The South Shore of Nova Scotia is home to a UNESCO World Heritage waterfront, an abundance of natural beauty, and probably the freshest seafood you’ll have anywhere in the province. From Peggy’s Cove to Pubnico, the South Shore offers the best of all worlds. One day you can kick back in chic digs in towns and villages that brim with history and culture, and the next day choose to commune with nature as you kayak out to a private island or enjoy one of the region’s fine white sand beaches. This is the home of the Bluenose, the famous racing schooner that became a symbol of Nova Scotia during its heyday in the early 20th century and now lends it name to the culture of the area — to say something is Bluenose is calling it quintessentially Nova Scotian.
And nothing is more Bluenose than getting the lay of the land by hopping from restaurant to pub to brewery in search of the best lobster and lobster-inspired fare, which is exactly what you can do when you follow the Nova Scotia Lobster Trail. Though you can choose to follow this trail wherever you are in the province, there are a number of high-quality stops along the South Shore that make this the best place to start. While you’re tackling it, you might as well tap into Canada’s very first brewery, cidery, distillery and winery trail, The Good Cheer Trail. If you’re surprised to find out that Nova Scotia has a wine country — and a famous wine country, at that — be prepared for stranger things, like “Crustacean Elation” at Saltbox Brewery in Mahone Bay. Yep. Lobster beer.
The region’s famed seafaring past lives on in several picturesque monuments and landmarks, from the Bluenose II replica in Lunenburg to a number of iconic lighthouses that dot the coastline of South Shore. From the trails around Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse down to the Kejimkujik National Park Seaside and Barrington, the Lobster Capital of Canada further south, it’s easy to get outside and explore this beautiful stretch of the province, with beautiful hikes and walks that are just the right way to work up an appetite for all that lobster and beer (and lobster beer) you’ll be putting away soon. Welcome to the South Shore!
Where to Stay
The accommodation options in South Shore will sometimes have you feeling like you found a second home, others like you stepped back in time, and often a charming combination of both. Some are chic, others are tongue-in-cheek; like Kitch’inn in Mahone Bay, “not your grandma’s B&B.” While all reviews suggest that the friendliness of owner Danielle, the coziness of the tree loft, and the location in one of Nova Scotia’s prettiest seaside towns do in fact all combine to leave you with a warm feeling like an afternoon at grandma’s house, there’s just the right amount of quirk, from porridge made with Whiskey at breakfast time and the Live, Laugh, Tacos named after a room on the property (or is the room named after the tacos? We’ll let you know).
The small town of Mahone Bay is full of quaint B&Bs like this one, all of which seem to be competing for cutest classical design. Most are located along or right off of Main St, where you can also duck your head into shops full of local flare, like The Biscuit Eater Cafe & Books. There’s no better combination than books and coffee.
In the historic hub of the South Shore, Lunenburg, opt for a touch of modern in the middle of the period homes and house-museums. B2 Lofts combine bespoke luxury with reverence to tradition in their combination property that includes one renovated 19th century house and a new building adjacent. While they’re convenient for just a short stay thanks to their harborfront location in this colorful town, the in-unit amenities include brand new appliances that might have you thinking about a longer stay. How does working remotely from a UNESCO World Heritage Site sound? Thank us later for the idea.
Pack up the family and head to White Point Beach Resort, a year-round, oceanfront beach vacation destination, where you can immediately breath ‘ahhh’ upon arrival and let the kids roam around looking for sand dollars on the beach or feeding the many bunnies hopping around the property. Surrounded by water and the sound of pounding ocean surf, White Point boasts an extensive variety of recreation facilities and programs. The rolling waves of the Atlantic are perfect for playing in with a boogie board or even surfing. The freshwater lake has a boathouse with canoes and paddle boats enjoyed by all. The indoor heated pool, hot tub and sauna, outdoor pool, tennis courts and beach volleyball area are all very popular with guests and visitors. And then there are also nature trails, a 9-hole golf course, day spa, recreation centre, children’s playground, and a variety of complimentary recreation programs and activities for all ages. There are nightly, beachside bonfires to roast marshmallows and even mussel bakes, occasionally. Even dining at White Point comes with complementary stunning ocean views. Start the car!
What to See
In a region where “shore” is in the name, you would expect the coastline to be a highlight. For sure the best way to appreciate the visual character of this region is from the water. Before you strike out for the wilder reaches and the bountiful beaches, start your tour of South Shore in the crown jewel of historic Nova Scotia, Lunenburg. Take a walking tour of this historic town and learn why the many historic and many-hued buildings of this planned British colonial settlement made it an easy choice to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s beautiful as a subject for photos, but also great for discovering colorful shops full of coffee, confectionaries, and curiosities.
More history can be found at The Black Loyalist Heritage Site, located in Birchtown, which shares the story of the Black Loyalists – free men and women who fought for the British during the American Revolution and won their freedom. In the late 18th century, Birchtown was the largest free Black community in British North America. It was the center of the Black Loyalist experience in Canada and its founding represented a turning point in the history of persons of African descent in Canada. The Black Loyalist Heritage Centre takes visitors on the journey of these earliest Black settlers to Nova Scotia – and for some, back to Africa. Visitors can also trace their heritage through the names in the Book of Negroes, a document containing the names of the Black Loyalists who won their freedom by taking up arms for the British. Or stroll along the Black Loyalist Heritage Trail, a 1.5 km (1 mi) trail with interpretive panels, which takes you to the Black Burial Ground.
