Going Coastal: 4 Excursions in the Canadian Maritimes
By Everett Potter for the May issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine
One hundred years after trying to rescue passengers on the Titanic, Halifax remembers the disaster. The Nova Scotian capital has a bevy of the ship’s artifacts, as well as a bounty of local seafood and a strong seafaring tradition.
Titanic Tour (3 hours)
When the R.M.S. Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland in 1912, rescue ships were sent from Halifax, the closest major port. Alas, they quickly became recovery ships as they retrieved only corpses and wreckage from the frigid North Atlantic. Blair Beed, a local historian whose grandfather helped during the catastrophe, brings the tales to life, with stories about many of the passengers. His tour (902-455-9977; $150 for up to six people) includes the home of local millionaire George Wright, who went down with the ship, as well as Fairview Lawn Cemetery, where 121 Titanic victims are interred. At the Old
Triangle Irish Alehouse, have a proper seafaring lunch of fish and chips and a pint of Propeller India Pale Ale.
Museum Ramble (3 hours)
Halifax has three dynamic museums within walking distance of the waterfront. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic displays ship models and artifacts, but it also features a deck chair from the
Titanic and an exhibit on the North Atlantic cable ships, such as the Mackay-Bennett, that participated in the recovery effort. Pier 21 National Historic Site is the last “immigration shed” left in Canada. Akin to Ellis Island, it’s now a museum with exhibits commemorating the million-plus immigrants who entered Canada via this wharf. Wander through the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia with works by Canadian artists, including renowned folk painter Maud Lewis, whose house is on display.
Halifax on Three Wheels (4 hours)
After Vicki Gesner kick-starts her Ural motorcycle—with you in the sidecar—she’ll take you on an exhilarating tour of this city and its neighboring coastline. Bluenose Sidecar Tours is run by Gesner and her husband, and their tour to the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove includes a visit to the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial. Lunch at the Brooklyn Warehouse, a hangout where locals feast on burgers topped with Prince Edward Island cheddar, and sip Gaspereau Muscat, a Nova Scotian wine.
Taste of Town (3 hours)
The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market is one of North America’s oldest—dating to 1750—and is now housed on the waterfront, a jumble of stalls selling smoked salmon, artisanal cheeses, and breads. Buy enough for a picnic, and head to the roof for an open-air repast while looking over to Georges Island. Afterward, ramble the hilly streets to get a feel for this university town through its used bookshops, such as Trident Booksellers. The city’s highest point, the Citadel, offers 360-degree views of the harbor and town from a fort built to safeguard the British Navy. For dinner, head to Chives, where chef Craig Flinn began Nova Scotia’s locavore movement a decade ago. His lobster-crusted haddock is sublime. Then catch a local singer at the Carleton Music Bar and Grill, the best live-music venue in town.
Do you have a favorite thing to do in Halifax? Tell us about it in the comments section below.