Nova Scotia at a glance
A Nova Scotia (Canada) round-trip means to discover one of the smallest provinces in the East of Canada. Most notably thanks to its overwhelming nature, the ocean always in close proximity and the friendliness of its people Nova Scotia is a wonderful travel destination in any season.
From the first moment on you feel welcome in Nova Scotia. At the international airport Stanfield Halifax volunteers in tartan are ready to help the travellers. These helpers called “The Tartan Team” greet any travellers, no matter where they come from. The airport is calm, bright, friendly and easily accessible. As a traveller you notice right away that everything in Nova Scotia runs smoothly and in a relaxed way. Stressed souls can calm down right from the start.
There is an abundance of cultural attractions blended with a laid-back lifestyle in Nova Scotia’s capitol Halifax. Time by the seaside or on the water is considered essential. Over 100 beaches, uncountable lighthouses and rugged coasts make the province an unforgettable get-away. Everywhere in Nova Scotia, from Yarmouth in the South to the very North on Cape Breton Island you will find culinary highlights, first and foremost the best lobsters in Canada and savoury fruits de mer.
Regions in Nova Scotia Canada
Nova Scotia can be divided into four regions: Central around Halifax, Southern from Chester to Yarmouth via Annapolis Valley, Eastern (Truro, Pictou up to the border to New Brunswick), and Northern (Cape Breton). Each region has its own charm and points of interest, so that a round-trip through Nova Scotia could easily fill a couple of weeks despite the province’s small size.
So which region should a traveller who only has a certain number of vacation days pick? We have travelled the province with our small children and we have been living on the South Shore for years now as permanent residents. That’s why we would love to take you on a trip to the most beautiful destinations in Nova Scotia. Especially for families with children Nova Scotia offers excellent possibilities to explore.
One of the best advantages that speak for a round-trip in Nova Scotia Canada as a travel destination is:
There are never that many crowds of tourists as in the big Canadian cities or the provinces in the West. If you look for a place to relax and enjoy breathtaking scenery, Nova Scotia is the place to be.
This travel page shall help you spend a wonderful vacation on a budget with kids in our beloved province Nova Scotia. Enjoy reading and planning your trip to Nova Scotia!
Currency: Canadian Dollar (CAD)
Electricity: 120 V, 60 Hz, Plugins Type A and B
Visa: US citizens from the US need a valid US passport to enter Canada. You can enter Nova Scotia via air, by sea, or drive to Nova Scotia.
Travellers from the EU need an eTA in connection with a travel passport that has to be valid for another 6 months upon entry. A preliminary pass is also valid. An eTA costs approximately CAD$7 and lasts for 5 years.
Language: Canada is a bilingual country; English and French are the official languages. In Nova Scotia you most likely only need English. However, in some Acadian regions on Cape Breton Island or in the Yarmouth/Clare area you will still hear French. In Lunenburg County you may also have the opportunity to hear people speak German thanks to former but also current immigrants from Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Security: In general, Nova Scotia is a very safe province. However, there are exceptions like everywhere around bigger cities. Usually, the citizens of Nova Scotia, the “Bluenosers” as they are called thanks to the famous ship “The Bluenose” , do not lock their doors when they go out.
The travel budget for Nova Scotia
A trip to Canada is usually a pretty high-priced experience from Europe. Flights, Hotel, rental car or RV, gas, food and other expenses can easily build up to several thousand Dollars. We can only give you a rough overview here and finally, the budget depends also greatly on your wishes and personal preferences. We managed to spend less by planning and budgeting carefully.
How do I get to Nova Scotia?
Getting there: Nova Scotia in Canada isn’t as far as you may think! You have several different ways to get there. From Europe, a plane takes you on an approximately 6-hour long flight to Halifax, depending on where you start your journey.
From the US you can take a plane, drive to Nova Scotia, or take the CAT high-speed ferry between Bar Harbour, Maine and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. You could also consider taking the ferry between New Brunswick and Digby, Nova Scotia (Bay Ferries Limited Terminal).
When you come from Prince-Edward-Island, you could take the Northumberland ferries to Caribou. From Newfoundland & Labrador, North Sydney is the ferry terminal in Nova Scotia.
Where can I stay?
Accommodation: If you arrive by plane, we recommend a hotel in the proximity of the airport, especially after a longer flight. Our experience is that when you leave the plane late at night from Europe, particularly if with small children, all you want to do is leave the airport and fall into a fresh, cosy bed. We really didn’t feel like taking a hotel bus or a taxi with all our luggage and the tired kids when we flew to Nova Scotia. That’s why we recommend the ALT hotel in Halifax, right across the airport (unpaid advertisement). After immigration and baggage pick-up, all you need to do is follow the signs at the airport and there you are!
