Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a longer stay, the salty sea air and east coast hospitality of Halifax makes a fan out of anyone who is lucky enough to go visit. Perfect for families, bachelorettes or romantic getaways, there is something for everyone in the east coast capital — here are seven of my personal must-do experiences while you hang around Halifax:
Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market
At more than 250 years old, The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market is the oldest continuously-operated farmers market in North America and the perfect place to enjoy some of the best of what Nova Scotia has to offer. While some vendors are open in the market seven days a week, the best time to check it out is early on a weekend morning before the crowds rush in. Stroll the aisles and browse everything local you could think of, from bread and pastries to beautiful and intricate art. There are also some vendors with food ready to eat — my personal favourite is Bramoso Pizza’s breakfast pizza, which comes ready with an egg on top.
Update: Since the writing of this article, the Market has moved to a new location down the road, and has transitioned to weekend-only hours of operation.
Annapolis Valley wine tour
While technically outside the city, a wine tour in the famous Annapolis Valley can’t be missed. Take your pick of wineries to spend the day at, or if you’re feeling adventurous, book yourself a ticket on the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus, which offers a curated journey that lets you safely explore and imbibe at four wineries around the Valley. Being only an hour outside the city, this makes for an easy day trip. Looking for a longer adventure? Splurge for a cute bed and breakfast while you see what else the area has to offer, like the Bay of Fundy or hiking Cape Split.
Martinique — take the scenic route
A trip out east is not complete without a day at the beach. Head to Martinique Beach Provincial Park, the longest sandy beach in the province and just a half hour outside the city, to spend your day splashing in the ocean or playing in the sand. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the sand dunes or stop by any of the local fish and chip joints you pass on the drive up for a full day of fun. Be sure to stop by Polar Express for ice cream on your way home, and take the scenic route back to the city for beautiful views of the water, beaches and scenery.
Peggy’s Cove is a quintessential stop on any Halifax tourism list, and for good reason: the picturesque lighthouse is one of Canada’s most iconic attractions, and the salty sea air and small-town charm is the perfect vacation fuel. Keep an eye out for the signs directing which rocks you can take in the sights from — the “black rocks,” as locals call them, are close to the water and often slippery, meaning it’s easy to slip and fall into the waves, or for the waves to crash off the rocks and pull you in, neither of which have good outcomes. On your way down the winding road to Peggy’s Cove, consider stopping by the Swissair Memorial Site — a memorial to the passengers who died when Swissair Flight 111 crashed just outside of Peggy’s Cove on Sept. 2, 1998.
On the corner of Barrington and George Street in downtown Halifax, take a peek into the Freak Lunchbox for a taste of the vibrant and quirky. The colourful candy store offers a little bit of everything, including candy from all over the world, gag toys, bulk candy and the tastiest milkshake you’ll find out east. Stop in for the large selection of Jelly-Belly flavours, and stay for the eccentric signs and treats you won’t find anywhere else in the city. The store is conveniently across the street from Grand Parade, a green space that acts as the front lawn of Halifax’s City Hall, so stock up on treats and take yourself over for a picnic to enjoy your spoils (and inevitably rest when the sugar wears off).
Just up the hill from Grand Parade is Citadel Hill, the crown jewel of Halifax and a source of much of the city’s early history. The current structure, built in 1828, is the fourth fortification built on the hill in Halifax, and is now a National Historic Site of Canada that is open to the public year round. During the spring and summer, actors showcase what life at the Citadel was like, including soldiers, musicians and townspeople, and visitors are able to view the Citadel and its artefacts through guided tours, or just by spending time in the fort itself. One holdover from the days of old is the firing of the noon gun, so keep your ears covered if you’re at the Citadel (or anywhere in the city, for that matter) around lunchtime.
Two if By Sea
For the final must-do experience in Halifax, take the ferry across the Halifax Harbour to the Dartmouth side and explore all downtown Dartmouth has to offer. Check out the Alderney Landing Market in the ferry terminal and stroll the streets on foot to find an array of local shops and eateries while you breathe in the sea air. Directly up the street from the ferry terminal you’ll find Two if By Sea, one of Halifax’s best coffee shops — get yourself a cup of coffee and one their famously large croissants and watch the world go by from your seat near the window or on the sidewalk as you greet neighbors out for a stroll. If you’re still hungry after finishing your croissant, follow the wrought-iron spiral staircase upstairs to Yeah Yeahs Pizza, a pizza-focused eatery that serves up some of the best wood-fired pizzas in the city.