1. Visit Peggy’s Point Lighthouse
Peggy’s Point Lighthouse in Peggy’s Cove, so named after the tale of a young woman, the only survivor from a shipwreck, is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world and one of over 150 to be found in this province. Kids will happily spend hours climbing over the smooth rocks and exploring the area, although parents should be cautious as the sea can be rough and unpredictable. A walk around the quaint fishing town and a stop for ice cream completes your visit. Before heading away from the area, drive five minutes down the road to Polly’s Cove hiking trails, which provide an easy walk to stunning ocean views. Nearby Oceanstone Seaside Resort has self-catering cottages on the beach and plenty of activities for children, including s’mores evenings and a scavenger hunt, if you feel like extending your visit.
2. Stroll Down the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk
You can easily spend an entire day walking the boardwalk in Nova Scotia’s capital city. You’ll find numerous attractions, shops, restaurants, art installations, and a cute little train trolley that makes trips around the downtown area leaving from the boardwalk. Grab an ice cream cone from Cows and find yourself a bench while the kids play at the ocean-inspired playground featuring a giant wave sculpture (which they are technically not allowed to climb). Shipping containers have been repurposed here to act as pop-up restaurants or small stores, and the seasonal sea bridge is a floating dock, which moves with the tide. On cooler days, you can head inside to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and learn about the million new Canadians that arrived between 1928 and 1971.
3. Take a Trip to the Halifax Discovery Centre
The Discovery Centre is a huge multi-floor museum and learning centre for children of all ages and makes an excellent indoor day trip in the winter or on cold days. Challenge your kids to make some tunes on the musical stairs, which light up and make noise as you ascend to more floors of fun. The museum aims to teach little ones about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) topics in an immersive and interactive environment. Make some memories inside the shower-style contraption that puts you and your child in the middle of a soapy bubble, then prepare to spend time where the Lego creations are made, which is conveniently located next to the cafe so moms and dads can grab a refreshment while the kids play.
4. Hop on the Ferry to Dartmouth
Halifax offers more than enough attractions and activities for a vacation by the water, but if you fancy seeing another city, hop on the ferry to Dartmouth. Kids will love the journey which costs just $2.50 for adults and $1.75 for children. Once in Dartmouth, explore the waterfront area, which offers beautiful views of Halifax before popping into the Alderney Landing Cultural Community Centre, which is used for community and arts events, a farmers’ market and festivals throughout the year. For lunch or supper, head to The Canteen for the best “crobster” rolls, made with fresh Nova Scotia lobster and snow crab. Junior diners can indulge in colourful kids mocktails and don’t forget to head to the washroom before leaving to check out the whimsical pineapple wallpaper and cheeky artwork that adorns the walls.
5. Drive to Lunenburg
Lunenburg is just over an hour from downtown Halifax and is well worth the drive. Check out the pretty candy-coloured colonial buildings and houses in this UNESCO World Heritage Site before feasting on fish and chips, or go whale watching aboard a 45-ft boat. With Nova Scotia Whale Watching Tours you’ll hopefully spot a whale or two, but also keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, puffins, seals, and turtles. The three-hour tour passes lighthouses, the Ovens sea caves, and provide great opportunities to photograph the Lunenburg harbour. Just outside of town is the Halifax & Southwestern Railway Museum where kids can learn all about the local railroad history and marvel at the model train on display.
6. Relax at White Point Beach Resort
If you just need to get away from it all, visit the beautiful stretch of white sandy beach at White Point on the South Shore. The White Point Beach Resort offers a full program of kid’s activities, including beach games, face painting, nightly movies, and s’mores around the campfire, as well as a 9-hole golf course, yoga classes, and an on-site spa. If rain keeps you inside, take the kids to the indoor swimming pool or play in the games room. Kids under 5 eat for free and there are a range of room styles, including cottages, hotel rooms and full vacation homes.
