Ready to discover Nova Scotia from the perspective of a local?
This Nova Scotia Road trip guide will introduce you to beautiful beaches, succulent lobster, and awe-inspiring lighthouses by way of a 10-hour driving loop around Nova Scotia’s southwest coast.
The drive in this Nova Scotia 7 day itinerary takes you along the Lighthouse Route, The Fundy Coastal Drive and the Evangeline Trail, and then back to Halifax.
Don’t rush! This relaxed itinerary allows plenty of time to linger at antique shops, stand in awe at interesting coves, browse roadside yard sales, and generally check off all the best things to see in Nova Scotia. At the end of the guide, there is a handy list of local travel tips and frequently asked questions, specific to your Nova Scotia road trip.
So… are you ready? Let’s pack the car for a delicious, salty, scenic road trip around southwestern Nova Scotia!
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO READERS: Please note that this article was originally drafted before the pandemic, so not all activities mentioned may be open or safe to visit at the moment. Tourism Nova Scotia has a helpful resource page with the latest info on travel restrictions. Travel Lemming encourages you to avoid travel until such time as local public health authorities in both your country and your destination advise that travel is safe for you and the communities you will visit.
7 Day Nova Scotia Itinerary
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Day 1: Halifax to Peggy’s Cove
Wake up early in Halifax and head to the Seaport Farmer’s Market for breakfast and a great cup of coffee. At the market, you can stock up on car snacks: fresh Nova Scotia blueberries, pastries, and a bag of delicious Nova Scotia apples.
If you stayed at the Halifax Westin last night (we recommend it because of its proximity to your morning’s activities), you can also stop into the Atlantic Superstore and Nova Scotia Liquor Commission for some more provisions for your big adventure.
Before you hit the road, enjoy a brisk stroll along the Halifax boardwalk, or a there-and-back ferry ride to Dartmouth (15 minutes each way). If you’re a runner, consider joining the locals in a vigorous run or jog through the trails of Point Pleasant Park. Not up for exercise? Pick your choice of activity from our article on the best things to do in Halifax.
This afternoon, head to Peggy’s Cove – the most photographed lighthouse in Canada. Drive down Highway 103, take the exit at Tantallon, then continue along the twisty and totally picturesque Peggy’s Cove Road, also known as Route 333.
It’s a short drive, but there are plenty of shops and bakeries to stop into along the way such as Otis and Clementine Book Shop, Acadian Maple Products, and White Sails Bakery.
After exploring the beautiful lighthouse and rocks at Peggy’s Cove, spend the evening with Peggy’s Cove Boat Tours for a dinner cruise or sunset cruise. Or, dine at the award-winning Rhubarb restaurant, which has award-winning food (try the seafood chowder!), plus local music and events on the weekends.
Where to stay at Peggy’s Cove:
- Oceanstone Resort: upmarket rooms and cottages next to Rhubarb restaurant
- Lighthouse Lane Cottages: charming, clean cottages with an ocean view
Day 2: Peggy’s Cove to Liverpool
Peggy’s Cove at dawn is magical. Imagine the sensation of being alone in half-darkness, as the sun creeps up over the horizon and begins to cast a sparkle on the huge granite boulders beneath your feet.
Once the sun is up, begin your journey to Liverpool, Nova Scotia. The drive is only 3 hours if you take the slow road (Highway 3), but there are many places to stop along the way, so budget for at least 4-5 hours of exploring today.
As you drive through Hubbards and Queensland, considering stopping at Cleveland Beach or Queensland Beach for some fresh air and a quick dip in the ocean. In the community of Hubbards, find Lola’s Landing – a tiny gift shop that sells charming trinkets and souvenirs.
Next is Chester, and the charming town of Mahone bay with its famous three churches.
Local Tip: For a perfect vantage point of the three churches in Mahone Bay, turn left at Oakland Road, just before you enter town.
Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its wooden buildings and shipbuilding history. It is also abundant with excellent restaurants and cafés such as The Grand Banker, Rime and The Salt Shaker Deli.
While you’re in Lunenburg, The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is a must-do). Finally, don’t forget to snap lots of photos. Your Instagram feed will explode with colour!
After lunch, explore the beaches of Nova Scotia’s south shore. There are so many beautiful beaches to choose from. It’s hard to choose a favourite, but my top-rated beaches in this region are Sand Dollar Beach at Rose Bay, Hirtle’s Beach, Crescent Beach and, further along – Carter’s Beach.
