Go East! One Week in Nova Scotia

I am always happy to share these pages with friends, especially when it comes to sharing travel stories. My good friend Michelle accepted my invitation to chat about her recent trip to Nova Scotia. If you aren’t heading East after reading this blog post, you must be allergic to seafood!

Michelle M: Hi guys! Michelle here! I’ve been friends with the lovely lady behind this blog for 30 years now! While she’s a Sweet Maple, I’m more like a Bitter Spruce (jk, jk, I think…) But I do love to travel, and am happy to share some experiences from my recent trip to Nova Scotia. This is a trip that moose be done!

Laura Catherine: Bitter Spruce? lol, well I guess that’s why we’ve been friends for so long, we just balance each other out! I’m happy to have you here to share details from you trip. I was so envious looking at all your Instagram posts! What made you decide to visit Nova Scotia?

MM: Although I have visited over 40 countries, I realized I had only visited 5 Canadian provinces! It became my new mission to explore all of Canada (and take advantage of domestic airline travel and local currency!) Before I decide on a trip location, I do a bit of (okay, a lot of) Instagram research and look up specific hashtags or pages devoted to showcasing the area. For Nova Scotia, the IG accounts visitnovascotia and visitcapebretonisland gave me all the motivation I needed to immediately book a flight to Halifax!

LC: That’s amazing! I couldn’t agree more, I never knew our country was so beautiful until I got to visit more places on the east and west coast. Great idea to check out the IG accounts! How long did you go for?

MM: I was in Nova Scotia in September 2018 for 8 nights. 2 nights in Halifax and 6 nights on Cape Breton Island with most of that time driving the Cabot Trail. We got a great deal on Swoop Airlines out of Hamilton (less than $200 per person roundtrip!) and it was a treat to fly out of a small airport.

LC: Less than $200 per person? That is AMAZING! We are lucky to have affordable options now that Swoop Airlines has swooped in (sorry)! Did you wish you went for a longer amount of time or shorter?

MM: I never knew Nova Scotia was so big! In those 8 days, we only covered Halifax, Peggy’s Cove, Lunenberg and spent most of our days driving around Cape Breton Island (the Ceilidh Trail and the Cabot Trail). You could technically drive the Cabot Trail in one day but you should never do this! Never! There is so much beauty to take in and you will want to stop at every lookout point (so make sure you have a patient driver with you).

It rained for 2 days on the Cabot Trail so I was thankful we had 6 full days there. My biggest fear was missing all of the beautiful views that inspired me to take this trip in the first place. As an accountant and lawyer, risk mitigation is kinda my thing, so I made sure to plan for rain, which meant spending 3 nights in Cheticamp, 2 nights in Ingonish and 1 night in Baddeck. Thanks to my ocd planning, we were never more than 100 km away from the next great trail if blue sky happened to materialize. Our favourite hike of the trip happened on a rainy day that gloriously and unexpectedly cleared up at 3 pm. Giddy, we threw on our hiking shoes and sped over to the Jack Pine Coastal Trail for an amazing sunset hike. We had the entire trail to ourselves, with our only run-in being with a red squirrel and a curious rabbit.

If I had more time, I would do a longer road trip and tack on the Bay of Fundy area.

LC: I remember traveling with you years ago and writing a thank you note after the trip… I was so grateful for all of your planning! I’m seriously impressed that you planned this trip so well! What were some of the things you knew you wanted to see while out there?

MM: In my 36 years, I had never seen a moose in the wild. Was I even Canadian?! We had our hearts set on spotting one in Cape Breton, along with enjoying the beautiful landscapes, trees, and ocean views. We did quite a few trails but I knew the Skyline Trail had a spectacular finish and the best chance to spot a moose! We did the Skyline Trail in the late morning – no moose, but we enjoyed some amazing views from the headland cliff.

LC: So did you get a chance to see a moose? Any tips on spotting one while on the Cabot Trail?

MM: I knew that I moose see a moose and the best chance to see one would be at dawn or dusk. Since dawn wasn’t an option (I’m on vacation and appreciate bacon, thank you), we ended up hiking the Skyline Trail again; this time at dusk. We hiked the 6.5 km trail twice in one day, but were rewarded with seeing 3 moose! We watched a female pick at a tree for over 20 minutes (which also made us miss sunset over the ocean, but come on, #priorities). We also drove past a giant bull moose on the side of the road driving back to our Airbnb at night. Drive carefully friends! You moose be careful out there!

