Hit Nova Scotia for your next road-trip adventure

Why Canada’s ocean playground is hot on our radar for 2023

Nova Scotia
(Image credit: Tourism Nova Scotia)

Nova Scotia may be Canada’s second smallest province, but its wealth of natural maritime beauty makes it one of the most alluring – if underrated – bucket-list destinations for Brits coveting a nature-immersed adventure. Located just a six-hour flight from London, its capital Halifax offers some of Nova Scotia’s most stylish hotels, bars and restaurants, while Cape Breton Island – just a four-hour drive away – is a hub of traditional Celtic music, migrating whales, and film-set-worthy fishing villages.

Where to eat

You can’t visit Nova Scotia without sampling the province’s signature lobster dish, so head to The Five Fishermen Restaurant in downtown Halifax for exceptional seafood and stylish, contemporary interiors. Housed in a former schoolhouse dating back to 1817, the character-filled building is now famed for serving up covetable coastal plates, including local oysters, seafood chowder, seared scallops, and a cracked, 1.5lb Atlantic lobster with rosemary potatoes, cheddar biscuits and buttermilk slaw. For something a little more homely, don’t miss lunch at The Red Shoe pub in Mabou, Cape Breton Island, too. An iconic venue owned by local singers the Rankin Sisters, this informal setting serves up live music seven days a week alongside pan-seared scallops, Red Shoe meatloaf, warming plates of vegetarian chilli. Also good: The Highwheeler Café and Bakery in beautiful Baddeck – a vibrant, waterside village in the heart of Cape Breton Island. Famed for its freshly baked porridge bread, this unassuming café surrounded by independent boutique makes for a picturesque pitstop.

Nova Scotian food

(Image credit: Tourism Nova Scotia)

What to do

If you’re travelling between July and September, hop on one of the many whale-watching tours that depart from Cape Breton and the Bay of Fundy for your chance to spot passing pilot whales, minke whales and pods of dolphins. Walkers will also love hiking one of Cape Breton Highlands National Park’s 26 nature-immersed tracks, which deliver everything from waterfalls and lichen-cloaked bogs to heart-lifting ocean vistas over the Cabot Trail. For an adrenaline boost, don’t miss exploring Celtic Shores Coastal Trail with Mike’s E Bikes in south-west Mabou, either. Owner Mike will kit you out with an electric mountain bike and helmet before you hit a rural route through some of Nova Scotia’s most postcard-worthy in second, third, or even sixth gear – just don’t whizz straight past the eagle’s nest at the cross bridge.

Where to stay

If you’re coveting a slice of contemporary luxury, the place to stay is Muir. Situated on the waterfront in the heart of downtown Halifax, this new hotel, restaurant and bar is the most stylish base for road trippers who aren’t prepared to compromise on comfort. Boasting not one but two boats for guests, plus an enviable location in the epicentre of a new culinary district, this tasteful venue with a maritime-inspired aesthetic captures the spirit, culture and beauty of Nova Scotia via a blend of traditional craftsmanship, decadent details and spectacular ocean-front suites. Our pick? If budget isn’t an issue, book the Watch penthouse, which comes complete with its own rum-tasting room, bar, and panoramic views. 

Heading out of Halifax, don’t miss Glenora Inn & Distillery – North America’s first single-malt whisky distillery in Mabou; Keltic Lodge at The Highlands – a picture-perfect golf resort overlooking the wild, rugged headlands of Ingonish Beach; and – our personal favourite – North Star in Louisbourg. Situated on a four-acre peninsula overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this hidden gem is run by Scottish interior designers Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister (you’ll probably recognise them from their TV stints on everything from The Million Pound Property Experiment and Celebrity Masterchef to I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!) and offers up a plethora of boutique, Scandi-style suites, as well as a gorgeously decadent restaurant and bar, called The Bothy. Think industrial-inspired interiors, a superbly curated, regional menu (don’t miss the mussels swimming in blue cheese), and super-friendly service from Justin and Colin – who not only serve up the (generously portioned) drinks and dishes, but will happily join you for a nightcap, too. In short, if you’re looking for a gorgeous off-the-grid location that also boasts stylish interiors and a warm welcome, this is it.

Keltic Lodge Nova Scotia

Stunning ocean views from Keltic Lodge

(Image credit: Tourism Nova Scotia)

How to book

Discover the World offers a six-night self-drive Cape Breton Explorer tour starting from £662pp. The tour includes accommodation in rooms with private bathroom, car rental throughout with GPS, National Historic Sites Pass including admission to Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site, Fortress of Louisbourg & Halifax Citadel and full financial protection. For further inspiration on what to do and see, visit www.atlanticcanadaholiday.co.uk and www.novascotia.com