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By Jennifer Van Allen
On vacation, everyone’s looking to feel good, loosen up, and celebrate with old friends and new. And in Nova Scotia, they’ve not only perfected this vacation mindset, they’ve gamified it with the Good Cheer Trail. Known for its abundance of wineries, cideries, microbreweries, and brewpubs, Nova Scotia is a veritable orchard of local flavor and fresh fermentation. Here, it’s safe to say your glass will always be half full (at minimum).
While you explore all the delicious options, you’ll collect stamps and memories alike. So grab your passport (as provided at all trail stop locations), assemble a few friends, and read on for where to stop to keep the good times pouring.
Get whisked away at a winery
The cool climate, coastal breezes, and rich soil make Nova Scotia ideal for cultivating grapes, which is probably why Nova Scotia is one of the first places in North America where wine was made, all the way back in the 1600s.
Today, the winemaking tradition is more vibrant than ever. Nova Scotia boasts its own appellation, the crisp, aromatic Tidal Bay, and is home to more than 17 wineries and vineyards, 11 of which are in the Annapolis Valley, the area’s up-and-coming wine destination.
Situated on the western part of Nova Scotia, along the shores of the Bay of Fundy in the shadow of the North and South Mountains, the mild climate and fertile soil produces a unique array of varietals, including Marechal Foch and L’Acadie Blanc. Combine your visit with a trip to the farmers’ markets, or one of the pick-your-own farms nearby, and you’ll get to savor a complete taste of the region.
Be sure to take one of the many guided winery tours and vineyard tastings so you can get a taste of wine country while you let someone else do the driving. The Wolfville Magic Winery Bus offers a hop-on, hop-off excursion that stops at five local wineries, plus some tidbits about the region’s history and its connection with food.
On the Tidal Bay Wine Tasting Adventure with Uncork Nova Scotia, you’ll get in-depth tours of three award-winning vineyards and cellars, and private tastings of the region’s finest wines. You’ll be well fed along the way, enjoying local cheeses, charcuterie, a lobster lunch, and decadent desserts. You’ll also get spectacular views of the Minas Basin, where the world’s highest tides ebb and flow.
Don’t miss one of Nova Scotia’s newest wineries, the five-star Lightfoot & Wolfville Organic Vineyard, nestled between Wolfville and the Landscape of Grand-Pré UNESCO World Heritage Site, which opened in 2017. There, you can enjoy Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and other German-styled whites specifically selected for the unique growing conditions in this microclimate.
The vineyard’s Terroir Series (Terroir is French for “earth” or “soil”), showcases small-lot wines that evoke the land. Situated on a hilltop, the vineyard offers breathtaking views of Cape Blomidon and the Bay of Fundy, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular wedding venue.
Sample the cideries, microbreweies, and brewpubs
Nova Scotia has a long tradition of apple growing, and some of the first trees planted there produced cider apples. There’s been a resurgence of craft cideries in recent years. You can tour the cideries, meet the craftsmen, and sample the fruits of their labors. At Annapolis Cider Company in Wolfville, you can see the cider being made. At Meander River Farm and Brewery, you can tour the 189-acre farm that features 2.5 acres of hops, a microbrewery, lavender fields, lush gardens, the highest waterfall in the county, and enjoy samples of the handmade products created on the farm. Plus, coming in the fall of 2018, the Maritime Express Cider Company will open its cidery and taproom in what was once the stone patio of an iconic railway hotel located in Kentville.
Nova Scotia is home to more craft breweries per capita than any other province in Canada. You can find a directory from the Craft Brewer Association of Nova Scotia, or take your visit during Craft Beer Week starting May 5, which features more than 15 events all over Nova Scotia. If you’re to try one local brew on your trip (but why stop there?) go for the favorite of maritimers and Canadians alike: Keith’s. Brewed nearby at Keith’s brewery market, this beer comes with local approval and an annual celebration. Mark your calendars on October 5 to celebrate Alexander Keith’s birthday bash, this year ringing in the 223rd anniversary of a local hero and brewmaster.
You can hop on the Halifax Beer Bus to learn about the scene and see hot spots like Good Robot Brewing Co. and other breweries, brewpubs, and beer bars throughout Halifax and Dartmouth. Don’t miss the brewpubs, where you can pair a favorite locally brewed beer with seafood fished fresh from nearby waters.
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If you’re craving adventure, head for Nova Scotia and don’t look back