Nova Scotia's South Shore is magic but, with so much to see and do, it's hard to know where to begin. I have spent the past 16 summers in this beautiful corner of the world and have the inside scoop just for you.
1. TAKE THE OLD ROAD
There are two ways to travel between the picturesque towns along the South Shore: the highway, surrounded by trees, trees and more trees, or the old road, called the Lighthouse Route. This scenic roadway spans from Halifax to Yarmouth and offers beautiful views of the ocean along the way. There are many charming communities worth visiting, but the must-see list includes Peggy's Cove, Chester, Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. Each offers spectacular views and a variety of seaside shops and restaurants. If you want to drive off the beaten path, cruise the cottage-filled winding roads of Sunnybrook just outside Mahone Bay, or head down my favourite, Green Bay Road in Petite Riviere and stop at the canteen to enjoy an ice cream on the rocks at the beach (I highly recommend the sea salt caramel).
2. TREASURE HUNT
Fill your luggage with East Coast treasures from one of my favourite shops. In Lunenburg's Down Home Living, check out the charming original art by shop owner, Tessa and the the folk art seagulls carved by her husband. Stop into Dots and Loops for modern and fun home decor. Pick up a bottle of fruit liqueur from Ironworks Distillery. Their strawberry liqueur, made with local strawberries, is hands down the yummiest drink I have ever had in my life. You are going to want to take home every single thing in My Home Bay, in Mahone Bay. For antiques, take a look in Mother Hubbard's Cupboard (Hubbards) Blue Shutters Antiques (Chester), or the just-opened Tina's 'Tiques (in a church in Broad Cove). Visit Tom and Peter in Petite Riviere at their art studio The Maritime Painted Saltbox.
3. TASTE THE SEA
You would have to move here full time to truly take advantage of the incredible variety of restaurants on the South Shore; but here's a start: head to the Sou'wester in Peggy's Cove for their world-famous seafood chowder, the Rope Loft in Chester for fresh mussels on their dock, the Broad Cove Cafe for chef-inspired dinners that change weekly, the Lahave Bakery for sweet treats and the South Shore Fish Shack in Lunenburg for seafood with a view. If you want a true east coast experience, go to one of the monthly breakfasts, or seafood suppers hosted at a local firehall.
4. HIT THE BEACH
This corner of Nova Scotia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Rissers Beach provincial park, complete with a campground, a lifeguarded beach and a boardwalk along an inland marsh, is one of my favourites. Just down the road lies Crescent Beach, where you can drive your car right onto the sand. If you are looking for a beach day within reach of Halifax, try Queensland or Hubbards.
5. GET SPORTY
One of the best ways to explore this region is on the water. Cape LaHave Adventures offers guided kayak tours and rentals in Mahone Bay and near the LaHave Islands. They also offer paddleboard rentals. For a truly Nova Scotian experience, sail aboard the Bluenose II.
How ever you choose to spend your time on Nova Scotia's South Shore, I can promise you this: you will leave wanting more.