The Perfect 7-Day Nova Scotia Road Trip Guide
A Nova Scotia road trip is the perfect introduction into the Maritime region of Canada. Nova Scotia, which means “New Scotland” has a significant Scottish influence while also being known as Canada’s ocean playground.
I road tripped around many areas of Nova Scotia and have put together what I think is the perfect 7-day Nova Scotia Road Trip. If however you have more than a week to spare, you may want to also explore New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island, the other two regions of Maritime Canada. No matter how long your trip is, make sure to choose a dependable car that is suitable for road trips.
Nova Scotia Road Trip Day One
If you fly into the capital city of Halifax and it is late, you may want to stay the night at the Alt Hotel and start fresh the next morning. The Alt Hotel is one of the coolest airport hotels I’ve ever stayed. And, the car rental facility is located just a few hundred feet from the hotel.
Start your day off by exploring the small fishing village of Blue Rocks. This is a lesser-known area off the tourist beaten path of nearby Lunenburg. You can simply stroll the village and enjoy the scenic coastal drive. Or, time permitting; there is a kayak outfitter with tours to explore the area by the sea.
- Drive From Airport To Blue Rocks
- Drive Time: 1:20 minutes
- Distance: 73 miles
- Explore Time: 30 minutes
Less than 10 minutes from Blue Rocks is the UNESCO site of Lunenburg. This vibrant and colorful community dates to the 18th and 19th centuries, where the past mingles with the present. Tall ships are often moored in the harbor with horse-drawn rides taking visitors through the historic town. If you’re hungry, check out the Salt Shaker Deli for some seafood chowder.
Note: The best view of Lunenburg is on the other side of the harbor, down Tannery Road. There is a pullout that makes the perfect spot for photos.
- Drive From Blue Rocks To Lunenburg
- Drive Time: 10 minutes
- Distance: 5 miles
- Explore Time: At least 1 hour
Peggy’s Cove and its lighthouse is probably one of the most popular places in the province, and for good reason. The idyllic village is utterly charming and the photographic opportunities are boundless. Click the following link for a video and more information: Peggy’s Cove.
- Drive From Lunenburg To Peggy’s Cove
- Drive Time: 70 minutes
- Distance: 62 miles
- Explore Time: At least 45 minutes
The Westin Nova Scotian in downtown Halifax makes a great central resting spot for the next two nights. There is so much within walking distance that you won’t need to drive on Day 2 of this itinerary.
There are many places to eat near the Westin, however, if you just want to relax for the evening, the restaurant at the Nova Scotian is quite lovely.
Drive From Peggy’s Cove To downtown Halifax
Drive Time: 50 minutes
Distance: 28 miles
Road Trip Day Two
Directly across the street from the Westin is the oldest farmers market in North America (1750). On the second floor of the market is a coffee shop with a small deck overlooking the harbor…this is a spot to start the day.
Walking along the harbor pier is a must! The views, public art, street performers, shops and restaurants make this a lively place to explore.
A couple blocks up from the harbor are streets full of additional shopping and restaurants. Continuing straight up the hill is a Halifax landmark, the Citadel National Historic Site. This large hill overlooking the harbor below is what led the British to found the town in 1749. Among the first buildings constructed was a wooden guardhouse on top of what would eventually be called Citadel Hill, with Halifax’s first settlers building their homes at the base of the hill, closer to the water. The sweeping views are definitely worth the walk up.
If you’re interested in Titanic History, be sure to check out the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Here you will find that Halifax has many ties to the tragedy of 1912. About 5km from the museum is the Fairview Cemetery, where over 100 victims were laid to rest, in an ensemble that represents the shape of a ship. One of the gravesites is for a gentleman with the markings J. Dawson. Many people think this is “Jack Dawson,” the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Titanic, but in fact, that character was fictionalized.
Another tie to the Titanic is a restaurant I would highly recommend, the Five Fishermen Restaurant—a fantastic venue for dinner and just a short walk from the Westin Nova Scotian.
Nova Scotia Road Trip Day Three
Head straight across the province to Grand Pre National Historic Site. This is another UNESCO site in Nova Scotia and honors Acadian history from the 18th Century, many of whom were deported to New Orleans between 1755 and 1764.
