Andrew Cornwall
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The RVers Instant, Real Guide to Nova Scotia


Andrew Cornwall

Copyright April 2001
New Information Added April 2011

In our travels across North America my wife and I are frequently approached by other RVers who have been to Nova Scotia. They see our Nova Scotia license plates and want to drop by to reminisce about their trip(s) here. To us the Province is home, to others it is a beautiful place to visit with a lot for RVers to see and do. Further, it is not overly crowded and commercialized such as the coast of Maine has become. Not everyone will find Nova Scotia to their liking; if, for example, your ideal vacation is two weeks at Disneyland/world , LasVegas, or New York City, you may find that Nova Scotia is not hyper enough for your tastes.

Nov Scotia is primarily rural and relatively small in size, measuring 350 miles by roughly 65 miles, and having a population of approximately 910,000. Nearly surrounded by ocean, the sea dominates the ambiance of the Province. There is no point in Nova Scotia that is more than 33 miles from the sea. Halifax, the capital and the Province's largest city, is modest in size with an extended population of 330,000. Nova Scotia has many natural and historic attractions. The European-connected history dates back to the first European settlements in North America. Compared to many other regions of North America, Nova Scotia is a relaxing and easy place to visit, with interesting things to see and do. These are good reasons for RVers to come here.

There is a perception that the Maritime Provinces of Canada are far away from everywhere and, therefore, prohibitively difficult to travel to. Indeed, an RVer living in Toronto or Boston would be foolish to plan a long-weekend trip to Nova Scotia. It's feasible, but as soon as he (or she) drives into the Province he will have to turn around and head home again to be back at work on Monday. As one benchmark for distance, it requires 12 hours for me to drive from Portland, Maine, to Halifax. The journey goes to Bangor, onto Route 9 to the Canadian Border at Calais/St. Stephen, then on highways 1 and 2 in New Brunswick, and highways 104 and 102 in Nova Scotia. Except for Route 9, the roads are divided highway. If you live in Boston, for example, it would be practical to have Nova Scotia as your destination for a two week vacation. You would spend about two days travelling to the Province, nine days here (including PEI), and two days to return home. There is a ferry from Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, with the capacity to carry RV rigs. Although convenient, the cost of the ferry may be forbidding for some travellers and it may not save any time.

This article lists places that RVers coming to Nova Scotia might want to visit/see, based on my preferences. Other Nova Scotians and people who have travelled here may recommend somewhat different lists of attractions. Once you decide that Nova Scotia is worth visiting, I recommend that you obtain the 400 page "Nova Scotia Complete Guide for Doers and Dreamers" that is published for free distribution by the Provincial Department of Tourism and Culture. ( copy this address to your browser to order the Guide: ) You can ask to be mailed a copy of the Guide or pick one up when in the Province at tourist information centres.

I have added on my list a few references to Prince Edward Island. You will find that visiting PEI for a few days is very enjoyable. You can travel to PEI after seeing Nova Scotia by taking the (RV-capacity) ferry from Caribou, N.S., to Woods Island, PEI. When leaving PEI you will have an opportunity to drive the magnificent, 8 mile long, Confederation Bridge, spanning from Borden-Carleton, PEI, to Cape Jourmain, New Brunswick. The cost of the ferry or bridge for an RV is just over $42 (Canadian), and you will be charged upon leaving PEI; the ride to the Island is free.

I include on the list an estimate of the time you might spend at each attraction so you can plan your time. Of course, you will have to add in time for travel, etc. Nova Scotia is geographically compact and the main roads allow for travel at an average of 60 miles per hour, so the time going from one place to another need not predominate your trip. If you are like me, whenever you are in an area you spend much of your time just 'being there'; that is relaxing and otherwise driving around viewing the scenery, shopping, hiking/walking, observing how other people live and work, and generally enjoying the air. All of the Canadian Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) afford this opportunity.