Local Tip: Most beaches are best explored at low tide (especially Sand Dollar Beach, where you might find a few special treasures).
Where to stay near Liverpool:
- White Point Beach Resort – a stunning beach resort with tons of activities.
Day 3: Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores
Your next stop is the region of Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores, which stretches from the community of Argyle to Church Point. This region is home to the Festival Acadien de Clare, the world’s oldest Acadian festival, held in late July, early August each year.
It is also the first region in North America to receive a Starlight certification by the Starlight Foundation, and the first stop for many American visitors who travel from Bar Harbour, Maine to Nova Scotia by ferry.
Did you know: The ferry from Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia only takes 3.5 hours?
In Yarmouth, Cape Forchu Lighthouse is an essential stop. After you’ve marveled at its rugged beauty, have lunch at the Keeper’s Kitchen, where specialties include a hot lobster roll, lobster grilled cheese and seafood chowder.
If you’re passing through on a Friday night, sign up for a kitchen party and lobster dinner at the Argyler Lodge (priced for tourists), or further along, just past Church Point, enjoy Beaux Vendredis (Beautiful Fridays): an outdoor supper of lobster, snow crab or clams with the locals.
As you head north, there is a range of activities along Baie Sainte Marie (Saint Mary’s Bay), such as cycling, clam digging, stargazing, and admiring Église Sainte-Marie – the largest wooden church in North America.
Local Tip: A local culinary delight is creamed lobster, served on toast. You have to try it!
Where to stay in Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores:
- Rodd Hotel – In Yarmouth, a standard hotel, good for families
- Argyler Lodge – overlooking Lobster Bay, the Argyler offers cooking classes and kitchen parties
- Trout Point Lodge – deep in the woods, an exclusive, luxury 12-room resort experience
Day 4: Whale Watching on The Bay of Fundy
You will see a different side of Nova Scotia today, as you continue along the coast road (Highway 1) and then turn back along the stretch of land called Digby Neck to go whale watching on the Bay of Fundy.
The Bay of Fundy has the world’s highest tides, and is a rich feeding ground for many species of whales.
Plan your journey carefully today. A whale watching tour from Digby Neck or Brier Island will last three or four hours, depending on the location of the whales.
After your adventure, drive back to the town of Digby. You’ll be tired from a day at sea, so I recommend either chilling on a patio somewhere in town, or kicking back at the Digby Pines – a grand old hotel with a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool.
What to eat: Digby is known for its enormous, juicy scallops, delicious pan fried in butter with maybe a touch of garlic. Yum!
Where to stay near Digby:
- Digby Pines Hotel – The Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa is a grand place to be pampered
- Bayside Inn – Gorgeous small hotel with sea views. Quaint, clean and highly rated
Day 5: Wine Tasting in the Annapolis Valley
Your first stop today is Annapolis Royal National Historic Site, only 30 minutes away from Digby. Next, to save some time, hop on the Highway 101 until you reach Wolfville (about an hour).
Wolfville is a charming residential town, home to Acadia University and the location of Devour! the world’s largest food and film festival, held every October.
Traditionally famous for its orchards and farms, in recent decades, “the valley” has gained a reputation for producing award-winning wines, especially whites and sparklings.
There is a popular Magic Winery bus tour, which is perfect if you have all day, but if you are only in Wolfville for the afternoon, I recommend that you choose one winery, stay a while, and relax. Gaspereaux, Lightfoot and Wolfville, Avondale Sky or Luckett’s all have wonderful wines, delicious menus and gorgeous landscapes which are so completely different from the ones you enjoyed on day one of this road trip!
Where to stay in the Annapolis Valley:
- Tattingstone Inn – Book the Carriage House for extra luxury
- The Coach House – A beautifully renovated Coach House Air BnB – with use of the hot tub
Day 6: Wolfville to Halifax
Clear the cobwebs with a morning bike ride in the Annapolis Valley. Rent a bike from Banks Bikes in the center of town, and ride along the Harvest Moon Trail. Alternatively, set aside the morning to hike Cape Split.
Today, head back to Halifax along Highway 1. This is where you are likely to find roadside fruit and veggie stalls, which operate on an honor payment system. Stop and buy some fresh fruit or berries! Again, if you get bored or are rushed for time, switch over to Highway 101 for a quick ride back to town.
Once in Halifax, why not celebrate your last evening with a special meal?
