Our first foray into Halifax, Nova Scotia about a year ago brought promises that we would return as soon as possible. We were floored with the variety of seafood and local wines. This time around, the seafood was plentiful but restaurant pricing was expensive, although not out of line with what you could expect to pay for a good quality steak on the prairies.
Our BnB host (more on that later) recommended a lobster special at the Nova Scotia Casino on the waterfront. Lobster at a casino? Wouldn’t be my first pick, but we came away pleasantly surprised. If you become a member of their Player’s Club, the lobster dinner (1.5 lb. lobster with all the trimmings, only available in June) was just $14.95 per person. We were very pleased with our meals and would highly recommend taking advantage of this when it’s available. Membership also gives you access to food specials from time to time as well, so we suggest signing up online and picking up your card at the customer service desk. You will need one for each person.
Hotels were also expensive – $200 – $300 a night and up. It’s summer, so not unexpected. Since we wanted something a little less expensive we switched gears and opted for a BnB through Hotels.com (see the link on this page) across the harbour in Dartmouth, an easy five-minute drive to Halifax across the Macdonald toll bridge ($1 each way). Ours was $98 a night plus tax, which offered a room with private bath. One word of advice. If the listing says private bath, make sure it’s an ensuite bathroom, if that’s important to you. Private bath can also mean the bathroom is down the hall. It might be yours exclusively, but it’s inconvenient in the middle of the night. One great thing about BnBs is the host’s personal touch. Ours gave us some great recommendations, including the lobster special, noted above. There was plenty of variety for breakfast and she went out of her way to make us feel at home.
The boardwalk along Halifax Harbour is a magnet for visitors. It is lined with merchants and restaurants. There are plenty of places to sit and watch the boats come and go. Check out the Maritime Museum where you will find fascinating information about the Halifax Explosion, the biggest such explosion before the Atomic Bomb. If you’d like to learn more, check out this book on Amazon. Also check out the Titanic exhibit, which includes interesting articles from the Titanic. While in Halifax, be sure to visit Fairview Lawn Cemetery that holds 121 victims of the sinking. While on the boardwalk check out any of the seafood restaurants there, and the farmers market at the far end of the harbour.
We were particularly taken with Pier 21, a site dedicated to the 1 million or so immigrants who came to Canada through its doors in the mid-fifties. My wife found documents in their archives that mentioned her name and her parents’ names on the ship’s manifest and a photo of the ship they arrived on from Holland. They were happy to provide copies, so if you or a relative arrived at Pier 21, this is a definite must-see.
I’ve never considered Nova Scotia for its wines, but was very impressed with two wineries we visited north of Halifax on the way to the Bay of Fundy. Our first stop was Avondale Sky in Newport Landing, complete with a renovated church that was moved to the site from nearby Walton. We purchased several bottles of their Tennycape and Bliss varieties. Our second stop was at Luckett Vineyards near Wolfville, where we had lunch overlooking the Gaspereau Valley. There is a British-style phone booth in the middle of the vineyards where visitors can call anywhere in the world – for free.
Our waiter recommended a small town called Margaretsville to see the Bay, so we headed that way and were very taken by this little fishing community. The towering red cliffs and rocky beach, complete with lighthouse was a terrific place to see the Bay. If you stay for high tide, it can be dramatic. The height of the tide difference from low tide to high tide ranges from 3.5 metres (11 feet) to 16 metres (53 feet) at the innermost part of the bay.
We also visited the Halifax Citadel that sits atop the highest hill in Halifax (pictured in the photo at the top of this article). Formerly used to protect the city, it now offers a glimpse into the lives of those who served there in the 1800s. Arrive near noon and your ears will be treated to a cannon blast near the entry point. Be sure to cover your ears. At the entrance, check out the changing of the guard ceremony. Inside, there is a special display of Vimy, and a wide range of historical displays that speak to the early days of Halifax and its importance during war. You can also stroll along the walls of the fort to catch good views of Halifax.
We wanted to take lobster home with us, so we purchased 30 of them through Clearwater Seafood located right next to checkin at the Halifax Airport. They packed them as checked baggage. The price was right, and the whole transaction was smooth and very efficient.
Now, we’re looking forward to inviting our family and friends over for a repeat taste of the East Coast!
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