7. Step Back in Time at the Halifax Citadel
From the sky, you can see that the Halifax Citadel is in a star shape, typical for military forts of the time. Take in the view over Halifax and the waters below from the top of Citadel Hill and get a glimpse at what the British soldiers back in 1749 could see when the town was founded. It’s easy to get into character as soldiers in full regalia march around the fortress and perform military exercises, including the firing of the noon gun. Kids six years old and up can even sign up to a three-hour experience as they become a soldier for the day. They will be fitted for a uniform, complete drills and, if they are over 16, they can even fire a rifle. Younger kids will be given an official field drum to play.
8. Experience the Bay of Fundy
In the Bay of Fundy, your family can witness the highest tides in the world as you make your way over trails and are treated to phenomenal views, like the balancing rock at St. Mary’s Bay. Called “Nature’s Time Post,” this basalt column seems to stand up in the ocean by magic and makes an amazing backdrop for family photos. You’ll need to plan ahead and check the tide times before making your visit so that you don’t miss out on some of the attractions that are only accessible during low tides, like the Burntcoat Head Park. Kids will enjoy exploring mud flats and tidal pools that will later be under 50 ft of water when the tide comes in. Guided tours are available for a fee led by Bay of Fundy experts.
9. Explore Kejimkujik National Park
Kejimkujik National Park and Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct Provincial Park are part of the same national park separated by 62 miles. Here you’ll find lakes, forests, beaches, camping spots and petroglyphs carved onto the slate rocks by the Mi’kmaq people. Families will enjoy the white sandy beaches at Kejimkujik Seaside. Bring your shovel and pail for a day of sandcastle building and splashing in the water of the lagoons. Work up an appetite for your picnic lunch by hiking the trails around the park or climbing up onto seaside rocks. Spot a red chair along the route and take a break, these chairs have been supplied by Parks Canada with the express purpose of encouraging visitors to stop and take in the beauty all around them.
10. Walk the Skyline Trail on Cape Breton Island
Some spots here can be a little dangerous for young children, but with caution, it may just be the best memory of your entire trip. Ascend the boardwalk steps at Headland and make your way to the top of the Skyline Trail where you’ll get a view of the Cabot trail. You can choose to stay the night by camping at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Parents with small children (or those in search of a less rugged experience) may consider booking an oTENTik, which is a mix between a cabin and a tent and allows you to experience the great Canadian outdoors but with the comforts of home.
11. Whitewater Raft on the Shubenacadie River
Adventurous families will enjoy getting out on the water on a Shubenacadie River Adventure Tour with 6-ft tidal rapid swells on a white-water rafting experience. The company has 22 years of experience leading water adventures. At low tides, the banks of the river can reach 25 ft and makes for an amazing mudslide. The mud and the silt in the river can stain fabrics so dress everyone in old clothes and be prepared to get wet and messy. Once back at the lodge, the whole family is treated to a BBQ lunch provided with the purchase of your rafting ticket.
12. Hunt for Blue Beach fossils
Visit the Blue Beach Fossil Museum, to learn about remarkable fossils. Don’t miss the bones of a fossilized giant 5-meter monster that crawled on fins. After learning all about the basics of what to look for when fossil hunting, head over to the Blue Beach, just a short walk away, to search for your own specimens. There’s a boardwalk at the beach and sand dunes for kids to explore when they have finished their fossil hunt.
13. Surf the Nova Scotia Shore
Enjoy the waves of the Atlantic by learning to surf at the East Coast Surf School, where kids and parents can take surf lessons in either private classes or in groups. Cost includes the rental of wetsuits, safety briefings and an experienced teacher. Kids as young as five can learn to surf, and classes are taught in waist-high water—although it’s important that they are water smart and know how to swim. The best time to surf in Nova Scotia is from August to November but be prepared for chilly water.
14. Be a Beach bum
One of the most popular family activities all across the Nova Scotian coastline is simply enjoying a relaxing day at the beach. There are over 100 beaches to choose from along the 7,600 kilometres of sparkling seacoast. You can choose between white sands, rocks, tidal pools, pebble beaches or dip your toes in freshwater lakes. The appeal of the beach is easy to see in the warm months of summer but don’t neglect them in the colder months, as they still offer walking trails, opportunities to snowshoe and those beautiful views, which impress all year round.
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