The HalifaxWaterfront stretches several city blocks, and every inch of it has fun things to do. It’s certainly a tourist destination, but there’s plenty for locals to enjoy along the way. Some of the following activities are seasonal, but there are also indoor activities and some that are just available year-round. One activity that’s not listed here is simply walking down the boardwalk—walking from place to place takes you through a vibrant micro-community along the water’s edge.
Seaport Market An indoor year-round option, the Seaport Market has been going in many different forms since 1750. Open seven days a week, they have so many vendors it would take a whole article to list them all. Suffice it to say that you can explore literally dozens of options and try local food, jewelry, spa products, and crafts. Go on an adventure, chat with local vendors, and bring lots of reusable bags for all of your findings.
Address: 1209 Marginal Road
Casino Nova Scotia
If you like to gamble, the Casino’s at the far north end of the Waterfront. It’s a state-of-the-art casino with all the traditional games, from 500 different slot games to the quieter six table poker room. Even if you’re not into playing the games, the casino is still a great destination. They have three separate restaurants, all with great food and a view of the Harbour, and their buffets are astoundingly good deals. On top of that, they host frequent music events, so you can check out a concert after your day exploring the city!
Address: 1983 Upper Water Street
Cows Ice Cream
Cows will have a line out the door on every sunny day, and there’s good reason for that. Of course, their ice cream is fantastic; they’re an ice cream place, after all, and they have an impressive amount of flavours. They also have fantastic waffle cones with tons of different dipping/sprinkle options. Their other selling point, of course, are their T-shirts. There is no franchise, pun, or place that’s safe from a cow pun, and that’s as it should be. Get ice cream and a T-shirt and have a moonderful day.
Address: 1891 Upper Water Street
Built in the mid-1800s, this collection of buildings now holds both modernity and tradition in a delicate balance. There are stores that sell clothing, jewelry, Nova Scotian memorabilia and gifts, and flowers. They even have a barbershop, if you’re interested in getting a haircut in a building that’s been around for almost two centuries. There’s several places to eat too (technically Cows is part of Historic Properties, but it’s a separate building), but if you want to just eat something familiar from wherever you come from…there is a Subway.
Address: 1869 Upper Water Street
Harbour Hopper The Harbour Hopper is an experience aboard a bright green vehicle that starts at the Waterfront, drives up around downtown Halifax, then plunges into the Harbour. It’s an amphibious vehicle, so you can see Citadel Hill, the Halifax Public Gardens, and many other sites before you roll right into the water. The tour guides are great and informative; my family and I went once, and despite being native Haligonians we still learned a lot. Plus, you get to go into the water while being in a giant truck, you can’t beat that. Make sure to wave to people on the sidewalk.
Address: 5050 Salter Street
If you just want to go on a boat, I recommend the Silva. Murphy’s on the Water has a few different boat tours, but the Silva is my favourite. The Silva is a Tall Ship, so you get to enjoy a traditional sailing experience. You get to hear all about Halifax Harbour’s history and see George’s Island up close. They also offer special types of cruise, like craft beer nights and DJ nights. You can even have your wedding aboard!
Address: 1655 Lower Water Street, Halifax
Portrait and Face Paint
This is an option mostly available during the summer months, particularly during holiday weeks. You’ll have to walk around to find them because they don’t always set up in the same place, but you’ll find people willing to either decorate your face or decorate paper with your face! And they don’t discriminate by age, I’ve seen some spectacular full-face decorations across the board. Here’s a great idea: do both! You can get your face covered with butterflies and then get a lovely caricature done before you get ice cream.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Whether you need to escape the heat or the cold, this is a great museum to explore. The museum has great permanent exhibits about everything from steamships to shipwreck artifacts to Theodore Tugboat (yes, the fictional character from the TV show). They also have new exhibits; right now, they have one about women and the sea in Nova Scotia. This is also a research museum, which provides a reference library to the public and collections of sea-related artifacts. Come and explore the history of the sea you see before you.
Address: 1675 Lower Water Street
Food Hut Court
Okay, that isn’t exactly what it’s called—in fact, I don’t think the collection of huts actually has a name. But I worked at one of those huts for three summers, I can dub it the Food Hut Court if I want. In all seriousness, this is a great place to take a pause during your day. As of the 2019 season, there are 9 huts all close together, and they offer everything from pizza to power bowls. It gives you a variety of choices so everyone in your group can get what they want, and you can enjoy your feast at one of the nearby picnic tables.
Website for the full list
The Wave I’ve often said that the most pointless sign in Halifax is the one at the base of the Wave. Close to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, it’s a sculpture of a wave. It’s very beautiful, but it has a sign at the base that basically says, “do not climb”. And yet there are always at least half a dozen children climbing on it, and I’ve seen other people climbing on it. They’ve even put softer groundcover down around it, you know, in case people fall when they’re not supposed to climb. Now, I’m not going to say you should climb it, because the sign says not to, but it is a fun place to hang out, with benches around and some lovely ships docked nearby.
The Stubborn Goat Beer Garden is a wonderful extension of the bar of the same name. They have a small menu of locally sourced wonderful food and drink options that are perfect for the boardwalk, and you also get to sit by the water and enjoy a more casual meal. They have live music regularly throughout the season, and you’ll also get to take in whatever else is going on at the Waterfront that day. Sitting in the middle of this beautiful part of the boardwalk, it’s a great place to toast the sunset.
Address: 1599 Lower Water Street
This is a two-part attraction. The first part are buskers with a small b, scattered up and down the Waterfront performing (my favourite is the guy who plays Star Wars on the bagpipes). There are regulars, but there are also people who come down to try their luck; there’s always variety. Then, of course, there’s Buskers with a capital B, a yearly festival at the end of July where buskers come from all over the world and there are fair-like games and stands set up. I’d check them both out—there’s some great local talent, but the Busker’s week is a chance to see people from around the world and celebrate with other people. My biggest suggestion for that week is to bring snacks, water, and change, because those are the things you’ll wait in line for the longest.
Pier 21 Museum of Immigration
Pier 21 was the first Canadian port for immigrants between 1928 and 1971, and it was where the soldiers left for World War II. It’s now a museum dedicated to the history of immigration. They have permanent exhibits and temporary exhibits, neither of which shy away from the darker parts of immigration history. This is another research museum, and some of those resources are available to the public, including the Scotiabank Family History Centre, where you can trace your family’s genealogy.
Address: 1055 Marginal Road
Fountains on the Boardwalk
On hot days, it can feel a bit weird to be walking past so much water, but you can’t jump in and swim (please don’t do that, the water is cleaner than it used to be but it’s still the Harbor). Fortunately, there’s a solution for that. Just before Bishop’s landing, there are fountains set into the ground. When they’re on they give everyone an option to run around in the water, get cooled off, and just play. It’s a good place to keep in mind if you’ve got little ones, or if you’ve got people with you who don’t like the heat.
Near the southern end of the Waterfront, Bishop’s Landing is kind of like a courtyard of shopping and dining for visitors, along with some beautiful condos. They have some higher end locations like Bishop’s Cellar (a wine store) and Alexa Pope, but they also have Sugah! (another great Waterfront ice cream spot) and the Rum Runners Rum Cake Factory. If you’re hungry, there’s the Sea Smoke Restaurant and Bar, A Mano’s, Little Oak, and more. There’s something interesting at every place, and it’s a good place to finish your day along the Waterfront.
Address: 1475 Lower Water Street
By: Adrienne Colborne