Nova Scotia is well known for its natural beauty. You’ve got gorgeous beaches, thick forests, and rolling valleys. And you don’t have to go very far to enjoy some of the best sites on the mainland; within a 2-hour drive from Halifax, there are 25 great places to get into nature. Find your favourites on this list!
The CommonsThe Halifax Common (or the Commons to locals) is a huge park in the middle of the city. The park has a splash pad, several ball diamonds, paths for biking and walking, the Oval to skate on in the winter and roller blade or bike on in the summer, and a great playground and skate park. Between all of these features are huge expanses of green grass, so you can really do whatever you want. It’s a great place to have a simple day out in the sun. Just remember sunscreen and water bottles!
Address: 5816 Cogswell Street
The BLT Trail
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this trail rose from the end of the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea railroad. The trail is long and flat and wide enough that people can walk, run, bike, and even ATV side by side. Parts of it are paved, and while it does wind through some subdivisions, most of the trail is right in the heart of nature, where you can enjoy views of rivers and lakes, lovely trees, and occasional wildlife (mostly squirrels and birds). The best part of this trail is that you can get onto it at any point, and there’s benches every so often so you can take a break and just enjoy your surroundings.
Point Pleasant Park
This is one of the biggest parks on peninsular Halifax, with giant trees and great trails to hike and run. The park’s recovered beautifully from Hurricane Juan 17 years ago, so you get an interesting mix of newer trees with the surviving older ones standing guard over them. You’ll also find a gazebo, several old buildings left over from military operations, and since it’s right by the ocean you might even see some marine life. One time my siblings and I actually saw porpoises!
Address: 5530 Point Pleasant Drive
It’s technically safe to swim in the Halifax Harbour, but it’s not advisable, and most of the year it’s way too cold anyways. The Waterfront lets you be close to the water and enjoy the sea air while you walk along the Boardwalk and take in all the sights. You can shop, eat, hear music and find boats to take you out onto the Harbour here, and every day is different. Start at either Bishop’s Landing or Historic Properties, and then walk to the other one for the best experience.
Sir Sanford Fleming Park
This park sits right on the Northwest Arm, and its beach is a great place to look for sea glass. But that’s just the tip of it; there’s also a great playground and two walking trails, one of which leads to Frog Pond. It’s easy to keep in sight of the water, but it’s equally as easy to sink into the forest. You can go to this park at any time of the year; Frog Pond is beautiful in the winter.
Address: Dingle Road, Halifax N.S.
This is one of the biggest parks in Dartmouth, stretching out between 2 lakes. There’s plenty to do at this park: you can hike, birdwatch, kayak, canoe, learn about the history of the area, and take a tour to see the nearly completed working models of the canals. The best part is actually quite new; in June of 2019, an accessible dock was built, to allow people with mobility issues to get into a boat or a kayak. And if you want to wander further afield, if you follow the trails you will find more of the parkland along the Shubenacadie Canal Waterway.
Address: 54 Locks Road, Dartmouth
Salt Marsh TrailThis trail is recognized on a provincial and national level for birdwatching. It’s easy to see why when you look at eBird Canada (an online resource for birdwatchers); over 170 species have been recorded there. There’s also sightings of mammals and reptiles local to the wetlands, so you’re sure to see some amazing creatures. The Salt Marsh Trail has a shorter loop of about 1km, so it’s accessible to all, especially since it, like the BLT Trail, was once part of a railroad, and therefore is nice and flat.
Fort Needham Memorial Park
This park was created out of respect for a time of great tragedy and resilience: the Halifax explosion. It was designed in the 1950s as part of the effort to rebuild that neighbourhood, which was badly damaged by the explosion. The park has a memorial Bell Tower, and each year a memorial service is held on December 6th, the day of the explosion. On a more cheerful note, it’s a beautiful park to enjoy any time of the year, with an accessible playground, picnic tables, a sports field, and wooded areas. You should definitely check out the view; you can see the Harbour and the city since it’s one of the highest points in the area.
