Rich in charm and history, Halifax is a compact city perfect for exploring on foot. Visitors delight in strolling along the flower-lined paths of the oldest Victorian gardens in North America and watching military tradition come alive with the skirl of the bagpipes and the roar of the cannons at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.
On sunny days, the city's gleaming waterfront is a treat for the senses, with broad walkways that connect inviting plazas and green spaces with eclectic shops, lively outdoor cafés, pubs, and fine restaurants. Nova Scotia's seafaring past is depicted through fascinating exhibits at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and experienced first-hand on tours of the bustling harbor.
The cobbled lanes of the Historic Properties divulge a past full of tales and intrigue from the days when privateers used them to stash their loot. When the sun sets on the city, the nonstop nightlife moves to the beat of fiery Celtic fiddles playing in hundred-year-old pubs and cool jazz grooving through friendly clubs.
The coast is an adventure of its own, with the sun and surf inviting you to the broad sandy beaches of Martinique and Clam Harbor. The winding coast mesmerizes with its beautiful views as you drive to the Eastern Passage and Peggy's Cove, or paddle a sea kayak across pristine coves where seals and dolphins play. Cape Breton Island, just off the coast, was named by Condé Nast Traveler magazine as the World's Most Scenic Island, and National Geographic Traveler Magazine chose the entire region of the Maritime Provinces as one of The World's 50 Great Places!
Whatever your interests and wherever you go, you'll encounter the friendly Nova Scotians who love their province and love to share it with visitors.
What To Do & See
Halifax Citadel National Historic Site: This granite fort, built as a defense against the French, is one of the most visited historic sites in the country. The star-shaped structure was used in the 20th century during both World Wars as a barracks for troops going overseas. Explore the fortress and visit the museum. Military musters and the daily firing of the cannon are performed as they were 150 years ago. The Old Town Clock was donated by Prince Edward.
Halifax Public Gardens: These 20 peaceful acres are considered to be some of the loveliest Victorian gardens in North America. Flower beds are arranged in the classic "Jardin a la Francaise" style around fountains, a little lake, and a 19th-century gazebo.
Halifax Waterfront: The roots of Halifax were laid on the waterfront and walking around the area, you sense its history. The oldmercantile buildings have been transformed into shops, bars, and cafés that are especially entertaining in summer. Keep an eye out for the Sailor, a statue honoring all Canadian sailors.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: Nova Scotia's proud sailing heritage, from the days when the province was one of the world's foremost shipbuilding and trading communities, is commemorated in this restored chandlery and warehouse on the waterfront. The museum also houses a permanent exhibit about the Titanic disaster since Halifax became, in a sense, the final destination of the Titanic with many of the victims buried there.
Province House: Charles Dickens proclaimed this structure "a gem of Georgian architecture," and the province agreed, eventually declaring it a National Historic Site. Erected in 1819 to house Britain's first overseas self-government, the sandstone building still serves as the meeting place for the provincial legislature.
Grand Parade (George and Argyle Streets): This is one of the wonderful squares in Halifax that really add to the charm of the city. During the day, office workers lunch in the square while listening to free summer concerts, and at night tourists and residents come to eat at the many restaurants that surround the square.
St Paul's Church: At one end of the Grand Parade sits the first Anglican cathedral outside of England and Canada's oldest Protestant church. Part of the 1750 building was fabricated in Boston and erected in Halifax with the help of funds donated by King George II. It's a classic white Georgian building with fine stained glass windows. A piece of flying debris from the World War I explosion of 1917 is lodged in the wall over the doors to the nave.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia: The largest and best art collection in the Maritime Provinces is housed in this ornate sandstone building between the waterfront and the Grand Parade. The museum holds 16 galleries that emphasize provincial artists, but there is also a good selection of works by other Canadian, British, and European artists. The folk art collection is internationally renowned.
McNab's Island: You'll find this island wilderness right inside the city limits, near the mouth of the harbor. No one has lived on this island since the mid-1980s, though it was once part of the city's military defenses and later the site of a popular amusement park. Today its attraction is the miles of wooded roads and trails, some 200 species of birds, great views of the city skyline, and Point Pleasant. Fort McNab dates from 1888 and was manned during both World Wars.
Old Burying Ground: About 12,000 people were buried in Halifax's first burial ground between 1749 and 1844, and though only about 1 of every 10 was marked with a headstone, there are many wonderful examples of 18th- and 19th-century gravestone art, especially winged heads and winged skulls. The Welsford-Parker Monument, erected in 1855 near the grounds' entrance, honors Nova Scotians who fought in the Crimean War.
Scenic Travelways: Nova Scotia is encircled by ten scenic travelways, routes that follow the slower-paced trunk and collector roads that lead you around the province of Nova Scotia. Each travelway has a map and brochure describing the culture, history, and natural features along the route and is referenced with all the places to stay and things to do in the area. Some favorites include:
The Evangeline Trail: Where you experience the phenomenal natural environment of the Bay of Fundy, witness the falland rise of its world-famous tides, and pass through an area full of fortresses, farms, and fishing villages.
Several Cape Breton: Routes from the Scottish and Gaelic communities harbored in the glens along the Ceilidh Trail, to the exceptionally beautiful moose habitats of Cabot Trail's tundra, bogs, and woodlands. Cape Breton's most famous resident, Alexander Graham Bell, said "I have…seen the…Rockies, the Andes, the Alps, and the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all."
The Lighthouse Trail: follows Nova Scotia's south shore, where the past is a part of everyday life. You'll find it along quiet country roads where ox teams still haul lumber and in weathered coastal villages where fishermen still row wooden dories out to sea. Over 20 lighthouses watch over unpeopled shores.
Golf: More golf is played in Canada today than in any other country in the world, and international experts rate Nova Scotia's courses among the best in the world. Tee off at Cape Breton Island's Bell Bay and Highlands Links, then swing your way through the Northumberland Links, the Pines, Glen Arbour, and Granite Springs, each one a jewel in the crown of Nova Scotia's fast-rising international reputation.
Outdoor Adventures: Sunny seascapes, interior wilderness, mountain plateaus, and fertile valleys form the complete backdrop for a stunning selection of outdoor activities for all. Hike along glacier-carved headlands above the Atlantic, cycle through historic villages and rolling orchards, hunt for fossils and semi-precious stones, camp in virgin old-growth forests, and bathe in pristine tidal pools.
Whale-Watching: Join a scientific team and head out to explore the ecosystem of the Bay of Fundy,a corner of the Atlantic that's incredibly rich in marine life. Watch the frolicking humpbacks, finbacks, endangered right whales, dolphins, seals, and seabirds that migrate from as far away as Antarctica.
Westin Nova Scotian
This landmark hotel on the waterfront in downtown Halifax prides itself on guest service. It offers a complimentary shuttle for great shopping, historic tours and exciting nightlife.
This hotel is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Halifax. It is part of an open-air pedestrian mall that has unique shops and boutiques in historic 19th century buildings.
This centrally-located hotel offers fabulous views of Halifax Harbour and "next door" access to the historic waterfront properties, the boardwalk, dining, entertainment, and shopping.