There is an abundance of hotels and hostels, AirBnbs and Couch surfing opportunities in Halifax to choose from. Prices depend on the preferences and wishes of the traveller. We also recommend checking for example your A&A cards or CAA cards for reductions. Find our top recommendations for accommodation with children here: Top Hotels in Halifax
How can I get around?
Transportation: Public transport is used in Halifax to get around town, and there are some Maritimes buses that take you to smaller towns in Lunenburg County, for example. Nevertheless, if you want to explore Nova Scotia, we recommend renting a car or RV, or driving your own vehicle. Cars and RVs can easily be rented in Halifax.
Rental Car: At the airport you can find various rental car stations. It is quite easy to rent a vehicle with credit card and driver’s licence. However, if you come from a long-distance flight, you usually need to have an overnight stay before you can pick-up your car because of safety issues.
RV: If you prefer to travel in an RV, you can rent all kinds of sizes. Many renters offer different sizes from two person campers to big rigs up to 8-10 persons. We recommend taking a slightly bigger motorhome for families for rainy days in spring and fall, and smaller rigs are easier to navigate to more secluded areas.
What you need to bring
The weather in Nova Scotia can change dramatically within minutes. Lest we forget we are always close to the ocean! Therefore, we recommend taking a mix of clothes for different weather, especially when travelling in spring or fall. Don’t forget a warmer jacket and a rain jacket. Because of the changing weather, we advise to wear layers. The summers can be quite warm and you should bring your bathing suits and sun hats.
Nova Scotia Canada – things you must see
Halifax the epic capital city
Halifax is the capital city and lively centre of Nova Scotia. Hotels offer accommodation for any budget. Pubs, bars, and restaurants invite you to stay and experience true Nova Scotian hospitality and cuisine. Halifax is also the cultural centre of the province with various museums to explore. If you plan to visit several museums, you might want to ask for a combination ticket including other museums all over the province to save some money.
Learn about Canadian history in the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 or offer a fun STEM learning experience at the Discovery Museum to your children. Take a long stroll at the harbour front with shops and food trucks, rent a boat or kayak to tour the harbour. Enjoy the Maritimes lifestyle with the music scene at live music concerts or outdoor plays.
Nova Scotia is rightly called “Canada’s Ocean Playground”, so don’t miss out on the many pristine beaches. The Haligonians, as the citizens of Halifax are called, the Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park is a favourite, especially with children. An excellent sandpit to play with bright white sand, not too difficult currants and a nearby parking lot that can also be used by RVs makes it a perfect beach for families. Surfers will find their perfect spots on Lawrencetown Beach at the Eastern Shore, just to name one. Remember: No matter where you are in Nova Scotia, you are never far from a beach!
Cape Breton Island
On a round-trip through the Atlantic province a visit to the Cape Breton Island in the North is an absolute must. The 297 km (185 mile) drive on the marvellous Cabot Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park is one of the most beautiful tours in Canada. Fascinating views at every turn, the wonder of nature’s spectacle at display and beautiful sunsets to enjoy after an adventurous day in the National Park will mesmerize you.
Trails in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Nova Scotia is a paradise for hikers with wanderlust. Cape Breton alone offers numerous trails, from easily accessible loops to challenging hikes over several days with overnight stays at the beach, there is a trail for everyone! For us as a family the Skyline Trail inside the National Park was the highlight of the trip. After a scenic trail the hiker is rewarded with a grandiose view over the sea and the mountains. We even spotted some moose!
Get into living history and dig deep into the past! The best places to experience former times in Nova Scotia are the exciting museums: Besides the Citadel in Halifax make sure you plan a trip to Fort Louisburg on Cape Breton Island. Let the people of former French colonial days tell you of their life in those former days. Eat traditional foods the way the settlers used to in the restaurant and experience the early days of the colony. You may even book to fire a cannon ball yourself! The Highlands Museum invites you to experience the life of the early Scottish settlers in a beautiful scenery. You will learn some Gaelic, too!
