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By Jennifer Van Allen
Whether you get there by car, plane, or high-speed ferry, once you arrive, there is only one way to truly experience the exhilarating beauty of Nova Scotia’s stunning forests, majestic mountains, and rocky coastline. It’s with an outdoor adventure. Your biggest challenge will be choosing the perfect one (or two or three!) adventures to make your visit memorable.
1. Camp out
Nova Scotia brims with opportunities for camping. It has nine campgrounds in its two national parks and more than 110 private campgrounds, many of them in and around its 20 provincial parks. And this abundance of parks truly showcases the natural world at its most spectacular. Like Thomas Raddall Provincial Park, a nature lover’s haven overlooking Port Joli Harbour on the province’s south shore. It’s just across the harbor from Kejimkujik Seaside National Park, with four migratory seabird sanctuaries nearby and plenty of forest between campsites for a peaceful, secluded experience. If you plan to explore the world-famous Cabot Trail coastline, you’ll wind through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where the terrain ranges from lush, forested river canyons to rust-coloured cliffs and old-growth forests. The park offers equipped camping and oTENTik cabin tents at Cheticamp, Broad Cove, and Ingonish Beach. Not into roughing it? East Coast Glamping’s chichi tents and opulent accoutrements can be accommodated through a number of campgrounds across Nova Scotia.
2. Explore the deep blue sea
With more than 8,200 miles of coastline, Nova Scotia is an ideal destination for those who love the sea. Start at the Maritime History Museum of the Atlantic on Halifax Harbourfront to get an overview of the province’s maritime history, from small-craft boat building to wartime convoys to the wreck of the Titanic. For more hands-on learning, explore the tide pools and taste some succulent seaweeds — with Gael Tours’ Plankton, Periwinkles, and Predators. Then, get out on the water! There are loads of options for kayakers, in both the historic harbors and the inland lakes and waterways, or board any number of local boats for an unbelievable whale watching tour. “Awe-inspiring” may be a cliché, but seeing any of Nova Scotia’s 12 species of whale breach the ocean’s surface, lunging out of the waves and re-entering with a plume of water, well, no other phrase quite fits. Summer and fall are the best times to witness this marvel, and there are several outfitters who will enhance your experience with lively commentary and local tales.
3. Hang ten
From August to November, moderate temperatures and complex breaks of every kind make Nova Scotia a hot spot for experienced surfers, especially when hurricanes and nor’easters leave robust swells in their tracks. It’s also the perfect place to catch your first wave if you’ve been longing to try. Popular locations range from Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park, just 25 minutes from Halifax, to White Point Beach Resort on the South Shore and Point Michaud Beach Provincial Park in Cape Breton. Several outfitters offer lessons and equipment rental for surfing, kite-surfing, and paddleboarding. The views of scrubby dunes, jagged cliffs, and a blaze of fall colors along the shore are a bonus.
4. Adrenaline awaits
Surfing is far from the only option Nova Scotia offers adrenaline junkies. There’s also rock climbing, kiteboarding, biking, and, for something really different, tidal bore rafting. The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world—sometimes reaching over 50 feet — and twice a day the rushing waters temporarily reverse the flow of the usually serene Shubenacadie River, creating a cresting wave that turns the river into a crazy rollercoaster. Outfitters like River Runners, Shubenacadie River Adventure Tours, and Shubenacadie Tidal Bore Rafting Resort offer two- to four-hour trips on motorized inflatable rafts. But you needn’t stay in the boat — during your trip you’ll stop to get down and dirty with mudsliding down the 45-degree banks, a Nova Scotia tradition. Be sure to dress for the occasion!
5. Hit the links
The impressive variety and world-class quality of Nova Scotia’s golf courses attract enthusiasts from around the globe and keep them coming back for more. Among the breathtaking courses on Cape Breton Island, three made SCOREGolf’s top five in Canada last year. Cabot Links and its sister course, Cabot Cliffs, are both set along the craggy bluffs of Inverness, and the latter has been called the Pebble Beach of Canada by Links magazine. The Highlands Links, on the eastern side of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, provides a different but no less beautiful view, of rolling hills along a cool ocean backdrop. If you’re visiting the rugged sea coast of the Northumberland Shore, Fox Harb’r Resort, one of only five 5-star resorts in Canada, has consistently ranked among the country’s top destination resorts since it opened in 2000. Its 18-hole and par-3 courses were both designed by Golf Hall of Fame architect Graham Cooke. The resort also has a tennis center, skeet shooting and sporting clay, a blissful spa and wellness center, a deep sea marina, and a private airstrip. Because even the beauty of nature is better with a little extravagance.
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