Family vacations in Nova Scotia Canada should be on your wish list this summer. It’s Canada’s land of adventure, packed with incredible experiences and from Cape Breton to the Bay of Fundy, it’s phenomenal. Start making plans here.
Why Nova Scotia should be your next family summer vacation?
Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s four Atlantic provinces, and it’s on the east coast, so closer to New York State than Québec. It’s the size of a small country, but fewer than a million people live there, so don’t come looking for crowds. And, although Nova Scotia is often mistaken for an island, it’s actually a peninsula, only with a very long and lovely coastline.
Plan a road trip with your kids
This is perfect family road trip territory: easy to drive around, superb accommodations and lots to stop and stare at along the way. The food is famously good too, particularly the seafood. In fact – you can eat fresh, and affordable, lobster here for 10 months of the year. And you won’t be surprised to hear about the beautiful beaches, as this is the province for Cape Breton Island and the legendary Bay of Fundy.
Ready for an adventure vacation? Take a look at our 10 only in Nova Scotia experiences, we promise you’ll be sold by number three.
1. Hike the Skyline Trail
You might not know its name, but you’ll almost certainly recognise the Skyline Trail. It’s one of the world’s most photographed hikes and another Nova Scotia icon you can do easily with kids. Look forward to spectacular views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence as the prize for your legwork. And don’t be surprised to spot deer or moose along the way.
- The Skyline is just one of 26 hiking trails, including part of the legendary Cabot Trail, which run through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Most are family-friendly, but they’re all well-marked and graded in order of difficulty so you know what to expect before you go.
2. Raft the Bay of Fundy
Looking for new thrills? Nova Scotia has those covered. But even here, nothing out-thrills the rush of tidal bore rafting on the Shubenacadie River.
The Bay of Fundy has the world’s highest recorded tides. Twice a day they rise and fall between 11 and 52ft causing a vast flood of water to pour into the Shubenacadie. When the waters meet, the river transforms into a rafters’ paradise of wild rapids and boisterous swells.
Scope out the adventure before you raft
Do you dare? Of course you do. But if you’re not sure, recce other intrepid rafters from the viewing platform before you take to the water yourself.
Don’t miss a post-rafting mud slide. Wear your oldest things and remember to bring a change of clothes. This might be as intentionally dirty as you’ve ever let kids get, and they’ll love every second.
3. Nova Scotia stargazing
The Acadian Skies and Mi’kmaq Lands in Nova Scotia were the first Starlight Tourism Destinations certified by the UNESCO-backed Starlight Foundation. So if you want after-dark adventures this summer, you’ll find them here.
You can stargaze on guided hikes and even take bike rides under huge, glittering skies. Alternatively, spend the night in a Sky Bubble or just camp-out and stare into space.
- Try the Nocturnal Sky Theatre Experience at The Deep Sky Observatory in Tusket. Kids will love stargazing from the comfort of anti-gravity chairs (cozy blankets provided). Plus, they’ll learn how to navigate the night sky and see constellations up close through the powerful outdoor telescopes.
- A Dark Sky Preserve since 2010, Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site is one of the world’s top spots for stargazing and it’s in Nova Scotia. Light pollution here non-existent, so night skies are vividly clear. And you can add the fun of camping at one of the park’s family campgrounds.
4. Map your own road trip
Nova Scotia’s stunning coast is also naturally mapped out for family road trips. In fact you could drive the perimeter of the province without heading inland at all.
Although, on a road trip with kids you might want something less ambitious. Then create your own route. Even a day’s driving in Nova Scotia feels like an easy adventure. And from exploring the coast of Cape Breton Island to cove hopping on the Bay of Fundy, the possibilities are endless.
5. Ride the Cliffs of Fundy
Often called a ‘geological wonderland’, Cliffs of Fundy UNESCO Global Geopark lives up to that promise. A 300 million year old evolution is described across the landscape and it’s also home to Canada’s oldest dinosaur fossils. You’ll find ancient Mi’kmaw legends woven through the park, as well as the highest tides in the world below its soaring cliffs.
The park contains 40 astonishing geo-sites, along with hiking trails, community museums, lighthouses and beautiful beaches. Families can take kayaking tours, walk for miles and even go horse riding on the sea bed.
Another one for the ‘only in Nova Scotia’ list, horseback tours take in everything from prehistoric dinosaur fossils to living tidal creatures. They’re also an unusual way to explore the Bay of Fundy with expert local guides and no previous equestrian riding experience is necessary.
6. Go whale spotting
However you explore the coast, fit in the Bay of Fundy. Not only does it have the world’s broadest tidal range, it’s a summer haven for up to seven species of whale, including the rare North American right whale.
Take your pick of excellent whale watching cruises, they’re incredible experiences, even for younger kids. Although older ones could try closer encounters: Nova Scotia is a world leader for whale watching tours by Zodiac dinghies.
7. Find a Nova Scotia beach
Nova Scotia has an extraordinary coastline and hundreds of beautiful beaches. You can even rent seaside vacation cottages for a private beach all to yourself. However, if you don’t mind sharing, most family beaches come with excellent facilities and lifeguards in July and August.
Best beaches for your Nova Scotia vacation list
- Long and sandy Inverness Beach is next to Cabot Cape Breton. The warm, shallow waters here are great for families with younger kids.
- Another beach with seemingly limitless sands, Melmerby also has warm waters and it’s only 20 minutes’ drive from New Glasgow.
- Visit Mavillette Beach near Yarmouth for the phenomenal sand flats, birdwatching platforms and more balmy sea temperatures.
- For lively vacation atmosphere, head to Queensland Beach just west of Halifax. The whiter than white sands are popular, so go early during summer.
8. Paddle round Nova Scotia
Guided kayak tours are another exciting way to explore the coast, find places where cars can’t go and learn about local Nova Scotia. There are all sorts of tours on offer during summer ranging from one hour paddles to camping expeditions on LaHave Islands.
9. Cycle Nova Scotia trails
All over Nova Scotia you’ll find multi-use trails where you can bike or hike. Some of the best are repurposed from old railway lines and run through amazing landscapes. And they’re another great way to see the countryside or coast you might miss on a car trip.
- Point Pleasant Park has an astonishing 39km of trails and is no distance at all from Downtown Halifax.
- Truro’s Victoria Park also has an extensive trail network and a Mountain Bike Park for a little added fun.
- Celtic Shores Coastal Trail runs for 92km between Port Hastings and Inverness and comes with spectacular sea views.
10. Kejimkujik National Park
If you’re on vacation with older kids, take them exploring in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. Another great hiking area, it’s where you’ll find day-trails ranging from 200m to five kilometres – just the right amount of challenge to bring out the adventurer in even the most screen devoted teen.
- Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site is also the park for backcountry trails. They’re not to be taken lightly as most demand at least four days of your vacation and some stamina. But as far as unforgettable only in Nova Scotia experiences go, backcountry expeditions get serious bragging rights.
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