Southwest Nova Scotia: Our Top 10 Tastes & Highlights
Looking for things to do in Nova Scotia this summer? Here’s a post for you!
One of my favourite things about living in Nova Scotia is summer road trips! In the spring and fall I may fly to other locales, but nothing beats road trippin’ around our very own province. My fiance LuShark once said, “People spend thousands of dollars on European vacations, when we have all of this in our own backyard! ” We were sitting at a patio with a view of the ocean. One of many.
Earlier this month, we completed a loop around southwestern Nova Scotia, with stops in Annapolis Royal, Digby, Yarmouth, Tusket, Argyle, Pubnico and Liverpool. It was a lot of area to cover over the course of 6 days, so it was slam packed with as much as we could fit into our itinerary. Hotel naps were necessary. Not every town could be explored. Not every food could be eaten. But we tried… lord knows we tried!
Here are our top 10 tastes and highlights from the trip!
1. Moonshine & Beef Jerky at Lequille Country Store
9543 Nova Scotia Trunk 8
Lequille Country Store is your one-stop-shop for hunting gear, snacks and moonshine. Their slogan is: “Bologna, Bullets and Gas…..we’ve got you covered” which is already pretty epic, but the wall of moonshine is simply beyond. They make some of the best beef jerky I’ve ever had.
The moonshine is from Still Fired Distilleries, which is located across the street if you want to go in for samples. We are big fans of their Fundy Gin, but we picked up a bottle of Root Beer Moonshine to go with our jerky. A match made in redneck heaven.
323 St George St, Annapolis Royal
Fort Anne is a National Historic Site of Canada and you’ll find it right on the main drag of Annapolis Royal. Throughout history, the fort was attacked 13 times, switched hands 7 times, and was an outpost during the American Revolution.
Did you know that Annapolis Royal was the capital of Nova Scotia until the founding of Halifax? If there’s anywhere in the province soaking in history, this is it. 400 years of it.
Despite the rainy day, we spent our time wandering the grounds, reading interpretive panels, and admiring the views. There is a little museum in the central building, but we were happy to follow the walking trails into the historic graveyard and the waterfront, eventually finding our way to the spanking brand new Annapolis Brewing Company.
2. Chowder at Shore Road Seafood
3931 Shore Rd W
Shore Road Seafood/Crow’s Nest Dining Room (which is it, guys?) is a quaint, kitschy little restaurant 12 minutes from Annapolis Royal. The seafood here was noticeably fresh. “It’s from the fish plant down the street,” said our server. Sure enough, there is a fish plant 2 minutes down the road.
Everything we had here (mostly a mountain of deep fried seafood) was great, but it’s the chowder I’m still thinking about. The $12 bowl had a mound of potatoes and seafood heaping out of the broth, just loaded with lobster, scallops and haddock!
There is now a second location in Digby: The Crow’s Nest/Shore Thing Seafood. I don’t know why there are yet again two names, but I can a-shore you it’s a shore thing!
The Habitation (Port-Royal National Historic Site)
53 Historic Ln, Granville Ferry
If you have a Good Cheer Trail Passport, you should make sure to get it stamped here, for this is the ground zero of Good Cheer proper! The Habitation at Port-Royal is a re-creation of the first European settlement in Canada (1605), where Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, and Samuel de Champlain established the “Order of Good Cheer” and “The Theatre of Neptune in New France”. These were feasts and entertainment to get through the long hard winters, which were attended by all the prominent men of the colony and their Mi’kmaq neighbours.
There aren’t a lot of staff or interpretive panels, so I suggest you engage with the interpreter(s) as much as you can. They are quite informative and there is a lot of interesting history here. The view and grounds are also nice to explore.
3. Scallops at Ed’s Take Out
A few years back I conducted a Digby Scallop Quest, attempting to find the very best scallops in town. Alas, many of the places I visited have since permanently closed.
At the time, I was focused on pan fried scallops and neglected to dine at the local’s choice: Ed’s Take-Out. I expected these deep fried scallops to be coated in an excess of greasy batter, overpowering the succulent flesh within.
I finally made it to Ed’s on this trip, and I’m so glad I did! These are honestly some of the best scallops I’ve had in my life! They were deep fried in a very thin, yet flavourful, breading. 10/10, right some good!
After you feast on scallops, make sure to check out Roof Hound Brewery – just a 6 minute drive into the sticks! They make one of my favourite Nova Scotian beers: the Big Stink IPA! (Sun-Thurs: 4pm-8pm, Fri-Sat: 12pm-10pm)
Highway 217 (near #2500), Tiverton
Balancing Rock is at the end of a well maintained trail (took us about 15 minutes) with a 235-step staircase down to the viewing platform. There you can admire the rock formations and the scenic backdrop of St. Mary’s Bay. We loved the trail which was lined with lady slippers, fiddlehead ferns and skunk cabbage.
