Nova Scotia is a 350-mile (560km) peninsula on the east of Canada, connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. Its rugged coastline, numerous rivers and slew of lakes make for a watery wonderland of delicious seafood, scenic routes, waterside wilderness trails, and dolphin and whale-watching opportunities.
The semi-island has a strong mixed history with influences from French, Scottish and English colonisations, as well as from the local Mi'kmaq Nation, clearly visible. But it's the Scots who had the biggest impact on Nova Scotia's culture, the first clue of which is in the name, which means 'New Scotland' in Latin. Indeed, there is a certain Scottish flavour that permeates its bars and restaurants, and even the famous Scottish wit is alive and well in Nova Scotia locals.
Nova Scotia, together with its neighbouring provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, are known as the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Nowhere in Nova Scotia is further than 35 miles (56km) from the ocean, and the busy port of Halifax attracts more than 200,000 cruise-ship passengers every year.
The relatively small spit of land also supports a vibrant musical culture, which includes the only symphony orchestra in Atlantic Canada, and a rich tradition of Scottish and Irish music.
The warm summers in Nova Scotia make it ideal for a range of outdoor activities, such as golf, sailing, zip lining, hiking, cycling, fishing, swimming and horseback riding. The winters are undeniably cold, but offer other pastimes such as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
Nova Scotia is ultimately a great destination for those interested in the great outdoors. While it is primarily celebrated as one of Canada's maritime capitals, there is certainly enough fun to be had on dry land if exploring the waves isn't your thing.
One of Halifax's military-history heritage sites, the Citadel was built between 1828 and 1856. It's designed in a star shape and features vaulted rooms, a dry defensive ditch and a musketry gallery, offering an awe-inspiring view of Halifax and its harbour from the ramparts. Visitors can watch an audio-visual presentation about the defences of Halifax and visit the soldiers' library, barrack rooms, powder magazine and garrison cell. The site also has exhibits on the communications, engineering and construction of the Citadel. Guides at the site wear the uniform of soldiers of the Royal Artillery and the 78th Highlanders of 1869, and conduct tours in English and French.
This site in Clam Harbour Road, Lake Charlotte, is owned and operated by the community, and features 13 restored buildings that illustrate rural village life in Nova Scotia in the 1940s. Local people demonstrate traditional skills such as rug hooking, while the cookhouse offers typical meals of the period, completing the feeling of immersion in a historically-accurate coastal community. An award winner, this interesting living museum fills a few hours with fun for the whole family.
This museum has one of Canada's finest collections of both ship models and ship portraits, as well as the world's largest assemblage of wooden artefacts from the Titanic. In addition to a collection of about 24,000 marine photographs, some dating back to the 19th century, there are also examples of rare and unique Nova Scotian boat-building traditions with its small craft displays. The exhibition includes shipwreck treasures, naval World War II convoys, steamboats and the opportunity to explore the 1913-built ship CSS Acadia at the dockside. The museum also boasts a large collection of genealogical resources, including journals, diaries, ship's logs, shipping registers and a library containing more than 5,000 shipping-related books.
Its position on the coast ensures that Halifax experiences less extremes in its climate compared to inland Nova Scotia. Summer temperatures average between about 57°F (14°C) and 75°F (24°C). Spring arrives in April, marred by rain and fog, but as summer moves in conditions warm up and balmy ocean breezes blow the damp away. Autumn is a beautiful season, the days warm, nights cool, and the foliage taking on spectacular hues. Winters are cold and wet, with both rain and snow, and average temperatures between 17°F (-8°C) and 37°F (3°C).
The Nova Scotia climate is a continental one tempered by the province's coastal location, and the weather is often changeable from day to day. Summers tend to be warm, though short; winters are moderately cold; and autumn tends to be a lovely time of year as it is a long, mild season. Summer temperatures average around 70ºF (20ºC) with the coastal areas cooler than inland. Winter temperatures are modified by the Gulf Stream and snowfall is moderate, with more snow inland than on the coast. Fog is prevalent in late spring and early summer and the province receives plenty of rain.
Central Halifax is walkable, but visitors who want to explore more widely should hire a car. That said, Metro Transit provides a bus service in the city and to surrounding areas, and runs passenger ferries from various city-based terminals. Free transfers are available from the ferry to buses. Cabs can be hailed in the downtown area and there are taxi ranks at the largest hotels and shopping centres.
Halifax's waterfront is a tourist playground of pubs, shops, museums, craft markets and outdoor concerts. In fact, the city's student population ensures a lively pub and bar scene well beyond the waterfront district.
Visitors will encounter plenty of history too, such as the graves of about 150 victims of the Titanic disaster, Pier 21, which is where immigrants were once processed for entry to Canada, and the Halifax Citadel. Visitors who enjoy maritime history should stop at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
Most tourist attractions are located downtown and can be reached on foot. Visitors who want to explore more widely should consider booking a tour or hiring a car, as the public transport system is not comprehensive. Travellers should note that some attractions only open in the summer months.
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