There are not any Nova Scotia beaches on my list. (A region of beaches is listed for PEI.) My wife and I can spend hours walking a secluded beach, listening to the waves, being blown by wind and drenched in sun. I have not swam in the ocean for years, because its too cold. Kids do not seem to be bothered by the frigid temperature, however. My reluctance to include beaches on the list is because there are so many that I take them for granted. The same is true for areas of rock-bound coast, which are also fun to walk on. Nova Scotia has a huge, 4,625 miles of ocean coastline. If forced to recommend beaches to visit I would mention Martenique near Musquodoboit Harbour and Clam Beach in Clam Harbour. If you happen to be in another coastal part of the Province, all you have to do is ask a local resident "which way to the beach". There is likely one close by.

Before proceeding with the list of attractions, below I briefly refer to Nova Scotia campgrounds and RV parks, weather, and insects.

There are more than 110 campgrounds and RV parks in Nova Scotia. When RVing here my wife and I usually stay in one of the twenty-two Provincial Parks and three National Parks. Provincial Parks do not have hookups, but all have toilet facilities and fresh water, most have a dumping station, and many have showers. The overnight cost of a Provincial Park is between $14 and $18 (Canadian). Camping with full hookups are provided at many private campgrounds and RV parks, municipal campgrounds, and two of the National campgrounds. Roadside over-nighting is not permitted.

The spring, summer, and fall weather in Nova Scotia is cooler than in most of the United States and the heavily populated areas of Canada. The location of the Province is northerly, with the 45th parallel going through its middle. Also, Nova Scotia is surrounded by ocean water that provides natural cooling in the summer and moderates the temperature the rest of the year. According to historical data referencing Halifax, there is only a small chance of a frost occurring after May 28th or before September 28th. Camping weather in September remains ideal, but be aware that after Labour Day some Provincial parks close.

RVers are alert to insect issues, but tourism guidebooks rarely mention them. There are places in North America where insects and other critters make being outdoors very unpleasant. Of note in Nova Scotia there are blackflies in early spring, followed by mosquitoes in early summer. The good news is that the bother of black flies and mosquitoes here is no worse, and often much less worse, than in other locations of the Eastern United States and the rest of Canada. Blackflies generally disappear by mid-June, and the mosquito population subsides in early August. Nova Scotia does not have biting ants, tarantulas, nor poisonous spiders. The southwestern and mid part of the Province has ticks, and you should dress accordingly when in the woods - ticks have transmitted lyme disease in a small number of cases. You can plan a trip to Nova Scotia at any time when the weather suits you, and be reasonably assured that an over abundance of annoying insects will not ruin your enjoyment of the outdoors. A squirt of bug repellant will usually be all of the precaution you need. There are no poisonous or otherwise threatening snakes here.

List of Places to Visit and Things to Do in Nova Scotia
(and PEI)

I've compiled this list with trepidation, because of the places and attractions that I have left out. People will accusingly ask why I did not include the, the Ovens, Mahone Bay, Oak Island, the Kejimkujik National Park, Digby Neck, Upper Clements, Parrsboro, Joggins, Spring Hill, Yarmouth, Brier Island, Pictou, Tidal Bore, whale watching, sport fishing, bird watching, golf, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Museum of Industry, Miners Museum, Ross Farm, and over a dozen major and community museums, etc. My response is that potential visitors to Nova Scotia need to know some of the highlights, and have a starting list of a few specific places and attractions to consider. We each have particular interests that make one attraction more or less interesting than another, but these we usually have to research on our own. (For example, ham radio operators would want to visit the Marconi Museum in Glace Bay.) Fortunately, The excellent "Guide for Doers and Dreamers" is available, and most communities in Nova Scotia have tourist information centres. Once, you are here there will be plenty to do.

Grand Pre' (2 hrs.)

