Planning for Nova Scotia

by DaniGirl on May 25, 2010 · 15 comments

in Ottawa to Nova Scotia 2010

When we started planning our cross-country road trip to the east coast, we didn’t have much of an idea of what we wanted. East, because none of us have been further east in Canada than Quebec City, and ocean because we loved our family vacation to Bar Harbor, Maine in 2007, and because I love anything to do with water and beaches and boating.

After weeks of poking through links to vacation rentals, maps and family activities, and talking to anyone who would offer an opinion, we managed to narrow our focus from “east” to Nova Scotia, and then to the Lunenburg area. I figured if we were going to drive 18 hours to get near the ocean, we simply must stay somewhere actually adjacent to the ocean or at least with easy access or direct sight of it. I found this adorable seaside cottage that’s literally across the road from the ocean — the beach crawls right up to the road in front of the house, there’s a harbour a stone’s throw away, and you look out across the bay to the town of Lunenburg. I’m so excited I can barely stand it!!

Other than booking five nights at the cottage, though, our plans are pretty wide open. We figure we’ll make the hour and a half trek into Halifax one day, and maybe stop by Peggy’s Cove on the way home. Lunenburg is only 15 minutes away, so I’m sure we’ll spend a bit of time there. The cottage rental includes day passes to nearby Ovens Natural Park, which has some wicked-cool looking oceanside cliffs and caves — which I’m sure are completely appropriate for toddlers — but also a swimming pool and playground and a place where you can pan for gold! And since we’ve gone to the bother of making our way all the way to the ocean, there will be boating of some kind. And, um, I might take a picture or two. Ahem.

So talk to me, bloggy peeps. Do you have any recommendations for must-see family activities around Lunenburg, or Halifax? We’re planning on staying at a Days Inn or Comfort Inn or one of those non-descript, no more than a place to lie your head kind of hotels in Edmunston NB on the way down and back, simply because it’s cheap and half way, but I’d be open to your suggestions of other places to stay to break up the trip.

We’re facing about 18 hours of driving each way, which is a bit intimidating (especially given that two of the three kids have tendencies toward car sickness) but not the least of my worries. You know what really freaks me out?

The ocean. And I’ll blog about that tomorrow!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joy May 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Mahone Bay is really nice to visit – quite close to Lunenburg. A very picturesque area – the 3 churches, of which you have probably seen photos; quaint shops. Lovely. Maybe the Bluenose will be in Lunenburg when you are there. We drive to NS every other year or so to visit family. I can’t wait to hear what you discover!

2 Sara in Montréal May 25, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I spent most of my vacations as a kid in Cap pelé, half an hour from Moncton. I can’t help you much with the Nova Scotia destinations, but I can tell you where to stop half way.

We always stop at the Best Western in Woodstock, New Brunswick that’s just off the highway – as in ‘a view on the transcanadian’ kind of just of the highway. It’s blend but clean and right to the point.

3 2Hirondelles May 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

We lived in Greenwood NS for 5 years when I was a child and I visited recently with DS. You have to take time to see the Bay of Fundy as it has the highest high/low tide variations. We would go to Margaretsville. It’s a straight shot N along the 10 from Lunenburg, and not a long drive.

The border between NS and NB is a nice stopping point as well, a good place for a picnic. We drove down via Montreal, Eastern Townships and through ME, crossing over at Calais/St. Stephen, but came back through NB. Taking the secondary routes offers much better scenery, less traffic, and more opportunities for stopping (perhaps a consideration with the boys?)

If we were doing the trip again, I’d likely take the US route there and back, particularly with our dollar doing fairly well these days.

We found it difficult to locate food stops along the hwy in NB. We got off at one exit where there were food signs, but then were faced with a ‘T’ at the end of the ramp and no further directions. We drove a few km in either direction and found nothing. Having then decided to get back on the hwy, we realized there was no on-ramp at that location! Not the high point of our trip.

4 Hilary May 26, 2010 at 9:07 am

In Halifax I imagine your boys would absolutely love the harbour area and the Maritime museum. Both favourites of mine and lots of fun for young and old(er)!

5 suze May 26, 2010 at 9:37 am

Be forewarned there’s not a lot in Edmunston. Your best bet for supper might be takeout from the Superstore — it’s down near Walmart (which, of course, has a McD’s).

