Nova Scotia’s natural beauty can be found in every corner of the province. The coasts show off stunning oceanic sights, while inland Nova Scotia has woods and earthen beauty galore. Everyone has their favourite spots, but these 25 are generally considered to be can’t-miss. One note: there are two places on this list within the Cape Breton Highlands Park, but they’re awesome enough that they deserve their own entries.
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is one of my strongest childhood memories; driving down for my uncle’s wedding, we drove past and I thought pigs would be super happy there because there’s so much mud. I was very confused the next day when we drove back and there was water everywhere. The tides in the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world, and in one day you can see the Bay change completely. Walk along the edges while there’s water, do some adventuring when the tide is low, and take in the enormous power of the ocean.
This island is a well-known ecotourism destination at the edge of the Bay of Fundy (see above). Take the ferry over and explore the hiking trails, look for minerals and rocks like amethyst, agate, and zeolite, and then eat at the lodge perched on the cliffs. You can stay at the lodge overnight and head out the next day on one of the many whale watching tours, or simply take advantage of a bird’s eye view of the fishing boats, tidal shifts, and maybe a whale or two. Details
Joggins Fossil Cliffs
These remarkable cliffs are a UNESCO heritage site. There was once a coal mine in these 300-million-year-old cliffs, but it is now a learning-focused site for geological and scientific research. You can take a tour of the beaches, look for fossils, and explore the institute as you hear about current research. Imposing and starkly beautiful, these cliffs are a fantastic place to get into a rockier aspect of Nova Scotia’s history. Details
Blomidon Provincial Park
Blomidon is a provincial park that has something for everyone. It has spectacular scenery, lots of trails, and since it’s in the Minas Basin (an inlet of the Bay of Fundy), you can experience Fundy’s crazy tides. Bring your gear and camp at one of the seventy camping sites so you can drink in the full beauty of this wide and wonderful park. Details
This is definitely a sillier natural wonder, but wonder doesn’t have to be just about the sublime and magnificent. Sometimes it’s just thinking “I wonder how that happened”. It’s a very large balancing rock on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, and it hangs in space, defying gravity and providing great options for pictures. If you’re spending a few days in the Bay of Fundy Area, I highly recommend walking along the trail and up the 235 wooden stairs to gaze at this 20-tonne marvel. Details
This national park has many things to recommend it. It’s a great place for camping for one thing, especially since it’s a Dark Sky Preserve (which means that you’ll be able to see the stars very clearly). It’s also well-known for its hiking trails, ranging from easy to very difficult. It’s also a culturally important place for the Mi’kmaq people, and you can learn about their history with the place on your visit. Finally, there’s a wide diversity of wildlife on land, sea, and sky, which also means that there’s plenty of research going on within the park, some of which citizen scientists can help with. Enjoy your trip, watch out for bears, and witness how forest and coastal beauty meet. Details
George Fraser Slot Canyon
If you want to have an adventurous hike, George Fraser Slot Canyon is the place to go. It’s not a very long hike (about 3 km), but it’s 3 km past a waterfall and down to a slot canyon about 150 feet deep. There’s another waterfall in the canyon itself, so you get to see two! This is a challenging hike, and while there are ropes to get you in and out of the canyon, please exercise caution while hiking, and consider bringing your own climbing gear to see these stunning waterfalls. Details
Sable Island is probably best known for its horse population, and the ponies are lovely. But when you have to get a private plane or boat somewhere, you already know that it will be a less touristy place. The quiet island is also home to seals, many bird species, and other incredible examples of biodiversity. When you’re in Nova Scotia you’re on a peninsula; it doesn’t really feel like an island. But when you’re standing on this island in the middle of the sea, it’s impossible to escape the thrill of being alone. Whether that’s scary or exciting is up to you. Details
Cape Smokey is a fascinating place, because it’s been many things over the years. It’s part of the Cabot Trail, you need to drive over it to get to Ingonish and beyond, and it’s also been a ski hill on and off. It’s currently under operation again, which is great because the terrain is fascinating, but it’s also just a beautiful place to explore. It’s very close to being a mountain (about 100 m off), so it’s not an easy hike, but the view from the top is spectacular. I highly recommend coming in the fall, because the colours are intense and lovely, complementing the blue of the ocean perfectly. Details
Uisge Ban Falls
Uisge Ban means white water in Gaelic, and there’s plenty of that at these falls. At the end of a 4 km trail through a hardwood forest lies the falls themselves, 16 m high (50 feet). Even better, you’re in a gorge with 150 m (500 feet) tall walls on either side. If you’re visiting Baddeck, pack a picnic and go find the “uisge ban”. Just remember to wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet!
