by for a while. In addition to being a bakery and coffee shop, LaHave Bakery is also a market where you’ll find fresh local produce and other goods.