After a long year spent mostly inside, the urge to get out of the city and explore feels stronger than ever. With so many great outdoor spots in Nova Scotia, we’ve compiled a comprehensive (and potentially biased) list featuring the best of the best.
Simple, superlative hikes
Black Hole Falls, Baxters Harbour
When people visit the Annapolis Valley, it's often with wine tours or restaurants in mind. If they do plan to go hiking, it'll likely be at Cape Split (don’t worry—we’ll get to that one later). But Black Hole Falls is an under-appreciated gem. The trail has it all: expansive views of the Bay of Fundy, a stream you can dip your feet into and a beautiful waterfall. The main leg of the trail is only around one kilometer long, but experienced hikers can add distance by climbing down to the beach or exploring off-shoot trails.
Polly’s Cove, Peggys Cove Conservation Area
It’s easy to feel bored on a hike if the scenery stays the same the whole way through. Polly's Cove isn't like that at all. The roughly 4km coastal loop brings you through marshy paths and rocky landscapes, and offers gorgeous, at-a-distance views of the iconic Peggys Cove lighthouse. (A nice way to set your Instagram apart from those posting touristy Peggys pic from the same three angles!). A wealth of paths to choose from also means you can make your own way through the conservation area.
Victoria Park, Truro
Victoria Park features an extensive network of trails throughout its sprawling 3,000 acres, meaning there's something for everyone. No, really: the list of amenities is long, ranging from tennis courts to a heated pool to perfect birdwatching spots. Whether you're looking for an easy hike through old growth hemlock trees, a place for a peaceful walk along the river or even quiet picnic spots with picturesque waterfall views, Victoria Park is worth a trip.
Crystal Crescent Beach, Sambro Creek
You'll probably find Crystal Crescent on any “Best beaches in Nova Scotia” list that's ever been written, and who am I to break that tradition? If you're used to the Bay of Fundy’s red beaches or HRM’s rocky ones, Crescent Beach’s white sand and turquoise water can make it feel like you've left the province entirely (which, at times like these, is a really great feeling). Close your eyes, curl your toes in the sand and pretend you’re somewhere tropical!
Martinique Beach Provincial Park, East Petpeswick
The great thing about this beach (beyond the fact that it's a beach) is its sheer size. With roughly 4 km of sprawling sand, chances are you'll never feel too crowded here. The park also has picnic tables in shady, lightly-wooded areas, perfect for having lunch without worrying about accidentally eating sand.
Cape Split, Scots Bay
I’m going to say something controversial: Cape Split is a bit of a boring hike. It’s 6.5 kilometers of uphill walking on the way to the Cape, with static scenery of birch and pine trees, and the same 6.5 kilometers on the way back down. That being said, as an Annapolis Valley dweller who's done this hike multiple times (and will likely do it again this summer), I can also wholeheartedly say it's worth it. The view once you reach the top is really something special. (Bonus: Depending on where you’re coming from, you can also stop at the Blomidon Lookoff in Canning on your way to this trailhead, which offers a 10/10 view of the Valley.)
The Skyline Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
This looping trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park is nothing short of breathtaking, offering expansive views of the Cabot Trail and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Those not wanting to walk the whole loop can still make their way out to enjoy the scenery, watch the sun set and maybe even spot a few whales out in the water. The only downside is that this spot can get pretty busy, especially on weekends.
Waterfalls to fall for
Borden Brook Trail, Blomidon Provincial Park
If you’re starting to think “maybe this writer has a bias towards the Annapolis Valley,” then you’d be right—she does, and she apologizes. Either way, it was hard not to include this trail on the list: the hike to get to the falls is short and easy, and the payoff is huge. The trail’s location in Blomidon Provincial Park means that you can follow up your hike with a walk along the beach (tide allowing), or explore some of the park's other sights.
North River Falls, North River Wilderness Area
This Cape Breton waterfall, which is believed to be the tallest in the province, is absolutely stunning—well-worth the tough 18 km hike to get there and back, according to those who have done it. This is definitely a day trip on its own, and it's necessary to plan accordingly: Bring good shoes, lots of water, a meal and the will to hike for at least six and a half hours.
Long Lake Provincial Park, Halifax
Most of these destinations are far from the city, but it's worth noting that there are some really special spots in and around Halifax Regional Municipality, too. Long Lake is one of these: The wooded trails make it hard to believe you’re still technically in Halifax, and the swimmable water is ideal for especially hot days.
Kejimkujik National Park, Maitland Bridge
It would be difficult to talk about freshwater spots in the province without mentioning Kejimkujik. Though it does cost a small fee to get a day-pass into the park, the beautiful trails and namesake lake (great for swimming and canoeing) make it well worth the price. Why not get away for a few days, while you’re at it?