Nearby is the Domaine de Grand Pre Winery, a wonderful place to take a stroll through the vineyards and taste some award-winning local wines.
- Drive From Downtown Halifax To Grand Pre
- Drive Time: 65 minutes
- Distance: 54 miles
- Explore Time: At least 1-2 hours depending if you go to both places
Seafood, and lobster in particular, are big business in Nova Scotia. An interesting experience to learn about the lobster industry is at Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound, which is located right on the famed Bay of Fundy. Here you can take a tour of the facility, while also getting to pick your own live lobster that will be prepared and delivered to your table. After lunch, this is a great place to take a stroll on the beach if the tide is out. You’ll also see a slew of fishing vessels on the harbor floor patiently waiting for the tide to rise.
- Drive From Grand Pre National Site To Hall’s Harbour
- Drive Time: 30 minutes
- Distance: 22 miles
- Explore Time: 60-90 minutes
Head to Pictou for the night. I stayed at the Pictou Lodge and Beach Resort. The location is fantastic, with stunning views, great grounds and a wonderful beach. Note: The accommodations are on the rustic side and have not been updated in a very long time. The lodge is pretty cool and the restaurant serves great food.
- Drive From Hall’s Harbour To Pictou Lodge
- Drive Time: 2:45 hours
- Distance: 140 miles
Road Trip Day Four
Pictou is known as the birthplace of “New Scotland” Nova Scotia. Drive to downtown from the Lodge and be sure to check out the Hector Heritage Quay, a living history attraction that tells the story of 18-Century Scottish migration to the area. Touring the replica ship in the harbor really puts in perspective the arduous journey that took place over two hundred years ago.
Head east along the coast toward Arisaig. Along the way (about 40 minutes from Pictou) you will see Big Island Road. Head north toward the water and you will drive across a very cool stretch of road with water on both sides. There is a wide spot in which you can pull over and walk along the beach on one side of the road. When I was there, there wasn’t a soul in sight and I only saw two vehicles drive down the road. The road leads to Big Island, an area I did not explore, but if you have the time, it might be worth checking out.
A little farther down Shore Road is Arisaig, an area full of artisan studios. Also in the area is Steinhart Distillery, which has gained fame for its maple-flavored vodka. Well worth a stop for a tour and a tasting.
- Drive From Pictou To Arisaig
- Drive Time: 50 minutes
- Distance: 46 miles
- Explore Time 1-2 hours
One of my favorite lighthouses in all of Nova Scotia was at Cape George Point, about 18 miles east of Steinhart Distillery. A dirt road winds itself around a mountain face until finally the lighthouse reveals itself. Unlike most of the other lighthouses around Nova Scotia, Cape George is on a high elevation overlooking the sea. This is a wonderful place to take in the views, have a picnic, or just walk around and explore.
Make your way to Guysborough for the night. There are several charming inns to stay at, I happened to call it a night at DesBarres Manner Inn, which I would certainty recommend. The inn is situated on 6 acres and dates back to 1873. This historic inn has been nicely restored with elegant common areas and spacious rooms. The accommodations are marvelous with a superb on-site restaurant.
- Drive From Cape George To Guysborough
- Drive Time: 1:10 hours
- Distance: 55 miles
Nova Scotia Road Trip Day Five
Guysborough is definitely one of those ‘off the beaten path’ destinations. There are not a lot of amenities in the area, but the quiet shoreline leads road trippers to romantic seaside villages where traditions and legends of the sea come alive. The rugged coastline is littered with glorious beaches that provide the perfect setting for outdoor adventure. There are nearby parks, hiking trails, kayaking, birding and other activities to take in while exploring this area.
I should mention that this part of the eastern shore of Nova Scotia has a lot of rugged un-paved back roads, so do explore with caution. Personally, this is just the types of area I enjoy checking out, those that are lesser known to tourists.
