Don’t pass me by: Nova Scotia's hidden gems

Don’t stick to the rivers and lakes you’re used to; try chasing some waterfalls this summer.

Don’t pass me by: Nova Scotia's hidden gems
Take a plunge into Mary Ann Falls next time you're in the highlands.

You're planning a weekend road trip. Maybe it's somewhere you go every summer, or maybe it's a whole new Nova Scotian adventure you're inspired to take because of the COVID-19 travel restrictions. This province has countless popular tourist destinations that are usually packed to the brim with come-from-aways. But they won't come this year, so it's the perfect opportunity to check it out.

While you're there, take a look around. Where are the locals having lunch? What's that cute, kitschy shop on the corner with the stuffed lobster in the window? What happens if you take the road less travelled? Here are some recommendations for just about any area of the province. You might find yourself a new favourite spot, and it'll be one the tourists don't know about.

The Valley

If you're whale watching in Digby, check out Roof Hound Brewing Co. (2580 Ridge Road, Digby), for outside-the-box brews like the Keltic Devil porter and the Big Stink IPA. Owner Les Barr was a contestant on Season 3 of MasterChef Canada, and whips up some yummy eats. If you're a bit further up the Valley, they've also got a Kingston location.

If you're headed to Cape Split for the view, hit up nearby I Scream (9838 Main Street) in Canning afterwards for a sweet cone to make it all worthwhile. Or skip the hike and just get the ice cream, we don't make the rules.

If you're checking out the 17 acres of beauty that is the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, make sure you have lunch at The Crow's Nest AKA Shore Road Seafood (3931 Shore Road, Hillsburn) for the best and freshest seafood you can find.

South Shore

If you're spending a day at The Ovens, check out family-owned Rose Bay General Store (3452 Highway 332) just 10 minutes down the road. It's the general store of your dreams, with local meat and produce, homemade sweets and even a pretty decent wine selection. They've also got a cute bistro where you can grab a sandwich or pizza on your way to Sand Dollar Beach next door.

click to enlarge Don’t pass me by: Nova Scotia's hidden gems
The isolated saunas at Sensea Nordic Spa will make you forget all your worries.
If you're thinking of digging for treasure at Oak Island, treat yourself to a day where you're the real gem at Sensea Nordic Spa (40 Sensea Road, Chester). Dip into their pools that overlook the nearby lake or relax in a sauna to watch your stress melt away.

If you're headed for a getaway at White Point Beach resort, make a secondhand shopping trip of it by hitting up nearby Guy's Frenchy's (344 Main Street, Liverpool). Tucked away in a strip mall, this second-hand haven has a wide selection of men's wear and plus size clothing.

Cape Breton

If you're driving the Cabot Trail, check out Charlene's Restaurant (9657 Highway 105) in Whycocomagh. It's only doing take-out for now, but there's no better way to eat some fish and chips than while watching the sunset over the mountains.

If you spend a day at Ingonish beach, be sure to stop at The Dancing Moose Café (42691 Cabot Trail Road, Birch Plain) on your way back. Their Dutch pancakes aren't your typical Nova Scotian fare but you can forego seafood for one night, right?

And if you're chasing literal waterfalls, Mary Ann Falls, located inside the Highlands National Park is the spot for both a picturesque hike and a plunge under the water.

Central and Northern NS

click to enlarge Don’t pass me by: Nova Scotia's hidden gems
Rafting down the Shubie river isn't for the faint of heart.
If you're headed to Shubenacadie Wildlife Park (149 Creighton Road) you can make your afternoon a bit more daring by venturing to the mouth of the Shubenacadie River, where tidal bore rafting abounds.

If you're picking up goodies at Masstown Market (10622 Trunk 2, Debert), head to nearby Great Village Antiques (8728 Highway 2) to redecorate your whole apartment with vintage paintings, clocks and other housewares.

click to enlarge Don’t pass me by: Nova Scotia's hidden gems
The Earltown General store in Tatamagouche is stocked with all the essentials and homemade goods you'll ever need.

Planning a stay on the north shore, where beaches are plentiful and the water is warm(er)? Spend a night inside one of seven train cabooses at the Tatamagouche Train Station (21 Station Road), and sip an afternoon away at Tata Brew Co. (235 Main Street). You can even head to the old Earltown General Store (5556 Highway 311) for homemade sweets, jams and jellies.

About The Author

Victoria Walton

Victoria was a full-time reporter with The Coast from April 2020 until mid-2022, when the CBC lured her away. During her Coast tenure, she covering everything from COVID-19 to small business to politics and social justice. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, she graduated from the University of King’s College...

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