Day Trips from Halifax

Day Trips from Halifax


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A densely packed guide to Nova Scotia's most raucous adventures, inspiring landscapes, and amazing history, this book ensures that visitors to and residents of the region never have a boring weekend again. From tidal-bore rafting on the Shubenacadie River or strolling among lions at the Oaklawn Zoo to searching for ancient fossils on Joggins Beach, Day Trips from Halifax is filled with all you need to know about hidden beaches, unexpected hiking trails and much, much more.

"This is the ultimate day trip guide and Jon Tattrie — a Nova Scotia born-and-bred journalist, author and off-the-tourist-trail explorer — is your ultimate guide.
— Stephen Kimber, Professor of Journalism, University of King’s College and author of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five


A big reason why Halifax is one of the continent's great small cities: it's striking distance from a long list of fascinating day trips. Tattrie — with his clear eye and distinctive way with words — is the pefect guide.
— John DeMont, author of A Good Day's Work: In Pursuit of a Disappearing Canada and columnist The (Halifax) Chronicle Herald

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781927097441
Publisher: MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.
Publication date: 08/01/2019
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Jon Tattrie is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author who has written about Nova Scotia for Canadian Geographic, the Globe & Mail, Lonely Planet, and Readers Digest. He makes regular appearances on CBC, CTV, News 95.7, Global TV, the Chronicle Herald and Metro. He is the author of Black Snow, Cornwallis: The Violent Birth of Halifax, and The Hermit of Africville. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Read an Excerpt

Day Trips from Halifax

The Ultimate Halifax Daytripper's Guide

By Jon Tattrie

MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Jon Tattrie
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-927097-46-5



Destination: Dartmouth

Driving time: 15-minute ferry ride

Time at destination: 3 hours

Total time: 3.5 hours

Type of trip: indoor/outdoor

How: Take the Dartmouth ferry into the town

Why: A few dollars buys you a pleasant harbour cruise past bobbing seals, sailboats, and cargo ships. Your destination is a cool town with interesting museums, beautiful hikes, charming shops, and trendy cafes. Ventures out of the city centre take you on a waterfront walk, a hike along an abandoned canal, or a visit to an urban beach.

What to do: Stop by the Dartmouth Heritage Museum (26 Newcastle Street) to learn the town's history with photos, artifacts, and documents from celebrated citizens and ordinary folks.

Quaker House (55/57 Ochterloney Street) occupies one of the oldest homes in the area and provides insight into the group of whalers who worked in Dartmouth in the 1780s.

The Farmers' Market (in Alderney Landing) is open every day, although Saturday morning is the most popular time. It's a market for local farmers with local food, and also has the Craig Gallery showcasing local art.

The Dartmouth Harbourfront Walkway is a pleasant stroll from the Dartmouth ferry to the Woodside ferry (where you can sail back to Halifax), offering great views of the harbour and islands.

If you're driving or up for busing, head a little outside of town to the Black Cultural Centre (10 Cherry Brook Road) for a fascinating look at the long, proud history of African Nova Scotians.

Head east and the Shearwater Aviation Museum (34 Bonaventure Street) has vintage aircraft and a flight simulator where you can try your hand at flying.

The nearby Cole Harbour Heritage Park Trails (256 Bissett Road) offer meandering treks through the old farmland, marshes, and oceanfront.

The Shubenacadie Canal's Fairbanks Centre (54 Locks Road) provides a history of the canal, and a parking lot to start walks or canoe trips inside Shubie Park. You can walk the start of the canal, where you'll find interpretive panels and the remains of the workers' huts, or head into the wooded paths.

When:] Nocturne, the citywide public arts festival, has spread from Halifax to Dartmouth and the arts event, held on an October evening each year, is a great opportunity to explore the city with fresh eyes. Natal Day Festival, the annual birthday celebrations for Halifax and Dartmouth in the first week of August, is also a fun time to see the city.

Eat:] The Wooden Monkey (40 Alderney Drive) tucked away in the complex housing the Dartmouth ferry, offers delicious local food and great harbour views. If you walk to the Woodside ferry, stop into the legendary Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers and Poutinerie (380 Pleasant Street).

