Nova Scotia's best road trip: lobsters and lighthouses
Experience quintessential Nova Scotia seascapes, seafood, and seafaring history on an enchanting coastal drive.
Explore postcard-perfect fishing villages with National Geographic photographer Dan Westergren on a five-day road trip in Nova Scotia from Halifax to the Bay of Fundy via the South Shore’s famous 211-mile Lighthouse Route. Every bend in the winding route reveals a stop-worthy harbor, lighthouse, or opportunity to meet the locals and feast on fresh lobster. So, take it slow to soak up the scenery and enjoy the fresh sea air.
TOP FIVE REASONS TO GO
- See and photograph historic lighthouses, wooden fishing boats, and classic coastal views.
- Eat fresh-from-the-docks lobster, scallops, and fish.
- Visit working fishing villages, charming seaside enclaves, and pristine coastal parks.
- Explore the Old Town Lunenburg UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Experience the raw natural power of the Bay of Fundy’s world-famous high tides.
DAY 1: PEGGY’S COVE
Photograph an Iconic Lighthouse
From Halifax, it’s only an hour’s drive southwest to Peggy’s Cove, home to one of Nova Scotia’s most famous shining lights: Peggy’s Point Lighthouse. Built in 1915, the classic red-and-white beacon stands watch on a small, weathered-rock peninsula jutting out into the ocean. The pounding surf dramatically crashes over the weathered rocks at the base of the lighthouse, creating jaw-dropping images for your Instagram feed. When taking photographs, stay safe on shore by walking only on completely dry rocks.
INSIDE TIP: “In summer, the lighthouse can be pretty crowded with tourists,” says Westergren. “To avoid the crowds, go at sunrise and you’ll have the place pretty much to yourself.”
Visit an Old-School Fishing Village
The lighthouse isn’t the only iconic Nova Scotia image worth capturing in Peggy’s Cove. Designated as a preservation area, the tiny fishing village retains its authentic, rustic charm. Explore the waterfront on foot to visit the handful of gift shops and art galleries. Photograph colorful fishing boats bobbing in the cove; lobster traps stacked on shore; and brightly painted blue, red, and yellow cottages dotting the landscape. End the day back at the lighthouse to watch the sunset.
INSIDE TIP: “There’s a great food truck regularly parked at the cove where you can have your own lobster boiled for a picnic, but I really recommend their lobster roll,” says Westergren.
DAY 2: PEGGY’S COVE to LUNENBERG
Explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The 80-mile ride from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg hugs the coast, passing through historic coastal communities, such as Chester and Mahone Bay. Spend time exploring Old Town Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered North America’s best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement. Established in 1753, the town retains its original grid-pattern layout and regional architectural features, such as a five-sided dormer called a ‘Lunenburg bump.’ See Old Town Lunenburg’s historic waterfront from the water on a sunset cruise aboard the Eastern Star, a historic 48-foot wooden ketch.
INSIDE TIP: “If you’re in the area on a Sunday, go to the Saltbox Brewing Company in Mahone Bay to listen to traditional maritime music,” says Westergren.
Embrace Maritime History
Mid-May to mid-October take a deep dive into Nova Scotia’s rich fishing heritage at Lunenburg’s Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Housed in a former fish processing plant, the museum is a treasure trove of all things maritime. Meet sea creatures native to Nova Scotia in the Marine Life Gallery. Attend the Lobster Lore talk (typically offered twice daily) for an in-depth look at the famous crustacean and its enduring connection to Nova Scotia’s coastal communities.
INSIDE TIP: “For dinner, try The Grand Banker Bar & Grill’s signature “Lunenburger,” says Westergren. “It’s a ground beef burger topped with cheese, bacon, spinach, and Nova Scotia lobster knuckle and claw meat.”