Once you’ve completed your history lesson, head to any number of spots along the South Shore to appreciate the wild waters that brought prosperity to Lunenburg and other settlements here. Summerville Beach almost looks like it could be in the Caribbean, with pristine sand, azure waters, and a tree line just back off the shoreline. Of course, you’ll be disavowed of that notion the moment you dip in the cool water. Be sure to bring a wetsuit if you’re thinking of surfing or something similar!
One of Nova Scotia’s most iconic landmarks is located on the South Shore too, just 45 minutes from downtown Halifax and a little over an hour from Lunenburg or Mahone Bay. Peggys Point Lighthouse is easily the most well-known lighthouse in all of Canada, and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society claims that it may be one of the most photographed in the world. Situated atop a rocky outcropping where waves crash from the bay below, this lighthouse is dramatically poised for a photo op and stands as a charming steward to the village of Peggys Cove that has cropped up in its shadow. Dainty and colorful fishing boats and shacks line the shore here, where the lobster, ice cream, and gift shops are the talk of the town. There’s a famous stop on the Lobster Trail here, too, at the Sou’Wester Gift Shop & Restaurant.
Lighthouses like the one at Peggys Point can be found dotting much of the shoreline in this region, but another one at the edge of a great little community can be found in Fort Point Lighthouse, in Liverpool. While the lighthouse itself is beautiful, the provincial park where it resides is also perfect for a picnic, offering great views of the Liverpool Bay and Coffin Island. Yet another lighthouse has stood on this islet continuously since 1811, though the present one is the third iteration after two structures were destroyed by lightning and erosion respectively.
You can find a full list of lighthouses (and filter by those good for photo ops!) throughout the South Shore and Nova Scotia on the website of the Lighthouse Preservation Society.
What to Eat and Drink
While you’re there in Liverpool, duck your head into Hell Bay Brewing for one of their hand-crafted ales. Whether this is your first or fifth stop on the Good Cheer Trail, you’re going to love their swashbuckling, punch-packing ales and stouts. Taking cues from their city’s namesake back across the pond, their headliner is an English Ale that pays “tribute to the well-known bitters of English pubs.” They’ve also got a Strong Scotch Ale that, coming in at 8% ABV with a sweet caramel flavor, will go down really easy. They really get creative with a few other of their offerings, from a dark-malted IPA called Black Flag to an Oatmeal Pale Ale. For craft beers lovers out there, this stop isn’t one to miss!
If the lobster beer in Mahone Bay whets your appetite for some more of that creamy crustacean, you’re in the right place. Head down to the Old Fish Factory in Lunenburg for lobster tacos — lobster is covered in chipotle lime mayo mixed with homemade slaw, wild blueberry pickled onions and cilantro served on two warm and fresh tortillas. They have an entire “lobster and seafood festival” menu, but the locals tend to come here for the tacos, so follow that Bluenose wisdom and throw your hat in with them. That’s a one-of-a-kind taco Tuesday, and it’s light fare compared to another signature lobster dish here in Lunenburg. Head to the Grand Banker Bar & Grill for the “Lunenburger,” six ounces of fresh local ground beef topped with lobster knuckles, lobster claws, smoked mozzarella, baby spinach, and a bacon-wrapped scallop.
But if you really want to fully embrace all things lobster, head to Barrington, the Lobster Capital of Canada. Lobster season in Southwest Nova Scotia runs from the last week in November to the last week in May and lobsters caught in this area (known locally as Districts 33 & 34) account for approximately 40% of all lobster caught in Canada annually! This is where you will find Capt. Kat’s Lobster Shack, a must do – or must-eat – dining stop if you are a lobster enthusiast. Don’t be fooled by their unassuming location – once you step inside, you will be impressed with the charming atmosphere and tastefully decorated dining room inspired by local culture and traditions, complete with a live lobster tank. The menu boasts and showcases an extensive assortment of fresh lobster and seafood dishes – 18 different lobster dishes to be precise!
Worried that you’ll be out doing so much exploring that you can’t plan a great lobster lunch, or dinner? How about starting your day and fueling those adventures with some lobster for breakfast? A great place to do this in the South Shore is at the Kiwi Café in Chester, where their lobster omelet is crafted with your choice of base ingredients before being topped off with a generous helping of the fresh good stuff, with a side of thick-cut LaHave orange cinnamon toast.
For those not so fond of the province’s favorite crustacean, there are plenty of other places to find a memorable meal. One of the consistently top ranked restaurants in Nova Scotia is found in the historic Loyalist town of Shelburne. Charlotte Lane Café has an extensive menu featuring splendid local seafood and meat dishes, inventive pastas, seasonal salads, delectable Swiss specialties, and mouth-watering desserts!