LC: Ahh! That’s amazing! I seriously got goosebumps hearing this… I think missing a sunset was worth watching her! Love your moose jokes, I moose ask (no?), where did you stay?

MM: We stayed mostly in Airbnb’s and in a room above a cute little café called Salty Rose’s and the Periwinkle Café. They had amazing breakfast and goats for neighbours (hello, heaven on earth!) We stayed at the cutest, coziest Airbnb in Cheticamp (which although the town has a murdery vibe in the rain, there is nothing but warm feels at Harper’s Salt Cabin).

LC: I loved the photos you posted of the Airbnb’s, we will share them at the end of this post! I know you like to find good restaurants, did you find any over there?

MM:  On our last night in Baddeck, we stayed at the Telegraph House and had a wonderful dinner at The Cable Room. My Nova Scotian friend recommended it to me, so I knew it would be good, but it blew us away. The service was warm, welcoming and friendly, and the dinner was one of the best meals I’ve had (tenderloin + lobster + all the butter sauce). There are lots of other cute places like The Freight Shed right on the Baddeck town dock, and the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou which had great live music and a friendly atmosphere (thanks Sweet Maple for the reco!). I’m not a big seafood person, but when in Nova Scotia, you become one! I also heard about the infamous “Halifax donair” and didn’t think much about it, but oh my, that donair was delicious. So much so, that we stopped in at a local pizza joint in Truro to grab one more before boarding our flight home. If you are in Halifax, don’t miss it!

LC: I’m hungry now! Sounds like you got some great recommendations! Tell me, what were some of the things you loved doing in Nova Scotia?

MM: I loved chasing sunsets and seeing the changing landscapes. The sunset was different each night and each location put on a unique show from Peggy’s Cove to Inverness Beach to the Coastal Trail.

On the west side of the island, we were in awe of the dramatic cliffs and towering green trees, while we were delightfully surprised to find the east side of the island already filled with the signs of autumn, along with turquoise waters at Cape Smokey, and big crashing waves on the beautiful (but cold!) beaches in Ingonish near Middlehead Trail.

I also loved driving through the remote fishing villages and meeting fellow Canadians who lead a much different lifestyle than a typical urban Torontonian. Photographing the fishing villages and cute painted houses was a highlight for me. Just make sure you have lots of playlists ready to go for your roadtrip!

LC: Michelle, this all sounds incredible… I think I need to book a trip out East next year! Do you usually buy souvenirs while travelling?

MM: If I do, I stick to small items and things that can be consumed! I buy local, and am a big fan of jewelry since it travels light. On this trip, I brought home a rope trivet, some beautiful stones from Meat Cove beach (free decor with a story to tell), and a few bottles of gin from a fantastic shop called Liquid Assets that focuses on Nova Scotia’s hand-crafted beverage alcohol artisans. Beautiful liquor bottles are a great way to decorate, and an even better excuse to keep buying and drinking gin!

LC: Sign me up for a gin and tonic next time I come visit. Any last recommendations to anyone visiting Nova Scotia?

MM:  I already said to eat a Halifax donair, right? I mean it.

LC: Eat a Halifax donair! Got it! This may be a silly question, would you go back?

MM: Yes! I want to go back to Cape Breton Island in the summer so I can swim in the ocean and experience the changing tides in the Bay of Fundy. Photos of Cape Split Trailhead have me dreaming up a return visit. I’ve also heard great things about the beauty and remoteness of Newfoundland. I haven’t been there yet, but its definitely on my list! Sweet Maple, girls trip?

LC: Let’s go!!

Thank you Michelle for taking us through the highlights of your trip! It sounds like you really planned for it and it paid off. You got an amazing deal on the flights, found some great Airbnbs, ate some amazing food and enjoyed everything Nova Scotia has to offer! I hope this will inspire others to consider visiting this beautiful province!

**To anyone who is reading this and has questions for Michelle or wants any other recommendations, please feel free to comment below!

Thanks again, Michelle! oxoxo

Airbnb in Cheticamp – Harpers Salt Cabin
Airbnb in Halifax