Nova Scotia’s south shore is a perfect spot for a weekend away from the big city, or a brief stint as part of a larger tour of the province.
Home base for two nights away will be Lunenburg, a small town on the southern shore of Nova Scotia. It is quaint and pretty, with colourful houses and fishing boats docked in the harbour. This description could suit many Nova Scotian and other Atlantic Canadian towns. Lunenburg differs, however, because the entire old town, established in 1753, is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of all the planned British colonial settlements in North America, Lunenburg offers the best surviving example. The town is laid out in a grid pattern, an easy-to-navigate, orderly layout of streets filled with cafes, restaurants, and cute shops.
Lunenburg is a one hour drive from Nova Scotia’s capital city of Halifax, and only an hour and a half from the Annapolis Valley, making it a great weekend destination, easily accessible after work on Friday.
Have a late supper at The Grand Banker Seafood Bar & Grill, a seafood restaurant and pub with craft beer on Montague Street.
Spend the night at one of Lunenburg’s many historic bed and breakfasts, or at the clean and simple Smuggler’s Cove Inn on Montague. In the evening, wander across the road to Elizabeth’s Books, one of the three bookstores in town, that is only open in the evenings. It resembles more of a book museum, and is a great place for searching for hidden treasures.
Saturday morning breakfast can be had at Savvy Sailor, a café on Montague serving up hearty brunch, homemade jams, and fresh espresso.
Spend the day taking in the shops in Lunenburg. We managed to spend the whole morning in the other two bookshops, Lunenburg Bound – a new and used combo, with a well-read and engaging owner – and Lexicon Books (they have such a cute website!).
Before lunch, head down to the harbour and see the newly refurbished Bluenose II.
Lunch can be had at any of the excellent cafes in town, but the Carrot Coconut Soup and fresh scones at Kate’s Sweet Indulgence was delicious.
The afternoon can be easily spent in the quaint shops in town, including the sleek and modern Pentper, the packed Shop on the Corner, and Dots and Loops. Don’t forget to pop into the many galleries with art and photographs from local artists.
Before dinner, take a walk around the harbour via Tannery Road, past the public school, in order to see the complete image of the picturesque town, a perfect spot for photo ops. For those who are interested in golfing, the course is visible from this point as well.
For a special dinner, try Rime Restaurant + Wine Bar. Or, for a more adventurous night, head to Lincoln Street Food, with a freshly selected, small menu, and an open kitchen. The lentil fritters were excellent!
Weekend nights are still quiet in Lunenburg. Due to the town’s UNESCO designation, no big-box stores are permitted within the old town, including grocery or liquor stores, making it sound more like you’re staying in a rural country inn rather than the middle of town.
Start your Sunday morning with a freshly roasted Laughing Whale coffee from Shop on the Corner, roasted on-site. Not only do they have the cutest mugs, and the coffee is delicious, but the baked goods are worth bringing home. Help yourself to another biscotti and cappuccino.
After checking out of the inn, spend the day touring Mahone Bay, just a 15 minute drive from Chester, and home to the picturesque Three Churches on the water, and the well-known Mahone Bay Quality Shoe Store. Have lunch there, or, just twenty minutes farther down the road, in Chester. Graves Island Provincial Park is accessible from here, as is the yacht club and the Chester Playhouse.
From Chester, the drive back to Halifax is less than an hour, and you’ll be home in time for dinner!