The ferry from Petite Passage to Tiverton leaves every hour on the 30 (return is every hour, on the hour). It’s $7 to cross, but free to return. We picked up a hitch hiker as we unloaded the ferry, who ended up being a wealth of information about the area! I would definitely like to spend more time getting to know Digby Neck.
4. Dill Burger at the Red Shed
76 Water St.
What can I say about Yarmouth? Well, the town needs a little love, but if you know where to look there are some gems in the rough. Case in point: The Red Shed. This is a busy little kiosk on the Yarmouth waterfront, serving up burgers, seafood and poutines. I expected the waterfront to be more touristy, but it’s very much a working waterfront with fishing boats and an industrial aesthetic. Don’t let that deter you!
The Red Shed is open from 11am-4pm most days (later on Fridays, closed on Sundays) and they make a seriously killer burger. The Dill Pickle Burger ($11.50 w/ fries) is a hand-pressed beef patty with sauteed onions, special dill sauce and deep fried dill pickles! Yasssss! This is one of the most delicious burgers I’ve ever tasted, and the hand-cut fries are seriously on point! We regret not trying the Dilly Poutine, because the poutines looked amazing. Still thinking about it… *drooling*….
Cape Forchu Lighthouse
1856 NS-304, Yarmouth
After lunch we drove out to Cape Forchu, home to one of the most beautiful lighthouses you’ll ever see! Even the drive there, along the Yarmouth Bar, is stunning. The lighthouse is neighboured by the keeper’s house (museum & cafe) and another building housing the original 1962 DCB-36 lens. You can click switches to make it illuminate and rotate, or to sound the foghorn.
Also on the grounds is the Leif Ericson Trail, a 0.5 kilometre walking path with scenic views and interpretive panels. A runic stone believed to have Norse inscriptions was found nearby, hence the Viking theme. You can go see the stone at the Yarmouth County Museum.
5. Smoked Kiak at Tusket Falls Brewing Co.
20 Slocomb Crescent
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Tusket Falls Brewing Co.! While sampling beers and chatting with the locals, I let it slip that I’m kind of into food and that I was looking for local specialities. As I was drinking a sample of the “Smoked Kiak” (smoked ale), the brewmaster jumped up and announced that he had some real smoked kiak for us to try!
Kiak, also called Gaspereau or Alewife, is a small bony fish that has traditionally been caught and smoked by local families in the area. It’s not exactly something you’ll see in the supermarket but it’s a local delicacy, with guarded fishing spots and family recipes. This was obviously a passionate topic for the brewmaster, as he gleefully brought out a nondescript paper bag and tenderly examined the filets for the best specimens. The next thing I know, we’re tearing pieces of chewy fish off the bones and passing them along the bar to share.
You may not get to try smoked kiak when you’re in Tusket, but you can certainly try the namesake beer!
6. Creamed Lobster at The Argyler Lodge
52 Ye Old Argyle Rd
Walking into our room at the Argyler Lodge was like a breath of fresh air! This oceanfront lodge is tranquil and peaceful, with bright spacious rooms and a fabulous restaurant! After dinner, there was a fire pit to enjoy as we watched the sun set. We were then followed into our room by Cosmo, the lodge cat. He hung out for a while as we wound down after a long day, then motioned to our door when he was ready to leave.
As for the food – well! This is a favourite so far in 2018! We enjoyed Yarmouth’s Heritage Brewing on tap and an incredible seafood chowder and Caesar salad, followed by root beer BBQ ribs and Creamed Lobster in a Homemade Bread Bowl ($27).
All of the bread is homemade here, from the complimentary basket to this decadent bread bowl topped with the most flavourful creamed lobster I’ve ever had. It was complimented with perfectly cooked vegetables. Every mouthful was a celebration!
*The Argyler Lodge provided us with a complimentary room for the night, but I am in no way exaggerating how much I enjoyed this lodge and our meal. Highly recommend.
7. Pubnico Fog at Creamy Treat
2755 Nova Scotia Trunk 3
One of my favourite things about road tripping is stopping for road side ice cream, and Creamy Treat is home to my new favourite concoction! The Pubnico Fog is like a milkshake, slushy and smoothie all in one! Soft serve ice cream is blended with slush and fresh fruit (blueberry is a great choice) to make the perfect summer treat!
