Last year, we lived our road tripping dreams. We spent two weeks in a 24 foot RV on a road trip exploring Nova Scotia. At the heart of the maritimes in Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia has more than 13,000 kms of coastline. A popular selling point is that you’re never more than 67 kms from the ocean anywhere in the province. It’s also home to more than 150 lighthouses, and hauls some 50,000 pounds of lobster from its waters every year. But it’s not all seafood and scenery.
Nova Scotia is home to some of the most unique experiences in the world. We got to take part in so many of them last summer. We packed up our RV and hit the open road for two weeks of sun, fun and east coast adventure.
We’re starting our journey from Truro, where we live. You could begin your road trip exploring Nova Scotia at the border from New Brunswick, coming off the ferry in Sydney, or flying into the Halifax airport.
*Disclaimer: there is SO much to do in Nova Scotia that this suggested itinerary barely scratches the surface. This is a recap of what we did, and what we liked. In no way are these the only things there are to see and do in these areas.
A. Tatamagouche & the North Shore
The North Shore of Nova Scotia is one of Nova Scotia’s hidden gems! Tatamagouche is a beautiful village located 45 mins from Truro. It’s bursting with businesses that are creating one-of-a-kind products using local ingredients! If you’re like us and travelling with your own kitchen, you can stock up on local produce, baked goods and other unique groceries at Jamieson’s General Store located in historic Creamery Square. Be sure to check out their freezer section for stews, pot pies and dips!
Next, get yourself some exercise with a buggy bike rental from Remember Adventures Rentals and explore the Butter Trail. This 25 km trail is a part of the Trans Atlantic Trail system. It gives you views of the Tatamagouche Bay, and some beautiful bridge crossings.
After working up an appetite, grab lunch at the Chowder House before heading to Tatamagouche Brewery for a flight of their extensive lineup of award-winning local brews. For dessert, you’ll want to walk a few steps to Tatamagouche Ice Creamery where their hand crafted ice creams are unmatched in flavour. Don’t forget to stop in to Appleton Chocolates for some hand rolled artisanal truffles featuring a maple fondant centre with flavours that include blueberry, walnut and cranberry.
Check out Secret Nova Scotia for tours and fun on the North Shore!
B. Cape Breton
No road trip to Nova Scotia is complete without a visit to the island of Cape Breton. You’ll want to give yourself a few days here as the island is quite spread out and requires a fair amount of driving to cover. We began with the Highlands National Park where the majority of the hikes we wanted to take in were located.
There are several campgrounds to choose from depending on what you’re looking for. We stayed at the Broad Cove Campground. We hiked Broad Cove look off, Franey Mountain and drove along the Cabot Trail to reach the Skyline Trail. While there is a lot of focus on doing the Cabot trail in the fall for the changing leaves, we visited in early June and everything was SO green and lush. It was like being in the rainforest! Cape Breton is also home to many scenic waterfall sites. If that’s something you’re interested in, definitely check where you can find those hiking trails. You should also check out Salty Rose’s & the Periwinkle Cafe. They are open for breakfast and lunch, but check out their pop up Bite House dinner events!
From here we came down through Baddeck and stayed a night at the Baddeck Cabot Trail Campground. We then made our way to Sydney. We explored the waterfront which has beautiful sculptures, grabbed dinner and gave the Sydney scavenger hunt a whirl! It’s a great way to see the city and learn about it at the same time.
If you’re into museums, there are some great ones to visit in Cape Breton. We visited the Orangedale Railway Museum in Orangedale, the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck, the Miner’s Museum in Glace Bay and the Membertou Heritage Park Centre in Membertou.
Trailer Tips: A lot of places in Nova Scotia have small cable ferries to take you to other parts of the island. If you’re driving an RV or towing a camper, just be wary if you have a larger vehicle that it may not fit aboard these tiny vessels!
C. Lawrencetown, Mahone Bay & Lunenburg
While there’s lots to see on the Eastern Shore, we opted to head straight down to the HRM and Lunenburg County. You can easily spend a few days in Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. We did day trips during our road trip touring around Nova Scotia.
Just 30 minutes outside of Halifax is Lawrencetown Beach. This is one of the best places to surf, with several established surf schools in the area. They teach and rent to everyone from beginners to advanced. We had NO surfing (or water sport) experience, but the East Coast Surf School had us covered. They provide wetsuits, boards and instructors. Our instructor gave us a great run down on the beach of what to expect, and stayed with us the whole time in the water. Neither of us managed to actually get to standing on our boards but the experience of trying was priceless.
If you’re not too tired from surfing the salty waves, it’s a little more than an hour to Mahone Bay. Mahone Bay is like a scenic town from a movie. It’s filled with bustling activity and cute little shops as well as places to stop for delicious local food. We had a beautiful and delicious lunch at Mateus Bistro on the main street, and did some shopping at local staple establishments – Mahone Bay Trading Company and Amos Pewter. We actually got to see how their pewter products are created, from wax carving to finished product!