From Guysborough, head to Sherbrooke Village, an extraordinary living history museum that depicts life in the mid to late 19th Century. The village is quite large with interpreters throughout brining history alive. Each of the authentic buildings have interpreters wearing period attire and are often working on creating goods from the era, such as a blacksmith, woodworker, crochet to a photographer using original techniques. This is a fantastic experience for both young and old.
- Drive From Guysborough To Sherbrooke
- Drive Time: 1:05 hours
- Distance: 51 miles
- Explore Time: 2-3 hours in Guysborough and surrounding area. 2-3 hours in Sherbrooke Village
From Sherbrooke you could head to Liscombe Lodge Marina for the night like I did. The location is fantastic, right on the Liscombe River surrounded by lush trees. While the secluded setting is wonderful, the lodge and its accommodations are dated, so keep that in mind. There is a lot to do at the Liscombe Lodge, from nearby and back-country hiking trails, biking, canoeing to swimming. You may also opt to take a boat tour of the river with captain Chester, who has been employed by the lodge for over 40 years. The lodge also has a nice on-site restaurant so you don’t need to leave the property.
- Drive From Sherbrooke To Liscombe
- Drive Time: 22 minutes
- Distance: 17 miles
Nova Scotia Road Trip Day Six
After breakfast at the Liscombe Lodge you may want to go kayaking, take a hike or partake in some of the other on-site recreational options.
If you stepped back in time at Sherbrooke Village the day before, you may want to take a stroll down Memory Lane Heritage Village. This attraction is somewhat similar to Sherbrooke, but celebrates an era about a hundred years later, the 1940s.
Memory Lane Village is also considerably smaller than Sherbrooke, but still a really cool place to explore. Visitors enter via the General Store to pay the admission fee, and then you are release out into the village to explore the bike shop, the ship building area and much more. There are some beautiful 1940s vehicles on site as well as other artifacts from the era. After perusing the grounds, you may want to stop by the cookhouse for some authentic buffet style chow. The food prepared features baked beans, fresh soups, homemade brown bread, gingerbread cookies and coffee, tea, or lemonade.
- Drive From Liscombe To Memory Lane Heritage Village
- Drive Time: 84 minutes
- Distance: 68 miles
- Explore Time: 1.5-2 hours
After strolling down memory lane, my next suggestion will surely get your adrenal going, it’s called tidal bore rafting. This is a truly unique experience, and, Nova Scotia is one of the only places in the world you can do this activity (be sure to watch the video above to see it in action).
In a nutshell, tidal bore rafting is a group of people in a small Zodiac boat with a highly experienced captain. Excursions are timed based on the changing tide. Your captain will cruise upstream the nearby river with a massive sand bar in the middle. Once beyond the sand bar, the caption will check his watch to see how much time until the tidal bore arrives. Once it passes by, it isn’t long before the channel begins to fill up and create massive waves over the sand bar. Once this occurs, the captain will navigate the boat down the rapids for a thrilling ride.
Many aspects of tidal bore rafting may seem unpleasant or even scary, but trust me, you’ll be telling all your friends about this exciting and unique experience.
Depending on the day and time you raft the tidal bore, you may want to stay the night in a cozy cottage right there at the Tidal Bore Rafting Resort. Situated on 180 acres of wilderness, there are a number lodging choices, some over looking the majestic Shubenacadie River while you can see the tidal bore pass by.
- Drive From Memory Lane Village To Urbania
- Drive Time: 70 minutes
- Distance: 52 miles
- Explore Time: 2.5 hours
Nova Scotia Road Trip Day Seven
The last day of this road trip could be spent lounging around at the Tidal Bore Rafting Resort. Or, do a little exploring on your own en route to the airport. Depending on what time your flight is, you could return your rental car and hang out at The Alt Hotel for dinner, or, stay the night and leave the next day. This way you can rest a bit before having to go back to the real world after such an amazing adventure traveling around Nova Scotia.
- Drive From Urbania To the Halifax Stanfield Airport
- Drive Time: 30 minutes
- Distance: 28 miles
If you have any questions about doing a Nova Scotia road trip, please feel free to leave a comment below. Or, if you have any suggestions on places not to miss or stay, please include that as well. Click here to see more of my photos from this Nova Scotia road trip.