Pleasure bonus: When the ocean beaches of HRM are still liquid ice, Lake Banook is a warm bath. The small beach soon fills up on hot weekends, but is still an easy escape.


The King's Wharf complex sits at the heart of ancient Dartmouth. For thousands of years, the Mi'kmaq used it as the starting point for inland treks along the Shubenacadie waterway. Early European settlers built a saw mill in the cove to process wood for Halifax. The settlers and indigenous people fought many brutal wars to control the territory.


Dartmouth has 25 distinct lakes formed by the Pleistocene glaciation of about 15,000 years ago. Starting in Lake MicMac, an intrepid boater can paddle and portage along a chain of lakes and rivers all the way to Maitland in the Bay of Fundy.


Singer Joel Plaskett was born in Lunenburg, but he is a solid Dartmouthian these days. His Joel Plaskett Emergency hit Nowhere With You has become a downtown anthem, especially that line about taking the Dartmouth ferry into the town.


Fisherman's Cove

Destination: Fisherman's Cove

Driving time: 20 minutes

Time at destination: 2 hours

Total time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Type of trip: indoor/outdoor

How: Cross the Macdonald Bridge and get on Portland Street. Turn onto Pleasant Street as it turns into Main Road and turn right on Shore Drive.

Why: A short, pleasant drive takes you to a community of working fishermen coming and going alongside colourful shops selling original art, souvenirs, books, and more.

There's also a great beach, several walks, and the starting point for a bigger kayak or canoe adventure.

What to do: Fisherman's Cove was once a cove worked by fishermen, but the decline of the industry reduced the port to a shadow. It was revived in the 1990s as a hybrid working village/tourist destination. Wander the two boardwalks of shops.

Highlights include Dockside Treasures, which sells local books, art and crafts, and lots of mementos. Just Browsing has similar wares, with a focus on crafts. The Fisherman's Cove Gallery is a small gallery run by a local artists' cooperative. The walls are full of sunsets, waves, and wildlife and if you find a piece you like, there's a decent chance you'll buy it from the artist herself, as the gallery is staffed by the artists on a rotating basis.

McCormack's Beach has a great, easy boardwalk stroll over a marsh and a pleasant sandy beach for refreshing swims. Views take in the cove, the mouth of the harbour, two islands – and the skyscrapers of downtown Halifax. Bring your fishing rods and cast away.

Two islands sit close by and both can be visited by kayak, canoe or boat. At low tide, you can almost walk from McCormack's Beach to Lawlor's Island. If you want a guide, you can join Spirit of the East Kayaks ( for a tour that leaves the cove and explores the Lawlor's and McNabs islands.

You can also book passage with the McNabs Island Ferry (, which also offers hiking, biking, history, and nature tours. McNabs has a fascinating history you can learn about today via its abandoned Fort McNab, two batteries, and several houses.

Adventurous friends or a young family could easily spend a day exploring the ruins of two forts, a collection of homes from when the island was Nova Scotia's go-to summer retreat, stop by an over-grown cemetery, and look deep in the woods for signs of the original Bill Lynch fair. Believe it or not, his was one of two carnivals that operated on the island in the early 20th century. The island's human history pre-dates the Great Pyramids of Egypt, as testified by an archaeological find of a 5,000-year-old refuse heap left by the Mi'kmaq.

A&M Sea Charters take you whale watching – and if you don't see a whale, your next trip is free.

When: The shops open mid-June, but the beach and walks are open year-round. McNabs is extra special in October's Fall Foliage Tour (dates change yearly). Trips depart from downtown Halifax to the island, where you can enjoy the fall colours on your own or with one of several guided tours.

Eat: Coffee Tea & Sea has tasty lattes and sweets, along with soups and sandwiches – and very friendly owners. Passage Ale House and Wharf Wraps have good basic food.


As author Steven Laffoley explains in Death Ship of Halifax Harbour, McNabs Island became a gruesome quarantine zone in 1866, when a cholera epidemic broke out on an elegant old steamer called the S.S. England. It sought refuge in Halifax Harbour. About 800 passengers were placed on the island; 200 died from the terrible disease and were buried on McNabs.