A 12 minute drive will have you in scenic and historic Lunenburg; the home of the iconic Bluenose sailing ship you can see on the Canadian dime. Lunenburg is a seafood lover’s delight. We had supper at the South Shore Fish Shack where we dined on their patio that overlooks the harbour. We also picked up a bag of local mussels to take back to our campsite to cook from Dory Mate’s Seafood Market. There are lots of unique local shops here as well, with plenty of historical stops like the Ironworks Distillery – a forge building from 1893 that worked on the original Bluenose which was converted to a distillery.
Nova Scotia’s history is steeped in the fisheries, and no museum captures that history better than the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. We learned about the Grand Banks and fishing in Nova Scotia dating back to the first peoples. There’s also an impressive exhibit in memorial to all the lives lost at sea from the Lunenburg port.
D. The Ovens & La Have
Continuing along the south shore another 25 minutes and you will come to Oven’s Natural Park. This beautiful park has campsites for RVs, trailers and tent camping right along the ocean facing the sunrise. Its the home to both natural and man made sea caves, as well as the opportunity to pan for gold! You can bring your own prospecting supplies or rent from them. The trails to the sea caves are not a hard walk, but they do have stairs and are not accessibility friendly. There is also a restaurant on site if you’d like a break from camp cooking!
Continuing on our road trip of Nova Scotia, a thirty minute drive from the natural park will get you to La Have – a small community I hadn’t heard about until I was researching for this trip. For faster access, take the La Have cable ferry across. The La Have Bakery is not to be missed! Allow time to visit as there would most likely be a line up. The building it’s in itself was beautiful and it was chock full of delicious treats of all kinds. We grabbed a cappuccino and one of almost everything they had in the show case. We then browsed their grocery store before moving over to the unique market of handmade goods next door. You could easily spend an afternoon exploring La Have.
We moseyed on down to the Fort Point museum where we learned all about the history of the area, including the ferry – which used to take carts and horses across the water. I also scored a recipe for chocolate sauerkraut cake.
E. Shelburne, Barrington & the South Shore
Continuing down the South Shore, we stop in Shelburne – the site of the largest free black loyalist settlement in North America. It’s also the site of many film productions such as The Scarlet Letter and Book of Negroes (check out IMDB for a full list of films that have been shot here). A visit to the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre and Birchtown is a must when visiting this area of the province.
We also visited the Dory Shop Museum which still makes – by hand – these small and versatile flat bottom boats that have been used in the fishery since the late 1800’s. Visiting this town was really an eye opening history lesson every Canadian should have.
Another half hour down the shore brings you to beautiful Barrington with its silver sandy beaches, and famous for its lobster rolls! Here we had a truly unique experience. The Wild Axe Lumberjack experience that is. Darren Hudson’s created quite the destination for those looking for a truly Canadian activity. What’s basically a lumberjack playground, the Wild Axe experience features log rolling, cross cut sawing and of course, axe throwing. We had an amazing afternoon here. Spoiler alert – I’m a terrible lumberjack, but you’ll have to try for yourself to see how you measure up!
F. Yarmouth, Bear River & Digby
In all the years I’ve lived in Nova Scotia, this was the first time I’ve made it to Yarmouth. I had always heard there’s nothing down there but it was a beautiful spot! We timed our visit with the annual Seafest. It had events like Mackerel Tossing (yes we did this), and kite flying, which we also did. Spoiler alert – we weren’t great at either, but it was a ton of fun!
We stayed at the Ellenwood campground which was a beautiful spot. Each campsite was nicely spaced apart so it felt private. There was a great Farmer’s market, delicious restaurants and scenic parks to explore.
No trip to this part of the province is complete without checking out Cape Forchu and its very unique lighthouse. You’re going to want to book the tour to go up in this one for the incredible panoramic views. Be warned though – this tour isn’t for people who are nervous of confined spaces or heights. You also want to check the footwear guidelines for going up in the lighthouse before you get there. This is also the site of the movie “The Lighthouse” which starred Willam Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.
While heading out of Yarmouth towards Digby, keep your eyes peeled for the small community of Bear River. Blink and you’ll miss this ‘tidal village on stilts’ as it’s known! We stopped for lunch at TacOcat for authentic Mexican cuisine with an impressive collection of hot sauces ( try and go for their taco eating competition). We stopped for a coffee at Sissyboo Coffee Roasters, then took in the beautiful grounds and wines of Bear River Vineyards. You can easily spend an afternoon in this scenic village.
G. Annapolis Valley
Annapolis Valley is one of the more popular regions of Nova Scotia, but it has so much more than the wineries it’s famous for. We began in Grand Pré, which was once the epicentre of Acadian culture. I knew very little about the Acadian culture so that’s what we dove in to on our trip to the valley. We started at the Grand Pre National Historic Site. Here you can browse the exhibits within the centre or book a guided tour. We booked the guide and we would highly recommend this option. We explored the dykes, the site of Memorial Church, Harvest Moon Trail, and of course, the statue of Evangeline. You can now actually stay in this UNESCO historic site in the o’TenTiks that were built on the grounds.
