This was my fourth visit to Halifax Nova Scotia on a Canada & New England cruise. All the other visits, I arrived under cloudless blue skies with a gentle sea breeze. In good weather, I’ve leisurely walked for hours admiring much that Halifax has to offer, all within a few miles of the harbor.
Five Must-See Places in Halifax, Nova Scotia
However, today was different. With drizzly skies and a very brisk spring wind, I decided to break my usual routine and chose for ship’s bus tour. Despite the weather, I was going to visit one of the most photographed locations in the Atlantic Provinces, Peggy’s Cove. This was my first tour outside of Halifax.
Heading Inland to Peggy’s Cove
The rain let up enough so that we could queue up for the motor coach without getting soaked. Most everyone carried an umbrella and wore some sort of rain parka. The smartest folks had parkas with hoods. The distance to Peggy’s Cove was only a forty-five minute bus ride. The tour guide pointed out bits of history and popular landmarks as the bus slowly meandered through downtown traffic and out of the city.
As our coach turned off the highway and onto the rural routes, the scenery definitely became quite interesting. Towards the end of the Ice Age, as the glaciers made their slow march across the tundra, hundreds of enormous granite boulders were deposited along their paths to the sea.
These oddly-shaped, huge grey boulders that dot the landscape give the area a unique and rugged appearance. Sort of moon-like. But these rocks are not the main attraction that brings thousands of visitors to Peggy’s Cove each year.
Standing as a sentinel atop an uneven network of granite boulders, the 100+-year old Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, is possibly the most photographed lighthouse in Canada.
Nearly fifty-feet tall and sporting the eight-sided, pyramidal form of typical Victorian-era lighthouses, this building is a huge attraction for not just tourists, but artists and photographs from around the world. It’s easy to see why. Even our bleak weather lent itself to beautiful scenes highlighted by this still-operational lighthouse.
Enough time was included so that whomever wanted to walk the very short distance into the very tiny town, could do so without worry of missing the bus. A seafood restaurant stood at the top of the hill very near to the lighthouse.
The walk downhill towards the town revealed a quaint gift shop, a coffee shop and a working wharf, with stacks of lobster traps and coiled ropes in a multitude of colors.
Back on the bus, people were munching on their leftover oyster crackers that were given to them with their chowder at the hilltop diner. Some folks snoozed while others listened attentively to the tour guide who managed to point out more interesting bits of lore the entire way back to the port.
Back in Halifax at Pier 21
If you don’t want to take one of the ship’s many shore excursions in Halifax, there is plenty to do within walking distance. Located at the Halifax Seaport is the historic Pier 21, the only remaining immigration shed in Canada.
Opened in 1928 and in continual use until 1971, the building saw the arrival of nearly one million immigrants. It now houses the Canadian Museum of Immigration and showcases the trials and tribulations faced by the immigrants as they arrived in Canada.
Walk to the Citadel
Head west a few blocks to the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, located high above George Street. Rebuilt in 1856 on the grounds of the original fortress from 1749, the Citadel played a major role in naval defense for the British Empire. Several ship shore excursions include a trip for a guided tour inside the Citadel.
If weather permits, take a stroll along the Halifax Harbourwalk which extends nearly two miles into downtown Halifax. Along the way you might see a majestic tall ship moored alongside the walk.
You’ll pass lovely cafes and trendy pubs, aromatic chocolate shops and upscale souvenir stores. Be sure to purchase a souvenir box of freshly-made fudge to take back to the ship. It’s a nice sweet treat that you can’t find on board. Take a left turn at Prince Street and continue a short distance to Lower Water Street to the Brewery Market where you can learn the process of beer making.
Continue your walk along Lower Water Street and you’ll end up at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Nova Scotia’s rich historic maritime past is remembered as well as it houses a permanent Titantic exhibit.
A bit of the macabre awaits those who venture over to Fairview Cemetery. This is where 120 victims of the RMS Titanic disaster are buried. Staggered rows of square granite headstones all have the same date of death inscribed: April 15, 1912. Of the 120 victims recovered, only two-thirds were ever identified.
Because Halifax, Nova Scotia was the nearest port to the sinking, rescue ships were dispatched from the seaport, only to return with the 120 bodies and bits of personal belongings. The cemetery has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years.
It is possible to visit both Peggy’s Cove, explore downtown Halifax on a self-guided walking tour and still have time to meander along the Harbourwalk. Don’t forget to buy some homemade chocolates and fudge candy. too.
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