|Few places in the world evoke as much romance as Nova Scotia,
Canada's fabled Maritime Province that is almost completely
surrounded by water, just east of Maine in the North Atlantic.
It is here that some say Viking explorer Leif Erikson was the
first European to land on North American soil, some 500 years
before Columbus. Following the Civil War, Georgia Governor
Charles J. Jenkins lived in exile in Nova Scotia, and Scottish
inventor Alexander Graham Bell spent summers at his Cape Breton
Island home and research lab, from 1885 until his death in 1922.
More recently, The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore and
Robert DuVall was filmed here, as were scenes of the blockbuster
Many tourists set out for Nova Scotia dreaming of its
postcard-like scenery and storied past steeped in Scottish,
Celtic and Acadian history. Some people who come to this
unassuming outpost are drawn to Nova Scotia as much for what it
lacks as for what it has: No crowds or traffic jams, friendly
people, fresh seafood, and a slower pace.
In fact, there are two Nova Scotias. One is filled with those
who, taking advantage of the province's proximity to New England
and its low prices, come in the morning and leave with the
evening tide. The other is a picturesque getaway, an escape
attracting the likes of Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson and
countless Americans, Europeans and Canadians seeking peace and
privacy. Many rent or own vacation homes, while some have become
Most visitors arrive in Nova Scotia by air in Halifax or fast
ferry from Bar Harbor, Maine. From a distant aerial view, the
province, which is about the size of Massachusetts, Connecticut
and Vermont combined, resembles a lobster in silhouette, with
the majestic Cape Breton Island forming its claws, and the
southwestern corner forming the crustacean's tail. Imagine New
England 100 years ago, and you get a good sense of Nova Scotia
today. It feels more like the British isles than part of Eastern
Canada. Its craggy coastline dotted with lighthouses and lush
highlands is breathtaking and forbidding, and the foggy New
England air gives it the veil of storybook fantasy.
As one nears the shore, hues of cerulean and turquoise emanate
from the water. Seabirds glide over stunning 19th Century
buildings that line the waterfront, behind traditional fishing
boats bobbing in the bay. You feel as though you've stepped back
in time and Nova Scotia begins to look real, but no less
The area's seafaring heritage is thick in the atmosphere of
Yarmouth, where the ferry arrives in Nova Scotia. A working
seaport, it is home to 8,000 souls, many of whom earn their
living in the lumber and fishing industries, much as their
ancestors did engaging in lucrative trade with the West Indies.
This overlooked village is more than a place for the ferry to
dock. Its Main Street bustles with activity, as locals frequent
its many shops, eateries and other establishments.
But the center of the action is Halifax, the capital, which is
linked to Yarmouth by a regular bus service. With a population
of just over 350,000 in the metropolitan area, Halifax is the
world's second largest natural harbor (after Sydney, Australia).
The fascinating mix of big-city amenities and small-town charm
along with food, live entertainment, nightlife and the
hospitality of Haligonians make it a unique gem of North America.
Tourists and locals alike wind up in Halifax's pub district. On
any given night of the week, you'll find every type of music
from rock and Blues to classic and Celtic. The food is best from
the sea--steamed lobsters or creamy chowders--and when you tire
of lobster (is that possible?), ask for planked salmon, Acadian
rappie pie or oatcakes, all mouthwatering local delicacies. The
music and the food goes best with the many locally produced
wines, and beers you'll find on tap at the pubs, but be sure and
try Keith's India Pale Ale, a homegrown Nova Scotian favorite.
Halifax aside, Nova Scotia is best appreciated outside of the
city, where it can seduce you through its sheer natural beauty.
The environment that has attracted centuries of explorers and
adventurers remains an integral part of the province's life and
culture. It has everything a lover of the great outdoors could
yearn for: golfing, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking,
white-water rafting, scuba diving and surfing. Cape Breton
Island's idyllic Bras d'Or Lake (pronounced "bra door"),
thousands of offshore islands and hidden coves harbor
generations of stories, mysteries and sunken ships.
