The Westin Nova Scotian, originally built in 1930 as the Canadian National with the railroad, is perfectly situated for exploring the essence of Halifax, which can be summed up in two words: The Harbor. Everything revolves around the activity and bounty that the harbor showcases. Locals and tourists alike promenade the boardwalk complete with restaurants, shops, ships and museums including the Ellis Island of Canada at Pier 21. The Westin Nova Scotian is perched behind Pier 21 and the Seaport Farmers’ Market where local crafts and goods are sold. Beyond is the beautiful George’s Island and its iconic lighthouse. Bay view windows in the Westin Nova Scotian provide a ring side seat as ships pass by morning and night. The Westin is a testament to the fortitude and resiliency of Nova Scotians. After several owners, it was rescued from the wrecking ball and fully restored. The Newcastle group signed on the Westin brand, with Heavenly Beds for the next 20 years. Kilted bellmen welcome guests. The rooms are so comfy that we could stay all day watching the bay but there is much to do in Halifax. The best way to preview it all is to take the Hop On/Hop Off tour, a double decker bus that runs through the city narrating the history of neighborhoods, churches, the Citadel, shopping centers, parks, gardens and more. Hop on as it says and hop off at your point of interest, all day long. Another option is the Harbour Hopper that includes part of the city tour and then ducks into the harbor. We instead took the Halifax Transit Ferry over to Dartmouth, for $2.50 Canadian round trip. It is a cool, calm way to enjoy the water.
Not always so calm, two disasters will forever be etched in the minds of Nova Scotians and are noted by plaques on the Harbour Walk and in the museums. The Explosion during WWI killed over 2000 when an armory ship collided with another. Bostonians came to assist as soon as word spread of the disaster. When the Titantic sank, Halifax was the closest harbor. Boats set sail to save as many survivors as possible. A cemetery marks the unidentified victims laid to rest and The Maritime Museum showcases artifacts and memories of the Titanic in addition to the advancement of shipbuilding. Included with the Maritime Museum admission is entry to the Seadome featuring a 360-degree virtual experience featuring a Whale Story. Live whale watching, kayaking and surfing are more adventures from Halifax.
Seafood is king as the waters surrounding Nova Scotia are bountiful with scallops, lobster and oysters and fish of all species. Delectable dishes are served on a variety of menus including the Seafood Tower appetizer for two at Shucks. It is plenty for a meal and shucks, it is delish! The Waterfront Warehouse on the boardwalk has a shucker on duty for fresh oysters served any way you like. Right inside the Westin Nova Scotian, Elements of Hollis is famous for its breakfast buffet, but we recommend the sweet potato shrimp hash, simply amazing! For dinner, the salmon with quinoa is a favorite. An evening stroll on the Harbour Walk settles the belly and street entertainers abound, especially during Buskers Festival when they come from around the world to perform. Consider a maple Beaver Tail (large flat pastry like a donut) from the kiosk for dessert and stop by the Bicycle Thief, named after a 1940’s Italian movie for a nice pinot noir on the water-front. All of the seafood pairs well with Nova Scotia’s own wine appellation – Tidal Bay from which we may have had withdrawals upon our return.
Of course, micro-breweries are popular everywhere. There are brewery tours and then there is Alexander Keith’s, est. 1820. Keith’s comprehensive tour and tastings conclude with a ceilidh, or kitchen party in the cellar, sing it! Jay, the Nova Scotian on the drum sure can.
Golf options are incredible throughout Nova Scotia, in Cape Breton, The Highlands, Fox Harb’r, community courses and the historic Digby Pines. Fly into Halifax and spend some time before and after golf. It is one of our favorite places for sightseeing, cuisine and just chilling. Apparently, we are not alone since over 200 cruise ships a year choose to dock here.