Best of Nova Scotia Southern Mainland

Southern Mainland of Nova Scotia

Today, we are going to look at the Southern Mainland of Nova Scotia.

To begin your journey through the southern half of Nova Scotia you will travel the Glooscap Trail and look back on time.


I do not mean the last 10,000 years with stories of the First Nations or the last few hundred years with the introduction of the Europeans, but way back to the coal age which began about 300 million years ago and lasted some 35 million years.


Magnificent exposed layers of rock revealed the world’s most complete fossil records of life in the coal age. That is when lush forests covered the area known as Joggins and much of the world’s tropics. The swap force produced massive quantities of organic material that over millions of years create the coal deposits for which this period of history is named.


Embedded in 15 kilometres of accessible coastal cliffs, rare fossils reveal the details of life during that age.


This is a wonderful vacation spot for amateur archaeologists and fossil hunters.


A moment ago I mentioned first nations.


Maybe I should explain where the term Glooscap comes from.


The Mi’kmaq or Mic Mac Indians have a legend of a mythical hero god named Glooscap.


It was a meeting between Glooscap and the mighty whale that created the awesome tides of the Bay of Fundy.


We’ll talk a little more about that later.


Not far from Joggins is Springhill which is the birthplace of the world-renowned singer Anne Murray.


Now to continue your journey you have a choice of two routes to take.


Drive to just outside of Halifax and take the Annapolis Valley exit or cross-country to Windsor.


Now, if you’re a hockey fan Windsor is very important.


Around the1800’s, boys from Canada’s first college, King’s College School, adapted the exciting field game of Irish hurling to ice on one of their favourite skating ponds and originated a new winter game “Ice Hurling”.


Over a period of decades “Ice Hurling” gradually developed into ice hockey.


Also, if you’re a pumpkin fan, not far from here is the home of the late Howard Dill, the undisputed king of competitive pumpkin growing whose garden produced orange monsters up to 600 kilograms or 1400 pounds.


Further up the highway is the community of “Grand Pre” a French name that translates to great meadow.


It was founded by Acadian settlers.


Although this region has seen many turbulent times, the settlement grew and developed great expanses of tidal marsh into productive farmland.


This was done using a unique system of dykes to wash the salt water out of the marsh.


During the French and Indian War, the Acadians were expelled from “Grand Pre” during what was known as the Bay of Fundy campaign in 1755.


After the deportation of the Acadians vacant lands were resettled by New England planters and in 1760 was renamed “Horton”.


As a side note, one of the planter descendants was Sir Robert layered Borden, the 8th Prime Minister of Canada, who was born in “Grand Pre” in 1854.


The community was made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Evangeline” and is today home to “Grand Pre National Historic Site”.


If you are a connoisseur of wines, you’ll have the opportunity to sample some of Nova Scotia’s best.


There are a number of vineyards through the Annapolis Valley.


As you wind your way through the valley you’ll see orchards and vineyards rolling across acre after picture perfect acre, reaching out to the shores of the Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy.


On-route you can visit the communities of Wolfville, New Minas, Kentville, Bridgetown. By the names, you can tell there is a strong British heritage.


You’ll understand the lore as you tour the charming Victorian towns and explore the overflowing farm markets and the incomparable scenery.


Travel to Port Royal, the original French settlement and capital of the colony of Acadia founded by Samuel de Champlain.


It was located there from 1605 until its destruction by British forces in 1613.


This settlement was rebuilt into a historic replica in 1938 to 1941 by the Government of Canada and is called “Port Royal National Historic Site of Canada”.


Carry on through Annapolis Royal and then Digby.


Digby had become world famous due to its fishing industry.


More specifically the scallop industry.


I’ve seen Digby scallop featured on fine restaurant menus in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris but you don’t have to travel to any of these fine cities to sample this amazing seafood.


Just drop into the Fundy Restaurant in Digby, to enjoy the freshest scallops you’ll ever taste.


The Bay of Fundy was Canada’s only nominee to become one of the new “Seven Wonders of Nature” and rounds out the reasons for the Maritimes making the top 10 list.


The Bay of Fundy is an extraordinary spot to watch Fin, Humpback, and the endangered North Atlantic Right Whales swim through the world’s highest tides to feed and play.


Ten billion tons of water move in and out Canada’s Bay of Fundy twice a day and can be followed on the “Bay of Fundy Tides Schedule”.


This has created a remarkable and unique seascape between Nova Scotia and the neighbouring province of New Brunswick.


The Bay of Fundy tide is five times higher than the Atlantic coast average with its tides ranging from 3.5 meters or 11 feet to an incredible 16 meters for 53 feet.


This natural phenomenon provides opportunities to explore the landscape, ocean floor, and the abundant marine life.


Now, at the southern tip of Nova Scotia is Yarmouth.

Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

It is thought that the first European on North American shores, Leif Eriksson, may have visited Yarmouth over a thousand years ago.


This story is based on our runestone that was found in a nearby village.


It is interpreted by some to have been carved by Eriksson, while others feel the markings are natural scratches have been gradually enhanced over the years.


Years later, Yarmouth did become very famous for ship building.


A short drive up the road is the community of Pubnico, the oldest Acadian community in the world.


Now, if you’re in the mood for a real treat, stop at the Red Cap Restaurant & Motel for a traditional Acadian meal, rappie pie.


It is delicious and my mouth is now watering just thinking of it.


As you continue east you’ll notice a dramatic change in the terrain.


The vegetation will become sparse and the coastline will become rocky and rugged.


You are now on the lighthouse route and will journey through an unforgettable landscape of coastal beauty and historic charm that has captured the hearts and the minds of travellers for generations.


You will discover historic towns and weathered fishing villages,where legends of the sea come alive.


You can visit the communities of Shelburne, Lockport, Liverpool and Bridgewater all areas very famous for pirates and privateers.

Shelburne Nova Scotia Waterfront

Follow the coast to Lunenburg, where the original inhabitants were mostly Germans from the southern Rhineland, Swiss and French Protestants from Montbeliard.


This is another community with the long history of building wooden ships.


The most famous are the schooner, Bluenose, which is depicted on the back of the Canadian dime or ten cent piece and her daughter the Bluenose II which remains a very important tourist attraction.


In 1995, Lunenburg was declared a World Heritage Site.


Mahone Bay has become an iconic image of Nova Scotia, with pictures of its three prominent churches from across the harbour frequently photographed and featured on postcards and calendars.


And then there is Chester.


A beautiful little village with two natural harbours; Front Harbour on the east and Back Harbour on the west.


Scenes from several films, miniseries, movies of the week, television shows have been shot in and around Chester.


Today we end at the prime attraction on the lighthouse trail scenic drive – Peggy’s Cove.


It was likely named after St. Margaret’s Bay, Peggy being a nickname for Margaret, which Samuel de Champlain named after his mother Margarita.


The village was formerly found in 1811 and today has a population of approximately 46 residents.


Thousands of visitor’s, artists and photographers flock to Peggy’s Cove for images of its polished rocks and iconic lighthouse.


Okay, we’ll stop here.


As you finish the Lighthouse Route so does your trip through Nova Scotia. If you are looking for information or things to do when visiting let “Nova Scotia is Amazing” be your resource. 

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Southern Mainland of Nova Scotia image Credits:

  • Wally Hayes
  • Hans Dahl
  • Dan Snyder


Video Music Credit



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