Crimson leaves, juicy apples hanging off the branches in orchards just begging to be picked, and workers feverishly harvesting grapes in the vineyards. These are just some of the signs of fall in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, which is one of the best areas on Canada’s east coast to enjoy autumn.
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This region is conveniently located less than a one hour drive north of Halifax, and its unique topography of gentle slopes and farmland is prime for winemaking and agriculture. With the Minas Basin and the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy on its doorstep, coastal adventures like tidal bore rafting, boat tours and scenic hikes also await.
From leaf peeping to playing in pumpkin patches, here are some of the best things to do in the Annapolis Valley during fall.
See the famous fall colours in Nova Scotia
Prime time for autumn hues is usually around early to mid-October, when the picture-perfect valley is transformed by the fiery-red, golden yellow and dusty orange foliage that makes photographers swoon.
One of the top spots to see the seasonal splendour is from the Look Off, a roadside pullout on the top of North Mountain near the village of Canning. The patchwork-like landscape has rows of vineyards, parcels of farmland, thick forests, and views out to the Bay of Fundy.
Drive along the back roads that wind past Port Williams, Wolfville and along the coast to see the Nova Scotia fall colours; Benjamin Bridge winery has one of the best vantage points thanks to the surrounding slopes, and Luckett Vineyards has views of the Gaspereau Valley from their restaurant.
Visit the Annapolis valley wineries
The Annapolis Valley is at the heart of Nova Scotia winemaking, and the area is known for its acidic l’Acadie grape which thrives in cold temperatures and produces Tidal Bay, a local favourite named for the province’s first wine appellation.
There are more than a dozen vineyards scattered around the valley in Wolfville, Grand-Pré and Gaspereau, serving up full-bodied varietals in gorgeous tasting rooms framed by stunning surroundings.
Some of the top wineries in Annapolis Valley that combine both great wine and scenery are:
Benjamin Bridge: This winery gets top marks for its location in the Gaspereau Valley surrounded by gentle south-facing slopes and thick foliage, making it one of the best places to see fall colors in Nova Scotia.
The family-run operation harvested the knowledge of top winemakers from France to create the sparkling wines they focus on, best experienced through their 90-minute Terroir Tasting paired with locally-sourced charcuterie, honey from their bees and veggies from their farm.
Be sure to bring a few bucks to grab a can of wine from the vending machine that stands in the middle of the vineyards!
Planters Ridge: This artisanal winery is housed in a renovated timber frame barn that dates back nearly two centuries, and has an original natural wine cellar that stays the same temperature all year round.
Luckett Vineyards: Best known for the red phone booth perched among the vines (shipped directly from the UK in a nod to its owner’s British heritage), Luckett has views of the Gaspereau Valley and river from its massive outdoor patio, as well as all the fixings for a picnic.
Lightfoot & Wolfville: This winery focuses on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling, and has a beautiful tasting room featuring rustic wood beams, an on-site restaurant and plenty of outdoor space.
Blomidon Estate Winery: This winery is nestled on the shores of the Minas Basin, and guests are welcome to grab a glass of wine or tasting flight to enjoy at one of the tables among the vines or under the giant oak tree.
Gaspereau Vineyards: This boutique winery is best known for their rieslings, and fruit-forward robust reds that match the charming fire-engine red tasting room surrounded by vines.
Other great options include Mercator which makes artisan small lot wines and has a tasting room in a house that dates back some 200 years, 1365 Church Street Vineyard where the tasting room is surrounded by gardens and a 15 acre vineyard, and Grand Pré winery which overlooks the UNESCO Heritage Site and has an inn and excellent on-site restaurant called La Caveau.
Sample the Annapolis Valley breweries and distilleries
Not a wine fan? Switch it up by sampling suds at one of the many Annapolis Valley breweries, cideries and distilleries. Some top picks include:
- The Church Brewing Co. in downtown Wolfville, housed in a former 1800s Presbyterian church featuring gorgeous stained glass windows, a huge outdoor patio and on-site microbrewery.
- Wayfarer’s Ale House in Port Williams, which has incredible views of the rise and fall of the tides from its back deck, two tasting rooms (try their top-selling blonde ale, Hellene) and a restaurant.
- Sea Level Brewing holds bragging rights as the first microbrewery in the Annapolis Valley. There’s a retail store in Port Williams, and a tasting room in Sheffield Mills near Cape Split surrounded by an acreage where they grow barley, hops and fruit for the bevys. Brewery & Farm Tours are offered, so guests can see how the family-run operation makes their craft beers and ciders.
- Schoolhouse Brewery was started by a teacher whose hobby was all-grain brewing, and he eventually launched the company in a former school house in Falmouth and used a mini school bus to do deliveries. The brewery soon outgrew the space, and the new school-themed taproom is found just off the main strip in Windsor and has a huge outdoor patio.
- Barrelling Tide Distillery makes all of their hand-crafted spirits in small batches on-site, at their tasting room just outside of Port Williams. While the 5 Fathom Dark Rum is a best-seller thanks to its unique molasses infusion, other popular picks include the cherry liqueur and Tide vodka sodas.
