How best to follow up a fun, informative day exploring Halifax? We opted for a five-stop day trip, beginning with a guided walk in picturesque Lunenburg and ending with a hike in peaceful Polly Cove. In between, we made planned stops at Blue Rocks and Peggy’s Cove and an unplanned visit to Oak Island. Total driving distance approximately 250 km (155 miles); total driving time = 3 hrs 40 minutes; total trip time of 8 to 9 hours.
Old Town Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. We opted for the “Essential Lunenburg” guided walking tour. Over an entertaining and educational 90 minutes, we learn about the British settlement of Lunenburg, about its wooden architecture and a little bit about Lunenburg today.
Since we were walk up customers for the walking tour, we planned our drive so that we’d arrive at the Lunenburg Academy meeting spot about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time. In addition to registering/paying for the morning tour, that gave us a few minutes to wander the grounds. A National Historic Site, the former school is now a multi-purpose building, housing the local library, artist studios and small businesses.
While the wooden architecture is the visual star of this tour, the true value of the guided walk came from how the guide brought the history of this Grand Banks fishing settlement to life – through sharing her family’s history in Lunenburg and stories about the families who lived in the colourful houses and attended the elaborate wooden churches over the past 250+ years.
Tales of early hardship, courtship, boarding houses, garden plots and fishing gave way to how tourism is an essential aspect of the town’s economy today. The 90-minute tour ended at the boardwalk along the harbour, where we headed off in search of the Savvy Sailor Cafe and lunch!
Rested and re-fueled, we walked to the UNESCO World Heritage Site plaque and then the other way along the harbour front before finally climbing the steep hill up to the Lunenburg Academy, where there’s plenty of free parking.
Before leaving town, we drove around the harbour to the Bluenose Golf Club, which has a terrific view of the colourful buildings along the town side of the harbour.
Returning towards town, we found a small public beach that offered the best vantage point for a panorama.
Thanks to a recommendation from Halifax-area photographer Dave (we met him during one of our night photography outings), our second stop of the day was Blue Rocks – just 10 minutes from Lunenburg. Although short, the route is a tiny bit convoluted and hugely scenic.
Once we found an empty roadside spot for parking at Blue Rocks, the geology, bright yellow sea grasses, a few boats and colourful kayaks provided plenty of photo opportunities. We also spent several minutes gathering the information required to log the Blue Rocks Archipelago earthcache.
We are long-time fans of The Curse of Oak Island (who knew a treasure hunt could take so many seasons). But a visit to Oak Island didn’t come up during our trip planning. So this was a spur-of-the-moment destination, prompted by a mileage sign that included Oak Island. We drove the shoreline-hugging roads, past Mahone Bay (where the Oak Island team often gathers at the pub), and finally drove across the causeway to a graveled parking lot outside the Oak Island Interpretive Centre.
Inside, we enjoyed a close-up look at many of the bits and bobs, mysterious carved stones and other “significant finds” the team has uncovered over the past seven seasons. It’s a popular destination – we were told that Oak Island tours are sold out through next year! So it’s just as well this didn’t come up during our trip planning or we never would have stopped. But we did, and I’m sure we’ll grin like fools every time the team gathers at the Interpretive Centre next season.
Peggy’s Cove is 80 km (50 miles) or about an hour’s drive from Oak Island. We stopped short of the colourful village and popular lighthouse – about 5 minutes away – at a small, unmarked gravel parking lot large enough for 3 or 4 vehicles. Why? Another earthcache!
And while we stopped for the earthcache, we stayed for the views of Peggy’s Point Lighthouse. From the rocks at Cranberry Cove, the hordes of tourists at the lighthouse looked like a swarm of ants!
We finally continued on through the village of Peggy’s Cove and pulled into the large parking lot for the lighthouse. Our stay there was brief – just long enough to say we’d been there and to take a few photographs to prove it! 🙂
Within five minutes of pulling out of the crowded Peggy’s Cove parking lot, we pulled into another gravel lot, with room for five or six vehicles – trailhead parking for the Polly Cove hiking trail. We headed out along the 3.5 km (2 mile) loop to get a little movement in before the drive back to Halifax.
The trail offered beautiful views of the ocean and a unique view of the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse in the distance. We crossed paths with just 4 other hikers during our trek – quite a contrast to Peggy’s Cove!
The option we seriously considered for a day-trip from Halifax was to head north to the Wolfville area, to view the Bay of Fundy, hike to Cape Split and/or visit the Grand-Pré National Historic Site. We’ll probably travel back to this area, so what are your best recommendations for a day-trip in the Halifax area?