Nova Scotia: Would love your expert advice.
Replies: 6 - Last Post: May 10, 2012 7:30 AM Last Post By: Ploughjockey
May 3, 2012 8:07 PM
Nova Scotia: Would love your expert advice.Hi everyone!
This is my first time using the Lonely Planet forums to gather information based on other travelers experiences. I noticed this forum is a great place to get a lot of knowledgeable and detailed advice to those looking to explore Nova Scotia and in particular, Cape Breton Island. I have read a few forums on this site to gather some initial ideas for my trip to Nova Scotia and have come up with a skeleton itinerary. I was wondering if it would be possible to get some helpful advice from experts like you to help me fill in the blanks of my itinerary?
I am looking to travel to Nova Scotia with my friend the week of August 25th – Sept 2nd. I live in the GTA in Ontario and will most likely be driving to NS. If traveling by car takes away too many days to explore NS then I am willing to fly, but I am interested in exploring traveling by car first.
From my initial research, I am highly interested in seeing:
1. Bay of Fundy
2. Cape Breton Island
I realize these areas are at either ends of the province, so there will be a bit more driving involved. But if it is possible to see these two areas in a week then I would like to try.
My friend and I are most interested in hiking, sightseeing – especially the tides/cliffs/coastal areas, whale watching, boat rides / kayaking, park trails, picnicking, and spending some time at the beaches and museums (if we can fit it all in).
Below is my skeleton itinerary:
Aug 25 – Depart Toronto at 9 am. 10 hours drive to Quebec City. Arrive in Quebec City for 6pm (7pm with lunch break). Have Dinner. Explore Quebec City at night.
Aug 26 – Depart Quebec City at 9 am. 11 hour drive to Halifax. Arrive in Halifax for 8 pm (9pm with 1 hour break).
(PEGGY’s COVE? Lunenberg? Mahone Bay? – From Quebec City to Peggy’s Cove is also 11 hours. Omit Halifax for Peggy’s Cove?)
Aug 27 – Explore Halifax in the afternoon. Depart Halifax at 4 pm. 3 hour drive to Advocate Harbour on the Bay of Fundy. Arrive in Bay of Fundy for 7pm. Have dinner. Stay overnight at the Wild Caraway or The Lighthouse on Cape d'Or.
Aug 28 – Start day at 8am. Explore the Bay of Fundy. Arrange Kayak Tour and walk through Cape Chignecto Provincial Park. Have dinner at Wild Caraway restaurant in Bay of Fundy.
Aug 29 – Depart Advocate Harbour (Bay of Fundy) at 9am. Drive 5 hours to the northern part of the Cabot Trail (what town?). Do the Skyline Trail and a whale watching cruise out of Pleasant Bay. Spend night where?
Where to start and end the cabot trail?
Aug 30 – Start day at 9am. Finish Cabot Trail?
Sept 1st -
Sept 2nd – Start trip home.
Sept 3rd – Finish trip home.
Sept 4th – Back to Work
As you can see, I get lost in a few areas – particularly at the beginning and end of my itinerary. Once in Cape Breton, I am unsure where to start.
I have heard Peggy’s Cove is beautiful and would prefer not to skip it. Also, it seems that a lot of travelers enjoy Lunenburg and Mahone as well. Is there anything in Halifax worth seeing over these other places? I am just wondering if I am packing too much in a week. Could you shed some light on this?
I have heard that Advocate Harbour is the best spot to view the Bay of Fundy. Have I left enough time to view this part of the province? I also do not want to rush this part.
I am not sure where to start my adventure on the Cabot Trail and which direction to go in because I am unsure of which towns to prioritize. I have read a bit about seeing a “Ceildh” (although I don’t know much about this) in Baddeck/Mabou/Inverness and think this could be interesting. I also have read someone recommend the beaches in Cheticamp. My friend and I are really interested in not rushing the Cabot Trail so if you could recommend a few days worth around this area and what direction to travel in, it would be greatly appreciated.
As you can see, I have left a few days toward the end of the week blank incase I should allocate more days at the beginning or end of my itinerary for things I’ve missed. I don’t know if I’ve missed any other areas (ie. Annapolis area) or if I should dedicate more days in areas I’ve already chosen. Anything you recommend would be extremely helpful!
Thanks in advance for your help. There seems to be quite a few experts on this forum and I would really appreciate any advice you give!
May 3, 2012 9:29 PM
1Hi, just a quick thought reading your priorities, an excellent alternative spot to see the Bay of Fundy is from the New Brunswick side from Bay of Fundy National Park, based out of the town Alma. You could either stay in Alma, or camp in the main campground which is literally right beside town.
You could stop in Alma on the way out there to break up the drive from Quebec to Halifax, and then I'd axe the Cape Chignecto trip.
I've been to Cape Chignecto, it has an excellent 4-day hike along the coast, but overall I think Fundy Park is nicer, particularly for a short stop by. Alma is a nicer town, and access to the high tides is better, you can literally just walk out of town or the main campground and onto the tidal flats.
