The Nova Scotia province of Canada is known for its 4,600 miles of rugged coastline, picturesque fishing villages and small coastal towns, rich history, and stunning natural beauty. These charming Nova Scotia towns offer visitors a glimpse into the province’s unique maritime culture along with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
5 Mahone Bay
For a taste of small-town charm, Mahone Bay is home to some of the most beautiful harbor views in Nova Scotia. Nestled on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, the small fishing village is a popular tourist destination due to its picturesque waterfront, charming architecture, and rich maritime history.
Mahone Bay is known for its three historic wooden churches nestled on the waterfront, namely, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. James’ Anglican Church, and Trinity United Church,. The churches date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the view of the three spires strung like pearls across the water is a popular subject for photographers. The town is also home to a number of historic homes and buildings dating back to the 18th century.
After admiring the town’s attractive architecture, head to the main street where you’ll find restaurants and retail therapy such as antique stores, boutiques, galleries, and markets.
4 Blue Rocks
Blue Rocks is a small fishing village located on the south shore of Nova Scotia near one of the most popular Nova Scotia towns, Lunenburg (see #2 below). The quintessential fishing community is named after the blue granite rocks scattered along the shoreline.
The South Shore area of Nova Scotia is infamous for its legalized pirates in history called “privateers” who were legally allowed to attack foreign ships during wartime.
Famed for its picturesque coastal views, colorful fishing boats, and lovely old homes, Blue Rocks’ ability to seem untouched by modernization has led to its popularity with photographers and artists since the 1940s. A popular attraction is the Blue Rocks Trail, a scenic hike along the coast offering dazzling views of the ocean and surrounding countryside.
Calling all history buffs! Want to take a step back in time to 1744? Here’s your opportunity to relive history at Louisbourg Fortress. Described as “the jewel of all Canadian historic sites,” the reconstructed fortification is a one-quarter partial reconstruction of an 18th-century French fortress on the rocky shore of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia which was once a thriving seaport and capital of Cape Breton Island.
The fort was built to protect and provide a base for France’s lucrative North American fishery and to protect Quebec City from British invasions. It is an accurate representation of a French garrison with much of the original materials repurposed during the restoration.
The entire complex is a huge living museum with costumed actors scattered about the streets and extensive lovely gardens, re-enacting town life during the 1700s. You can strike up a conversation with armed guards, visit the chapel, get some cooking tips from a servant, or grab it bite from the bakery.
Lunenburg is a picturesque fishing village on Nova Scotia’s south coast. Founded in 1753, Lunenburg was one of the cities in Nova Scotia where the British tried to settle, introducing Protestantism to Canada.
The town’s historic district is a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the best examples of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. The layout of the main street along the bay has remained the same and is lined with a charismatic array of 18th-century candy-colored wooden houses hosting antique stores, bistros overlooking the water, galleries, boutique shops, and seafood restaurants stacked closely together to create a magical vibe.
Fun Fact: Lunenburg is home to the famous Bluenose Schooner—the ship illustrated on the Canadian dime.
1 Peggy’s Cove
Located on the eastern shore of St. Margaret’s Bay in Nova Scotia, postcard-perfect Peggy’s Cove is a small fishing village world-famous for its scenic rocky coastline. Peggy’s Cove is without a doubt one of the most charming Nova Scotia towns.
Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, built in 1915, is arguably the most iconic sight in Nova Scotia and the most-photographed and painted lighthouse in Canada. Dramatically standing sentry 49 feet high on massive granite boulders, visitors are treated to panoramic views of the coast. Take caution of the violent sea below, though, where lives have been lost for those who ventured too close to the rogue waves.
If you’re a photography buff, you won’t find a more picturesque spot to shoot. In addition to the lighthouse, you’ll find an utterly adorable village of colorful wooden cottages and shops. It’s also an idyllic spot to catch the sunset.
We visited Nova Scotia as part of our incredible Holland America Line New England and Canada cruise. Be sure to check out these other gorgeous places we visited.
Here are articles about all the ports I visited during my Holland America cruise that you may be interested in:
- Holland America Cruise to Canada & New England Review
- 10 Acadia National Park Photo Spots You Can’t Miss!
- Relive History at Louisbourg Fortress (Nova Scotia)
- These 5 Charming Nova Scotia Towns Really Exist!
- 12 Best Things to Do in Prince Edward Island
- Beautiful Places in Quebec City for Instagram Envy!
Most photos by Kary Kern.
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Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Holland America Line during her stay, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of the “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.
She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the next few months.
Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.