Traveling with Kids | South Shore, Nova Scotia
Hello everybody! Hope you all had a brilliant summer full of lots of new and memorable travel experiences with your families. Whether it was traveling to the other side of the world or discovering new places where you live I’m sure lifetime memories were made for everyone involved.
We had an excellent and very busy summer. We visited lots of lovely places here in Italy as well as taking a big trip to Canada. The kids were both sad and excited last week when we celebrated our last day of summer vacation before starting the school year. We’re already mentally planning and brainstorming travel ideas for next summer. That’s just how we roll in this family.
Today I wanted to write a bit about our time on the South Shore of my hometown province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is one of the three Maritime provinces in Eastern Canada and easily accessible by plane (Halifax International Airport), car or even ferry boat. I’ll be honest from the beginning and let you know that I’ll most likely be waxing on about how beautiful, picturesque and idyllic a family travel destination it is. A girl can be proud of where she’s from, right?
The South Shore of Nova Scotia boasts a coastline filled with long white sandy beaches, typical Canadian fishing villages with whimsically coloured wooden houses, gorgeous nature parks and hiking trails and some of the nicest people in the world—no exaggeration. In other words, a little piece of maritime bliss that everyone should take time in their life to visit. I told you I was going to be unapologetically promoting my province.
Here are some of our favourite sites, bites, hikes and favorite things to do:
One of the most popular places to visit in Eastern Canada is the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. This iconic site has more than 600,000 visitors a year but still keeps it’s underdeveloped lobster fishing village charm. The actual lighthouse has been turned into a post office (perfect place to send the grandparents a postcard with lighthouse stamp!) and there are usually a few bagpipers to be found playing nearby to compete the whole Nova Scotia seaside experience. The lighthouse is surrounded by enormous smooth flat boulders and rocks that kids love to explore and play on (warning: stay away from water’s edge to avoid large rogue unexpected waves!). The Sou’ Wester restaurant located close to the lighthouse serves the world’s best warm gingerbread cake.
Gaff Point Hike
One of our favourite hikes on the South Shore is Gaff Point which is located at the end of the beautiful Hirtle’s Beach. This 7 km looped trail is easy enough for the little kids but interesting enough for the older kids and adults. There are beautiful ocean views along the trail as well as parts that take you through a fairytale-like spruce forest. One the highlights for our kids was finding out about the “secret beach” (which everyone knows about) that can only be accessed by climbing down a thick knotted rope (take the first trail that forks down to the right to Sand Cove). Pack a picnic and enjoy the views.
There is an abundance of beautiful white sandy beaches to be found all along the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Take a drive along the famous Lighthouse Route and take your pick from one of many (all are very well signposted along the road). Warning, the water can be cold. Painfully cold.
Some of our favourites beaches are:
Risser’s Beach – a large popular beach with a gorgeous boardwalk and sandcastle competition every July. There is also a canteen and campground.
Crescent Beach – a 2km long white sandy beach that connects the mainland to the some of the LaHave Islands. Fun fact: you can drive on the beach to your spot!
Carter’s Beach – a little known beach that boasts some of the nicest softest sand in Nova Scotia. Great for long walks and collecting sand dollars.
Hirtle’s Beach – this is a great beach for any beginner surfers out there. Located close to the Gaff Point hike and a favourite with the locals. Gorgeous views all around.
People come from far and wide to enjoy everything that this amazing little bakery prepares in it’s ovens daily. Whenever I visit Nova Scotia LaHave Bakery is usually one of my first stops and I wholly appreciate that they seem to keep the same sweets, cakes and breads on their menu year after year. The fact it’s located in an old refurbished wooden building located right on the water is just icing on the cake. So pop in for a great freshly prepared lunch, some amazing sweets (the butter tarts!) or just a really good cup of coffee.
Make sure to also visit the Homegrown Skateboard Shop on the top floor of the building that handcrafts originally designed boards and even has an indoor skatepark. After visiting the bakery and skate shop head down the street and catch the LaHave Cable Ferry (kids will love it).
Lunenburg is definitely one of Nova Scotia’s most visited towns. This small port town has streets lined with brightly coloured wooden houses and many art galleries and souvenir shops. It is also the home of the famous Bluenose sailing ship (to be found on the back of our dime). A great stop with the kids is the The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (my kids adored the touch tank located on the wharf). The restaurant located in the museum offers great local specialties and is very kid-friendly.
Oven’s National Park
Once known as a gold digger’s paradise, this privately owned natural reserve located along the coastline outside of Lunenburg boasts impressive steep cliffs overlooking the ocean and sea caves. There is a short walking trail that takes you along the coastline and that leads down into several of the caves. The site also offers a campground and restaurant (although from what I hear the reviews are mixed). My kid’s favourite part of our day at the Oven’s was definitely panning for gold along their private beach (pans available for rent).
There are many boat tours available all along the South Shore. You can choose from whale watching tours to fishing trips to an afternoon on a sailing boat. We luckily had the chance to spend the afternoon on a Lobster Fishing Boat (it was off season) and my kids were ecstatic. We puttered around the LaHave Islands and admired the tiny seaside villages, ventured out into the open ocean and experienced some massive waves and even got to see several frolicking harbour propoises, a gang of naughty seals that surrounded our boat and several enormously impressive bald eagles flying overhead. So either book a tour through one of the many agencies or go hang out on a fishing wharf and ask around the local fisherman if they’d be interested in taking you out!
One of the things that I really recommend anyone visiting the South Shore of Nova Scotia do is to attend one of the many local events. Whether it’s a breakfast put on by the local Fire Department, a lobster supper at one of the many churches or a dessert evening at a town’s community centre these events are a fabulous way to mingle with the locals, get a taste of the small town NS culture and get some really good food at amazing prices. Signs for these events are posted along all the roads and in front of the venues and tickets usually go on sale directly at the event. This summer we ate breakfast at the Petite Riviere Fire Hall and my kids had the best time running around with the other kids and eating a real Canadian full breakfast (oh how I’ve missed those!). The locals all attend these events and love to have the chance to chat with out-of-towners.
This one is an activity for any crafty readers out there (I know Classic Play has a lot). Nova Scotia is famous for it’s rug-hooking and you can find some beautifully handmade rugs in many little shops along the South Shore. These rugs are a part of Nova Scotian history and is a craft that is still alive and prospering in the whole province. While there this summer we booked a full morning workshop at a small studio in the small town of Petite Riviere called River House Rug Hooking. We spent a lovely morning learning the basics of hooking (it’s surprisingly easy) in a quaint riverside workshop surrounded by beautiful rugs made by locals hanging on all the walls. Definitely a favourite memory of our trip this summer.
These are just a few of our favourite things to see and do on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. I highly recommend Nova Scotia as a travel destination for families of every kind. Even the thick Nova Scotia fog is something to experience (and believe me, if you go you will experience it). For any accommodation advice check out Check-In Nova Scotia who will help you plan and organize your entire trip to Nova Scotia free of charge.