With its picturesque lighthouses, charming fishing villages and beautiful beaches, the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Route is one of the province’s most scenic drives.
The 339 kilometre route winds along the South Shore between Halifax and Yarmouth, and features nearly two dozen Nova Scotia lighthouses with stops at iconic Peggys Cove and Cape Forchu. Since it’s a four hour drive each way, many people opt for a day trip from Halifax instead, by turning back in historic Lunenburg.
Here are some of the best stops along that shorter section of the Lighthouse Route, which makes for an incredible Nova Scotia road trip.
Note: This trip takes about three hours each way if you follow the coastline. To save time, drive directly from Queensland Beach to Chester, and take the main Highway 103 back from Lunenburg to Halifax for a total drive time of under four hours.
The first stop of the day is one of the most popular places to visit in Nova Scotia: the Peggys Point Lighthouse in the quaint community of Peggy’s Cove.
Located 45 minutes southwest of Halifax, the sleepy fishing village is the kind of place where people still use clotheslines and streets have names like Church Road and Lobster Lane. The hardy locals spend their days reeling in the likes of mackerel, tuna and lobster, and the coastline around St. Margaret’s Bay not only provides their livelihood, but also some dramatic scenery.
The village has gift shops, galleries and a restaurant serving up fresh lobster rolls, and those who wander down to the dock can check out the boats, nets and traps lining the shallow waters of the cove.
Of course the real highlight is the Peggys Cove lighthouse, which has served as a beacon for sailors and fishermen since 1868 and stands proudly on a bed of craggy boulders.
Continue to follow the Nova Scotia South Shore by heading back up the coastline to Queensland Beach.
This stunner of a spot is one of the best beaches in Nova Scotia, thanks to its brilliant white sand and clear, turquoise water. There are also change rooms and washrooms on site, so be sure to pack your suit if you want to go for a dip!
Make a quick pit stop in Chester, a picturesque seaside resort village with a handful of coves that’s best known for its summer yacht races. Stretch out your legs on the beach, and admire the boats docked in the harbour before heading downtown to check out the boutiques and art galleries.
Get a glimpse of Canada’s maritime heritage in charming Mahone Bay, a cute, colourful town nestled along the coast.
A pretty pathway hugs the shoreline, leading past steepled churches, waterfront cafes and restaurants. The main street is lined with grand, historic homes, and the quirky shops are a great place to pick up souvenirs like home decor, jewelry and quilts handmade by local artisans.
The final stop of the day is one of the best places to visit in Nova Scotia; the seafaring town of Lunenburg, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With a long history of rum running and ship building, it’s perhaps best known as being home to the famous racing schooner The Bluenose which is featured on the Canadian dime. After the ship sank off the coast of Haiti in 1946, it was replaced by the Bluenose II replica which is often docked in Lunenburg’s colourful harbour.
Globe Guide tip: Drive along Tannery Road toward the golf course for a great view looking back at the town.
The waterfront is where you’ll find most of the action, and top Lunenburg attractions like the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic which has access to the working wharf. Visitors can explore retired fishing schooners, see the aquarium, learn how to shuck a scallop and take a selfie with the skull of a fin whale, which quickly puts into perspective just how massive the mammals are.
The narrow Montague, Pelham and Lincoln streets in old town Lunenburg are lined with the bright facades of shops and restaurants. Look closely, and you’ll notice plaques to designate heritage properties dating back over a century.
Make a final stop at Ironworks Distillery which was Nova Scotia’s first micro-distillery. They produce more than a dozen spirits, including award-winning rum and fruit liqueurs using local ingredients like Nova Scotia apples, Saskatoon berries, raspberries and blueberries.
Enjoy some free tastings on site, then take one last walk along the waterfront which is the perfect way to end a day on the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Route.
This article was written in collaboration with Tourism Nova Scotia
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