Peggy's Cove

Destination: Peggy's Cove

Driving time: 45 minutes

Time at destination: 2 hours

Total time: 3.5 hours

Type of trip: outdoor

How: Leave town on the Armdale Roundabout and follow Highway 333.

Why: Peggy's Cove embodies the eternal beauty of the ocean. Whether you visit on a blue-sky August day, or a rain-soaked November, it is a hypnotizing view.

For many people, the lonely white lighthouse perched on an expanse of bare rock as the ocean crashes relentlessly at its feet is what Nova Scotia looks like. Isolated and yet connected, it is a beacon of safety surrounded by danger.

What to do: Park at the start of the village (the tourist information office at 109 Peggy's Cove Road has a lot) and wander into the village. In the summer, the office offers free 45-minute tours of the village.

The deGarthe Gallery and Museum features the famous rock-carved portrait of fishermen and inside you'll find paintings by William deGarthe. Beales' Bailiwick is a coffee shop that doubles as a craft and gift store, the Peggy's Cove Gift Shop has souvenirs and Peggy's Cove Jewellery has locally-made works.

The lighthouse claims to be the most-photographed one in the world, so be sure to enjoy its beauty and take your photo. The lighthouse is crazy busy, but if you walk along the Peggy's Cove Preservation Area you'll soon find yourself alone. Climb over and around the bare rocks and boulders deposited by long-melted glaciers. So long as you avoid the black (wet) rocks by the water, this is a great adventure for kids.

Peggy's Cove Boat Tours ( offers a trip along the coastline with live underwater cameras to show what's beneath the surface — including lobsters, fish, and crabs. Lucky guests will spot whales, dolphins, seals, and leatherback turtles. It operates from June to September.

A short drive out of Peggy's Cove takes you to SeaSunKayak (148 Nautical Way), where you can rent a kayak and guide to lead half- and full-day tours of the water around St. Margaret's Bay and Peggy's Cove.

At 10235 Peggy's Cove Road you'll find Peggy of the Cove. This place is amazing. It's the childhood home of storyteller Ivan Fraser and features a gravel, concrete, and spray paint creation of Peggy's Cove, an extra-large lobster trap perfect for photos, and the house itself, which is fully covered in a mural of the lighthouse and cove. Inside is an exuberant mixture of Ivan's art, Peggy paraphernalia (including books by Ivan, documentaries, and dolls).

Legend has it that a schooner wrecked in the cove, killing all on board except for a woman named Margaret. She swam ashore, married a local man, and went by her nickname, Peggy. People came to hear her story and began calling the cove after her.

Or it could Peggy's Cove because the cove sits at the entrance to St. Margarets Bay, spoilsport.

When: Peggy's Cove is gorgeous year-round, so this might be more of a tip on when not to go: weekends during the peak summer months. On Saturdays and Sundays in July and August, your serenity will be impeded by the endless tourist buses groaning up to the parking lot. Go during the week, or in the other 10 months of the year, and you'll mostly have it to yourself.

The Peggy's Cove Festival of the Arts is usually held in July and is a good time to go if you want to see what the resident artists have been up to.

Eat: The Sou'Wester has decent food, but the real draw is the spectacular view of the ocean. This is especially valuable if the weather turns and slick, soaked rocks make outdoors admiration undesirable.


William de Garthe (1907-1983), one of the men behind the legend of Peggy of the Cove, was also a celebrated artist and sculptor. He was born in Finland, but moved to Canada. He taught at the NSCAD University, the Halifax art school, and spent springs and summers at the cove. You can see some of his work carved right into the granite at what was his home. The 100-foot-long outcropping was half-done when he died, but it is a powerful tribute to the village's fishermen.


Hope for Wildlife

Where: Hope for Wildlife

Driving time: 40 minutes

Time at destination: 2 hours

Total time: 3.5 hours

Type of trip: outdoor

How: Cross the Macdonald Bridge to Dartmouth, turn right on Wyse Road, left on Alderney Drive, right on Portland Street, and continue onto Cole Harbour Road/Highway 207 east until you see the sign for Hope for Wildlife.

Why: A beautiful drive along the Eastern Shore culminating in an adorable wildlife hospital.