- Grand Pre' National Historic Site (2 hrs. - memorial to the 1755 expulsion of the Acadians to Louisiana, immortalized in Longfellow's poem "Evangeline")

Annapolis Royal and Port Royal (1 day)

- Fort Annie National Historic Site (2 hrs. - historic military base)

- Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens (1 hr.)

- Port Royal National Historic Site (3 hrs. - reconstruction of explorer Samuel de Champlain's 1605 settlement)

Lunenburg (1 day)

- Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (2 hrs.)

- Walk the small downtown area (1 hr.)

- take a boat tour of the harbour (2 hrs.)

Peggy's Cove (3 hrs. - a former fishing village that has been adopted by tourist promoters, and is too crowded during the peak season to suit me)

- Walk the village and on the rocky shore)

Halifax (2 days )

- The Citadel (3 hrs. - historic fortress)

- Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (2 hrs.)

- Province House (1 hr. - where the Provincial legislature meets; historic and allows for a unique vista of the government )

- Casino N.S. (1+ hrs. - you don't have to gamble)

- walk the downtown area, public gardens, and the waterfront (3 hrs.)

- take the ferry to Dartmouth and back (2 hrs. - includes stretching your legs on the Dartmouth side. This is the least expensive way to see the harbour by boat)

- city bus tour, harbour boat tour, or the amphibious land and harbour tour

Jeddore Oyster Pond (2 hrs.)

- Fisherman's Life Museum (2 hrs. - an unpretentious but revealing museum of an old home of a fisherman family. If travelling between Halifax and Cape Breton via Highway 7, on the Atlantic Ocean, recommended in the route below, this museum is worth seeing)

Baddeck (3 hrs.)

- Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (3 hrs. - museum of Bell's life and accomplishments while living in Baddeck)

Louisbourg ( 1 day)

- Fortress Louisbourg National Historic Site (1 day - reconstruction of a major French fortress in colonial North America)

Cabot Trail (1 day)

- Famous scenic route (1 day - drive the trail and stop frequently to view the cliffs and ocean)

Charlottetown, PEI (1 day)

- Confederation Centre of the Arts (3 hrs. - art gallery, museum, and performance centre renowned, in particular, for performances of the play "Anne of Green Gables")

- St. Dunstan's Basilica (1 hr. - magnificent church)

- walk downtown area (2 hrs.)

Cavendish, PEI (6 hrs.)

- Green Gables House (2 hrs. - setting for the "Anne of Green Gables" books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery)

- Prince Edward Island National Park (4 hrs. - miles of beaches with opportunities for swimming and hiking)

Borden-Carleton, PEI

- travel the Confederation Bridge across the Northumberland Strait to New Brunswick

A Proposed Route

I am assuming that you will be entering Nova Scotia at Amherst by road. The list of places above is ordered in a shortest-route sequence starting at Amherst and ending at Borden-Carleton, PEI. Travel to PEI is by ferry from Caribou, Nova Scotia. This route also places you in the vicinity of most, if not all, of the other attractions that may appeal to your special interests. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE ROUTE MAP According to the travel planning computer program "Trip Maker" by Rand McNally, the route covers 1,186 miles, and will take 29 hours and 23 minutes to drive. Of course, you will wander from the route to satisfy your own interests and experience more of the region.

In the Southwestern part of Nova Scotia the route cuts inland through the Province via Highway 8. An advantage of this tack is that it puts you in the vicinity of Kejimkujik National Park for a stopover. Highway 8 is a relatively slow road, however. A somewhat longer but faster-road alternative is the combination of Highways 101 and 103 that loop around the scenic and culturally distinct Southwestern coastal end of the Province. Travelling via Highways 101 and 103 is also rewarding.

Another slow road is Highway 7 from Halifax along the Eastern Shore and threading its way to Antigonish. The rugged scenery on the coast of the Eastern Shore makes this segment gratifying. If you wish to save a few hours of driving time, however, Routes 102 and 104 will take you from Halifax to Antigonish quicker.