As for Halifax, my kids loved going out on Theodore Tugboat. They liked the ferry to Dartmouth too, but Theodore was a huge hit. And there’s a Cows down at the Harbour — if you’re looking at the water, it’s to your left. Far left. There’s also a place that makes homemade ice cream (I think) more in the middle of the boardwalk.

You would love the Halifax farmer’s market building — the market is Saturdays from 7am-1pm at the historic Keith’s Brewery Building on 1496 Lower Water Street. They’re building a new one at Pier 20, but the Keith’s building is a photojunkie’s dream.

6 mudmama May 26, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Halifax Habour and the Discovery Centre – the nicest beach in the Halifax area is Rainbow Haven Beach in Dartmouth (Cow Bay), its soft diggable sand, and lovely for playing in the surf. John’s Fish and Chips in Dartmouth – near the refinery – my kids love the refinery! – has seriously the best fish and chips in the province.

The Annapolis Valley is absolutely beautiful – like travelling through 18th century England, looks just like Yorkshire. You really should visit the Bay of Fundy. I suggest you keep heading along the coast past Margaret’sville to at least Hall’s Harbour, better still all the way along to Scots Bay.

Great restaurants in Wolfville, Very pretty town, come on Saturday for the best farmer’s market in the province. There are 5 or 6 wineries all within spitting distance of Wolfville too. If you’re into that hop over the ridge to the Gaspereau Valley Winery for a tour and taste.

Do you knit? Gaspereau Valley Fibres is one of my little kids favorite stops each week – chickens, sheep alpacas and the most beautiful store.

7 Simon MacDonald May 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I’m originally from Glace Bay, NS on Cape Breton island. Edmunston is where we always stay on our way home as well.

Here is my stock response for friends visiting Nova Scotia:

Warning: Almost everything is close in Nova Scotia on Sundays. Basically, only restaurants are open.

Things to do in Halifax:

1) Discovery Centre –
This is a neat little science centre for kids but there is fun things to do there if you are a child at heart. It’s always fun to pop bubbles.

2) Maratime Museum of the Atlantic –
This is a cool museum if you like boats. There a great exhbit of small hand crafted boats and you can learn all about the Halifax explosion.

3) Museum of Natural History –
You are in luck as the Butterfly House last July 1st. That is as long as you don’t mind having large colourful winged insects flap all around you.

4) Halifax Public Gardens –
A beautiful park not far away from the shopping and restaurants of Spring Garden Road.

5) Halifax Citadel –
If you like forts you can’t go wrong with this fort upon the hill in Halifax.

6) Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour –


1) Spring Garden Road
This strip is not far from the public gardens and has the popular shopping mall Park Place as well as a number of nice shops and restaurants along it.

2) Historic Properties –
This is along the waterfront of Halifax harbour. Lots of neat little shops and things to see on the waterfront. Plus, Cow’s Ice Cream stand. A little down the road from the historic properties is Sugah! ( where they make great chocolate with interesting ingredients.

3) Mic Mac Mall –
The largest mall in the Halifax area but you have to go across the bridge to Dartmouth to visit it.


1) Salty’s –
A great restaurant where you can choose between casual and classy dining. Located in the historic properties so it is good to pair the two together. The seafood here is very, very good.

2) McKelvie’s –
Another great seafood and steak place near the historic properties. The Creamy Potato & Leek Soup is great and for desert the Mile High Coconut Cream Pie.

3) Spring Garden Road
This road has lots of funky Bistro’s along it’s length:

Sebastien’s Bistro
Saege Bistro
The Daily Grind Newsstand & Cafe Halifax – grab a coffee here like I did many times over my university career.
Thirsty Duck
Your Father’s Moustache

4) Pizza Corner
Three different pizza restaurants at corner of Blowers and Grafton. Good cheap pizza and donairs (Gyro-type wraps, often overflowing with meat and sauce). However, this area can descend into anarchy when the bars let out, and the restaurants often lock their bathrooms, even to customers.

8 Jody May 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Congrats on the trip — I love road-trips. And we’re going to Maine this summer, so it feels a little like joint travels to that part of the world.

Alas, though, I know nothing about the Maritimes. I’m looking forward to your reports.

(As for the traveling part of the gig, I’m going to fess up: we use a portable DVD player. EXTENSIVELY.)