You might be packing a lot in, but some people prefer a faster pace to travel than myself.
May 3, 2012 10:02 PM
2Once in Meat Cove (go there), carry on through town onto the logging road accessing the Crown Lands beyond. Pass abandoned stolen cars (I presume). Walk until you feel like heading for the coast. Cut cross-country if you're adept at that sort of thing, or find tracks if you're not. Beautiful stone beaches and high seacliffs await.
I was told you can walk all the way through and meet up with the highway, but I've no idea whether that's true.
The above was good advice as of twenty years ago, more or less. I disclaim any responsibility if everything's changed since then.
May 7, 2012 4:14 PM
Thanks to you both for your great advice.
YamThrower- I think for this trip we will stick to the Nova Scotia side of the Bay of Fundy.
Considering we only have 2 days in Advocate Harbour to see the Bay of Fundy, is it worth spending an afternoon in Cape Chignecto park? Or are there other areas in advocate harbour worth exploring more? What would be your must sees there?
May 8, 2012 9:40 AM
4Hi, admittedly I can't remember what options exist for a day trip to Chignecto park. There was definitely access to the beach from the parking lot, some red rock formations there which were okay. I did the 4 day loop hike and all the highlights in my mind were from the middle of the trek.
Yeah sorry, it might be possible that you could access just as nice coastal parts from some smaller towns, but I don't have any specifics. Sorry bout that!
May 10, 2012 7:28 AM
5Your itinerary looks like it has a lot of unnecessary backtracking. If you're going to go to Advocate Harbour, I'd go on the way into Nova Scotia, don't drive all the way to Halifax and then all the way back. It's a waste of your time, because the drive between the Halifax and Advocate Harbour is pretty boring. Instead, I'd take the old road (Trunk 2) when you leave Advocate Harbour, at least to Masstown where you can get on the highway, or even all the way to Truro. If you do the latter, stop at That Dutchman's Farm in Economy for some awesome cheeses.
As far as Quebec City goes, it's about an extra hour of driving, so you need to decide if it's really worth it. When I lived in Ontario, any time I was driving home I'd stop in either Montmagny or Riviere-du-Loup. Pro tip: make sure when you've decided where to stop you make a reservation - places fill up fast during the summer, I got caught by that once and had to sleep in my car in a lay-by.
Peggy's Cove, Chester, Mahone Bay, and Lunenburg can be done in a day. Take the old roads out (follow the Lighthouse Route signs, mostly along Trunk 3), but you can skip the loop around the Aspotogan Pensinsula (Rte 329) without missing too much - though Bayswater Beach is a nice place to stop for a bit, and the second Swissair Memorial is on it. If you leave in the morning, you'll be in Chester for brunch, I recommend the Kiwi Cafe (when I'm home my Saturday morning motorcycle ride usually does just this route), and in Lunenburg you'll find dinner options. You can take Highway 103 back to Halifax, it's not particularly scenic but it's quicker.
There's loads to see and do in Halifax, I'd take at least a day. Go tour the Citadel and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic at least, and if you want the whole scenic tour take the Harbour Hopper. Or just to a little homework and you can self-guide a walking tour, and just take a ride on the Dartmouth ferry and back to get the water part. There are nice dinner cruises and the like that sail from the Historic Properties that are also good ways to see the city.
Leaving for Cape Breton is a bit of a long drive but mostly scenic. If you're looking to stay on the northern part, there's a little motel in Cape North called Fitzgerald's, it's owned by distant cousins of mine. It's nothing fancy, but it's cheap (for the area). There's also the Hideaway in South Harbour which is owned by other distant cousins who also have an oyster farm, and yet other cousins run Eagle North Kayak Tours if you want to get out on the water again. They can do a half day tour through Aspy Bay which is pretty nice. Whale watching is usually best in either Pleasant Bay or Bay St. Lawrence. Someone mentioned Meat Cove. Don't bother, there's nothing particularly unique to see at the end of a really long drive. For beaches, Ingonish Beach is the main beach in the area. There's also lots of hiking trails in the Highlands Park to check out.
Stop for at least a drink and a walk around Cheticamp as well, it's an Acadian town, lots of cultural events there. You might also want to work a trip to the Fortress of Louisbourg into your plans. If that's the case - plan to stay on the east side of Cape Breton your first night, go there in the morning, then you can head up the Cabot Trail.
On the way back, consider taking the Sunrise Trail, which follows the Northumberland Strait all the way to the NB Border - and stop in at Pictou. You will pass Melmerby Beach which is nice as well.
Hope that gives you some ideas. It's making me homesick a little! (I'm military, presently deployed overseas!)
May 10, 2012 7:30 AM
6Ryder - I just posted what I sent you in a message so anyone can see - I talked to a friend of mine who goes to Cape Chignecto a lot - it sounds like for a day trip it's not really worth it - if you want to see the tides, I'd suggest Parrsboro, it's not far off the highway, and the Bare Bones Cafe there is absolutely awesome.
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