The Halifax Regional Municipality encompasses a large and vibrant area of Nova Scotia. The broad terms are that it includes Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Halifax County, which gives you literally dozens of communities to explore. You could spend months enjoying all that the HRM has to offer, but if you’re planning a shorter trip, here are 20 must-visits in the HRM.
Peggy’s Cove is a beautiful area of Nova Scotia, celebrating living by the sea in many brilliant ways. The main attraction is, of course, the lighthouse on the rocks (do not step on those rocks if they are wet. Or go near the edge of the cliff. There are a million signs telling you not to, so listen for your own safety). There’s a restaurant and souvenir shop right next to it, and they do very well at both. But there’s so much more to do, depending on the season: hiking trails, kayaking, golf, and beach walks are just some of the options. Come and see a beautiful cove named for a mysterious girl!
Shore Club (Hubbards)
Nova Scotia has fantastic access to Atlantic seafood, and the crowning jewel, of course, is lobster. There are several restaurants across the HRM that serves lobster dinners in season, but one stands out: The Shore Club. Now in their 84th year of operation, the Shore Club has won recognition on a national and international level for their lobster suppers. Their season is from Mother’s Day to mid-October, so there’s plenty of opportunities to make the 40-minute drive out for a truly wonderful experience. Aim for a Saturday, so you can enjoy the Dance Special.
Address: 250 Shore Club Road, Hubbards
If you like things on the spooky side, McNab’s Island is always a good bet. It’s the largest island in the Halifax Harbour, covered in big trees and a wide diversity of animal and plant inhabitants. When you go on the tour, you’ll learn all about this history of this island and explore the old forts and ruins. To learn more about the ghosts and the murkier parts of “Devil’s Island’s” history, you may have to press a bit, or look into the Friends of McNab’s Island website (linked below). If you want the full experience, you can even camp out on the island, all by yourself…
The Halifax Waterfront is a wonderful boardwalk along the Halifax Harbour. It’s a little bit like a small community, with restaurants, shops, art, and even hammocks (they’re super comfortable) along the way. Tourists and locals alike flock there when the weather is good, but even cold and cloudy days hold their own charm. With a warm waterproof jacket, you can walk along and experience a foggy solitude…that you can break any time by ducking into a café or restaurant.
This is a landmark that you can see from almost everywhere downtown; it is a very large hill, great for tobogganing. But it’s more than the hill—it’s the fort at the top, the current installation built in 1856. It was a military command post for the British Empire, and while it didn’t see action, it was good and ready for it. These days the Citadel is more of a museum with exhibits and re-enactments aplenty. And if you’re in the city around noon, don’t be alarmed—they fire off a noon cannon, but it’s just powder.
If you’re interested in shopping, there are a few options in the HRM. My suggestion is Dartmouth Crossing, a tiny village-like shopping area with everything you could ever want. My favourite place is Ikea, but they have dozens of clothing stores, houseware, jewelry, and services. And when you’re tired of shopping, you can visit one of the many restaurants. It’s a great destination for shopping, and the best part is that there are also two hotels with the Crossing, which makes it a great place to stay too!
Address: 34 Logiealmond Close
Shubenacadie Wildlife Park
Shubenacadie Wildlife Park is the only place on this list that’s just outside of the HRM, but it’s well worth the extra few minutes’ drive. Home to Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia’s weather procrastinator, the park houses dozens of animal species, the vast majority native to Nova Scotia. The park is set up with winding walks past enclosures of all kinds, with peafowl occasionally walking alongside you. It’s great for kids as it’s a relatively short walk with plenty of places to stop and sit. It’s fun the whole season (May-October), but I would recommend going earlier in the season, as there will be plenty of baby animals to see.
Address: 149 Creighton Road Shubenacadie
Point Pleasant Park
Point Pleasant Park is a gorgeous sprawling park beside the sea. “Rented” from the British government for just under 10 cents a year, the park holds dozens of beautiful trees, old ruins of forts, memorials, a tower, and a gazebo. The trails are great for walking, running, and walking your dog. A huge highlight during the summer months are the performances by Shakespeare by the Sea, a non-profit theatre company which puts on two Shakespeare plays and one family play each summer outdoors.
Address: 5718 Point Pleasant Drive
Halifax Common (The Commons)
If you enjoy a different kind of park, the Halifax Common (or the Commons, as everyone calls it) is sure to fit the bill. It’s technically two parks split by a street, but it’s all the same property. The green fields have a great playground, two diamonds (for both baseball and softball, depending on who wants to play), paved bike trails, a skate park, a small concert venue, and the Oval. The Oval is now multi-season; in the winter you can skate on it (for free!), and during the summer it’s paved over with concrete, making it perfect for biking and roller skating. And if you just want to relax, bring a blanket and a picnic and just hang out and watch the park’s activities.
Address: Address: 5816 Cogswell Street
Rainbow Haven Beach
It wouldn’t be the HRM without beaches; we are right on the coast of a province where you’re never more than an hour away from the ocean. I’ve chosen two of the most popular for this list. Rainbow Haven a lovely beach that’s got both sand and cobblestone, and the water is generally warmer here than at some of the other beaches. It also has a boardwalk (which if you haven’t been to the beach much is a great way to get dry sand off your feet—rub them with a towel and then walk on the boards, most of the sand will come off). They have supervised swimming in July and August, so that’s the best time to go.