If you still haven’t had enough lobster, The Bluenose II Restaurant on Hollis St. offers what may be the best-priced lobster in town. Or – for an elegant evening, enjoy upmarket tapas at The Highwayman or wine and sharing plates at Little Oak. Julep, on the corner of Barrington and Prince Street is also a wonderful place for a celebratory meal, in one of Halifax’s most historic buildings.
And that’s it! Your amazing Nova Scotia road trip has come to an end… but we hope you come back soon.
Where to stay in Halifax:
- Westin Nova Scotian – a grand old railway hotel with harbour views, close to everything
- South End Superhost: Stay with Chris, Severus and their giant Schnauzer, Albert
- Halifax Backpackers: Halifax’s only independent hostel in the heart of the hip North End
Day 7: Halifax
Hopefully you have some time on the final day of your 7 days in Nova Scotia itinerary before your flight or ferry out.
Be sure to check out our full local’s guide to the many things to do in Halifax.
Nova Scotia Road Trip Tips
#1 – Take the road less traveled
For maximum scenic enjoyment, take Highway 3 which hugs the coast, and Highway 1, which ambles through leafy communities in the Annapolis Valley. But, if you have an appointment to keep, by all means hop onto the 100-series highways: the 101, 102 and 103. They’re not as scenic, but they will get you from A to B quickly.
#2 – Daytime running lights
You might be wondering why drivers in Nova Scotia always have their lights on. “Daytime running lights” are the law in Canada and cars are manufactured this way!
#3 – Carry some cash
Roadside fruit and vegetable stands use an honesty system where a tin, jar or ice cream container is provided to accept payment. You’re also likely to encounter a few yard sales along your journey, especially if you’re traveling over a weekend, so bring some loonies and toonies to support the local economy!
#4 – Bring insect repellent (and After Bite)
I’m not going to lie to you. There are a TON of mosquitoes in this area during the summer. Be wise – wear insect repellent and have some After Bite on hand in case you get bitten. If your host says “keep the screen door shut” then keep the screen door shut.
#5 – Check for ticks
And… sorry, if you have been outside in the woods or a grassy area, you need to check for deer ticks, which can cause Lyme disease. Ticks can hide in all the crevices of your body: behind the ears and knees, even in your bellybutton! The bright side: if you are travelling with a partner, doing a ‘tick check’ could be fun!
#6 – You can’t get beer at the corner store
Alcohol is generally only sold in licensed Nova Scotia Liquor Commissions (NSLC). The exceptions are breweries and wineries which can sell alcohol on site. Don’t leave yourself dry!
#7 – Cook your own lobster
If you are camping, or staying in a cottage with cooking facilities, an adventurous dinner option is to buy some lobster at market value (about $20 per live lobster) and cook it yourself. All you need is a large pot (many campgrounds and cottages will lend you one), and some cooking instructions, which lobster pounds are always happy to provide.
#8 – Drive Safely
In Nova Scotia, seat belts are mandatory and it is illegal to use a cell phone while driving. Drunk driving and driving while stoned are also illegal and carry heavy fines. For emergencies, dial 911.
Nova Scotia Road Trip FAQs
How long do I need for a Nova Scotia Road Trip?
This itinerary has given you about a week to explore Southwest Nova Scotia, but it is only one part of the region! You should set aside another few days (at least three or four) to explore Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail (click that link to see our epic guide!).
What kind of vehicle is best for a Nova Scotia road trip?
Honestly, almost anything with air conditioning is good! A GPS is helpful, but not necessary. Nova Scotia roads are well maintained, but in rural areas there are a few bumps and potholes, so don’t bring the Lamborghini.
Looking to rent a car? We suggest checking out Discover Car Hire because they make it easy to compare quotes from many Nova Scotia care rental companies.
Or, for a real treat, check out Motorhome Republic for a variety of awesome RVs, campervans, and motorhomes to rent. With so many amazing campgrounds and RV parks, Nova Scotia is also the perfect location for a self-drive RV adventure.
What is the best time of year for a Nova Scotia road trip?
June through October is the best time for a Nova Scotia road trip. Obviously, October has cooler weather, but the payoff is a breathtaking fall color display.
That’s it for this Nova Scotia road trip itinerary but, before you go, be sure to check out our other Nova Scotia travel guides.
Oh, and get pumped for your trip by reading our 12 Reasons to Visit Nova Scotia in 2020!
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