A discerning guide to traveling close to home: Seeing Nova Scotia through new eyes

The iconic Peggy’s Cove lighthouse – with the Sou’wester Restaurant to the left.

How far away from home do you have to go before it counts as ‘traveling’?  Indeed, what are a couple of discerning (and inveterate) travelers to do when stuck in their offices, chained to their desks  for a few months with only the smallest of travel lights at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel?  We think that if they are true travelers, they can hop into the car, crank up the satellite radio and set out on a day trip that would make even the most jaded armchair traveler green with envy.  So, that’s what we did last week.

Striking out on the east coast of Canada is a no-brainer ; there are so many things to see and experience.

Sometimes we book a room at our favorite waterfront hotel downtown and spend a Saturday night pretending we’re tourists in our home town.  We have dinner, walk along the beautifully restored Halifax boardwalk and relish sleeping in and having breakfast served to us in the dining room with a front-row seat on the harbor.  Well, that’s for next week on Art’s birthday.  Last week, we set out around St. Margaret’s Bay, the home of Peggy’s Cove, and then around to Mahone Bay.

An iconic fishing village, Peggy’s Cove seems to be a tourist must-see in this part of the world.  The truth is that there are many just as charming fishing villages dotted along the Atlantic shoreline of Nova Scotia.  But Peggy’s Cove, at the entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay is synonymous with Maritime culture it seems.  It’s actually only a ten-minute drive from where we live, so we like to take a Sunday noon-hour drive there to sit at the Sou’wester Restaurant to indulge in fish and chips about twice a year.

The actual cove that put the ‘cove’ in Peggy’s Cove!

(We can’t justify following this lunch with their gingerbread – but you should try it!)In the fall, this part of Canada is subject to the ravages of hurricanes that make their way up the eastern seaboard of the United States.  This means that the day after a hurricane is the best time to sit and watch the grandeur of Mother Nature as she pounds the waves against the shoreline making mountains of foaming surf.

The other direction out our driveway takes us to Mahone Bay.  Larger than St. Margaret’s Bay, Mahone Bay is home to dozens of little islands, making it a haven for sail boats and small yachts.  We love to drive along, finding wonderful little places to lunch; and although we’re not ‘antiquers’ (as we’ve taken pains to mention before), we can still tell you that if you are, then you’re in luck because antique shops are dotted along the shoreline in many of the villages we pass through.

Where the Discerning Travelers day-trip.

Last weekend we were delighted to find a favorite restaurant had reopened.  Closed for some three or so years, The Galley, located at South Shore Marine, has reopened for business.  We did a U-turn in the middle of the road when we spied the ‘open’ sign so that we could once again sit in a window seat over the marina and watch the sailboats rocking in the breeze.  It’s a good thing that we didn’t have any hard and fast plans or we would have missed the best lobster rolls ever.  After lunch we continued on to our destination: the local nursery that stocks the best annuals and perennials in the area.  After a bit of shopping, we made our way home, happy in the knowledge that in spite of our currently busy schedules, we could find a short trip to take us away from our own yard.

A beautiful summer day on Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

So, if you can only venture out for a day, here are our favorite tips for discerning travel in your own neck of the woods:

  • Don’t plan or at least don’t over-plan.  Although this is counter-intuitive to the discerning travel mantra, these kinds of trips are better left a bit loose.  We would have missed eating at The Galley last weekend if we had followed through on our loose plan to eat at the Seaside Shanty and Chowder House (which is kitschy and quaint).
  • Try something new.  This is your chance to turn down a road less traveled, a road that you’ve always wondered about.  Just go.
  • Take photos.   We’ve mentioned before that seeing the world through the lens of your camera might not make for the best experience of a place.  The truth is, though, that we often don’t take photos close to home.  This is a chance to turn this on its head: take photos of the things that you thought you knew.  Later, when you look at them, you just might see more-or-less familiar places from a different point of view.

Oh…and if you are actually planning a trip to the east coast of Canada (or will stop in on a cruise of New England and eastern Canada) we have a few suggestions for discerning travelers.  Here are a few of our favorites in and around the city.

Part of the Halifax weterfront

Favorite Restaurants: Il Mercato for chicken-filled ravioli and the best pizza anywhere, Da Maurizio for fine Northern Italian, The Five Fishermen for Nova Scotia seafood, The Bicycle Thief because it has the best harbor-front location.

Favorite Photo Ops: The Halifax Public Gardens, Citadel Hill, the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry from the middle of the harbor, Historic Properties, the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse (45 minutes from downtown)

Favorite Shopping Spots: Park Lane on Spring Garden Road (best shoe store in the city, ladies), Spring Garden Road in general (just stroll along).

But please remember: if you rent a car and take that day trip to Peggy’s Cove, remember that many of us live there and like to get where we’re going.  If you want to take in the views, please pull over!

Photo credit:

Halifax waterfront:  http://www.ecslcanada.com/UserFiles/Image/Halifax%20Images/Ship.jpg