Address: 2249 Cow Bay Road
The Harbour Hopper is not so much a destination as an experience of many destinations. It’s a bright green amphibious vehicle that takes a tour around downtown Halifax’s many landmarks, ending with a splash in the Halifax Harbour as it turns into a boat. You’re then taken past landmarks like George’s Island, and you end at the Waterfront on dry land. It’s a wonderful experience of Halifax on both land and sea. Make sure you wave to the people on the sidewalks; they’re likely to wave back.
Address: 5050 Salter Street
The second beach on this list, Lawrencetown has a very different vibe from Rainbow Haven. The water is generally cooler, and the beach is rockier, so it’s not great for sunbathing. It’s best known as a surfing haven, as the waves are truly fantastic for the majority of the year. You can take surfing lessons there; in fact, it’s the home of the East Coast Surf School. Pack a wetsuit (or buy one at one of the nearby stores), and catch some waves!
Once upon a time there was a railroad here, the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea line to be exact. But the trains stopped running and the rails got taken out, and now it’s a long, beautiful trail. Since it was a railroad, the terrain is predominantly flat, making it perfect for walking, running, biking, or even using all-terrain vehicles. You can access the trail at several points between Beechville and St. Margaret’s Bay Road, where it connects to the Chain of Lakes Trail. If you think you’ll get hungry (and you probably will), stop at the Bike and Bean, a converted café and bike shop at the French Village Train Station.
Address: There are several points of entry to the trail
Sir Sanford Fleming Park
This park sits along the Halifax Arm, and contains several points of interest. It has a trail of its own that is 2.8 kilometres, but it also connects to the Frog Pond Trail if you want a longer hike. There’s a small beach area next to the playground where you might find some sea glass, and you can watch the various boats sail through the Arm. If you like heights, the Dingle Tower is accessible between April and November. There are many flights of stairs, but the view at the top is incredible.
Address: Dingle Road, Halifax N.S.
The Neptune theatre is a major theatre in Halifax. It puts on several productions a year of both big name and smaller plays on its three stages. There are shows for everyone from young children to the well-experienced theatregoer. It’s right in the heart of downtown Halifax, so you can easily have dinner before or after the show.
Address: 1593 Argyle Street
Halifax Public Gardens
The Public Gardens are beautiful even when you walk beside the fence outside. It’s a Victorian-style garden, full of beautiful flowers and plants, majestic trees, and walking paths and benches perfect for contemplation. They also have an ice cream store, so it’s a nice outing for everyone on a bright sunny day. If you go in June, you’ll find the landscape explodes with colour as local high school students come in bright beautiful dresses and nice suits for prom pictures. There are also occasional wedding parties taking pictures, as they’ve done for several decades, my parents included.
Address: Corner of South Park Street and Spring Garden Road
Splash Adventure Park
Splash Adventure Park is the only permanent amusement park in the HRM, and one of the few in Nova Scotia. It’s a fantastic mix of the classic theme park (go-carts, mini-golf, Ferris Wheel) and a modern water park, with six new waterslides built in 2019 for all levels of daring. You can bring your own picnic, or you can visit the onsite food cafés with all the classic amusement park fare. Best of all it’s about 30 minutes outside of Halifax, so you can get there quickly and start your day of fun.
Address: 1200 Lucasville Road, Lucasville
Fisherman’s Cove feels like stepping backwards in time, which is very much the point. It’s a restored 200-year-old fishing village in Eastern Passage, and it looks like something out of a postcard (probably because there are pictures of it on many Nova Scotian postcards). Their cheerfully coloured buildings hold several fun shops (they even have a candy and ice cream store). They also have a couple different places to get food, so you can make a whole day of it. If you’re interested in the history around the place, they also have an aviation museum as well as the Fisherman Cove’s Heritage Centre, which houses artifacts and photos of local historical significance. Whether you’re from away or you live in the province, you’ll have an informative, beautiful day at the Cove.
Address: 4 Government Wharf Road, Eastern Passage
The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo
No, this isn’t a fancy body decoration. The Tattoo is a military musical show, started in 1979 to celebrate the International Gathering of the Clans. 41 years later, the Tattoo has become so much more, with performances all week long. There’s traditional step dancing, pipes and drums, military displays, and so much more, and it’s meant as entertainment for the whole family. The Tattoo is a non-profit charity that supports the military, the RCMP, and first responders.
Address: 1800 Argyle Street
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
The art history of Atlantic Canada and Nova Scotia in particular are beautifully displayed in this gallery. There’s also art from all over the world, creating a great sense of place and connections between different cultures that have enriched Canadian history. The highlight of the gallery in terms of local art is the Maud Lewis house, painted inside and out by the painter herself. Check out all the temporary and permanent exhibits, and finish your visit with a visit to the Pavia Gallery café.
Address: 1723 Hollis Street