After a morning of touring, we stopped at the Grand Pré winery to have lunch at their restaurant, La Caveau. The food was phenomenal as was the wine and atmosphere. We highly recommend the wine tasting if you have time. You’ll also want to allow yourself time to tour the grounds as you can walk through the vines and find chairs that overlook the Bay of Fundy.
We didn’t book a campsite here, but instead parked for the night in the apple orchards of Hennigars Farm Market thanks to Harvest Hosts. It was an incredibly beautiful atmosphere with stunning sunset views and privacy amongst the trees. I’d never been to their market before but I’ve been back several times since! Their baked goods are mouth watering. They’re known for their donuts but it was the sweet potato biscuits that had me salivating. They also have an ice cream counter, impressive variety of fudge, and make their own alcoholic cider in partnership with Wayfarer’s Ale Society You might also want to take in a few rounds of Farmer’s Golf. Don’t know what this is? I don’t want to ruin the surprise but the fun we had playing it was priceless! We highly recommend you check out this activity.
If wine tours is what you’re after, there’s plenty to choose from, but our favourite is the Magic Winery Bus Tour. It has a few different options depending on the length of time you’d like to go or amount of wineries you’d like to visit. If homemade pasta is your thing, venture a little out of Wolfville to Port William and check out the Noodle Guy. The food is incredible, but this popular spot is often quite busy.
H. Parrsborro & Joggins
This area of the province is a great stop for the history buffs or fossil enthusiasts in your life, but it’s not limited to that by any means. Parrsborro is home to the iconic Ships Company Theatre which is housed in an impressive building you can’t miss on Main Street. If you get the chance, take in a show while you’re in the area. Get yourself a delicious lunch or dinner at the Black Rock Bistro before taking in the sites.
There are some great museums here, like the Ottawa House and Fundy Geological Museum. Just a 36 minute drive to Springhill and you can visit the Springhill Miner’s Museum. Although we’d already been to a mining museum back in Cape Breton, it was interesting to hear about the mining and history in this area. We had a young tour guide of just 16 years (Thanks Ben!) but his old soul came from growing up with with his family having worked in the mines.
Keeping up with learning about the history of Nova Scotia, another 37 minutes will take you to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. This UNESCO site tells its visitors a 300 million year old story. After visiting the museum’s interactive displays, we opted to book a guided beach tour which was truly incredible. You could see how the seams of coal come up through the beach and in to the cliffs, examples of fossilized insects and plants, as well as a petrified tree! This was an incredible and unique experience I would definitely take in again. I want to take my niece back with me, who loves her rock and gem samples.
I. Five Islands
We then looped back to the Five Islands Provincial Park which is one hour from Joggins. The drive along the coast is beautiful, and the park has sites that are in the trees or with water views as well as access to some great hiking trails.
My favourite place to visit in this area is the That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm. In the middle of Economy is this hidden gem that makes *the* best gouda I’ve ever had, and so many varieties of it! Not only is this family business making these delectable cheeses in house, but they also have a dutch gift shop full of confectionaries like liquorice and strooptwafle. After you’ve sampled some of their many varieties of gouda (I suggest the old growler), you have to check out the Animal and Nature Park that not too many people know about. Be sure to grab your feed before leaving the cheese store, and pocket a few extra quarters for the donkey feed on the trail (they can’t eat the corn mix you get at the shop).
This park takes about an hour to walk, and is fairly easy terrain, so long as you don’t go down the longer steeper path to the highland cattle. But if you can make that trip, it’s worth it to see these shaggy majestic creatures. The park is home to everything from emus and potbelly pigs to water fowl, sheep and so much more. The real show stealers are the goats – grab your map and make sure you don’t miss those guys. They are NOT shy!
Check out Secret Nova Scotia for tours that take you to this area!
Once you’ve finished up here, the road back to Truro will take you by the Five Islands Lighthouse park where you can picnic, swing in a hammock on site or just enjoy the beautiful view of the area’s namesake. It’s a 50 minute drive from here back to Truro, but you can also make stops at Dianne’s or Granny’s for their famous fried clams. That delicacy brings tourists from all over the province. If you enjoy antique hunting, the road home will also take you through Great Village which is bursting with antique shops curated by the best antique collectors on the north shore.
As you make your way back to the Hub of Nova Scotia, you might also want to stop by Masstown Market, which has been around for more than 50 years. Their bakery section draws people from all over (if you see their donuts in stock, be sure to grab yourself a dozen), as well as their gift shop and garden center. There’s truly something for everyone here.
And back again..
So there you have it – highlights of an RV road trip exploring Nova Scotia. Whether you have an RV or trailer to tow, you like to camp, or want to check in to one of the many experiential accommodations around, there are so many options to tailor your perfect Nova Scotia road trip. There are so many options for food, breweries and distilleries, hiking and other unique adventures, you could do this trip 5 times over and not see it all!
Have questions about any of these stops, routes or rv living? Drop me a line here! Happy Trails!
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