Talk to me about Nova Scotia!

by DaniGirl on January 13, 2010 · 25 comments

in Ottawa to Nova Scotia 2010

Hey bloggy peeps, talk to me about Nova Scotia. We’ve been to Bar Harbor in Maine and Quebec City, but we’ve always wanted to go to Nova Scotia and have started talking about driving out there this summer. Three little kids in the car for four or five solid days of driving? Who wouldn’t want to do that? *wink*

I know some of you either have done a similar trip, live out there now or have lived there in the past, so I’m crowdsourcing your thoughts and opinions. I’m not even completely married to the idea of NS, if you think I should stop in New Brunswick or head over to PEI instead. I’d *really* like to visit Newfoundland, but I’m worried that the drive to Nova Scotia might be on the outer reaches of too far, let alone all the way up to the Rock.

I’m leaning toward Lunenburg, simply because someone suggested it to me and from what I’ve read it sounds lovely. Ideally, we’d find a seaside cottage big enough to accommodate all five of us with kid-friendly amenities. This looks like a good choice, for example, although I’m a little concerned about the size.

So tell me — what must we see in the Maritimes? What should we avoid? And, for those of you who travel regularly between Ontario and Nova Scotia, could you suggest a good place to break the trip into two manageable days? 16 hours of driving is out of the question right now, but eight hours times two days is feasible if we can find something fun to do along the way. I’m even open to making the trip out in three days, if we can find things worth seeing and doing on the way out there.

Any advice, insight or tips would be greatly appreciated!

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Annika January 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

You won’t have time to get yourselves to NFLD and do it properly…I would recommend a separate vacay to that gorgeous province some summer when you can fly everyone out there and rent a car.

Nova Scotia is an absolute must. I think Lunenburg is a great idea as your base – it is scenic, full of history and attractions, near beaches and not far from Halifax. Make sure to spend a day (or two) in Halifax and do the Citadel, Public Gardens, Historic Waterfront Propeties, Keith’s Brewery tour, etc. Not sure on timing, but Halifax hosts an international buskers festival each summer, which your boys would love. Also – try to squeeze in a drive out to Peggy’s Cove. Your camera will thank you.

If you are staying in NS for any length of time, swing down to beautiful Pictou County about 90 mins from Hali (P.C. boasts Melmerby Beach, which is one of the nicest in the province) and the town of Pictou (birth place of New Scotland, with a great little waterfront and tours of the replica Ship Hector). Just a few minutes outside the Town of Pictou, you can catch the ferry to PEI and then tour beautiful PEI for a day or two.

You can exit PEI on the other end of the island by car, via the “fixed link” (driving the Confed Bridge is an experience in itself, one that your older boys would likely enjoy!), and then you are a hop, skip and a jump to NB and can start working your way back to Ontario.

As far as breaking up the trip, if you want to do it in two days, try to make it from Ottawa to Riviere du Loup, QC or Edmunston, NB (both seedy motel stops) as your half-way driving point. If you have the luxury of three or four days, spend one night in Quebec City and then the next in Fredericton (both beautiful little provincial capital cities).

I don’t know if any of this will be helpful. Remember to order your NS Doers and Dreamers guide and map! Let us know what you decide, and have fun!

p.s. Oh my goodness…my captcha is “Hal them”…that means you are heading for Halifax!!

2 Cath January 13, 2010 at 9:57 am

I’m from PEI and we go every year (we have a cottage in the eastern part of the island). We figure on 14 hours of driving, plus whatever stopping we do (since we’ve had kids there are *many* more … prior to that, P used to use a stopwatch to time pee breaks!). We’ve done the drive a few different ways — sometimes we’ve left after work and stayed in Levis (across from QC — a few good, cheap hotels with breakfast available), sometimes we’ve stopped in Riviere de Loup or Edmonston (agree with the above post — scenic driving but not so inspiring as a stop!). We’ve also done it one go a few times but that was before we had two!!

I am *very* biased about the Island although NS is surely beautiful too … there are lots of places where you can rent a cottage and just hang out on great local beaches; or rent/bring bikes and ride the Confederation Trail (the old railroad through the Island); do the ‘Anne’ tour; eat lobster at traditional church suppers until the butter drips into your lap … oh, I’m getting homesick!!

Anyway, another totally different way to do it would be via the Bay of Fundy – also super gorgeous.

