Road trip, food, wine… count me in! I love being behind the wheel heading down highways, new or familiar, and experiencing local food and wine along the way. So I was excited about a culinary trip in the South Shore and Bay of Fundy/Annapolis Valley regions of Nova Scotia to discover what’s local, fresh, and unique about the food and wine of this Canadian Maritime province.
While there will be much more to come about this trip, including Nova Scotia’s fresh seafood and award-winning wineries, in future posts both here and on Dave’s Travel Corner, I wanted to give you a taste of my 5-day itinerary and list some of the must-see stops along the way. This will give you some hints of what’s to come about local food and wine specialties, history, culture, and nice people I met.
Start your engines! Time for a Nova Scotia road trip
Day 1 – Halifax to Lunenburg via Peggy’s Cove and Western Shore, 90 miles
After a lovely, but short, stay at the Westin Nova Scotian in the capital city of Halifax, my companions and I set off to Peggy’s Cove, less than an hour from Halifax.
Must see: Picturesque Peggy’s Cove lighthouse and harbor
You may have seen the lighthouse below in photos before. The Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is one of the most-photographed places in Canada. It might appear from the photo that I’m just about as tall as the lighthouse, but I assure you that’s not the case! Since this is a popular tourist attraction, we made a point to get there in the morning before most tourists arrive. Walk around on the rocks (watch your step!) for coastline vistas, and take a stroll along the road that winds down to the harbor to admire the picturesque boats and buildings. Chances are that you’ll also see a piper wearing a kilt in front of the lighthouse to complete the mood.
Must visit: Swissair Flight 111 Memorial
As you’re leaving Peggy’s Cove, just a short drive away is the memorial pictured below honoring the victims of Swissair Flight 111 that went down here just a few miles off shore in 1998.
Indulge: Hand-made chocolates and pastries at the Back Door Bake Shop, Indian Harbour
Then it was time for snacks: we enjoyed delicious candies and pastries made by Kate Melvin at the Back Door Bake Shop (at Rhubarb Restaurant). I can attest that the macaroons, chocolate chip cookies, and hand-made chocolates are absolutely delicious. We didn’t eat in Rhubarb Restaurant, but Chef Jon Geneau (shown below left) is highly regarded in the area for his creative and seasonal dishes.
Taste: Maple syrup at Acadian Maple Products
It’s all in the family at Acadian Maple Products. Brian Allaway (photo above on the right) first stumbled upon the idea to start producing syrup as a hobby using sap from trees in his backyard 20 years ago. The specialty at this family owned and operated business and retail shop is pure Nova Scotia maple syrup, but there are many other gourmet products, such as jams and preserves, made with fresh local ingredients.
Wine and dine: Atlantica Hotel & Marine Oak Island
The Atlantica Hotel and Marine Oak Island resort and restaurant has a great view overlooking Mahone Bay. Our delectable lunch was prepared for us in the kitchen of one of the resort’s villas by Chef Konrad and included a new eating experience for me — mussels! While there, we learned about the search for Captain Kidd’s treasure on nearby Oak Island. This has been going on for many years and the search continues.
Explore the town: Lunenburg Walking Tours
Shelah and Ashlee of Lunenburg Walking Tours showed us around some of this old rum-running town’s colorful and historic buildings. A ghost walk the next evening added a rather pleasantly eerie element to the town. There’s supposedly a resident ghost at the Mariner King Inn, the lovely place where we stayed for two nights. Can you see her looking out to sea from the top window of the building in the photo below (bottom right)? More later…..
Imbibe: Ironworks Distillery
Pierre Guevremont and Lynne MacKay, have been crafting spirits — vodka, rum and brandy — in this old blacksmith’s shop since 2009. Our tastings were made even better with our “spirited” conversation with the proprietors. By the way, Ironworks Apple Brandy was a key ingredient in my own cocktail creation, the Nova Scotia Surprise.
Dine: Rime Restaurant
A filling and delicious dinner at the newly opened Rime Restaurant by Chef Jeffrey MacNeil followed by a stroll around the quiet town at night was the perfect ending to a great day.
Day 2 – From the land to the sea in Lunenburg
Sail: Harbor boat tour
Ahoy, mate! Don’t worry, I had my hands on the wheel for only a short time and was expertly supervised by Walter Flower, the owner and captain of Lunenburg Whale Watching Tours. It was not yet high season for seeing whales (the water was still too cold), but we got a wonderful tour of Lunenburg Harbor heading out to sea.
Drive: Side trip to Blue Rocks from Lunenburg
It was highly recommended that we take a 6-mile side trip to the village of Blue Rocks from Lunenburg. This picturesque location is worthy of much more time that we had to spend on this picture-perfect day, but I was happy to get a glimpse and explore a bit. I loved the charming structures.
Learn: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
From our knowledgeable museum guide Nancy, we learned about the fishing heritage of the Canadian Atlantic coast at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. It’s located in a building that was once a fish processing plant and has three floors filled with artifacts and displays.
Be brave: Eat a raw scallop out of the just-shucked shell
Just outside of the museum in a shed on the wharf, Alex showed us how to shuck a scallop, although I declined to try it. However, I did accept a piece of the raw scallop and popped it into my mouth and chewed. It was better than I expected, but I still prefer my scallops grilled.
Wine and dine: Old Fish Factory Restaurant
On the 2nd floor of the museum building is the Old Fish Factory Restaurant & Ice House Bar where we had a plentiful dinner of lobster, scallops, mussels, oysters and more.
