Photograph by Chris Rainier
Brightly colored historic homes dot the south shore of Nova Scotia on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean like a nautical postcard from the past. Since the 1700s, a mix of European immigrants have called the 47-block town, located 60 miles from Halifax, home. Each wave of newcomers has influenced the food, culture, and architecture, making downtown Lunenburg, now dotted with galleries and shops, a National Historic and UNESCO World Heritage site. In this port community of fishermen and shipbuilders, the waters guided their livelihood then and now.
When to Go: July, for the Lunenburg Street Festival and Art Walk and the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival; August, for the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, featuring traditional and contemporary folk music; July through September, for Sunday afternoon concerts at the Heritage Bandstand.
How to Get Around: Kiwi Kaboodle offers a daily door-to-door shuttle service from Halifax. If you stick to town you won't need a car. Take in the shops and cafés of Lunenburg by foot. Sign up for a local walking tour. Seventh-generation local Shelah Allen takes visitors out daily. "There are lots of beautiful places you can visit, but there's so much more substance to this place," she says. "That's not a tangible thing. It's a feeling you get when you're here." Horse-and-carriage tours offer a chance to get an overview without wearing out your walking shoes.
Where to Stay: A stay at the 1826 Maplebird House offers the homey feel of a bed and breakfast with the amenities of a boutique hotel (Wi-Fi, full breakfast, pool, verandah overlooking the harbor). You'll get insider tips on what to see and where to go from hosts Barry and Susie. The harbor-view rooms and proximity to waterfront activities make the Brigantine Inn a popular pick; rooms have refrigerators and coffeemakers. Just outside of downtown, the six simple log cabins at Lunenburg Oceanview Chalets come with housekeeping, fully equipped kitchens, and fireplaces.
Where to Eat or Drink: The Blacksmith's Shop is now a microdistillery. Stop for a pint and a pound of Indian Point mussels prepared eight different ways at the Saltshaker Deli. For a more formal meal, sister restaurant Fleur de Sel down the street offers a traditional French menu featuring locally sourced food, including pan-seared Quebec foie gras and Atlantic halibut with handmade salt cod gnocchi. The Savvy Sailor offers breakfast with a view toward the harbor.
What to Buy: Lunenburg's European influences show up in locally made Solomon Gundy fish paté and sauerkraut. Local vendors sell produce, fish, and hand-knit hats and sweaters at the year-round farmers market, open Thursdays. Check in at NorseBoat, which crafts traditional sailboats and rowboats.
Helpful Links: Explore Lunenburg
Fun Fact: A replica of the fishing schooner turned racing tall ship featured on the Canadian dime since 1937 now sits in Lunenburg Harbor. The Bluenose II is one of the country's most recognizable symbols.
Heather Greenwood Davis is an award-winning travel writer for the Toronto Star, Canadian Family, Parents Canada, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
Canada's Country Unbound: Civilization and Nature in Harmony
Nat Geo Traveler All Access
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!