Have fun planning!

3 Alex January 13, 2010 at 10:34 am

Only went to Halifax, a couple of times (apart from a trip through the Cabot Trail as a young kid). Hfx is really nice, especially in terms of food, drinks, and music. It may be the largest city in the Maritimes, it feels quite cozy.
If you end up passing by New Brunswick, there’s also a lot of great places. In my mind, the best-kept secret of the Maritimes is Fredericton. Lived there for a couple of months and it was surprisingly pleasant.

4 Sherri January 13, 2010 at 11:06 am

I’m also from PEI and can’t tell you enough about what a great place it is to vacation with the kids. I have two young children and make the drive a couple of times a year. Sometimes we stay in Edmundston (at the motel with a pool) and sometimes we get up in the middle of the night and do it all in one shot. DVD’s and endless snacks = sanity in our car. Beaches, parks, farms, trips on a lobster boat, ceilidhs, Cows’s icecream, there are so many fun things to do with the kids!

5 CynthiaK January 13, 2010 at 11:11 am

We road-tripped to the east coast this summer (although not making it to NS, as we’d planned…another long story) but here’s what driving to the coast from Ontario with three children looked like, if you’re interested! (it was amazing fun, despite the almost 30 hours driving in each direction…)

6 canadacole January 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm

We’re from Ontario originally and now live in NB. Each of the Maritime provinces has something to offer and they’re ALL beautiful, with many fun and educational historical stops. I have to say that as the mom of 3 young ones though, PEI is my absolute favourite. There just seems to be more there that we’ve found for the whole family to enjoy. Each province has a website with it’s own free guide though, and I highly recommend ordering them and planning together. It’s so fun to get them in the mail and check out all the festival dates and photos of fun things to do.

7 KG January 13, 2010 at 12:33 pm

HALIFAX!!! The duck tour, the citadel, alexnder keiths brewery. So much fun.

8 Marcy Berg January 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Day 1 – plan to get to Dummondville or River du Loop. between Montreal and Quebec city there are lots of little picnic areas on the highway that are great places to stop with kids.
Day 2 – Moncton and Magic Mountain! Book a hotel near Mountain Rd and get there early enough to enjoy the park. Great treat after 2 days in the car.
Day 3 – NS – Lunenburg is lovely but expensive – check out cottage rentals around the River John area. If you get to Cape Breton then Newfoundland would be a piece of cake.

Have done the trip every year for the last 40 years. I would suggest my cottage for rental but it’s booked and it’s on PEI – another great family destination.

9 A Crafty Mom January 13, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I am Nova Scotian πŸ™‚ I haven’t missed a summer in NS since I moved here to go to Carleton *many* years ago. I have driven to NS in every single possible way and direction (both via the US and Canada). I know every single coffee stop, Tim Horton’s, motel, and bathroom pit stop from here to there.

I have lots of maps and tour books I could give you. I am from Liverpool, which is about 30 minutes south of Lunenburg. Lunenburg is beautiful and there is a lot to do there, although the “beach scene” is definitely closer to Liverpool. I know some people in that area who rent out their cottages . . . there is one we stay at right on the beach every summer – three bedrooms (two single beds in one, single bed in the other, queen in the large bedroom, pull out couch too). Price is AMAZING. You can even rent a small house for not a bad price. We tend to do the beach thing, the kids just love hanging out in the sand and splash and swim in the ocean – then they’re exhausted in the evenings, go to sleep early and allow my husband and I to sip wine on the deck and listen to the ocean πŸ™‚

Near Liverpool – check out White Point Beach Resort, Summerville Beach, Carters Beach, Hunts Point Beach, and the Quarterdeck Restaurant. There are lots of opportunities to go sailing, out on a deep sea fishing boat, whale watching, etc. in that area too. Also Kejimkujik National Park and the Seaside Adjunct, as well as the Cultural Centre in downtown Liverpool. (I use that term “downtown” very loosely!)

Near Lunenburg is the Ovens National Park – beautiful ocean caves and a fabulous hike along the way. Mahone Bay is right around the corner from Lunenburg and is gorgeous too – not as many kid activities though, more crafts and nice seafood restaurants. We usually do a day trip to Lunenburg/Mahone Bay each summer from Liverpool.

Halifax is fabulous – sells itself. Plan about 2 days there if you can make it. The Busker festival is usually the second week of August.

