One July morning, our little white converted camper van packed and loaded, Ethan and I headed to the Portland, Maine seaport and eagerly sat in line to board the CAT ferry. Before we knew it we were speeding along at a nice clip, over waves waves waves listening to a wonderful musical duo play Celtic tunes on electric bagpipes and fiddles. We were heading to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, across the Maritimes of the Atlantic between New England and Canada. Nova Scotia is a very “human-sized” place as I like to think of it- it’s easy to get to places, there aren’t huge distances between attractions (such as in the American West) and it isn’t an exhausting place to visit (it was actually the most relaxing trip I’ve ever taken). There are no real hazards or safety concerns to worry about, very low crime, mild weather, well-maintained roads, and very friendly locals. Scroll way down to the bottom if you’d like some practical tips. But now, enjoy some of my favorite photographs as I outline our 6 day itinerary in Nova Scotia~
Day One ~ Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
The CAT high speed ferry leaves out of Portland, Maine. Bring some reading material as you will be sitting in your car in the boarding queue for quite some time. After boarding the ferry, run to the front so you can get a seat facing forward! I am NOT prone to motion sickness, yet felt pretty queasy during the 5-6 hour crossing because we got a seat that faced sideways. Although it was beautiful to watch the ocean passing by (keep your eyes open for whales- I saw 2!), I felt much better when we finally snagged a vacated table that faced straight ahead. Maybe it was just an extra wavy-day. At any rate, I should have taken Dramamine. The on-board entertainment and food was excellent on the ferry, and cut 11 hours (!!) off of our driving time from New Hampshire.
We arrived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and after waiting to offload and go through customs and immigration (don’t forget your passport!) it was around midnight. We found a campground just outside of Yarmouth to stay at, Camper’s Haven. It was inexpensive, but very loud – I had trouble sleeping – it seemed people were up partying late into the night (to be fair we did arrive on the eve of a Canadian summer holiday – so that could be what contributed to the atmosphere) We just needed somewhere to park the van legally and sleep. We woke early the next day and set off, eager to see what this new country had in store.
Day Two ~ Yarmouth to Lunenburg
Day 2 Highlight: The Ovens
Naturally formed sea caves that you can climb down into!? Yes please! This hiking and walking park was gorgeous, and if I remember correctly cost us about $35 USD for admission and overnight camping permit. Set on the ocean with dramatic cliffs and beautiful evergreen trees, rocky beaches, peaceful ponds, and friendly farm animals, The Ovens is truly a place to see!
One tip for The Ovens is, while Ethan & I generally don’t plan ahead, if you know for a fact you want to camp here, make a reservation well in advance so you can get a campsite right beside the water! As you will see in one of the photos below, there is a tent perched very close to the ocean. Of course all the sites like that were booked when we rolled up the day of, but if you are able to book in advance, try to snag a beach side site!
Day 2 Highlight: Lunenburg
Lunenburg was a beautiful seaside town filled with quaint shops, art galleries and eateries. The buildings closest to the water were painted a brilliant red, and, along with all of the other colorful buildings, made for quite a colorful place. The docks alongside the town look across a small bay and out towards fields and pastures beyond. Really quite picturesque. There were old ships moored at the docks and when we visited, we were able to board one for free which was very fun and nautical.
If you want further adventure and sights, down the road from Lunenburg is Mahone Bay – another gorgeous and quaint little town which is worth going to. We only just drove to it to look, but I would have liked to explore further. (next time!)
Day 3 ~ The Ovens to Blomidon Provincial Park
Instead of going on to Halifax from The Ovens/Lunenburg area we drove due north on route 10 towards Middleton. (Halifax is probably great – but, as my husband is not a fan of cities, we tend to avoid them). Once we reached Middleton, instead of getting on Route 1 we took Route 221 as I read on Trip Advisor that this route had more traditional Nova Scotian scenery. Since Route 221 runs parallel to Route 1, we didn’t worry about getting off our course and it was a beautiful route, filled with rolling old farmland and pastures, and dotted with pretty houses and neat old barns. We took it for a ways, then meandered back to Route 1 on towards Wolfville and the Tangled Garden.
Day 3 Highlight: Tangled Garden
Sigh. The Tangled Garden. I wish I could transport myself back there. Flowers, herbal infused honey and vinegar for sale, a sweet little garden cafe… I’ll let the photos speak for it~ this may be my favorite place we visited on the whole trip! (I’m a garden lover!)
Day 3 Highlight: Cape Split Hike
North of Wolfville is a peninsula called Cape Split that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Fundy. There is a hiking trail that runs the whole length of the peninsula and ends with spectacular views of the bay. It is not a difficult hike by any means, no real steep or technical parts, it is just long – so bring food and plenty of water. There is really no where in the area to purchase these things either, so plan ahead! The long and winding woodland trail is really worth it for the stunning views at the end.
Before your Trip Practical Tips:
- The price of the CAT ferry jumps up and down quite a lot from day to day it seems, so when booking, play around with the departure dates before you purchase, if you have the flexibility to do so, to secure the best price.
- Change your money to Canadian currency before you get there. I didn’t find Nova Scotia to be an overly tourist-ey place, so money changing kiosks were nowhere to be found, especially when arriving so late at night from the ferry. We were so thankful we thought to get the money beforehand, so we didn’t even have to worry about it. Many places do accept other currencies but you get the best prices if you pay in Canadian currency.
- Don’t forget your passport!
Well those were the first 3 days of our little Nova Scotian adventure. Stay tuned for the rest of the trip! Keep adventuring, Callie 🙂