- Annapolis Cider Company is a fun spot in the heart of downtown Wolfville with a gorgeous tasting room and outdoor patio, which are both great places to sip their gluten free, fruit-forward ciders. Using fruit grown in the surrounding valley, the menu features a rotating list of seasonal specialities which can be enjoyed as full pints or a tasting flight.
Visit a pumpkin patch
Ever seen a 1300-pound pumpkin before? You can do just that at the Dill Family Farm in Windsor, which has a collection of so many monstrous pumpkins it will leave you saying ‘oh my gourd!’
The homestead has been around since 1878, and a visit to their pumpkin patch is one of the best things to do in Nova Scotia during fall, especially for families. Kids love checking out the giant gourds, and picking out one of the more-reasonably sized pumpkins for sale to make jack o’lanterns.
There’s also a food truck, and other veggies like squash for sale.
For even more pumpkin-palooza, head over to Kentville to see the so-called Pumpkin People. The annual Pumpkin People Festival runs through the entire month of October, and sees gourd-headed guys pop up in spots all around town.
Head to the coast and soak up the scenery
For a change of scenery from farmland and orchards, head north to the coast to check out the Annapolis Valley beaches.
The picturesque fishing community of Halls Harbour is a hotbed of activity during the summer months, so those who visit during fall are in for a treat since the crowds are gone and spots like the wooden boardwalk that winds around the harbour are more peaceful.
You’ll also be able to secure a seat at the popular Halls Harbour Lobster Pound & Restaurant, which serves up some of the best seafood in the whole valley.
Continue east along the waterfront to Baxters Harbour, and end up at Cape Split for gorgeous views of the Bay of Fundy. There are a couple of coastal hikes that wind through forests towards lookoff points with views of sea stacks, basalt pinnacles and the tide-swept coastline.
The Minas Basin Trail is 6.2 km each way while Scot’s Bay Trail is 14 kilometres return. Both are rated as moderate difficulty, and take about four hours to complete.
There are also a few red sand beaches in the Annapolis Valley: one is Evangeline Beach near Grand-Pré, while another good option is Kingsport Beach which is just across the bay near Canning.
Back in Port Williams, be sure to head to the waterfront and wander along Starr’s Point Loop which has a front row seat to the rise and fall of the tides. The water level changes every 12 hours, and one of the best spots to see it is from the bridge that crosses over the Cornwallis River.
Both Wayfarers’ Ale Craft Brewery and The Port Pub and Bistro overlook the Loop, and have gorgeous views from their outdoor patios.
Eat fresh food from the Annapolis Valley
The Annapolis Valley is Atlantic Canada’s richest agricultural region, thanks to its swath of orchards, vineyards and wide open fields. There are more than 600 farms in the region, which are best known for fruit crops like apples which makes harvest the best time to visit.
Grab a jar of fresh honey, beeswax candles or lip balm at Wood’n’Hive Honey, see the sheep and pick up balls of wool at Gaspereau Valley Fibres, nosh on cheese samples and fresh gelato at the sixth-generation Fox Hill Cheese House, and visit a roadside u-pick for fresh produce like squash, onions, berries, apples and pumpkins.
Where to stay in the Annapolis Valley Nova Scotia
Planters Ridge: What’s better than sipping wine in a vineyard? How about staying at a vineyard! You can do just that at Planters Ridge near Port Williams, which has three beautifully renovated rooms in its 1864 farmhouse just steps from the tasting room. Each one has a private bathroom, and includes a European breakfast every morning.
oTENTiks in Grand-Pré: For a fun twist on the glamping craze, book an oTENTik in the heart of the Grand-Pré National Historic Site. There are eight canvas tents in an open field with sweeping views of the UNESCO site, and each one includes a picnic table, outdoor wooden deck, barbecue and the option to rent a propane fire ring.
Inside you’ll find a dining table, food prep area and bunk beds that sleep up to six people, and there is a set of outhouses nearby as well as covered bathrooms and showers in the main building.
Blomidon Inn: This historic inn was built as a private home in 1881, and has been operating as a charming inn for the last century. It features a flower-lined winding driveway, a wooden front porch outfitted with rocking chairs which are the perfect spot to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail, a cozy interior and excellent on-site dining. Click here to book
Evangeline: This former motel in Grand-Pré just a few minutes from downtown Wolfville has undergone a complete renovation, and the revamped rooms feature an airy, mid-century boho vibe.
Guests are also welcome to stay in neighbouring Borden House, which was built in 1858 and was the childhood home of former Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden. Historical touches include an original armoire and grand wooden beds, as well as a sitting area and library complete with decades-old books.
On-site amenities include the outstanding Longfellow Restaurant, a hot tub, and a hilltop deck that’s the perfect place for enjoying a glass of wine at sunset.
Globe Guide explored the Annapolis Valley in collaboration with Visit Nova Scotia
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