Ever since I spent time investigating seaside cottages on the East Coast, I've been longing to go back there again. Having visited family down east many times as a child, I have very fond memories of the vast Atlantic ocean, the rocky shore, the lighthouses, and the incredible natural beauty of the East Coast.
The perfect place to start your journey down East is undoubtedly in Nova Scotia. All of the classic East Coast charm can be found in this incredible province; between whale watching, boating, hiking, a thriving music scene, and all the fresh seafood you could imagine, Nova Scotia has something for everyone.
From the main cities, to smaller towns, to forages into nature, this list will give you an overview of the highlights Nova Scotia has to offer. If you choose to make the journey down, which you totally should, I hope you create memories that are as fond to you as mine are to me.
Even if you've never been down east, you've most definitely heard of Halifax, the capital city of Nova Scotia. Lovingly nicknamed, among other things, 'Halifornia', this city has it all and then some. The downtown bar scene is a blast, and you should definitely plan to see some live music.
Some highlights include: the Citadel (a National Historic site of Canada), the waterfront boardwalk, the public gardens, Point Pleasant park, and the Canadian Museum of Immigration. History, culture, nightlife, and incredibly friendly people - what more could you need?
2. Peggy's Cove
Although this is a classic tourist site in Nova Scotia, don't assume it's overdone or not worth it. The charm and beauty of Peggy's Cove is still a must-see, and the lighthouse isn't the only thing worth photographing.
The colourful houses nestled in the cove are a unique sight, and you could spend a whole afternoon by the water, relaxing and watching boats go by. The Cove isn't too far from Halifax, so if that's where you're staying, have it on your list for an easy day trip.
3. Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is one of the seven natural wonders of North America, so a visit to this area is sure to be a bucket-list item. Although the majority of the Bay is in nearby New Brunswick, there are sections along the coast to explore in Nova Scotia.
The possibilities are truly endless in terms of adventures you could go on here; sea kayaking, hiking, whale watching, three-day canoe trips, and, no joke, walking on the ocean floor.
4. Cape Breton Highlands National Park
The views offered along the series of hiking trails in this park are unparalleled. Don't be intimidated by the level of difficulty, though - most trails are easy, and wide enough that you can go at your own pace and take breaks along the way.
This area of Cape Breton Island has tons of hidden marvels to discover, and if you're lucky, you'll see some wildlife, namely moose, along the way. Sounds like a Canadian experience if there ever was one.
This picturesque little coastal village is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for the legacy it carries as a port town. If anywhere could be called the pinnacle of a traditional East Coast fishing village, it's Lunenburg.
The joy of visiting this little town is simply being able to watch it go by in peace; to see boats come in, or watch fishermen prepare their catch over ice. One boat to lookout for: a replica of the historically famous Bluenose.
6. Kejimkujik National Park
The only inland National Park in the Maritimes, Kejimkujik offers stunning natural beauty. Fans of canoeing and kayaking will love the awesome routes that this park offers; you can even do portages if you're looking for adventure.
After a day exploring the park, you can relax on the beautiful white sand beach close by. Whatever you choose, a day spent here is sure to restore and regenerate your spirits.
Many tourists might take one look at this small, sleepy town and pass through without a second thought. But Digby and its surrounding area have some hidden gems that may peak your interest as you make your way through Nova Scotia.
The waterfront in beautiful, and if you're a fan of scallops, there is no other place in the world you need to try them more than in Digby. This little town has one of the world's largest scallop fleets, so if you love this awesome seafood, try it here and you won't be disappointed. Once you're done enjoying Digby, head out to the Digby Neck, a peninsula that offers incredible views of the Atlantic.
8. Annapolis Valley (Grand Pre/Bay of Fundy)
Wondering why I included a seemingly random, albeit beautiful, valley on this list? Well, there are whispers that Annapolis Valley is the new up and coming wine region in Canada. Yes, you heard me - a burgeoning wine region that not too many people know about yet. Your new paradise? I think so.
The valley and surrounding areas, such as the historic town of Grand Pre, and sections of the Bay of Fundy, offer tons of gorgeous sights and opportunities to explore. So sit back, wine in hand, and sip by sip, show appreciation for the beautiful and grape-laden Annapolis Valley.
9. Crystal Crescent Provincial Park
White sand beaches and hiking trails - two things that go together in the perfect marriage of Nova Scotia beauty.
This provincial park is only forty minutes outside of Halifax so, much like Peggy's Cove, it makes for an awesome day trip. Untouched, natural wonders are what make Nova Scotia special, so head to this park to truly grasp the inherent magic of this province.
10. Fortress of Louisbourg
All the Canadian history buffs should visit this National Historic site in Louisbourg. This fortress is a total recreation of 18th century lifestyles; there are dozens of actors in costumes, from soldiers and servants to fishermen.
You can spend a whole afternoon at this site, as tourists are allowed to walk through and check out the fortress from the inside. The town of Louisbourg is also very quaint and worth seeing once you're done at the fortress.
11. Hall's Harbour
Another little fishing village that encapsulates the charm of the Maritimes, Hall's Harbour is definitely worth a visit if you're exploring the Bay of Fundy region or hiking on nearby trails.
The low tides create an interesting effect for the nearby docked boats, and the lobster here is so incredible, it draws tourists for that sole reason alone. If you're looking for the quintessential experience of Nova Scotia, add this charming village to your list alongside Lunenburg.
A fishing village on the Cabot Trail, Cheticamp is surrounded by breathtaking nature, like the scenic point pictured above. If you're hiking and spending time in the Cape Breton Highlands, this town is a great stop-off.
The advantage of Cheticamp is that you can experience the seaside life that Nova Scotians enjoy, and also explore inland. What is pictured in the above photo is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the adventures available in Cheticamp and its surrounding area.