Day 3 – Lunenburg to Wolfville via Hall’s Harbour, 95 miles
I’ll have more to share about Lunenburg, but for now, let’s get on the road again! Leaving Lunenburg, we drove north through forests and the farmland of the Annapolis Valley to Hall’s Harbour located on the Bay of Fundy, which has the world’s highest tides making it one of the greatest natural wonders in the world.
Must see: The tidal bore of the Bay of Fundy
Each day 160 billion tons of water flows in and out of the bay. That’s more than the combined flow of all the world’s rivers and one of the reasons this was a finalist for the new 7 wonders of the world! The time between a high tide and a low tide is, on average, 6 hours and 13 minutes. Although we couldn’t stay for that long, you can see below the effect on the wharf while we had lunch. The tide rises as much as an inch a minute to the 40 foot high tide mark on the wharf when it comes back in.
Eat: Fresh lobster at Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound
Recently voted the “best lobster in Nova Scotia” according EastLink TV customers, Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound is the place for lobster lovers who can order up their live lobster choice by size right from the tank.
Enjoy the view: The Look Off
Keep a look out for the Look Off as you travel near Canning from Hall’s Harbour. We might have missed the pull over spot if one of my companions hadn’t been there once before. It’s a great vista point for beautiful pastoral views of the Annapolis Valley and bay from above.
Taste: Sample the wines at Blomidon Estate Winery
Blomidon Estate Winery was a convenient and enjoyable stop for us as we continued on from the Look Off to Wolfville. It’s in a lovely location with a view of the Minas Basin, an inlet of the Bay of Fundy.
Our base for the next two nights was the cozy Gingerbread House B&B in Wolfville, in the heart of Nova Scotia wine country. The inn is very convenient for visiting several of the wineries in the area.
Wine and dine: Domaine de Grand Pré and Le Caveau Restaurant
Wine tasting and a vineyard tour at Domaine de Grand Pré was followed by a fantastic dinner prepared by Chef Jason Lynch in the estate’s Le Caveau restaurant. Hanspeter Stutz, a Swiss businessman bought this property, the oldest farm winery in Atlantic Canada, in 1993 and reopened it as winery in 2000. The tasting room and restaurant have a distinctive European ambiance.
Day 4 – Around Wolfville and the Gaspereau Valley
Explore: Landscape of Grand Pré UNESCO World Heritage Site
In 2012, the community of Grand Pré was officially designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful place with great significance in the history of the Acadians who settled the land in the 1680s and were later forced to leave.
Wine, dine and make a phone call: Luckett Vineyards
Could there be a better way to spend an afternoon than lunch outside at a vineyard overlooking the Gaspereau Valley, bay and bluffs beyond? This was after a personal tour of vineyards, orchard, and winery by owner Pete Luckett. Pete makes you feel right at home at Luckett Vineyards, and extends the hospitality by offering everyone the opportunity to make a phone call anywhere in North America in the old English phone box in the middle of the orchard.
Stop: Smell the roses (and herbs) and have a boozy pop at Tangled Garden
Enjoy a walk at Tangled Garden and sample jams and other treats made from fresh herbs and other locally-sourced fresh fruits by Beverly McClare. The boozy pop is a tasty low-alcohol popsicle for adults.
Eat and drink: Fish and chips and a beer flight at The Port Pub
Before dinner at the Port Pub in Port Williams (nearby Wolfville), we got a tour of the adjacent Sea Level Brewing Company owned by Randy Lawrence. A brewmaster for 20 years, Randy was the first person in Atlantic Canada to produce micro brews. Although wine is typically my adult beverage of choice, a beer flight was the perfect accompaniment to my tasty fish and chips at the pub.
Taste: Sample wines at Gaspereau Vineyards
Before leaving Halifax on the road trip, I had my first taste of Nova Scotia’s very own appellation, Tidal Bay, produced by winemaker Gina Haverstock of Gaspereau Vineyards. So I made it a point to visit the winery when I was in the area.
Day 5 – Wolfville to Halifax via Newport Landing, 70 miles
Is it really the last day? That means one thing —-
Indulge: Pie at Evangeline Inn and Motel Café
Before heading out of Wolfville, we decided a post-breakfast treat was required so we stopped at Evangeline Inn and Motel Cafe for coconut crème and rhubarb pies. I’ve also heard that the butterscotch pie is fantastic here, but alas, one can only eat so much pie in the morning.
Wine and dine: Avondale Sky Winery
With glasses of wine in hand, we took a tour of Avondale Sky Winery vineyards with owner Lorraine Vassalo. She told us about how she and Stewart Creaser were first inspired to start the winery and how an old church from 26 miles away was moved via road and ferry to the property. The tour was followed by a tasty lunch prepared for us by Chef Dave Smart of Front and Central Restaurant in Wolfville.
So with full stomachs and smiles on our faces, it was time to head back to Halifax for a final night, passing by towns like Windsor, birthplace of ice hockey, and taking in the rural scenery of this scenic part of Nova Scotia.
Plan: Another trip to Nova Scotia
I’m feeling a bit nostalgic as I’ve been writing this. It was a full and thoroughly enjoyable Nova Scotia road trip and this itinerary worked very well, but it would be nice to spend more time in the area. There are certainly other vineyards to visit, restaurants to try, more history to learn, and I’m sure more men in kilts.
Have I teased you enough? Do you want to know more about the people, places, food and wine of Nova Scotia? Stay tuned!
Thanks to Nova Scotia Tourism Agency and Taste of Nova Scotia for making this culinary road trip possible.