Address: 3340 Union Street
This is a classic place to come get a dose of nature; literally, as it’s built in the style of a Victorian garden. The Gardens have a gazebo, dozens of species of flowers and trees, and they now grow exotic plants in the summer like pineapples and cocoa beans! It’s a great place to go for a beautiful walk, get some ice cream, and have a picnic together as a family. If you’re looking for true peace and quiet, I would avoid evenings towards the end of June, as brightly coloured mobs of high school students descend upon the park for prom pictures.
Address: Corner of South Park Street and Spring Garden Road
Shaw Wilderness Park
If you’re looking for a challenging hike close to the city, this is the park for you. It was recently formed, combining Colpitt Lake and part of Williams Lake. You can swim in either lake; Colpitt Lake is especially fun for this, as there’s no housing around it. There are some trails for hikers that are easier to explore amongst the wetlands and granite barrens, and you’ll see lots of birds and rare flora and fauna. But if you want to get adventurous, there are more rugged, unmarked trails that will take you into some beautiful wild places; just remember to bring some kind of navigation aid!
Shubenacadie Wildlife Park
Nova Scotia is home to quite a diverse range of wildlife, and Shubenacadie Wildlife Park is the best place to see them all. With sprawling enclosures and a great diversity of animals, it’s a fantastic place to go for the whole family. You start with a groundhog and end with bears, and that’s all I’m going to give away. My favourite time to go is in May or June, soon after the park opens, because it’s cooler for the animals so they tend to be more active, and also there are BABY ANIMALS.
Address: 149 Creighton Road Shubenacadie
Crystal Crescent Beach
There are some beaches in Halifax that are beautiful and fun in all seasons, and Crystal Crescent Beach is one of them. Of course it’s great in the summer; there are three separate beaches (the third one is actually a nude beach) connected by the boardwalk, so you can swim or play beach volleyball or build sand castles, whatever works for you. But the boardwalk also leads to a trail that’s a hike to Pennant Point, a 10 km hike that takes you past gorgeous views of the ocean, and has some wonderful wildlife. This trail is great in all seasons (you do have to be careful in the winter if it’s icy. If you must heed the ocean’s call regardless of the season, go to Crystal Crescent.
Address: 223 Sambro Creek Road
Sandy Lake ParkThis is a quieter park that centres around the beach. The water is usually very warm in the summer, and there is a lifeguard on duty for safety. They also have a beach volleyball court and picnic tables near an open grass filed, so your day at the beach can have lots of different activities. There’s no dogs allowed on the beach, but all of the trails in the park are off-leash, so you can walk your dog through the lovely woods. There’s also options to walk off the trail, going as far as Marsh Lake and Jack Lake, so once again you should bring a map or have your phone charged.
Address: 110 Smiths Road, Bedford
Hubbards Beach and Park
Hubbards Beach is a popular summer destination for people of all ages. The water is generally warmer than other beaches in the area, and there’s a float to swim out to and lots of room to play and walk on the beach, with a canteen just up the road from the beach that serves fantastic hamburgers. You can camp there with either a camper or tents, and they have Wi-Fi, a video arcade, and a playground. When you tire of the park and beach, you can explore Hubbards, which is a beautiful little town that’s home to some gorgeous places to stay and great restaurants, including the Shore Club with their world-famous lobster dinner.
Address: St. Margaret’s Bay
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site
Kejimkujik is a gorgeous, huge natural park towards the south of Nova Scotia. It’s a popular backcountry camp ground, and it’s great for birdwatching, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and fishing. It’s also Nova Scotia’s only Dark Sky Preserve, so the view of the stars at night is breathtaking. As a historical site and nature preserve, you can learn more about Mi’kmaq history and see lagoons at Kejimkujik Seaside.
Address: 3005 Kejimkujik Main Parkway
Bay of Fundy
When I was a little girl, I became convinced that pigs would be happiest at the Bay of Fundy because of all the mud. That may be true, but only for about half the day. The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s most extreme tides; they rise to 16m! You can also see rare whales and seabirds on a whale-watching trip, explore the cliffs and sea caves, and even find some fossils. There’s great restaurants nearby too, which feature
Address: Bay of Fundy
Phone: 1-800-565-0000 (Nova Scotia Side)
Oaklawn Farm ZooThis is one of my favourite places in all of Nova Scotia, and if they created a bus to get there, I would go every single weekend (I don’t drive). They have dozens of different kinds of animals, most of which aren’t native to Nova Scotia, so they don’t compete with Shubenacadie. They have lions, tigers, and bears (no seriously), along with monkeys, tons of kinds of birds, horses, zebras, and even a zonkey! It’s a wonderful place to go and see great animals, get a decent walk in, and enjoy their great gift store.