Lunenburg at the South Shore
The picturesque seaport Lunenburg on the Atlantic coast is a UNESCO world heritage site and intrigues with its idyllic, colourful villas and traditional captains’ houses that can be seen from afar. Lunenburg is not only the home of the famous ship “The Bluenose” but also to many creative artists that sell their hand-made crafts in the little shops of the town. The oldest seafarers’ settlement in Canada is only a short drive (1,5 hours) away from Halifax. Experience the award-winning restaurants, adorable hotels and B&Bs and the legendary hospitality of the people of Lunenburg. Enjoy the local breweries’ and distilleries’ newest creations. You are welcome! We set up the 9 best activities with children in Lunenburg here.
You simply cannot miss a visit to one of the most iconic sites of Canada – the Lighthouse of Peggy’s Cove when you travel through Nova Scotia. The most beautiful road of the province, the Lighthouse Route, leads you from Halifax to the South Shore of Nova Scotia. On the Lighthouse Route you will find the picturesque Peggy’s Cove with its fishing sheds and art boutiques. Here it stands on smooth rocks, the impressive lighthouse, and it keeps watch over the raging sea. Tourists from all over the world come to visit the well-known beacon, a safe spot on a rock at the Atlantic coast. But be careful and do not walk on the black rocks!
A visit to one of the beautiful vineyards on the rolling hills in the west of the province is one of the most beautiful activities that you can do in the “Valley”. Several wineries invite you to take a tour and to try their famous wines. You will also find many excellent trails to different waterfalls that make this region a highlight, too. The climate is typically a bit milder than in the rest of the province. Go for a relaxing stroll through the beautiful gardens of the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens and learn about Acadian history at the Grand Pré National Historic Site.
Bay of Fundy
Twice a day billions of tons of salt water flow into the Bay of Fundy and out again. This very impressive spectacle of nature changes the scenery in the north western coastline of Nova Scotia dramatically. The tidal hub makes the Bay a perfect spot for outdoor activities and water sports like rafting (only with older children). From the waterfront you can see seals and seabirds. Take a boat tour and watch different kinds of whales, seals and seabirds. An absolute highlight of a trip through Nova Scotia!
This is why Nova Scotia in Canada is an excellent destination especially for families
We love and are deeply touched by the way our children are treated by the Nova Scotians. Happy kids that are very welcome here make relaxed parents!
Kids are genuinely very appreciated guests in Nova Scotia. Our boys quickly became part of the “pack” of children on the campgrounds despite the language barrier at first. They returned happy, dirty and hungry for supper. We weren’t sure if camping with two kids would actually be a fun vacation for Mom and Dad as there isn’t much space in an RV, but it turned out to be more relaxing than any other type of trips we have ever done. We planned our trips to enjoy the breathtaking nature of Nova Scotia with all our senses, as there is so much to discover.
Although we sometimes complain about the fact that our kids wake us up early in the morning, we must give them credit that we were able to see Peggy’s Cove without masses of tourists at 9 AM. Thanks, kids!
Nova Scotia is not a stereotypical children’s destination. There aren’t the most adventurous theme parks or indoor playgrounds. But the living history museums fascinate even smaller children because they can actually jump into a part of the country’s history and role-play. Our boys played soldiers in the Citadel of Halifax and became Scottish highland settlers in the Highland Museum on Cape Breton Island. Nature is the grand adventure park with real moose to see and trails to explore.
The beaches in Nova Scotia aren’t nearly as busy as the ones in Europe or some popular beaches in the US. So the kids have the space to run as they please. As Canadians are known for their friendliness personal space is respected, and thanks to the low population of Nova Scotia compared to the many beaches it is easy to feel safe and at ease.
These are the reasons that speak for Nova Scotia
There are many reasons to get your family into a trailer or an RV and on the road through the Atlantic province. Nevertheless, some may prefer to book hotels or a cottage for various different reasons. This is something every family needs to discuss and decide on their own. For us it was a wonderful experience to have our “home” with us at all times (including a private bathroom!) which was especially convenient with smaller kids. Another pro of an RV is that you can actually sleep on a beach and listen to the sounds of the waves.
If a destination does not turn out the way you had hoped (yes, that can happen), you can just leave and take a different camping site (unless you had already booked it). We were always lucky to find a site for our rig. On the campsites we were always able to connect easily with other campers, especially at night around the campfire. Fortunately, we have never been into a traffic jam – and we have been living here for two years now!
Yes, after our first trip to Nova Scotia the province became our destination not only for travel but also for life. Meanwhile, our dream came true and we are happy permanent residents now. We keep exploring our beautiful province and like to share our experiences with you.
Sometimes, pictures say more than a thousand words. We invite you to watch this impressive video about the province.