Good-Natured Nova Scotia

Water’s edge: The picturesque town of Lunenburg is located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

Water’s edge: The picturesque town of Lunenburg is located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

Peggy's Cove

Water’s edge: The picturesque town of Lunenburg is located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

City by the sea Downtown Halifax offers a cosmopolitan vibe, while the soothing sight of sailboats keeps the mood tranquil.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Intoxicating views One of many fine wineries in the Annapolis Valley, the 35-acre Gaspereau Vineyards has offered estate-grown and limited-edition wines since 2004.

Vacations are supposed to be a break from the rush of daily life, a time to relax and put aside your cares. However, let’s face it, in our tech-heavy world, it’s pretty easy to take it all with you. If your getaways have come to mean relocating your iPad, laptop and cell phone to a sunnier climate, Nova Scotia may be just the escape you need. A trip to this Canadian province offers more than fresh scenery, it invites you to try on another lifestyle.

There’s no hint of hurry in Nova Scotia’s quaint Euro-style towns and old-world coastal villages, which are set amid wide-open landscapes and bordered by lapping shorelines peppered with lighthouses. These serene scenes will entice you to put down your cell phone, forget your agenda and unwind. You can spend your entire trip in a single charming town, or rent a car (or ferry over your own) and meander along the highway to take in a few of the province’s destinations.

The capital city of Halifax offers the closest thing you’ll find to hustle and bustle. Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic downtown. Architecture buffs will enjoy the gothic buildings and brightly painted houses. Classic structures, including St. Paul’s church, which dates to 1750, and the multi-gabled Halifax City Hall, built in 1887, are fine examples of the old world architecture found in England and France, homelands of the early settlers. You can stroll to the seaport, where rows of colorful ships are docked, awaiting chartered sails. There are boutiques to browse, some featuring handmade jewelry and pottery from local artists. Visit Nova Scotia Crystal and watch craftsman fashion sparkling glassware—you can take home a piece etched with a pattern drawn from the province’s landscape.

Make time to see the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where changing exhibits showcase Canadian contemporary, historical and folk-art works. The permanent collection consists of more than 15,000 objects housed in two buildings that span 90,000 square feet.

If you’re more historian than art buff—or romantic—check out the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’s exhibit of artifacts from the Titanic. You won’t leave with the warm fuzzies the movie conjured (let’s just say some of the the exhibit is sobering—it was a shipwreck, after all), but you will see examples of the luxury liner’s opulence—such as the lavishly carved paneling, one of the ship’s few surviving deck chairs, and a transcript of the distress calls.
When you work up an appetite, there is lots of maritime cuisine in store. At the Five Fisherman, steps off the seaport, you can soak up local color in the circa 1816 building, originally a church, while enjoying a diverse menu that includes lobster and a bountiful mussel bar.

Spend the night at the Prince George Hotel. It’s central to all, has 203 guest rooms and is even pet friendly. (Prince George Hotel, starting at $150,

From Halifax, head toward the Annapolis Valley­, where the climate and location—sandwiched between two mountain ranges—yield fertile ground for orchards and vineyards. There are more than a half-dozen boutique wineries on this route, each offering its own unique varieties. Stop for a tour and tasting and, of course, take a few bottles home.

Teetotalers may want to forgo the wineries and head to the orchards to spend the afternoon picking apples or blueberries. Pay a visit to the Tangled Gardens in Grand Pre for more treats courtesy of the land. Here, the owners have been bringing the farm to the table in the form of herb-enhanced jellies and vinegars for two decades. Walk the fragrant garden, then peruse the shop for take-home goodies.

Head into the college town of Wolfville (home to Acadia University) to wind down your day at the Blomidon Inn. The Laceby family, who have owned and operated the lodging since 1988, will take good care of you. The 29-room mansion includes main-house guest quarters and three private-entrance cottages (with jacuzzis and fireplaces) set on the beautifully landscaped property. The 19th-century sea captain’s manse, appointed with Victorian furnishings, serves as the main house, where lodging, common rooms and the restaurant are housed. The main dining room is an intimate, candlelit space that often hosts a local jazz band—an ideal complement to its stellar cuisine and a wine list that earned the Wine Spectator award of excellence. (Blomidon Inn, starting at $160;

As you continue to make your way through the Annapolis Valley, don’t miss Annapolis Royal, one of Canada’s oldest communities, founded in 1605. Check out the historic Fort Anne, where cannons still point seaward, or stroll the bountiful Annapolis Royale Gardens.

The gardens feature a 17-acre park with a lush pine forest, traditonal Victorian beds with 3,000 annuals, along with other historically based plantings connected by paths and highlighted with art and water features.

Links lovers may want to hurry on their journey through the valley to reach the town of Digby, where a premier course awaits at Digby Pines. Designed by Canadian architect Stanley Thompson, the 18-hole course showcases Nova Scotia’s pastoral beauty as it meanders through a pine grove and over a winding brook.

Beyond the greens, this 147-room estate overlooks the Bay of Fundy and offers a wealth of activities and amenities, including fine on-site dining highlighted by locally fished scallops and regional wines.

Play a few sets of tennis, test your skill with the oversized outdoor chess set or on the croquet lawn. While away the afternoon in one of the Adirondack chairs set before the majestic bay—which boasts the world’s highest tides—or leave your relaxation to a professional at the Aveda concept spa, where treatments integrate freshly farmed local apples for facials and pedicures and body scrubs. (Digby Pines Golf Resort, starting at $180;

The charming, pristine town of Lunenburg comprises hilly lanes lined with colorful Victorian clapboard houses. Spend an afternoon in the quaint shopping district. Wander into upscale boutiques, such as Luvly, for a hand-knit sweater, a unique purse or one-of-a-kind jewelry find. Or stop at the whimsical Spotted Frog, where local folk artists have been showcasing their goods for decades.

The eateries are family friendly. Come in your dock shoes, but don’t be surprised if the napkins are cloth and crisply pressed. The mood here is not quite formal, but pleasantly polite. There is a choice of B&Bs in Lunenburg, and the boutique hotels also have the homey feel of an inn. Some entice with perks like adjoining restaurants and spa facilities.
At the Lunenburg Arms Hotel, a harbor-view room puts the sea right before you, so you can unwind to the hypnotic bobbing of sailboats. The rooms are modern and handsomely appointed, and downtown is just a stroll away. (Lunenburg Arms Hotel, starting at $160;

Don’t Miss

Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove

With so much to see, it’s tough to cram it all into one visit. Here are other towns and sights to add to your agenda (or return trip).

* Peggy’s Cove: This fishing village on the eastern shore of St. Margaret’s Bay is famous for its classic red-and-white lighthouse, unique granite formation and high tides.

* Cape Breton Island: Breathtakingly scenic, this island, connected to the mainland by a causeway—was named number one on the 2011 Top Island Destinations of North America in Travel & Leisure World’s Best Awards. It’s a mix of rural landscape and friendly towns with amazing vistas, much of it accessible by car on the spectacular Cabot Trail.

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