First time visitors to Nova Scotia may feel compelled, like I did, to drive 1,000+ miles and try and see as much of the maritime province as possible: the South Shore, the Bay of Fundy, the Northumberland Shore, Cape Breton, the Eastern Shore, the Halifax metro area, et cetera. Second time visitors are probably ready to focus on one or two places. For me those two places would be Lunenburg and Wolfville.
is located on Nova Scotia's South Shore, about an hour and twenty minute drive from Halifax. The walkable town is positioned on a hillside overlooking a harbour and its main section is three or four parallel streets lined with bed and breakfasts, inns, local restaurants and shops. For a small town of about 2,300 people, Lunenburg is rich in amenities designed to welcome and charm visitors. Despite being touristy, there's also an element of lived-in authenticity that gives Lunenburg an edge over its more bland neighbor Mahone Bay.
With its location on the Lighthouse Route - the province's scenic drive along the South Shore - you're assured of meandering waterside roads whether you head east of Lunenburg toward Chester and Peggy's Cove or west toward LaHave, Petite Riviere and beyond. The twisty coastal road between Hubbards and Mahone Bay might have been my favorite stretch in all of Nova Scotia. There are many beaches nearby as well. Three well known ones are Hirtle's Beach, Crescent Beach and Risser's Beach.
If you're looking for an even smaller seaside town that's a little bit closer to Halifax, consider Chester. I only stopped in Chester for lunch but it made me wish that I had planned to spend at least one night there. From Chester you can take a ferry to the Tancook Islands and spend a few hours exploring.
My other favorite place in Nova Scotia was Wolfville
. This college town is about an hour north of Halifax, making it very accessible to travelers. While the town itself doesn't have the quintessential attractiveness and layout of Lunenburg, Wolfville does back up to the Bay of Fundy's Minas Basin where the world famous Nova Scotia tides go in and out every six hours. From Wolfville it's a short drive to places like Evangeline Beach or Hall's Harbour where this phenomenon can really be observed.
Wolfville is smack dab in the middle of Nova Scotia's wine region - the Gaspereau Valley. Several wineries are within a 30 minute drive and the wine is surprisingly good for somewhere so far north. Perhaps because of the wine draw, Wolfville also has an elevated food scene. Some of the best dining in the province outside of Halifax is located here. Nearby Port William is also worth checking out for its food and drink.
|Nova Scotia's Wine Region|
|Evangeline Beach, Cape Blomidon in distance|
If you visited Wolfville just for the wine and food alone that would be enough, but there's also excellent hiking not far away. Cape Split and Blomidon Provincial Park each offer very challenging rambles for the hiking enthusiast. It's also very bike-friendly (as is Lunenburg).
Being a college town, Wolfville is not so tourist reliant, so there's a progressive buzz going on there year round, complete with bookstores, an arts scene, and an awareness of healthy living options. The thinking seems to be that if the residents are happy, then the visitors are sure to be as well.