Our most common plan is to drive to Edmonston NB the first night and stay over or camp. Then we go to Saint John NB, as my sister lives there and has a cottage. Then we take the ferry over to Digby and are about 90 minutes from Liverpool.

We have also taken the Cat from Portland/Bar Harbour over to Yarmouth. It is lovely on a calm day. On a rough day we are all puking πŸ™‚ I am the worst with motion sickness, if I take a gravol I am fine.

If you are interested in more info, let me know, I can send you links or specific cottage rental details. I’m kind of rambling now . . .

10 Sharon January 13, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I spent a large portion of my life living/visiting the east coast. Cape Breton is gorgeous and if you can go around the Cabot Trail – I highly recommend it

11 Sarah (@oceansj) January 13, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Crafty Mom pretty much said everything that I was going to. I grew up in a suburb of Halifax and can honestly say there is no better place to be in the world than N.S. in the summer.

The Lighthouse Route is a beautiful drive with many stops that people have already mentioned: Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Peggy’s Cove. White Point Beach Resort is a great family place to stay. They have single family cottages with all of the ammenities of a hotel: pool, restaurant… There is a huge beach, bonfires at night and bunnies hopping around everywhere.

Halifax is so much fun and can be explored on foot.

Have a great trip!!

12 andrea from the fishbowl January 13, 2010 at 2:04 pm

We did this trip last year. It was amazing. So amazing I can’t fill up your comment box with all my suggestions. Feel free to pick my brain anytime. (You guys will love it!)

13 Amber January 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I went to Nova Scotia in 2004. My big regret is that we didn’t spend enough time in Halifax, which is a truly fabulous city. We decided to spend more time in smaller parts of the Maritimes, and while that was lovely I could easily have spent a week or more in Halifax. We visited Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg on a day trip, and I remember it being pretty manageable.

We also visited PEI, and it was lovely but it’s really very rural. Picturesque, of course, but there aren’t a lot of restaurants, for instance, outside of Charlottetown or Summerside. And I visited Fredericton and St. John New Brunswick in 1995 and would love to return. They were charming. But if I were to pick just one place to visit again, it would absolutely be Halifax.

14 DaniGirl January 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Oh wow wow wow!! Now I’m so excited I want to go NOW!!! Hmm, was only planning a week including the drive, but now you’ve got me thinking about a massive Maritime tour. Thanks all, and I may follow up with some of you for details — Crafty Mom, the cottage you mentioned sounds perfectly divine!! And you guys have me seriously considering PEI, although I am mildly bridge-phobic and you couldn’t entice me across the Confed Bridge for love nor money…

15 Authentic Seacoast Resorts January 13, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Great to hear hear you’re considering Nova Scotia for your family vacation this year. And while we’d love to have you join us on the Authentic Seacoast, every region has its own special beauty. We had a family visit from California last year and they shared their Nova Scotia travel experiences on their blog:

We hope you have a great trip. And if we can be of assistance, send us an email or a tweet at:

16 Janet January 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

We drove from Ontario to PEI last summer with three kids. It wasn’t so bad. We stopped in Kingston, ON; Edmunston, NB; some place near Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick (a must-see if you are down that way – – walk on the ocean floor at low tide! see it disappear at high tide!); and then over to the island. We never made it to Nova Scotia.
On the way back we differed slightly, staying at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. That’s pretty cool to see as well, if you have the time.
So much to see on the east coast. We were gone for two weeks and barely scratched the surface. Have fun planning!

17 p January 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm

My parents were from NS (Dad from Pictou County and Mom from Cape Breton) and did this trip every single summer as a kid and then some … We also spent a week of every summer in PEI and it truly is wonderful. That all said, I agree with all the routes and also agree with the reports of Lunenberg and area but I feel very strongly that a trip all the way out there without doing the Cabot Trail would be a serious miss … it is absolutely gorgeous with lots of great stops for the family. My husband and daughter and I went in September this year and it was wonderful .. Louisberg fort, Ingonish beach (great little cottages on the beach as well), whale watching, can’t say enough … and no matter where you end up, be sure to participate in a lobster supper … loads of lobster and beer …..


