If you're looking for a rural area without getting too far out of the city, the 20 Herring Cove bus will take you from downtown to just far enough to feel like you're on the coast, but can still get home for dinner. Get off by the end of the line and walk to the coastline; off Purcell's Cove Road, you can check out the trails at the Herring Cove Provincial Park reserve. At the "Look-off" you can see views of the Halifax Harbour and Eastern Passage, or just walk around admiring the ocean and coastline.
Fisherman's Cove, Eastern Passage
Imagine you could walk along a pier and get an ice cream or lobster sandwich, minus the tourists of the downtown waterfront or a four-hour drive to rural PEI. Fisherman's Wharf in Eastern Passage has all of the cuteness, less of the tourists. Take any bus to the Dartmouth Bridge Terminal and catch the 60 to Eastern Passage, getting off at the Cow Bay Road intersection (just past the oil refinery). You'll find fishing folks hawking lobsters and fish, kitschy stands selling ice cream, t-shirts and fish and chips, and when that gets old, take a walk along the boardwalk. Also a great place to take your parents. Fisherman's Cove is also where you can catch a ferry to McNabs Island, the island in the harbour that was a former fort and settlement (465-4563 for info on booking the ferry).
Arguably the city's most charming suburb, getting on the 80 bus downtown or along Robie Street will take you up the Bedford Highway as the city gives way to parks and waterfront railway tracks; hop off the bus as you round the tip of the Bedford Basin and things start looking quaint. Check out the famous Chickenburger restaurant, Persepolis Food Market for Middle Eastern groceries, Select Sounds for used records or the original Pete's Frootique at Sunnyside Mall for import groceries and top-hatted staff.
Point Pleasant Park
The most accessible patch of nature in the HRM, Point Pleasant Park is just a short walk or bike ride to the end of Tower Road for southenders, or take the 9 bus from further away. You'll find families, dog walkers, tourists and old military structures in various states of repair; walk to the waterfront for a pretty decent view of the harbour, the other side of the Northwest Arm to your right, and McNabs Island to your left.
An easy bus or bike ride, or even a long walk, from the city makes Chocolate Lake the most convenient and crowded lake to downtown Halifax. Just off Herring Cove Road a couple minutes' walk from the Armdale Roundabout (buses 15, 19, 20 or 32 to the first stop past it), expect warm water temperatures, no place to sit down and lots of kids running around.
But if you're looking to get a bit further from the screaming kids and floating Band-Aids, the comparatively rural Williams Lake is located just a short walk from the 15 Purcells Cove bus.
Get off at Williams Lake Road and walk down it; there's a "beach" behind Cunard Junior High, but we recommend going past it to Wyndrock Drive, where you'll find a path through the trees (ideally marked by parked cars or locked-up bicycles on a nice day) leading to the best swimming area.
Sir Sanford Fleming Park/The Dingle Tower
Also on the 15 bus route, Sir Sanford Fleming Park offers views of the expensive south end homes along the Northwest Arm to the north, and to the west, the sailboats at the Armdale Yacht Club and anchored in the water---all of which you can dream of one day affording with the lucrative career your degree will land you.
In the summer and fall you can climb Halifax's most hilariously named landmark, the Dingle; there are also trails and an ice cream stand.
Bayers Lake/ Dartmouth
If you really need the perfect set of plastic storage bins, or have to see that blockbuster in 3D, to get to big-box land on either side of the harbour, the 52 will take you from Burnside to Bayers Lake, stopping along more convenient locales like the Dartmouth Bridge Terminal, North Street and the Mumford Terminal. The 56 bus travels to Dartmouth Crossing from the Penhorn Terminal, or connects with the more convenient 10 at the Mic Mac Terminal. And there's unspoiled green space to explore beyond the big boxes, for now.