Rupert Parker’s special interest is food and travel but he writes about everything from wilderness adventures to luxury spas. Despite having tasted over 80 countries he’s still hungry for travel.
The province of Nova Scotia, on the Atlantic coast of Canada, is more than just ice and snow. In fact, because of the Gulf Stream, winters are mild and there’s little of the extreme cold that envelops the rest of the country. Summers are also glorious, and the 2,500 mile coastline provides a wealth of seafood as well as good swimming and surfing.
The capital of Nova Scotia, founded in 1749 as a British garrison town, is surprisingly lively – 200 restaurants and bars are crammed into a tiny area downtown, many with live music. Overlooking the sea, on Citadel Hill, is Fort George, a perfect example of a star-shaped stone fortress, designed to defend the rear of the city but in fact never used in action. On the seafront is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which contains fragments of the Titanic – when the ship went down, Halifax mounted the rescue mission and the cemetery contains the graves of the 150 bodies that were brought here.
The lifeblood of Nova Scotia is lobster, here in abundance. In fact, in the 17th and 18th centuries, they weren’t even counted as food and were crushed and put onto the land as fertilizer. Only jailbirds got to eat them, and, even now, they’re still cheaper than baloney, at less than $5 a pound. Although there’s a limited fishing season to preserve the stocks, it’s staggered around the province, and fishermen easily bag around 200 lbs a day. As you can imagine, it’s on the menu in most restaurants, but choose one that allows you to pick your own from their tank. And, of course, wash them down with a glass of the excellent Nova Scotia wine.
Quaint Towns and National Parks
What’s really surprising, if you think of Canada as snow and ice, is the lushness of the countryside, whether it be pine forests or green pastures for cattle. There are a number of national parks, and Kejimkujik is designed for families with easy trails and scenic canoe trips. Dotted throughout the landscape are quaint towns with names like Wolfville, Lunenburg or Annapolis Royal, home to the oldest street in Canada. Brightly colored wooden clapboard houses and churches make up these settlements, and even the modern buildings blend in. If you fancy beach and surf then it’s worth spending the night at White Point, where the rooms are right next to the sea.
Tidal Bore Rafting
The Bay of Fundy has the world’s highest tides, sometimes up to 55 feet, and these funnel into the Shubenacadie River to create a tidal bore, in effect a big wave, as the sea comes in. This makes for an exciting rafting experience – you ride an inflatable Zodiac to meet the incoming wave head on and suffer the consequences. On the day I did it the tide was predicted to be around 30 feet, medium size. Eight of us traveled the calm river downstream for six miles and waited – the first we knew of the bore was a low roar and then we saw the crest of white water approaching us. We sped off keeping it behind us, and then suddenly spun around and approached it head first – the bow rose at an acute angle and we were covered in water, hanging on for dear life. If that wasn’t enough, we spent the next hour repeatedly criss-crossing waves of up to 10 feet and only lost one of our passengers. She was quickly pulled back onto the boat.
Mud, Glorious Mud
After all the excitement of riding tidal waves, we got to indulge in glorious silliness. The banks of the Shubenacadie are covered in slimy mud, and since we were soaked anyway, it didn’t really matter if we coated ourselves in the substance and slid down the slopes into the river. There is something primeval about seeing normally sane adults frolicking in the mire, covered head to toe in the dark muck, slithering around, and I have to confess it was great fun. No stick-in-the-muds in Nova Scotia…
Where to Stay — Rupert Recommends:
- Cambridge Suites is in central Halifax
- Blomidon Inn has good food and rooms in a restored colonial mansion in Wolfville
- Hillsdale House is a period B&B in Annapolis Royal
- White Point has beach, surf, and good food
- Blomidon Inn, see above
- Garrison House in Annapolis Royal
- CUT Steakhouse in Halifax
- Lobster Pound at Halls Harbour is great for live lobsters
Keep up with Rupert and his travels, planetappetite.com.