Students of Halifax, listen up: By now you’ve waited in line, smiled at a webcam and have had placed in your hand a small plastic likeness of yourself. This is the almighty student ID, an unassuming little card that proves you exist. Smack-dab next to your pretty mug you should see a little reflective sticker. That’s your U-Pass, your ticket to ride any and all methods of transit offered here in Halifax. Although most commonly used to zip down Spring Garden road to the Clyde Street NSLC, your U-Pass is so much more than a ticket to the booze-train. HRM is a big place—roughly the same size as Prince Edward Island—and that little sticker allows you to trounce around the county with reckless abandon. To help you find the gems, we’ve put together a list of bus routes to some of our favourite places outside the downtown core.
Route 15: Lakes, guns and stone
Starting out with a heavy hitter. Route 15 can take you to a beautiful lake, a stone watchtower and a waterfront fortress with one flash of your pass. Setting out from Mumford Terminal (accessed from anywhere on the peninsula by a number of routes), the 15 follows Purcell’s Cove Road toward Ferguson’s Cove, home to York Redoubt, a 200+-year-old historic site overlooking the mouth of Halifax Harbour. Part of the harbour defense network, the fortress is a wonderful place to brush up on military history, toss a Frisbee and take pictures with huge guns. The 15 also stops near one of the best swimming holes around, Williams Lake, a 15-minute ride from Mumford. Tell your driver you’re headed to the lake and they’ll let you know when it’s time to get off. Williams Lake is beautiful in any season, and a perfect place to picnic surrounded by the fall colours. Being so close to the city, it’s extra-important to respect this semi-secret place. Pack out your trash please.
Route 52: The only reason to go to Bayers Lake
Connecting four main terminals—Highfield, Bridge, Mumford and Lacewood—and running all the way down North Street and throughout Dartmouth, the number 52 is accessible no matter where you live. That’s not why we like this route though. The 52 is all about Susies Lake, a hidden gem behind a building supplies shop. Hop aboard any Lacewood-bound 52 and set your sights on the Kent store on Chain Lake Drive. Once off the bus, head toward the lumberyard on the right and loop around to the back of the store. You should now see a trail snaking off into the woods. It may sound sketchy, but it’s a popular route with local lake aficionados. This is where it gets a bit complicated. The trail forks and splits many times, but luckily the lake is huge and the trails all lead to its shore. (Take a piece of street caulk and mark the rocks if you’re worried about getting lost.) After a trip out to (or in) the water, why not visit Halifax’s favourite thrift store, the VV boutique (Value Village), located just down the road (also on the bus route).
Route 80/81: Heart ponds and hemlocks
On the road to Bedford, sitting just off the highway is a little sanctuary with a foreboding name—the Hemlock Ravine. It may sound like a place where one would dump a body in a David Lynch film, but it’s actually a beautiful little grove just minutes from the city. Grab the number 80 or 81 at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Robie Street heading toward Lower Sackville. Don’t actually go to Sackville, though (not that we don’t love you, Sackville). Instead, get off at the Kent Avenue stop just past Birch Cove, along the Bedford Highway. From the bus stop, follow the signs toward the park. After the parking lot you’ll pass a heart-shaped pond, the perfect landmark to make sure you’re in the right place. Hemlock Ravine has remained untouched from forestry and development since 1780, and contains within its 200 acres several stands of old-growth trees, included many large hemlocks (duh). There are three main hiking trails, which link together to form a large loop. After you’re done hiking, jump back on the 80 and head for the heart of Bedford, and the best bagels in town, found at the unassuming Izzy’s Bagel Company. Just follow your nose.
Route 60: Fisherman’s Cove
We’re hopping across the harbour to Dartmouth for this one. If you’re coming from Halifax, grab the number 52 to the bridge terminal, and hop on the next route 60 heading toward Eastern Passage. Destination: The terribly underrated McCormack’s Beach Provincial Park. Closer to the city than most beaches in the county, McCormack’s is a great place to soak up the salty air and read a book. No need to bring snacks, as a quick walk away lands you in Fisherman’s Cove, a restored fishing community that’s home to some of the best fish and chips in the province. On the way back, we suggest getting off near Ochterloney Avenue and visiting Dartmouth’s downtown. Be sure not to miss Battery Park, Anchored Coffee and Two if by Sea cafe, all found on the same block, before heading back across the water to Halifax.