From Mystic and Newport to Rockport and Bar Harbor, you’re a bit obsessed with adorable coastal towns in New England. You get excited by the sight of small fishing boats, cobblestone streets, and old homes with widow’s walks. You’re lured by the combined scent of salt air, low tide, and cooking seafood. While windswept beaches and brazen seagulls never fail to make you smile. But your love affair with the Northeast Coast doesn’t have to end at the Canadian border. There’s a little town in Nova Scotia that’s sounds like it’s right up your alley.
Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits southwest of Halifax along the Atlantic Coast. The hillside town was founded in the mid-18th century, when the British attempted to spread Protestantism through Nova Scotia. This didn’t go over well with the Mi’kmaqs, who used the area for clam harvesting. The new village was raided numerous times, first by the indigenous people, and then during each battle between the French and Indian War and the War of 1812. Only then was it peaceful enough to become an important fishing and ship-building center.
Now tourism has overtaken fishing as the coastal town’s most important industry. Houses in every bright color imaginable face the water. The steeple of the Gothic St. John’s Anglican Church, whose oak timbers were shipped from Boston in 1754, can be seen from every corner of town. Shops, galleries, and historical museums line the wharf. Plus the Bluenose II, a replica of the schooner featured on the Canadian dime, is docked in the harbor.
Despite your obsession with picturesque towns like Lunenburg, you aren’t crazy about the crowds they lure. Riding a horse-drawn buggy through town or following a guide through the aquarium in the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic just isn’t your cup of tea. After a quick walk through town, you’re ready to find its hidden gems. Join Pleasant Paddling’s sea kayaking trip to see Lunenburg from the water before heading toward Blue Rocks. More than 50 small islands were created when stratified slat was pushed up from the sea. Only kayaks can maneuver through the maze-like passages now. While one of the islands is home to a seal colony. Stop paddling once you see the seals ahead. Eventually, the playful and curious ones will slip into the clear water to come say hello.
Back on dry land, head to Hirtle’s Beach just south of town. The beautiful beach is two-miles long with golden sand and bordering pine trees. A trail at the end of the sand winds through the forest to Gaff Point, where you reach dramatic ocean views. Return to Lunenburg to find Ironworks Distillery in an old blacksmith’s shop. Tour Nova Scotia’s first microdistillery and then sample their vodka, light and amber rums, and blueberry liqueur. Just keep an eye on your watch. You don’t want to miss your dinner reservation at Fleur de Sel.
Fleur de Sel is one of the best restaurants in not only Nova Scotia, but in all of Canada. The yellow building, from 1840, has pretty archways, intricate moulding, and a patio garden. Five- and seven-course tasting menus, as well as wine from Nova Scotia, are served. You notice Ironworks’ cranberry liqueur—which you didn’t get to try at the distillery—right away on the cocktail list and order the Fleur Royale as you look over the menu. A half-dozen local oysters with a spicy ginger and shallot mignonette sound delicious. And though you’re tempted by the butter-poached lobster, everyone says that the best thing on the menu is pan-seared Adams & Knickle scallops. Both the oysters and the scallops pair perfectly with a Riesling from Domaine de Grand Pré, the oldest winery on Canada’s Atlantic coast. Thanks to Lunenburg, you’re going to need more time for your Northeast road trips from now on.