DAY 3: LA HAVE, BARRINGTON, and LOWER ARGYLE
Roll Aboard a Historic Cable Ferry
From Lunenburg, continue southwest on the Lighthouse Route (Route 331) toward Barrington—Lobster Capital of Canada. On the way, embrace the maritime vibe by crossing the LaHave River via the LaHave Ferry. The cable ferry carries cars and passengers on a fun and scenic five-minute voyage from East LaHave to LaHave. Bring cash for the budget-friendly fare ($7 per vehicle) and roll aboard at quarter of or quarter past the hour. After disembarking historic LaHave, stop in at The LaHave Bakery where the specialties of the house include home-style baked sweets and breads made from locally grown, fresh-milled grains.
INSIDE TIP: “On the way from LaHave to Barrington,” says Westergren, “it’s worth stopping at Summerville Beach or one of the other beautiful beaches along Nova Scotia’s South Shore.”
Visit Nova Scotia’s Southernmost Point
Perched at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, Barrington is a working fishing community with a rich lobster-fishing heritage dating back to the mid-1800s. See wharves lined with colorful Cape Islander fishing boats. Watch fishermen unloading their daily catch. Head south from Barrington and cross the causeway to Cape Sable Island. At the end of the island you will find The Hawk Beach, a white sandy beach revealing a 1,500-year-old drowned forest at low tide. From the beach—one of the best birding areas in Nova Scotia—you can see the Cape Sable Lighthouse, Nova Scotia’s tallest at 101 feet. Feast on fresh lobster at Capt. Kat’s Lobster Shack before checking in at the Argyler Lodge, about a half hour’s drive west in Lower Argyle.
INSIDE TIP: “Join seven-time World Champion log roller Darren Hudson at his place along the Barrington River to learn the skills of axe throwing, log rolling, tree climbing, and competitive sawing,” says Westergren.
DAY 4: YARMOUTH, DIGBY, and WOLFVILLE
Tour the “French Shore”
Lower Argyle is part of southwestern Nova Scotia’s Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region, nicknamed the “French Shore” for its historically Acadian population. As you wind north along the coast toward Yarmouth, look for the blue, white, and red Acadian flag (with its signature gold Stella Maris, or Star of the Sea, in the top left corner) flying from many homes. Near Yarmouth, arrival port for the Maine – Nova Scotia high-speed ferry, see the unusual, apple core-shaped lighthouse at the Cape Forchu Lightstation. Walk the light station grounds to take in sweeping views of Yarmouth Harbor, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Bay of Fundy. Visit the museum inside the Lightkeeper’s House to learn about Yarmouth’s sea-faring history.
INSIDE TIP: “June to October, the chef at the Argyler Lodge runs a great lunch spot [The Keeper’s Kitchen] at the lighthouse,” says Westergren.
Reid Camero, who works at Halls Harbour Lobster Pound, holds a large five-pound lobster. Since the fishing season for lobsters is only three months long, excess catch is kept alive in lobster pounds for use throughout the year.
Witness the World-Famous Bay of Fundy Tides
From Cape Forchu it’s about 70 miles up the coast to Digby, world famous for its Digby Scallops. See the scallop fishing fleet at Digby Wharf and try freshly harvested scallops at local favorites, such as the Shoreline Restaurant and Gift Shop and Churchill’s Restaurant and Lounge at Digby Pines Golf Resort. After lunch, make the 85-mile drive north to Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound, one of the best vantage points to watch the world-famous Bay of Fundy tidal show and where you can get a fresh, authentic lobster dinner. Twice daily, 3,680 billion cubic feet of water flows into and out of the Bay of Fundy, creating a colossal tidal shift of up to 45 feet or more. At Hall’s Harbour at low tide, see huge lobster boats grounded on the floor of the bay. At high tide, watch the harbor quickly (as fast as an inch a minute) fill with water, lifting the boats. To taste how the tidal winds and cool coastal climate influence grape-growing regions across Nova Scotia, head east to Wolfville for wine tasting and dinner on the patio at Luckett Vineyards. The winery is one of a dozen producers of Nova Scotia’s signature wine, Tidal Bay. The crisp, white wine—made entirely from Nova Scotia-grown grapes (mostly L’Acadie Blanc, Vidal, Seyval, and Geisenheim 318)—was named the province’s first appellation wine in 2012.