9 Annika May 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Don’t do Edmundston!

We stayed in the new Best Western in Woodstock last year and loved it. Clean, pool, breakfast included and we got a suite (One room with a queen bed and an adjoining living room with a large pull-out couch and playpen all set up for us). Safe, easy and affordable. Good client service too.

Have a great vacation!!!!!!!!

10 Erica May 27, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Nova Scotia – site of our family vacation every year for the past 9 years! (My Mom lives not far off the road to Peggy’s Cove). One of the lesser known places on the way to Peggy’s Cove is the site of the S.S. Atlantic wreck in Terence Bay (, the worst marine wreck in Canadian history prior to the Titanic. There is a small museum, a beautiful board walk with wonderful views and, if you continue on just a little bit, a small beach where my kids love to search for sea glass. If you’re very lucky there are sometimes whale sitings in Terence Bay. Try to do Peggy’s Cove on a week day when it’s less busy. Also keep in mind that roads to places like Peggy’s Cove are slower roads so factor that into your planning.

The boat tour at the Ovens is well worth it – our kids (probably 5 and 3 at the time) loved the (speed!) boat ride as well as the caves themselves. We went at a time when they weren’t too busy and had the zodiac to ourselves – they took us for an added scenic spin which was a bonus.

Lunenburg’s Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is excellent. Kids can touch different sea creatures, lots of interesting exhibits and things to see and do and if you’re lucky a tall ship or two that you can tour. The Bluenose was built there and does spend some time there. Grab a lunch of fish and chips on a deck at a restaurant looking out over the occen

If you go to the valley and want to let the kids blow off some steam there is Upper Clements Park – a government funded attempt to attract tourists to the region. It has a maritime theme, there are quite a few physical challenge type things (rope swinging, climbing structures etc.) as well as water slides, bumper boats, rides, etc etc. The setting is actually really nice for this sort of thing.

I’ll 2nd, 3rd or 4th the comments about the Best Westerns – they are very new and good value for money. We’ve stayed in the Grand Falls and Woodstock ones If you stay in Grand Falls, check out the Falls – they are impressive and a good break spot! We usually drive down through Canada and return through the States just to mix things up a bit.

I’m rambling on. This is actually my first time finding your blog so I had better go and read more = )

Erica at kitchissippikids

11 Batman May 29, 2010 at 12:04 am

We spent a week in the Maritimes last summer. We started the trip by spending our first night at a B&B in Lunenburg. Actually most of our whole trip was spent in B&B’s. Lunenburg is an awesome place to visit. We did some of the touristy things there (checked out the Blueose, went for a horse and buggy ride, etc).

Our second night was spent in Digby. They have the highest tides (in Canada, the world?). We had some excellent scallops. I think they’re known for them there. The third night was spent in Sackville, NB at the Marshlands Inn. It’s a nice little town and I believe the Inn is famous for a visit by the queen. If you go there, ask them and they’ll serve cookies and hot chocolate each night in the parlour.

After that, we were off to PEI and then we did the Cabot Trail before heading back to Halifax. There was a lot of things to see and do in the Maritimes and I think you and the kids will have a great time. Check out Louisbourg if you get the chance.

Let me know if you want the name of the B&B’s. I can give you the names and addresses if you’re interested. There was one in Charlottetown that was really cheap (less than $60) if you’re going that way. The owner was a funny and quite friendly lady.

Good luck with everything!

12 Nat May 29, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Oh sounds like a wonderful wonderful trip.

We stayed at a Days Inn right off the highway, it may have been Woodstock. Fairly new, and it has a cold breakfast.

Now, I’m an East Coast girl. There are a few restaurants in Edmunston, a down home greasy spoon sort half way up the street. Wish I could remember what it was called. We always eat there. There is also a Pizza Delight (which is an East Coast thing) and Saint Hubert — and any number of chains. And well, in a pinch, there are Tim Horton’s everywhere. (Edmunston is sort of the place to stop.) I think my sister said there is now a Boston Pizza or something.

Lunenberg as a very cool maritime museum. (Worth an morning.) You can get on the boats and they have real sea captains. (Talk to them about cod, fascinating.) Halifax harbour front is a hoot.

Let me ponder other activities.

13 mudmama June 1, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Nat if you’re thinking of the Bel-Air in Edmunston it closed and now has new owners and well…it used to be a great stop now its awful. We were very sorry to lose our Edmunston stop 🙁

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