Nova Scotia is about so much more than Halifax. A wonderful city though it is, and worth a day or two of your trip, it is also a jumping off point for exploring the rest of the province. Nova Scotia is a land of gentle hills, endless forest and rocky shorelines straight off a chocolate box, with their fishing villages, clapboard cottages and picturesque views, and no visit would be complete without exploring a little further, especially along the coast from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg. Via pretty Mahone Bay, exploring this coastline is like venturing into another world.
Stop 1: Peggy’s Cove
Heading out of the city onto the 333, the drive to Peggy’s Cove gives you a good feel of what Nova Scotia is all about. Once clear of the city, you are into a world of small towns divided by tracts of forest, with wide, easy roads. 45 minutes’ drive will bring you into Peggy’s Cove, and entering the village is like stepping back in time. Fisherman’s cottages line the shore, with lobster pots, rowing boats and fishing nets standing testament to the fact that this is still a working community. Picturesque it may be, but Peggy’s Cove is alive and well. Signs directing the many visitors through the village stress the need to respect the inhabitants as they go about their working lives.
Park on the outskirts of the village by the information centre, and follow the road downhill and back up again as you make your way to the lighthouse. Photo opportunities are everywhere as you pass through the village; a 5-minute walk will, however, bring you to the lighthouse, often referred to as the most photographed lighthouse in North America. It’s easy to see why; standing proudly on a headland of white boulders, Peggy’s Lighthouse is straight out of a children’s picture book. Scramble over the rocks yourself to take a closer look.
Close to the lighthouse is a post office (postcards can be sent from the lighthouse itself if it is open), a gift shop and a restaurant. There is also another parking area for those who don’t want to make the walk through the village.
Stop 2: Mahone Bay
Just over an hour’s drive from Peggy’s Cove lies picture-perfect Mahone Bay. Driving there will take you along the rocky shoreline, along winding roads through evocatively-named settlements such as Indian Harbour and French Village. With the ocean on your left, it is easy to get distracted by the stunning views along the way.
Picking up the 103, another half hour will bring you into Mahone Bay. The first sight to greet you will be three churches – yes, three – which sit side-by-side along the main road and are one of the biggest draws of this pretty town. Park up near the churches and walk along the shore into the town proper, where vividly-painted wooden buildings play host to shops, banks, post offices and restaurants. Mahone Bay is a great place to just wander, but also a good location to stop for lunch. I visited Oh My Cod! restaurant for deep-fried clams and a fresh lemonade with a view of the bay. Heaven.
Stop 3: Lunenburg
Stomach filled, and legs exercised with a stroll around town, head back to your car and continue down the road towards Lunenburg. Route 3 takes you there in around 15 minutes, and is a pleasant drive. Once in Lunenburg, head for the heritage old town. Most parking is metered, but if you head a little further uphill you can find free roadside parking if you are happy to walk a little further.
At first glance, Lunenburg is a sleepy town. Its harbour, which plays host to the renowned Bluenose II schooner when it is not moored up in Halifax, is also home to a small museum. But the main draw of Lunenburg is its heritage buildings. Take your time, wander the streets and look up from the pavement. One of only two urban communities in North America to be designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, around 70% of Lunenburg’s homes date from the 17th and 18th centuries when the settlement of Nova Scotia was still in its infancy. As you wander, you will start to notice more and more details in the colourful architecture around you, almost all of which is built of wood – including a beautiful black and white church which stands out among the blues, purples and greens of the houses. And you can almost feel yourself in a long dress or a high cravat, strolling gracefully through the streets in ages gone by.
Returning to Halifax
The route back to Halifax takes you back through Mahone Bay to the 103, which in turn will lead you directly into the city. It passes directly by the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, last resting place of many of the bodies rescued from the Titanic, and a visit here is a convenient, if introspective, way to end your day.
There is no entry fee to the cemetery; simply drive your car in through the gates and follow the signs. This is a working cemetery, however, and should be treated as such – steer clear of mourners paying respects to loved ones, and keep noise to a minimum.
The Titanic graves are a moving sight, laid out in rows of mostly identical graves all of which have the same date of death, April 15, 1912. Those bodies which have been identified have the name on the gravestone; the remainder have space to add the name later. Particularly poignant is the grave to the unknown child, identified in recent years as 19-month-old Sidney Goodwin. It feels fitting that these tragic souls should still be remembered, and the cemetery is a peaceful place.
Other things to do around Halifax
If you are looking for more to do in the Halifax area, check out my post on this beautiful city. Alternatively, for another great day out exploring the best of Nova Scotia, head up to the north coast and the town of Wolfville to sample the best of the province’s food and drink. There is so much to do that you will never get bored!
Thinking of making your own South Shore excursion from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg? Pin this post for later!
Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting over 60 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!