INSIDE TIP: Westergren suggests taking a low tide, coastal hike in the Minas Basin at the head of the Bay of Fundy. “The tide rushes in and out every six hours, so careful planning is required,” says Westergren, who, for safety’s sake, recommends downloading a tides app for your phone. “At low tide, park at the Kingsport Beach parking lot and head left along the coast. It’s a 90-minute [one way] walk to a group of sandstone cliffs and outcrops with tide-worn holes.”
DAY 5: ADVOCATE HARBOUR AND CAPE D’OR
Climb a Landlocked Lighthouse
The final 170-mile leg of the road trip leads around Minas Basin via Truro to the north shore of the Bay of Fundy. Just west of Truro, stop for a bowl of Seafood Chowder or a slice of Atlantic Seafood Pie at the family-owned Masstown Market, where you can climb the landlocked Masstown Lighthouse. From here, it’s a 30-mile drive west to Five Islands Provincial Park, which boasts stunning sea cliffs and magnificent views of the Bay of Fundy’s world’s-highest tides. If time allows, spend an hour or two hiking or beachcombing in the park.
INSIDE TIP: “Take a hike in Cape Chignecto Provincial Park,” says Westergren. “The Eatonville day-use park offers an accessible trail system with great views of the 600-foot sea cliffs. Or, book a ‘Three Sisters Day Tour’ with Nova Shores Adventures for the ultimate Bay of Fundy scenic experience.”
Bunk in a Lightkeeper’s House
The last lighthouse on the route arguably is one of the best: Cape d’Or. Located five miles south of Advocate Harbour, the square lighthouse is dramatically perched on a cliff shelf at the head of the Bay of Fundy. As the tide starts to come in, stand on the grass surrounding the base of lighthouse—or on the dry rocks just below—and look down at the surging waters. If possible, enjoy a meal and stay overnight at the Lightkeeper’s Kitchen and Guest House on Cape d’Or during a new moon. When the sky is clear, stay up late (or get up before dawn) to marvel at the Milky Way while looking up at the lighthouse.
INSIDE TIP: “Staying at the Lightkeeper’s Guest House was a highlight of my trip, but it’s not for the faint of heart,” says Westergren. “It’s a shared house with four, basic bedrooms, however, the view is unsurpassed and the food is great. But bring cash. No credit cards are accepted.”
HOW TO TAKE THIS TRIP
Fly to Halifax and rent a car at the airport. Follow NS-102 S and Lighthouse Route/NS-333 W 46 miles to the starting point in Peggy’s Cove. From here, continue south primarily along the coastal Nova Scotia Lighthouse Route/Route 3 (occasionally heading slightly inland on NS-103 W) for 141 miles to Yarmouth. From Yarmouth, drive north along the Evangeline Trail/Route 1 (or the parallel NS-101 N) for 148 miles to Wolfville. Drive east and then west around the Minas Basin (via Nova Scotia Trunk 2 N) for 166 miles to Advocate Harbour.
WHERE TO STAY
Spend the first night close to Peggy’s Cove in Indian Harbour where the Oceanstone Seaside Resort offers suites in the main lodge, guest rooms in an adjacent inn, and private cottages. In Lunenburg, stay on the waterfront at the Brigantine Inn or in the heart of Old Town at The Mariner King, a restored Victorian home-turned-inn built in 1830. At the Argyler Lodge in Lower Argyle, check the calendar for special events, such as the Acadian Kitchen Party or Lobster Bay Culinary Adventure. In Wolfville, learn more about how the Bay of Fundy tides influence grapes grown in Nova Scotia by staying at the elegant Tattingstone Inn, a bed-and-breakfast located close to several Annapolis Valley wineries. End the trip at the no-frills Lightkeeper’s Kitchen and Guest House at the Cape d’Or Lighthouse.
TRAVEL TIP: The best time to drive the route is June to October, since some restaurants and attractions are closed or have limited hours during the offseason.