Nowhere is the tourist board's touted "Canada's Ocean
Playground" label more fitting than on the South Shore, home to
the villages of Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and Chester. There are
more yachts, country clubs and luxury homes here than anywhere
else in Nova Scotia, which is why some refer to the area as "The
Atlantic Riviera" or "Canadian Gold Coast."
Some visitors feel Nova Scotia is best in the spring, when the
dazzling colors of nature awaken after the winter sleep. Most
others say this land of simple pleasures can be equally enjoyed
anytime of year. One thing is for certain. With its stunningly
beautiful landscapes and laid-back pace, the most difficult
thing about planning a trip to Nova Scotia is deciding what to
do: Can you picture yourself lounging on a golden sand beach,
exploring quaint seaside towns, sampling urban nightlife or
buying of building your own affordable hideaway and putting down
roots? No matter what you decide, Nova Scotia, is paradise,
found at last.
Major airlines fly into Halifax International Airport;
www.hiaa.ca. Airfares vary based on season and city or origin.
The Cat operates a ferry service ($48-$58 per person; 2 hours
and 45 minutes) that leaves daily, mid May through October, from
Bar Harbor, Maine; 207-288-3395, (888) 249-72455,
Campbell's Shuttle Service provides transportation between
Yarmouth and Halifax ($40 one-way, $72 round-trip), offering
door-to-door service from anywhere. (800) 742-6101.
WHERE TO STAY
The Churchill Mansion Country Inn, R.R. #2, Yarmouth, (902)
649-2818, (888) 453-5565, www.churchillmansion.com, is in
conveniently located in Yarmouth close to the Ferry Terminal,
and has a special Cat package. Double rooms $55-$112. A 5-star
accommodation in the Halifax area is the Sterns Mansion Bed &
Breakfast, 17 tulip Street in Dartmouth; (800) 565-3885,
www.sternsmansion.com; rooms $72-$240 depending upon season.
WHERE TO EAT
A charming eatery with a view of Yarmouth Harbor, The Colony
Restaurant at the Rodd Colony Harbour Inn, across from the ferry
terminal, is a local landmark known for its Hot Lobster Sandwich
and steaks. Dinner for two, with wine, about $50. (902) 742-9194
or (800) 565-RODD (7633).
The Old Triangle, whose owners believe in providing "food for
the body, drink for the spirit and music for the soul," received
the Best Pub Food Award (2005) from The Coast, Halifax's weekly
culture, arts and entertainment newspaper. Entrees $7. 5136
Prince, Halifax. (902) 492-4900
RECENT REAL ESTATE PRICES (January 2006):
Costs are rising, but there are still deals out there.
A beautiful 14-acre lot with ocean views (off a quiet country
road) for only $17,000, and a 1-acre rural lot within walking
distance of a quaint riverside village: asking price: $8,600,
both perfect places to build your dream home.
A charming little cottage with picturesque ocean views and
plenty of extras, all within walking distance of the beach for
An expansive 82-acre lot to build your dream home on nestled on
a strip of land between a lakefront and the ocean for $55,800.
A fully-restored coastal 4-bedroom home (an hour from the
capital) can be yours for only $60,000.
A charming, historic (early 1900s) building on a nice lot which
would be perfect for starting your new business. The cost:
A fully-furnished bachelor apartment in the city for $500 a
month, with all utilities, indoor parking, TV, microwave, bed
linens, dishes and eating utensils. Only a 10-minute walk to the
*All prices in US dollars.
FOR MORE INFORMATION Details about living or retiring in Nova
Scotia are available at: www.thegloballife.net.
About the author:
Phillip Townsend is a nationally- and internationally-published
freelance writer and the author of the e-Book Passport to
Canada: The Complete Guide to Living and Retiring in Nova
Scotia, which is available through www.thegloballife.net.
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