North Bay Beach
There are many beaches in Nova Scotia, but this one is one of my favourites. North Bay Beach is in the Cape Breton Highlands Park in Ingonish, and it’s a beautiful beach. With rocks and white sand, it curves along the bay and it gives you a great view of the ocean and Whale Island (which is also a cool place to go), so check it out. If you feel adventurous, try a swim in the water, but be braced for a chill! Details
This lake is a saltwater lake in the middle of Cape Breton Island which is absolutely beautiful. It’s currently a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO (in 2011) because of its unique ecosystems. It’s home to many fisheries, bald eagle nesting areas, and pink jellyfish who don’t sting too badly. There’s also historical significance because this is where Alexander Graham Bell had Bell Labs and tested several inventions, including the first flight of the Silver Dart. It’s a truly special place to swim, boat, and explore, with plenty of undeveloped land alongside cottages. If you like saltwater but are nervous about swimming in the ocean, go to Bras D’Or Lake. Details
Cape Breton is home to many capes of its own. This particular Cape can be difficult to find, but the journey is well worth it. Follow the instructions in the link below, and you’ll go on a beautiful drive towards Margaree. Keep your eyes peeled for the turnoff, and with some driving and a bit of walking, you’ll reach this outcropping of white stone. It’s at an elevation of 1500 feet, and gives a spectacular view of the North Margaree River and the surrounding land. Make sure you bring snacks; you may feast your eyes on the view, but your stomach probably wants something more like cookies. Details
On the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, there’s a small fishing village in Meat Cove. It’s isolated in a harsh part of the province, but it’s also one of the most beautiful places in Cape Breton. You can camp in the middle of gorgeously stark scenery with a riot of colours, great people, and celebrate journeying to the north end of the Cape. Details
Battery Provincial Park
Another beautiful provincial park, Battery is on Cape Breton Island, close to Sydney. Here you’ll find remnants of the days of yore, including the remnants of two old forts and a lighthouse. There are several trails within the park, most of them connecting the many camp sites. You can watch the ocean move through St. Peter’s Canal into the Bras D’Or Lakes, or you can explore the woods to find the perfect sheltered camping spot, all within a reasonable distance. Details
This is another stop along the Cabot Trail, which is a huge trail that goes through Cape Breton and will be talked about in more detail in an upcoming article. Chéticamp has a thriving Acadian culture, and the surrounding ocean and forest gives you a huge range of options for activities. They have guided nature tours available, so you don’t miss a thing, and you can even go horseback riding. It’s a charming, beautiful part of Cape Breton to explore, so even if you’re not on the Trail you should look in on Chéticamp.
Cape Breton Highlands Park
This is it, the big park holding so many of the previously mentioned areas. The park as a whole deserves a mention though because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Stretching across a huge part of Cape Breton Island, exploring this park gets at the heart of why Cape Breton is such a beautiful island. Drive between communities, go hiking and camping, look for moose and bald eagles, and take as many pictures as you like, because the magic of this park is that time seems to slow, so you can enjoy and record the moment all at once. Details
Peggy’s Cove is so well-known as being key to the Nova Scotian tourist experience that it’s easy to overlook its wilder beauty. The fishing village is charming, and the restaurant near the lighthouse has excellent food, but when you climb (carefully, follow the signs) up the rocks, you gaze out at the ocean where other than the other tip of the cove, there’s no land until Bermuda. Wait for a windy day (not a hurricane day) to visit, and you’ll see the raw majesty of the ocean that is believed to be tame, but is always ready to show us that it reigns supreme.
100 Wild Islands
This is a unique archipelago off the coast of Nova Scotia. They’ve been largely untouched by humans, and have tremendous biodiversity. They even have rainforests (not tropical ones, obviously, but that still sounds cool). The area of the Wild Islands is now protected, but you can still go and visit this magical cluster of islands by guided kayak tours. Details
Crystal Crescent Provincial Park
Crystal Crescent is a provincial park that, to me, embodies the coastal beauty of Nova Scotia. There are three beaches, all connected by a boardwalk, where you can walk in any season and enjoy the sparkling water. If you’re up for more of an adventure, you can take a hike, either all the way to the end of the boardwalk or around the loop that is about 11 km and requires a fair bit of hiking experience to get to Pennant Point. Bring some snacks and have a picnic, go for a swim (wait until it’s warm out), and enjoy the sea breeze and the sand under your feet. Details
This island sits in the Halifax Harbour like a sea-cloud, dark with trees and mystery. While the reports of ghostly sightings are likely exaggerated, there’s plenty of natural wonder to be found. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of bird species that call the island home, and there’s plenty of other wildlife and plant life fit for all naturalists. You also get a great view of the Harbor, and if you want you can camp overnight so the adventure doesn’t have to end. Details
Halifax Public Gardens
Now this one is a bit tricky, because it’s manmade, but I think that the natural beauty of these gardens counts as a wonderful natural experience. The gardens are home to beautifully arranged flowerbeds and ancient trees, a lovely lake and some tropical plants—those are new, and they include pineapple, coffee, and banana plants. Did you know pineapples start off red? It’s a nice little oasis of colourful flowers in a city that’s full of trees, but not so many flowers. Details
Point Pleasant Park
If you’re looking for something wilder than the Public Gardens, check out Point Pleasant Park. This park is full of trees, having made great strides of recovery since Hurricane Juan. There are plenty of trails, some old buildings, beaches (look for porpoises and seals), and a gazebo! Come and explore on a foggy day and lose yourself in this patch of wilderness so close to civilization. Details
If saltwater isn’t your thing, Nova Scotia also has lots of lovely lakes. Lake Banook connects to Lake Micmac in Dartmouth and has a long history with the Mi’kmaq people. Lake Banook is famous for rowing, and there’s a canoe club where you can rent a seacraft of your choice. You can also swim or simply sit along the shore and watch the sun sparkle on the lake. It’s a beautiful, restful watery patch of wild easily accessible from nearby cities; the best of both worlds. Details
Shaw Wilderness Park
This place is both a recent creation and an old tradition; the areas contained within the park are well-established for hiking and swimming, but the park as a whole was established as a wilderness park quite recently. In fact, it’s only officially opening this year as a conservation spot for local flora and fauna. You’ll find everything from simple walks in the woods to complicated backcountry hiking, so take some time to plan your adventure into the latest effort to protect nature within an urban setting for animals and humans alike. Details