Seriously, are you flying from Palm Springs to Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the opposite end of North America from you for five days? A common refrain I heard from friends. However, to the marrow of my bones, I knew it would be an exciting adventure. Indeed, it was, and I continue to shout its attributes from the rooftops. I loved it.
The capital of the largest municipality in Atlantic Canada initially gained international attention when the Titanic sank 700 miles east of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is designated a stop for cruise ship itineraries, especially in the fall, to allow people to see the colorful fall tree-lined waterfront.
Five days was not enough time to see the all of the best things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, let me share some of the sights and sounds of this city, which honors its British traditions while designing its distinct contemporary personality.
1. Walk the Waterfront in Halifax
The wide boardwalk on the Halifax waterfront extends 2.5 miles, inviting you to keep walking and promising something interesting around every curve. This walking tour has many aspects. At one point, you come across children laughing with glee as they glide down the slide transformed into a ship. It is the perfect resting place to grab a drink and watch the ships entering Halifax Harbor and returning to the Atlantic Ocean.
If you are in Halifax on a weekend, don’t miss the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. It has indoor space year-round and spills outdoors in warmer months. It’s the place to buy fresh seafood, including oysters, from local fishermen and fresh produce from local farmers. Plus, it is the ideal opportunity to meet locals.
Be sure to wander into Cow’s, famous for its ice cream since 1892. Plus, an amazing array of products sold there have a cow motif incorporated into its design. Also, stop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to learn about the outstanding artists who make this area their home.
2. Canadian Museum of Immigration
Pier 21 is home to the Canadian Museum of Immigration. Canada embraces multiculturalism and immigrants. It has the highest immigration rate per capita of any developed nation. In 2018, it welcomed 310,000 into the country. Here, oral stories of immigrants and exhibits tell their stories.
3. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Sitting on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic displays its history through exhibits and artifacts, including detailed documentation of the Titanic disaster, 700 miles off the coast.
It also features information on the Halifax Explosion, a catastrophic collision of the Mont-Blanc and a Norwegian ship in December 1917. The Mont-Blanc was loaded with wartime ammunition and the resulting explosion killed at least 1,782 and injured thousands more.
4. Peggy’s Cove: A View of Day-to-Day Life
A delightful day trip, about a 50-minute drive from Halifax, Peggy’s Cove will give you a peek into the lives of the residents whose life is supported by fishing in this small town. Take a short walk to Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse. Then, after working up your appetite, dine in one of the restaurants abundant with fresh seafood. Local souvenirs from an art gallery with art created in Nova Scotia help support the artists.
If you do not have a car, there are tours you can take from downtown Halifax.
HMCS Sackville, which served in the Royal Canadian Navy, is a research vessel, and now a museum ship is docked along the boardwalk. Built in 1944, a flower-class corvette, this ship has been restored and offers tours during the summer months.
5. Georges Island
Georges Island can be reached with a short ferry ride from downtown Halifax. With trails, tunnels, and lookouts, this island was once the fortress to protect the City of Halifax.
If you are a hiker, here’s your chance to exercise while experiencing beautiful views of the Harbor.
6. Halifax Center Library
The Halifax Center Library is on one of the main thoroughfares and is undoubtedly worth exploring. Immediately on the wall to the left are small blocks entirely covering it. An artist started creating a small portion of the new library. He passed away, and artists honored him by painting their scenes on the same size blocks as a memorial.
Be sure to head up the stairs to the top floor to see the stunning glass lounge area where you can relax and enjoy a view of this charming city.
7. Halifax Public Gardens
When you walk through the ornate wrought-iron gate, you will have entered the oldest Victorian gardens in Canada. Meander through the many paths along the flowerbeds of the Halifax Public Gardens.
It is the perfect place to people watch, from the people who arrived via cruise ship to locals who come here to let the children frolic on the expansive lawns near the bandstand.
8. Citadel Hill
No trip to Halifax is complete without making the trek to the top of Citadel Hill and the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. A fortress was built at the top of the hill in 1856, officially named Fort George, to protect the city. When immigrants arrived, they made their homes at the base of the hill and close to the water’s edge.
Today, visitors can wander the paths and peek through the holes used to position cannons. At noon, since 1852, one of the oldest cannons in the world is fired at noon each day.
9. Mahone Bay
Mahone Bay was recently named one of Canada’s Top 10 most beautiful cities. It is also the fastest-growing city in the Nova Scotia municipality for entrepreneurs, and other businesspeople have seen the growth in tourists and the need to support the industry.
Here, you can find kayak rentals and live music in beer gardens while enjoying a Nova Scotian donair, a legendary food created by a Halifax Greek restaurant. Three churches with tall steeples on the water’s edge are among the most photographed areas in this city.
10. Purdy’s Wharf
Purdy’s Whalf will have you marveling, for it is a high-rise contemporary office complex built on the pilings on the edge of Halifax Harbor. It has two towers, with an adjacent smaller office structure called Purdy’s Landing. The brilliant sun reflecting on these windows makes it a landmark in the Harbor.
11. Harbour Hopper
Board the Harbour Hopper for a tour of Halifax and the harbourfront in an amphibious retrofitted military vehicle. It’s a fast-paced and fun adventure that travels through the streets of Halifax and then splashes into the water to showcase Halifax by sea.
Your captain will share stories, some of them not widely known about Halifax, to some jokes that may shake your head. A fun adventure for the whole family.
12. Bay of Fundy and Annapolis Valley
The Bay of Fundy and Annapolis Valley is the site of the oldest dinosaur fossils in Canada. It is also the home of the highest tides recorded.
It is easy to spend three days in the area. The Cliffs are recognized as a UNESCO Global Geopark. There are numerous opportunities to hire a travel guide for sea adventures or land exploring.
13. Queen’s Marque District
In a little over two years, Queen’s Marque District, with underground parking, is quickly gaining a reputation as the community’s gathering place. Built with an expansive open space on the waterfront, people are strolling, shopping, and dining in one of the many ethnic-focused restaurants.
The five-star Muir Hotel, office, and residential space outline the U-shaped perimeter in high-rises with glasses that glisten in the Canadian sunlight. Art installations beckon you to stop and look closer throughout the area.
Read More: Our Muir Hotel review.
14. Nightlife in Halifax
Nightlife is alive and well in Halifax, so be ready to put on your dancing shoes and maybe, if you are fortunate, even learn some new Gaelic songs.
Music in the clubs of Halifax reflects a mix of old-world and contemporary music. Consider a stop at Alexander Keith’s Brewery, soon celebrating 200 years, one of the oldest breweries in North America.
Getting to Halifax
If you arrive by plane, the Stanfield International Airport is 33 miles away; thus, you must rent a car, hire a taxi, Uber, or take a Lyft. I found the airport accessible and easy to navigate. Don’t worry; if you need a snack or something to feed your hunger pains on the flight home, there is plenty to satisfy even the person with the most discriminating taste.