18 Mary @ Parenthood January 13, 2010 at 8:21 pm

My entire paternal family (Grandparents + my aunt & uncle & their four kids + my aunt & her two kids + my parents & us three kids) drove from Toronto to Newfoundland in 1989. It was one of the BEST trips ever. Not that I’m that into travelling generally, but it was a trip of a lifetime for pretty much all involved. We rented three motorhomes and hopped campsites all the way there. Quebec to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Newfoundland and back. My favourite parts were Quebec City, the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, the Bay of Fundy, the ferry trip, Anne of Green Gables and getting our potatoes confiscated in PEI. My parents weren’t amused about the potatoes though.

19 Brenda January 13, 2010 at 11:17 pm

If you head over to Cape Breton…Donna’s is a MUST!!! 2 years later and Colin STILL talks about it!

20 Batman January 14, 2010 at 12:32 am

We “did” the Maritimes last summer. We spent a week there and drove around NS. We stopped in Lunenburg, and Digby on the first two nights. Then we headed over to Sackville, NB for a night (a very beautiful little town). From Sackville we ventured over Confederation Bridge to Charlottetown. Then the next day on to the ferry and over to Pictou. We drove far that day and eventually made it to Louisbourg (a must see if you’re doing the Cabot Trail – the kids should love it!). We spent the next day driving the Cabot Trail and spent the night in Inverness. We made it back to Halifax the next day and spent a bit more time there.

It was a great trip overall. We saw a lot of neat things and met some nice folks along the way. Most of the places we stayed for the first half of the trip were Bed and Breakfast places.

I definitely do it all again.

21 Mike Smith January 14, 2010 at 8:39 am

Lunenburg is fantastic. We moved here about 1 1/2 years ago. We have a 5 year old who just started school this year and attends the Lunenburg Academy. It looks like a castle and he is so proud to go there. My wife and I co-manage a 4 1/2 star hotel. Rooms are large and we have a fantastic restaurant called the Tin Fish. Very colorful and whimsical. We even have a childrens book writen for us called “The Tin Fish”. On our property also have an AVEDA spa. We are cetrally located right in the heart of old town Lunenburg. Just 2 streets up from the fisheries museum which is a must when in town. Also there is the train museum if anyone in the family enjoys trains. Take a horse and buggy ride with trot in time. They will tell you stories about the history of the town and the buildings. Also this year the Bluenose II will be in dry dock for a complete overhaul. I believe that you will be able to tour and see the recontruction of her. It is being stripped right down to her keel. Also 2 new schooners are being built in Lunenburg this year. First time in over 60 years that 3 schooners being built or overhauled at the same time on the Lunenburg waterfront. It is very exciting. A must see.

22 mrsgryphon January 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Our family (4 kids in a tent trailer!) camped our way around the Maritimes twice when I was growing up, and I’ve been back a few times since. Those summer adventures with my family in NS, PEI and NB are some of my favourite family memories – we’ve camped all over the US east coast and western Canada, too, but the Maritimes were definitely top of the list for me. You AND the kids will love it πŸ™‚

23 coffeewithjulie January 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm

You MUST go see Anne. With an “e”!

24 Keren January 19, 2010 at 1:39 pm

i actually have a question – we want to go out eat too but cant do it in the summer. would the second half of May be advisable or would we freeze our (*&(*&*( off??

25 Cynthia February 11, 2010 at 8:59 am

Hi there,

Hmm, we did the drive from Ottawa all the way to Newfoundland in the summer every year when I was a kid. We always rested near Fredericton. That might help.

As for where to go, see, stay, I’ve been working for Nova Scotia Tourism for the past year and there are definitely many things to enjoy with a family. I’m the mother of a 10 year old, and we still have a lot to explore.

I would have to say Whale Watching is right up there as a must see-do activity for us. You can do it in several areas of the province but if you venture around the Bay of Fundy, you can also visit Joggin’s Fossil cliffs and look for some real fossils along the beach, also with the highest and lowest tides in the world you can walk the ocean floor!

Cape Breton is stunningly beautiful with lots of hiking to enjoy. I would also recommend if you go that route that you take some time to visit the Fortress of Louisbourg. It’s an amazing trip back in time.

Lunenburg is bright and cheerful with art galleries and shops to explore. And the warmest waters and beaches are along the Northumberland shore.

Halifax is a wonderful city, also home to Theodore Tugboat which your children will probably enjoy.

Anyway, if you have any questions or we can help you find some fun filled activities the whole family will enjoy, feel free to contact me.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: