So we hear you're planning a trip to Nova Scotia's South Shore ...?
First of all, great vacation choice! There are so many amazing places on the South Shore of this beautiful province, you could easily spend a month here and still have more to check out! So below you fill find some ideas of interesting things to see and do during your sojourn with us here in Lunenburg, as well as some great places to eat.
Out of Town—Other Places of Interest
Originally, Lunenburg was the summer destination for local aboriginal people (Mi'kmaq) who came to fish the south shore's abundant sea life. In the early 17th century the Acadians (French settlers) arrived and established Merliguesche, a logging and farming community. For a century, the Acadians and aboriginal people got along relatively peacefully. Then the Acadian expulsion occurred (1755-1764), in which the British deported over 10,000 French Catholics from the Atlantic provinces — many settled in Louisiana (becoming Cajuns). The British soon re-settled Lunenburg with approximately 1,500 Swiss, German, and French Protestant settlers — and, thus, our town was born!
The descendants of the original settlers still make up a huge part of the population of Lunenburg and the surrounding areas. Lunenburg's rich German/Swiss/French/British heritage has made it a popular destination for European visitors.
For more information about Lunenburg's history, go to the Town of Lunenburg Heritage web page, or visit the Lunenburg Library (on Pelham Street, just west of Kaulbach). By the way, the library also offers many classes, events, and activities for residents and visitors, year around, including programs like "Mixed Martial Arts & Crafts" (watch Bruce Lee while knitting!), a "Tattoo Seminar", "Prose and Poetry for Teens", and more.
Lunenburg’s South Shore Genealogical Society (which recently moved to the Lunenburg Academy, the spectacular building at the top of Kaulbach Street) offers a wealth of information for anyone looking for ancestors who lived here.
Lunenburg's vibrant and stable economy was built on farming, fishing, ship building, and ocean-based commerce (particularly in the West Indies trade), and those industries are still the mainstay of our town. If you stroll along Lunenburg's beautiful "working waterfront", you might encounter any of these established marine industries: High Liner Foods Inc., Lunenburg Industrial Foundry and Engineering Ltd., Scotia Trawler, Adams and Knickle, Deep Sea Trawlers, ABCO Industries Ltd., and the Lunenburg Marine Railway. Over the years, tourism and manufacturing have helped diversify our economy, and we have also become the home of companies like Composites Atlantic (aerospace) and HB Studios (high-tech sports games).
Lunenburg offers visitors many architectural delights in the form of beautifully preserved houses, businesses, churches, and public buildings built from the late 1700s through to the early 1900s and still in use today. One of our most distinctive architectural features is the "Lunenburg bump", a rounded protrusion on the second floor directly over the front door -- as you're walking around town, see if you can spot one!
UNESCO World Heritage site
In 1995, the World Heritage Committee (under the auspices of UNESCO) recognized Lunenburg's cultural and natural heritage by adding it to their World Heritage List. UNESCO describes Lunenburg as "the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America" — "planned" settlement here referring to the town's grid-pattern layout.
Old Town Lunenburg has also been designated by the Government of Canada as a place of national historic significance. Lunenburg is part of the family of National Historic Sites, one of more than 800 places across Canada which help define the important aspects of Canada's diverse heritage and identity.
Tours (by foot or carriage)
Walking around Old Town
If you want the ultimate Lunenburg experience, consider going on a fun and interesting walking tour of Old Town Lunenburg with the friendly and knowledgeable local guides of Lunenburg Walking Tours. They offer general "Essential Lunenburg" tours about the history and architecture of the town ... or, if you'd prefer something a little more spooky, a "Haunted Lunenburg" tour!
From June 1st to September 30th of 2016, tours will run daily, rain or shine, at 10AM & 2PM (Essential Lunenburg Tour), and 8:30PM (Haunted Lunenburg Tour). There's no need to reserve ahead, you can just show up at the meeting point (Essential Lunenburg meets at the Lunenburg Academy; Haunted Lunenburg meets in front of the Mariner King Inn) a few minutes before the tour begins. The price is $20/adult and $10/children. Call 902-521-6867 for more information.
Or if you'd rather just stroll around ...
The heart of Old town consists of four parallel, east-west streets (Bluenose Drive, Montague, Pelham, and Lincoln) connected by a few north-south streets (with King Street at the centre). As you stroll along these streets, you'll find an abundance of local shops selling everything from art to antiques, books to boats, crafts to clothing, gifts to galoshes, ... and of course, ice cream! Down on the waterfront boardwalk, you'll find kiosks with local tour companies (fishing, whale-watching, etc.) as well as whichever tall ships are in port at the time. If you need a map of Old Town, you can grab one from us before you head out, or at the Visitors' Centre kiosk at the waterfront — or pull it up online at the Town of Lunenburg's Visitor Information page. The Town of Lunenburg has also put together an architectural walking tour of Old Town, which you can find here: http://www.explorelunenburg.ca/architectural-tour.html.
Take a horse and carriage ride
Basil Oickle operates Trot In Time, a horse and carriage ride through town that doubles as an informative and entertaining tour, from mid-May to mid-October. You can find Basil and his horses waiting outside the Fisheries Museum down at the waterfront every day (except Friday), weather permitting, from 9:30 a.m. until a half an hour before dusk. No reservations necessary: first come, first served.
Our Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is located on the waterfront (Bluenose Drive). Part of the museum was W.C. Smith’s old fish processing plant. (W.C. built our B&B as his home in 1905 when he became president of his company!) The museum features many interactive exhibits -- you can learn all about building a dory, launching a dory (daily demonstration), carving a ship model, hooking a rug, making a quilt, singing a sea shanty song, and so on. There's also a small aquarium with native fish, and an extensive gift shop with books, nautical items, and local memorabilia.
The Bluenose II, an exact replica of the famous schooner that never lost an international race, may be in port when you’re here. It was built in Lunenburg, and is berthed at the Museum’s wharf (along with the Theresa E. Connor and the Cape Sable). If it's in port, you'll be able to go aboard and check it out -- and you might even get the chance to take a cruise! See her sailing schedule here: http://bluenose.novascotia.ca/schedule
The Knaut-Rhuland House is a small but lovely, historic house on Pelham Street (near King Street) that was purchased by the Historical Society and is furnished with period-appropriate furniture (late 1700s). Entrance is only $2, and it is staffed by costumed interpreters.
The Halifax and Southwestern Railway Museum is owned and operated by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Dwayne Porter, a real railroad aficionado. He has built — in miniature and by hand—and continues to build the entire railway system that used to be found here on the South Shore. Many of the items in the museum were donated by retired members of the railroad community that now live all over Canada. His wife, Sheila, makes traditional Mi’kmaq porcupine jewelry and sells it at the museum. The museum is just outside of town on the Lighthouse Route #3 to Bridgewater.
Lunenburg has many churches — including five in Old Town alone — and they're picturesque inside and out. Perhaps the most famous is St. John’s Anglican on Cornwallis Street, which burned almost to the ground in October 2001. The entire community, the Province, and the federal government all worked together (helped along by donations from all over the world) to rebuild the church to its former glory, creating a restoration industry of craftsmen in the process. It is a National Historic Site of Canada and still an active church, with the largest congregation in Lunenburg; it also offers acoustically wonderful concerts year round, and guided tours in the summer.
Other churches in Old Town include:
St. Norbert’s Roman Catholic — York Street
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian — Townsend Street
Zion Evangelical Lutheran — Fox Street
Central United — Cumberland Street
Art: Galleries, Festivals, and Courses
Lunenburg has artists that specialize in everything from marine/maritime art to landscapes and florals. Our town also has several boutiques with unique craft items. We suggest you wander around town and visit the various shops and galleries to see what treasures you can discover!
The Lunenburg Art Gallery (on the corner of Pelham and Duke streets) hosts a wet paint sale - "Paint Sea on Site" - every July, where as many as 70 artists converge on Lunenburg for a two day painting extravaganza.
Folk Art Maritime on Pelham Street (re-opening June 2016) is a fairly new store carrying local folk artists.
The Lunenburg Festival of Crafts takes place each July at the Lunenburg Arena, and features some of Nova Scotia’s most talented craft producers, as well as traditional Lunenburg food and great entertainment.
The annual Folk Art Festival takes place in late July/early August each year at the Lunenburg arena, and features over 50 folk artists, auction, music, and door prizes.
The Lunenburg School of the Arts offers summer workshops for adults and children on topics such as painting, sketching, woodcut printing, bookbinding, ceramics, clay, silk screen printing, and photography.
"The Summer Troupe", a local theatre group, presents a humorous (and somewhat accurate) musical comedy about the life of Lunenburg. "Glimpses" is performed at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in July and August, in the small theatre on the 2nd floor of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Entry is by donation, and is suitable for all ages.
The South Shore Players is another popular local theatre group that produces at least one show each year.
Musique Royale (a not-for-profit organization based in Lunenburg) offers concerts and events, year around, at various locations on the South Shore as part of their mission to promote traditional and early music in historic venues throughout Nova Scotia. 2016 concerts include the Ottawa Cathedral Choir (May 21, at St. John’s Anglican Church, Lunenburg), Cookie Concert with Ragged Robin (June 4, at the Lunenburg School of the Arts), and the Halifax Camerata Singers (June 11, at St. John’s Anglican Church, Lunenburg).
Maritime Concert Opera is a semi-professional regional opera company that offers performances of great operas in and around Lunenburg. See their performance schedule here: http://maritimeconcertopera.com/?page_id=7.
The Boxwood Festival takes place in Lunenburg each year in late July. It's a renowned international festival that provides opportunities for flute workshops, and also opens its recitals to the public.
The Folk Harbour Festival is a four-day music festival (traditional, folk, and bluegrass) that has been taking place in Lunenburg each year in early August since 1986. The festival features top quality performers during a jam-packed series of workshops, concerts, and seminars. (Note: During this festival, we require a four-night minimum stay at the Atlantic Sojourn - that gives us enough extra time during the day to go and enjoy this wonderful festival ourselves!)
The Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society presents a series of afternoon concerts at the Town of Lunenburg Heritage Society Bandstand - at 2 pm every Sunday, from the Canada Day weekend to the Labour Day weekend, in the park at the top of King Street.
Several restaurants around town offer live musical entertainment on summer evenings, including the Old Fish Factory and Icehouse Bar on Bluenose Drive, Scuttlebutt on Montague Street, and The Rumrunner on Bluenose Drive.
If you're in town in November, you can join in the singing of Christmas carols during our Lunenburg Heritage Christmas festivities (which include a parade, the Lighting of the Vessels at 6:00 p.m. at the waterfront, the Lob’star trap tree, and hot treats for sale.
A little further afield, if you're a fan of Hank Snow and country music, be sure to check out the Hank Snow Home Town Museum in Liverpool, and enjoy the annual Hank Snow Tribute every August.
Lunenburg has some of the best restaurants in the Maritimes. We list them here, without comment, for you to discover - but we're pretty sure you won't be disappointed by any of them! You can also research them online at the many websites (such as Trip Advisor) that show independent reviews from ordinary visitors. Note: Many of these restaurants are only opened seasonally, usually May through October.
Fleur de Sel (closed for the 2016 season)FrenchMontague StreetLocally sourced seafood, meats, and produce
The Knot PubPub foodDufferin StreetMussel soup, fish & chips, Caesar salads
Magnolia's GrillLocalMontague StreetFish cakes, dessert
Salt Shaker DeliSeafood, etc.Montague StreetBreakfast, lunch, dinner
The Savvy SailorSeafood, etc.Montague StreetLobster roll, etc.
Lincoln Street FoodModern neighbourhood kitchenLincoln StreetMarket inspired fresh food, including vegan options
The Old Fish Factory Restaurant & Icehouse Bar Family diningBluenose DriveSeafood
The Grand Banker Bar & GrillFamily diningBluenose DriveSteak, seafood
Shop on the CornerCafe & gift shopLincoln StreetOpen year round for breakfast and lunch
Kate's Sweet IndulgenceCoffee shopLincoln StreetSandwiches, desserts, coffee
Scuttlebutt RestaurantLight mealsMontague Street (in Smugglers Cove Inn)Breakfast, light meals
Rime Restaurant + Wine Bar LocalKing StreetLocal seafood, artisanal cheeses, steak
The South Shore Fish ShackSeaside favouritesMontague StreetAuthentic, locally sourced menu items
Old Black Forest Cafe & GasthofGerman Highway 3 toward Mahone BayHomemade German food
Out on the Water
Want to be on the water? Whether you're interested in fishing, sightseeing, or whale-watching, there are plenty of sailors ready to take you out for an exciting day on the water:
Bluenose II, Nova Scotia's sailing ambassador, offers a two-hour sail when she’s in port.
Star Charters offers you a daytime sail, sunset sail, or a harbor excursion tour on the Eastern Star, a classic 48-foot wooden ketch ("tall ship").
Lunenburg Heritage Fishing Tours will take you out on the Harbour Star to learn about Lunenburg’s historic working waterfront and lighthouse (Battery Point), and see local wildlife such as seals and eagles (binoculars provided). Fishing charters are also available (equipment provided).
Lunenburg Ocean Adventures will take you out in their Islander V1 A 42ft "Provincial" fiberglass boat for fishing or diving expeditions.
Heritage Harbour Tours offers totally customizable tours ideal for bird-watching, fishing, or just to enjoy the scenic coastline.
Lunenburg Whale Watching Tours takes visitors on the Eastern Points for three-hour tours to see whales, dolphins, turtles, seals, seabirds, and more. On days when the seas are just too rough for whale watching, Captain Flower conducts an informative tour of the historic Lunenburg Harbour and nearby Ovens Natural Park.
For more information about things to see and do on the Lunenburg waterfront, check out the Lunenburg Marina Guide.
Interested in hiking?
The Back Harbour Trail is located right in the town of Lunenburg. It's 4km long (including the section through town). The surface is smooth, and the trail offers beautiful views of the ocean, and rest benches along the way.
Another great local hiking trail is the 10km Bay to Bay Trail that connects Lunenburg to Mahone Bay. This trail used to be the old railway bed, and is part of the much longer Rum Runners Trail that stretches 119km from Lunenburg to Halifax.
Interested in golf?
The Bluenose Golf Course (www.bluenosegolfclub.com) on the other side of the bay from Lunenburg (about a five-minute drive) has eighteen tees and nine greens, lots of hilly lies, beautiful views of Lunenburg and the Atlantic Ocean, and is open to the public. There are no reserved tee-times; you just show up and line up. If you are alone or a pair, you will be linked up with someone who usually can tell you about the course as you play. Call ahead, as there are times when public access is denied due to special days (women only, juniors only, etc.) 902-634-4260
There are also full 18-hole courses in Bridgewater and Chester.
Interested in cycling?
If you haven't brought your own bicycle with you, you can rent one at Sweet Ride Cycling in Mahone Bay — they also sell a variety of bicycles and accessories. Then take a spin along one of the trails mentioned in the Hiking section above.
Want to play tennis?
The tennis courts are right across the street from our B&B. No reservations needed — the courts are available on a first-come, first-served basis — and we'd be happy to lend you some tennis rackets and balls. (Note: In July & August, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., the tennis courts are restricted to junior lessons for local children).
Looking for a playground for your children?
There's a great playground right across the street from our B&B, in Victoria Park.
Want to go swimming?
Lunenburg has two pools—one indoor and one outdoor. The indoor one is at emOcean: A Living Well Centre on Lincoln Street and is a bromine salt water pool. The outdoor pool is at the local high school and is open in the summer months only.
Love horseback riding?
The closest stable we know of that offers unique and fun trail rides is Boulder Wood Stables & Leisure Centre, located in Ardoise (on the Evangeline Trail), and run by James and Ann Wootton. They offer guided trail rides (Western and English) year-round, picnic sites, and a variety of recreational areas (including a pool and tennis courts). 1-866-499-9138.
Spa and Exercise
emOcean: A Living Well Centre offers a comprehensive menu of wellness services for teens through seniors. These services include aesthetics, physiotherapy, massage therapy, reflexology, reiki, nutrition services, a steam room, a sauna, plus new and exclusive Man Space treatments that are designed to address the needs of men’s skins. This centre also houses the largest (bromine) saltwater lap pool in the area; and in a neighbouring building, there is a brand new fitness and work-out centre.
Spa at Ninety4 is located next to the Lunenburg Arms hotel, and is a full-service spa that offers massage treatments, aromatherapy, manicures, pedicures, hair salon services, and aqua therapy. The Water Works hot tub and steam showers are also available to spa guests.
Cocoa Organic Spa is located in Mahone Bay, and offers manicures, pedicures, skin care, waxing and tinting, makeup artistry, an infrared sauna, massage therapy, hypnotherapy, and piercings.
Scenic Drives just outside Lunenburg
The First and Second peninsulas are just a few minutes from Lunenburg (take the Lighthouse Route north out of town), and offer wonderful opportunities to see great blue herons, kingfishers, and deer—lots and lots and lots of deer—especially in the late afternoon! Bachman’s Beach (Sandy Cove) on Second Peninsula is in a wind- and wave-protected cove with free access, but no services, to take in the sun or a quick swim.
Blue Rocks is not to be missed. A five-minute drive from Lunenburg, this tiny community seems lost in time. There’s one gift shop on the way, but nothing else really commercial. It was and is a fishing community, so there are fishing boats and large, dark rocks--which is where it got its name from. It’s picturesque, especially at sunset, so take a camera. To get there, drive east on Lincoln. Turn right at the Blue Rocks sign and immediately left on Pelham Street. Continue straight for about 10 minutes, and make sure you're looking out the window—the road winds beautifully along the coast with great views.
Scenic drives a bit further afield
Luckily, just about any road that is not a 100-series highway is a scenic road in the South Shore--especially those that go along the water. For example, if you go south out of Lunenburg along Route 332 toward Riverport, you can enjoy a beautiful coastal drive -- and also reach the turn-off for Hirtle's Beach and Kingsburg.
The ferry that runs continuously to cross the LaHave River is a short-cut directly to Route 331 (from 332) that leads to Petite Rivière, Crescent Beach, and Risser’s Beach. Stop at the LaHave Bakery for coffee, pastry, soup, or a sandwich as soon as you get off the ferry before continuing on this road to Port Mouton (pronounced locally as ‘Port Mah-toon’) and finally Liverpool. A great stop along this stretch of road is the Petite Rivière Winery.
A longer drive is to head east out of Lunenburg on Route 3 toward Chester. (Get to Chester faster on Highway 103, exit 8.) Just past Chester, at East River, Rt. 329, turn right onto the Aspotogan Peninsula. This is a gorgeous drive that takes you to Blandford and then around the other side of the peninsula back to Route 3.
Route 329 is a typical “by the ocean” road with twists and turns and coves and fishing villages. Once you get back to Route 3, take a right and farther along, taking another right onto Route 333 will bring you to Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, supposedly the most photographed lighthouse in the world. (http://www.peggyscove.ca) The lighthouse is situated on a huge outcropping of rocks in a town of only about 60 people! Watch out when walking on the black rocks down near the water--the water may look peaceful, but rogue waves hit regularly and claim at least one life every summer, especially during or after storms.
Another fun drive is the Lockeport Loop, which will take you through the charming villages of Sable River, Little Harbour, Osborne, Allendale -- and, of course, Lockeport! Lockeport is known for its fine white sand beaches -- there are actually five beaches in and around the town, including Crescent Beach.
Parks & Beaches
For all the beaches in Nova Scotia, go to http://parks.gov.ns.ca/misc/beaches.asp
The Ovens Natural Park just off Rt. 333 has a walking trail along breathtaking cliffs, Zodiac boat rides to the natural caves that have been formed by the ocean waves, a restaurant, and a campground. And you can also pan for gold here!
Kejimkujik National Park is the only inland national park in the Maritimes and offers hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking. It is 65 minutes from Lunenburg and requires a full day to get the most out of it.
There are always beaches to discover along the South Shore. The closest are Bachman’s Beach on Second Peninsula, the beach at the Provincial Park on Second Peninsula (picnic tables), and Hirtle’s Beach in Kingsburg. Both are good walking beaches with great ocean views.
Hirtle’s Beach has a longer hike to Gaff Point (map on-site) that you can do in a couple of hours. Bring water and your camera—Gaff Point is elevated.
Just about 12 minutes away on Route 3 (the Lighthouse Route) east, the scenic town of Mahone Bay is a single street along the water jam-packed with shops and restaurants. En route, you'll pass the Old Black Forest Cafe, where you can try authentic German cuisine.
Make sure to check out the Mahone Bay Museum and two museum/shops that allow you to observe the artists at work: Amos Pewter (www.amospewter.com) and the Rug Hooking Gallery (www.sprucetoprughookingstudio.com).
There are three churches in Mahone Bay that have become the symbol for the town because of their photographic appeal. (http://www.mahonebay.com) Time your visit right and you can take in a musical performance at one of these churches. (http://www.threechurches.com)
East Coast Outfitters (www.eastcoastoutfitters.net) in Mahone Bay is an eco-tourism operator that specializes in professionally guided sea kayaking tours and lessons.
Food is plentiful at the Gazebo, the Saltspray, Rebecca's, the Biscuit Eater, the Innlet Café, Eli’s Espresso, and Mader’s Wharf. If you like the pub atmosphere, the Mug and Anchor is your spot. On Route 3 between Lunenburg and Mahone Bay is The Old Black Forest Café.
Just 40 minutes away on Rt. 3 East, this adorable village has a great shopping area--and it’s a block from the water! The Chester Play House has a solid reputation for offering great performers and lively shows (http://www.chesterplayhouse.ca).
Ross Farm is at exit 9 north from the 103. A working museum/farm, this interesting adventure is only 40 minutes from Lunenburg. Children especially love visiting this farmstead to see the animals.
This bustling town, just 15 minutes away on Rt. 3 west, is the hub of the South Shore. Bridgewater is where you'll find big box stores and the movie theatre -- but if you cross the river you can also walk along the river and check out various restaurants and shops. We quite enjoy the Kitchen Witch, an eclectic shop with wonderful gift ideas.
Barely out of Bridgewater on Route 331 south along the river (just past the ferry dock) you can find the LaHave Bakery, housed in a historic chandlery, that specializes in yummy pastries, sandwiches, soups, etc.
Just 45 minutes west of Lunenburg, Liverpool boasts that it was once the Port of the Privateers. Now it’s known for its wonderful museums, including:
The Hank Snow Museum, which is located in the old train station just at the entrance to town. (http://www.hanksnow.com/)
The Sherman Hines Museum of Photography, which is full of the many photographs he has taken over the years, is located right in the downtown area.
The Rossignol Cultural Centre is housed in an old schoolhouse, and its small rooms focus on different topics. One is devoted just to outhouses! Another room is an English dining room complete with its original wallpaper--Sherman Hines brought the entire room over from England, put it in storage, and didn't tell his wife about it for 12 years! (http://www.rossignolculturalcentre.com/)
The Aster Theatre is a wonderful venue for all kinds of entertainment (www.astortheatre.ns.ca). The Mersey House also offers music year round.
Also, don’t miss the quaint Fort Point Lighthouse on the Mersey River. It has a gift shop with local Nova Scotian products, and offers a picnic lunch served in handmade wooden boxes (complete with sandwich, salad, dessert, and lemonade served in a mason jar). The lighthouse is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Just 1 ¾ hours away on the Fundy shore is this picturesque town. Beautiful old Victorian mansions grace the main street, and many have been turned into B&Bs or inns. The Historic Gardens (www.historicgardens.com) are a visual masterpiece.
Look for the beautiful huge tapestry that depicts the history of the town at Fort Anne National Historic Site of Canada (www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/fortanne/index_e.asp), and be sure to visit the Port Royal National Historic Site (www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/portroyal/index_e.asp), which is an exact replica of the first fort Champlain built at Port Royal in 1604.