Address: 997 Ward Rd, Aylesford
If you’ve ever been to the Ovens, you know how intense it can be. If you haven’t, you need to go. This park has several sea caves called the Ovens, which is why they’re called that. The trail is on the cliff above them, and you can still see Tucker’s Tunnel, Indian Cave, and Cannon Cave, named for the sound the waves make when they enter the cave. Once you’ve walked the hour-long trail, you can also pan for gold, kayak, or go swim in the pool as you look at the breathtaking view of the ocean.
Address: 326 Ovens Road
The Balancing Rock is a very cool looking rock, technically a column of basalt that’s balancing on the edge of a cliff. But there’s so much more to this place. It’s technically a small park, with a beautiful 2.5 km and 235 step staircase up to the rock. It’s right on the ocean, so you can see a spectacular view. It’s a bit outside of this article, technically—closer to a 3 hour drive. But if you’ve already driven to the Bay of Fundy, it’s only a bit further form there, so make it a day trip!
Address: Highway 217
This is a beautiful place to explore Nova Scotia’s fishing history, see a lovely lighthouse, stay OFF THE WET ROCKS, and do so much more. It’s a quiet little town that while a tourist attraction manages to maintain its authenticity. Depending on the time of year, you can kayak, hike, attempt to swim at the beach, and birdwatch. Enjoy the delicious food at the restaurant near the lighthouse, stay OFF THE WET ROCKS, and soak in the sea air.
LunenburgIf you’ve gone to the Ovens, I highly recommend you check out Lunenburg as well. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the place where the Bluenose II was mainly built, and it’s a beautiful little town. You can walk along the waterfront, do walking tours, walk along their trails, or just enjoy the harbour. If the weather’s not great, you can still go for a nice walk and just duck in and out of some of the charming shops that line the streets.
This island is mysterious, wild, and potentially haunted (according to my sixth-grade class trip). It’s hard to see how there’d be room for ghosts, though, with the 206 bird species, deer, rabbits, huge forests, and so much more. Once you’ve booked a water taxi (I love water taxis), you can get to the island and get a spectacular view of the Halifax Harbour. You can bring a bike, tents for camping, and you need to bring drinking water because there’s none on the island. Maybe the ghosts drank it all?
Rainbow Haven Beach Provincial Park
This is one of the closest beaches to Halifax, just a few kilometres east of Cole Harbour. It’s a huge beach with supervised swimming, lots of parking, and boardwalks. There’s also a trail close by, so you can go for a walk if you get tired of the beach (somehow). It’s a really fun place to go with friends or family, there’s lots of space, and the wind is just right for flying kites!
Address: 2248 Cow Bay Road, Eastern Passage, Halifax County
Queensland is a bit further away from Halifax than some other beaches, but it’s only about an hour’s drive and it’s a spectacular beach, great for people from away as well as locals. There are no rips or currents, which makes it one of the safer beaches for people unfamiliar with swimming in the ocean, and the waves are generally not very big. You can bring inflatables as long as it’s not windy, and the water is pretty warm due to its sheltered position within St. Margaret’s Bay. Bring the whole family and have a fun, soothing day at the beach.
Address: 9600 Highway 3
Long Lake Provincial Park
This park is only 15 minutes away from downtown Halifax, but it feels like you’re instantly in the middle of nature. There’s a huge diversity of habitats within the park, including streams, rivers, lakes, and backroads called “Old Coach Road” and “Scar Road” that were never completed and are an interesting challenge to walk. Naturally, this means a diverse amount of activities you can do, like birdwatching, hiking, biking, swimming, boating (including paddleboats you can rent), and checking out local animals including beaver dams! It’s a fascinating park experience, and it’s a great way to get away from the city and still make it home for supper.
Address: At the intersection of Cowie Hill Road and Dunbrack Street