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A Glimpse of Nova Scotia, Canada
by:
Christine Roberts

Most international travelers to Nova Scotia start off in the island's capital, Halifax, which is also regarded as the international gateway to Atlantic Canada.

Steeped in history, this is where the first British town was established in 1749 on the shores of the world's second largest natural harbor.

Today, tourists find the attractive, historic downtown waterfront a pleasure to roam on foot. It has always played an important role in the life of the city and its people. Seven buildings comprise Privateers Wharf have been retored and redeveloped while three square blocks of the Historic Properties and Brewery Market are the priority choice for shopping and dining.

These are Canada's oldest existing waterfront warehouses, erected in an area once frequented by smugglers and pirates. And it was here that Enos Collins, one of the city's most successful privateers, started the first bank of Nova Scotia.

When you stroll past the rebuilt Italianate Granville Mall, the City Hall and the Old Burial Ground, you find yourself taking a step back in time into the city's illustrious past. And from the boardwalk, alongside the harbor, you espy visiting cruise, military, sailing and cargo ships, neatly berthed.

There is an outstanding Maritime Museum of the Atlantic which displays an extensive collection of ship's artifacts while at Pier 21, Canada's "Ellis Island" to more than a million immigrants, you learn of their experiences and visions through a plethora of live tapes, exhibits and film.

Celtic music resounds from many of the cozy pubs and diverse eateries which overlook or are in the surrounds of the waterfront. In the center of Halifax is the massive hilltop Citadel, a star-shaped stone fort and national historical site.

A short walk brings you to the tranquil, Victorian-style public gardens with an abundance of fountains, floral displays and exotic, contented water-fowl. Many a morning you can expect to hear the familiar musical sounds from a bagpiper emanating from the grounds.

Children worldwide have come to know all about Halifax through the popular tugboat TV series, "Theodore Tugboat", a syndicated TV program produced in Halifax and shown in more than 70 countries.

A few of the highlights:

  • Only a half-hour drive from downtown Halifax is the fishing community of Peggy's cove, renowned for its lighthouse and spectacular scenery.

  • Lunenberg, a UNESCO-designated world heritage site, has an Old Town that has remained in its original layout of a planned Colonial settlement. Established in 1753 on a south-facing hillside, it overlooks a quaint harbor, has intriguing shops, fascinating, old, restored hotels and a great Fisheries Museum. Interpretive signs give information about the settlement, its defense and historically significant architecture. 

The town can be reached via Nova Scotia's northern shore which is blessed with charming lighthouses and wharves piled with lobster traps.

  • Shelburne is a charming historical town on the south east coast which is renowned for its picture-postcard villages. It has a lovely old Inn - the Cooper's Inn - on the sea front, not far from the tourist office.

  • Cape Breton Island encompasses the Cape Breton Highlands National Park with some 950 sq km of coastal wilderness. Lying off the north eastern coast of Nova Scotia, its rugged coastline, country roads and footpaths invariably lead to tiny coves and beaches. And some of the most scenic sections of the world famous Cabot Trail are located within this diverse National Park.

    Expect to see moose, bald eagles, whales (at specific times of year) and occasionally bear. Inland, lies the Bras d'Or Lakes, a salt-water lake system stretching for 80 km which is home to prolific plant and bird life.

    Separated from the mainland by the Strait of Canso, Cape Breton Island has been accessed via the Canso Causeway since 1955 and is inhabited primarily by the Scottish, Irish, Acadian and Mi'kmaq peoples. There rich history and culture enhances every visitor's island experience!

    Old traditions are still maintained by the various ethnic groups, and you can expect to rub shoulders with German, Welsh, Slavic and you can expect to rub shoulders with German, Welsh, Slavic, West Indian, French, British and Middle Eastern residents too.

    Cape Breton offers a wide choice of clearly sign-posted routes. The Ceilidh, Fleur-de-Lis, Cabot, Marconi and Colliery Trails, for instance.

    There is so much to see and do in Nova Scotia that it becomes an immensely difficult task to choose an itinerary. It's a case of what can you bear to leave out! The highlight is undoubtedly the famous Cabot Trail which traverses lush valleys, small villages and the largest Acadian center on the island, Cheticamp. Examples of residents using the fascinating, unique rug hooking techniques can be observed here, and items bought from various craft shops.

Next stop: Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The road continues to hug the coast and winds in and out of the Park, crossing the Nroth and Mackenzie Mountains to Pleasant Bay. The entrance to the Park is at Petit Etang where payment of a small entry fee permits you to use the facilities, sightsee and to stop for walks. But there is no charge if you are only driving through on the main Park highway.

A drive further north brings you to White Point, where you can stay overnight in a friendly B & B overlooking a small harbor. From the windows of this home you can spot two tiny islands. From here is the start of one of the most beautiful coastal walks on Cape Breton. However, from December until April, this region is covered in snow and becomes a skier's dream, with 40 km of 
groomed trails.

A highly recommended place to stay in Cape Breton is at the Glenora Inn and Distilleries built on 200 acres with comfortable rooms as well as six chalets. Here is North America's only single malt whisky distillery where good conversation and "a wee dram te bheag", can be enjoyed. This country corner is renowned for its music and square dancing. See www.glenoradistillery.com.

A top golf course at Highlands Links is a 1935 Stanley Thompson design and is in the upper reaches of Cape Breton Island. Currently it ranks 57th among "Golf Magazine's" Top 100 courses in the world.

Baddeck is one of the island's most popular summer destinations and is where Alexander Graham Bell set up a Canadian home and workplace. Near to the village center, it is where The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site stands today. And it is here that a comprehensive collection of personal mementoes, photos, exhibits and interactive displays of his exceptional, countless discoveries with regard to the telephone, aviation, kites, hydrofoils and work with the deaf can be observed.

The Telegraph House in Baddeck was where the first telegraph office was set up, inside a hotel which has been operated by three generations of the Dunlop family.

In 1909, they witnessed his historic flight of the Silver Dart on Baddeck Bay - a milestone in Canada's history - and in 1919, watched the hydrofoil, the HD-4 clock in at 114/km/hr. 

Today, you can meet the newest members of the Dunlop family and experience a great stay at The Telegraph House.

Useful websites are:

Getting there:

  • *Rail connections operate between Montreal and Halifax on VIA RAIL.

  • From Bar Harbor, Maine "The Cat" high speed ferry takes two hours and 45 minutes to make the crossing to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. See www.nflbay.com , Email: baycat@ns.sympatico.ca.

  • Direct air access is offered from Boston, New York, Amsterdam, Detroit, London, Frankfurt, Iceland, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and through Atlantic Canada. Access by sea to Nova Scotia is by ferry from the USA, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.  Halifax is a premier port of call on the New Atlantic Frontier cruise itinerary.

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Email:  Christine Roberts

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