What to do: It can take a leisurely couple of hours to explore Hope For Wildlife (5909 highway 207). A bright red barn at the entrance houses an education centre and a few animals. Topaz, an elderly parrot, moved in when his owner died; Cornelius the corn snake turned up at a Halifax hotel; and Danny California the frog snuck into a shipment of lettuce at Pete's Frootique.

The centre also explains the work done by HFW and wider wildlife issues.

The second red barn houses the rehab clinic, and that's where you go to see baby squirrels being hand-fed. You may also see bald raccoons in cages.

Beyond the two barns stretch a semi-wild area with enclosures housing birds (including some awe-inspiring eagles), deer, foxes, otters, owls, and many other animals. All of them have been injured and are rehabbing – most will return to the wild.

It is an active centre, so new injured animals arrive regularly.

Hope Swinimer started the centre when a woman brought a wounded robin to the animal hospital. Staff didn't know what to do with it, so she took it home and helped it heal. She took in 40 more animals that first year and her sanctuary has since rescued more than 15,000 animals from 250 species.

The volunteer-run organization takes in creatures that have been hit by cars, injured in industrial equipment or, far less often, injured by other animals. The goal is to keep them wild, rehabilitate their injuries, and release them.

The sanctuary is open Monday to Saturday, June, July and August, between 10am and 4pm. In the off-season, it's open by appointment only. It's free, but donations are encouraged. The money goes straight to help the animals.


Hope for Wildlife holds an open house every year in late August. This is a wildly popular event often featuring horseback riding, barbecue, and of course a chance to see the animals.

Be prepared to park a long way from the sanctuary and walk in to face bustling crowds.


Ralph the pelican – eventually determined to be a female – was blown onto Ralph's Place, a strip club in Dartmouth, by hurricane Earl in the fall of 2010. Ralph wintered at HFW while staff figured out how to get her home to North Carolina. Ironically, pelicans cannot be flown to the U.S., so Swinimer found a Good Samaritan willing to drive Ralph home. Ralph was released in the summer of 2011.


Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum

Destination: Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum

Driving time: 19 minutes

Time at destination: 2 hours

Total time: 2.5 hours

Type of trip: outdoor/indoor

How: Take Highway 207 (aka Portland Street/Cole Harbour Road) out of town. Turn left on Otago Drive. Turn left onto Poplar Drive.

Why: Take a trip into the past and learn how a working farm works — all without leaving HRM.

What to do: The Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum (471 Poplar Drive) is a rustic farm full of pastoral scenes, farm buildings, and animals. It's an original Cole Harbour farm and most of the buildings are original to the site. The site was preserved in the 1970s when it seemed the rapid development of the area would fully bury its agricultural roots.

Giles House was built in the late 1700s and represents a typical modest farm house of the time. If you look carefully, you'll see carved roman numerals on the logs — suggesting it may have been a prefabricated house. Inside is a temporal mishmash of artifacts from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. You'll also see occasional demonstrations of wool carding, spinning, and rug hooking.

The Blacksmith shop is housed in a century-old structure. The working forge is called into service for occasional demonstrations of blacksmithing.


Excerpted from Day Trips from Halifax by Jon Tattrie. Copyright © 2014 Jon Tattrie. Excerpted by permission of MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Fisherman's Cove,
Peggy's Cove,
Hope for Wildlife,
Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum,
Surf at Lawrencetown Beach,
Shubenacadie Wildlife Park,
Glooscap Heritage Centre,
Ski Martock/Wentworth,
Sugar Moon Farm,
The Annapolis Valley,
Grand Pre,
Blomidon Park,
Annapolis Royal,
Oaklawn Farm Zoo,
Bear River,
Upper Clements,
Hot Air Ballooning,
Halls Harbour,
Ross Farm,
Mahone Bay,
The Ovens,
LaHave Islands,
Port Mouton,
Kejimkujik National Park,
Acadian Shore,
Shag Harbour,
Electric City,
Eastern Nova Scotia,
Memory Lane Heritage Village,
Sherbrooke Village,
Photo Credits,
Top 5 Day Trip Restaurants,
Top 5 Waterfalls,
Top 5 Hikes Near Halifax,

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