While living in Boston, we decided to take a long weekend trip up to eastern Canada to explore Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The flight from Boston to Halifax is quick, and we opted to rent a car so that we could easily explore both provinces. Our trip was in April, still in the low season with mixed weather; we would recommend planning a trip in the summer or early fall when the temperatures are higher, the landscape is more lush, and the parks have all opened up. Despite the chillier weather, our 4-day trip was filled with quaint fishing towns and a ton of beautiful red and white lighthouses, plus great seafood and cute pubs. Our road trip snack recommendations: all dressed chips and maple cookies. Definitely bring wellies and/or hiking boots for spring travel (and some muddy walks out to the lighthouses).
Top Things to do in Nova Scotia
Halifax is the provincial capital of Nova Scotia, and is characterized by its very long boardwalk along the waterfront and busy port. The boardwalk has various eateries, shops, and museums all overlooking the water and the Georges Island Lighthouse.
Halifax Public Gardens
The Halifax Public Gardens are a historic park comprised of landscaped gardens and flower exhibits located near downtown Halifax. A great place to walk around with a morning or afternoon coffee.
Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
As the name implies, this star-shaped hilltop fort is situated near downtown Halifax. Founded in 1749, the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site offers guided tours to learn about Canada’s military history.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a small maritime museum located at the Halifax Waterfront. It includes exhibits on the Halifax Explosion, the Titanic, and various replicas of historic vessels.
Lunenburg is a port town located about an hour south of Halifax. The quaint old town is exactly what you think of when you think of a coastal Nova Scotian town. We loved the vibrant colors of all the buildings in this fishing town.
Tips: On your way back to Halifax from Lunenburg, make sure you drive through the cute town of Mahone Bay. You can also drive to Oak Island (History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island show) and visit the Visitors Center in the summer.
Peggys Cove is a small village about 45 minutes from Halifax, adjacent to St. Margaret’s Bay, and is home to Peggys Point Lighthouse.
Tips: Drive on the 333 through Prospect Bay for a pretty drive to/from Halifax. Most of this area is a Wilderness Area.
Food and Drink in Nova Scotia
Garrison Brewing Company
In Halifax’s Seaport area, adjacent to the Seaport Farmer’s Market, Garrison Brewing Company has a great selection of craft beers. They sell some light bar snacks, allow dogs, and have plenty of seating. We recommend getting a flight to try a bunch of small pours!
Grafton Street is lined with various bars and restaurants, making it a hot spot on a Friday or Saturday night. You can get pizza to gastropub food to an authentic donair.
The Press Gang Restaurant & Oyster Bar
The Press Gang is located in a rustic and cozy 18th century building (one of the oldest in the city our waiter said), and serves oysters and seafood and meat entrees. They also have live music on the weekends near the bar.
Tips: Check out the nearby wine bar Obladee for an after dinner drink.
Steve O Reno's Cappuccino
We stopped into Steve O Reno’s one morning for Montreal style bagels and coffee and tea. This cafe is really cute and quaint, perfect for an easy breakfast or catching up on some reading.
Where to Stay in Nova Scotia (Halifax)
The Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites
We stayed at The Lord Nelson, located across from the Halifax Public Gardens, in a great location for exploring downtown Halifax and the waterfront areas. Our room was nice and spacious and there is a cute pub located in the lobby.
Top Things to do on Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown is the capital of Prince Edward Island and is known for the Charlottetown Conference held in 1864, which spurred Canada’s birth as an independent country. Victoria Row and Queen Street have a ton of cute shops and restaurants. For a small capital, Charlottetown has a high number of English and Irish pubs!
Tips: Check out the Downtown Farmer’s Market on Sundays (11am - 4pm).
The Anne of Green Gables Store (& Chocolate Shop)
You may not know this but Prince Edward Island is home to Anne of Green Gables. PEI’s Green Gables farm is the setting for the novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It's only fitting then that there is The Anne of Green Gables Store in Charlottetown where you can buy all sorts of paraphernalia, including chocolates. (They also sell the novels in the airport!).
Victoria Park is about a 5-10 minute walk from downtown Charlottetown and has a lovely boardwalk along the water. You will also likely walk by the Beaconsfield Historic House, just next to the park, which was one of Charlottetown’s most elegant mansion homes in the late 17th century.
Driving Tour of P.E.I.
You will quickly realize that PEI’s coastline is covered in lighthouses! Due to time limitations, we were not able to drive to every lighthouse, but here are some of the ones we were able to see.
Wood Islands Lighthouse
Cape Bear Lighthouse
Tips: Drive through Murray Harbour on your way to Panmure Island.
Panmure Island Lighthouse (& Provincial Park)
St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse
Tips: To access the lighthouse you have to drive down a long dirt road. If it is wet and muddy, do not attempt to drive through unless you are in a truck, or similar. Stop through Greenwich, part of Prince Edward Island National Park.
Covehead Harbour Lighthouse
Prince Edward Island National Park
Tips: Stop by the Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site; great spot for brunch.
New London Lighthouse
Tips: Drive through North Rustico and Cavendish, where the Green Gables Heritage House is located. The Anne of Green Gables Museum is also located near the New London Lighthouse.
Cabot Beach Provincial Park
Before the summer high season, all of the park and lighthouse visitor centers are closed, but you can still park and go up to see all of the lighthouses.
Food and Drink in P.E.I. (Charlottetown)
Claddagh Oyster House
We enjoyed some fresh seafood at the Claddagh Oyster House. This restaurant was super busy on a Saturday night, so make sure to reserve a table in advance.
Tips: Try the Olde Dublin Pub upstairs for pre-dinner drinks.
The Gahan House
The Gahan House is a gastropub with a great selection of craft beers (dubbed the best beers in Charlottetown) and classic dishes like fish and chips.
Churchill Arms & The Old Triangle
Churchill Arms is one of the handful of pubs in the heart of Charlottetown. The Old Triangle is another traditional Irish pub with nitro-tap Guinness.
Craft Beer Corner
Craft Beer Corner has a fun vibe, serving a wide variety of their own craft beers and some rotating microbrews. They also have an assortment of hearty hand-pies that they heat up fresh (they smelled amazing).
- The Chip Shack
- Merchantman Fresh Seafood & Oyster Bar
- Terre Rouge
- COWS Creamery
Where to Stay in P.E.I. (Charlottetown)
1 West Inn
We stayed at the 1 West Inn right on the water near Victoria Park. This B&B had nice rooms and views of the water, and served up breakfast in the morning overlooking the water. They were still undergoing some renovations when we were there, but will probably be read to go for the 2019 high season.