Le Village Historique Acadien
91 Old Church Rd, Lower West Pubnico
Pubnico’s Village Acadien features several buildings with interpreters, recreating what life was like for the Acadians here in the early 1900s. There’s a walking trail & lighthouse, farm animals, and even a Ford Model T. They’ve got fish drying on outdoor racks, a boathouse where they build dories, and a cafe with Acadian specialties. The highlight for us was chatting with the blacksmith, who made us a personalized nail! Yes, we are nerds! 🤓
8. Rappie Pie at the Red Cap Restaurant
1034 Route 335 S
I ate a whole bunch of rappie pie when I visited Clare a couple years ago, and I’m learning to love this potatoey goop, beloved on the Acadian shore. I have been led to believe that râpure varies from the Baie Sainte-Marie to Wedgeport to Pubnico but I haven’t sampled enough to be any sort of expert. What I do know, is that the râpure at The Red Cap Restaurant is my favourite so far! They cook it in a shallow layer for extra browning, and serve it with butter and molasses. For the first time in my life, I ate the whole thing!
Pubnico Point Trail
NS-335, Middle West Pubnico
Just wow! I have never been so close to a windmill and I’ve got to say they are pretty awe-some, as in, inspiring awe or, in my case, fear! (Apparently I have an illogical fear that the blades are going to snap off and decapitate me). This trail winds 4km throughout the Pubnico Point Wind Farm, with its 17 windmills, through the forest and and along the coastline. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes windmills, wildlife, ocean views, hiking or long walks. This was definitely a mega highlight of our trip!
9. Haddock Bites at Dennis Point Cafe
214 Dennis Point Rd.
I was told the Dennis Point Cafe is a must when visiting the area. It’s right by the wharf, so it’s where the fishermen go to have their coffee and where locals go to hang out. I was also told that this is the spot for local seafood. We tried a few things, but the real winner were the Haddock Bites, which come as Traditional ($10), Parmesan ($11) or Lemon Pepper ($12). The haddock and breading were just lovely, and we adored the unique coleslaw.
The Dennis Point Wharf
214 Dennis Point Rd, Middle West Pubnico
Before heading into the Dennis Point Cafe, we just strolled down the wharf and admired all of the fishing vessels and the people working on them. This is the largest commercial fishing wharf in Atlantic Canada! Definitely a cool thing to take in before a good feed.
Wharf –> Seafood –> Windmills! More people should visit Pubnico.
10. Lobster Poutine at Lane’s Privateer Inn
27 Bristol Ave
Lane’s Privateer Inn is an historic inn, restaurant, bookstore & cafe located on the Mersey River in Liverpool. They also operate the Fort Point Lighthouse Cafe, where you can have an ice cream or coffee with a view and some history.
We were struck by how nice our room was! It was spacious, stylish and had the convenience of a mini fridge, microwave and extra sink. There are pastries, coffee and local gourmet products for purchase at the cafe and they’ll also pack you a picnic lunch, if you wish.
We enjoyed a wonderful meal in the dining room, feasting on lobster, Mersey scallops, and local Hell Bay beer. The Lobster Poutine ($24) is done “south shore style”, with creamed lobster and house-smoked curds on hand-cut fries. This now holds the title of the best lobster poutine I’ve ever had!
*Lane’s Privateer Inn kindly gave us a complimentary night’s stay, but in no way am I exaggerating how much we loved the rooms and the food. Highly recommend.
(off route 3)
Lane’s Privateer Inn is a great spot to rest your head, not only for their delightful rooms and food, but for their proximity to some amazing beaches. Carter’s Beach and Summerville Beach are both a 19 minute drive, while Beach Meadows is only 9 minutes. It’s also just a half hour to Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct.
We decided to continue towards Halifax, stopping at Beach Meadows for some ocean therapy. This white sand beach is a bit of a hidden gem, as it tends to be uncrowded compared to some of the other beaches. We could see trawlers out in the distance, and found a chunk of rare blue beach glass at our feet, so we were quite pleased with our visit!
Bonus: BLT at The Port Grocer!
Our walk along the beach stirred up our appetites, and I remembered there was one last stop on my itinerary! A quick 15 minute drive to the adorable community of Port Medway, and we found ourselves in the Port Grocer. This is a small grocer that also specializes in lunch fare and Sunday brunch. They also display local artwork, host events and local “Pub Nights”. Port Medway is lucky to have such a wonderful community space!
Our minds were blown by how good this BLT Sandwich was, not to mention the most delicious of Caesar salads. Highly recommend this spot if you’re passing through the area! Oh, and don’t forget to drive down the road to the lighthouse. There should be some hand-written signs directing you.
There are so many things to do in Nova Scotia, and I’m especially partial to the southwest. We ate so many good things and had so many good experiences, it was hard to narrow down the list. But I hope this has given you some road trip ideas! What are your favourite things to do in Nova Scotia?
Raymond from Travelling Foodie did a similar trip in 2019! Check out his Nova Scotia Food Guide!