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Top Five Travel Tips For Tourists Going to Nova Scotia

Updated on October 13, 2014

What We Learned on Our Trip to Nova Scotia!

Our family recently visited Nova Scotia, which a wonderful place that has a wide variety of things to do for everyone. We wrote an online diary of the trip, which you can see here.

After publishing the diary, we realized there were some bits of advice that would be good to share with anyone who wants to visit the Canadian province.

Here are our top five!

Please note that all photos in this review were taken by us unless otherwise credited.

Take the Ferry if Possible

Nova Scotia Digby Old Loyalists Cemetery
Nova Scotia Digby Old Loyalists Cemetery

From Saint John to Digby, Cutting Your Travel Time by Hours!

Here is the one travel tip that we wished we had used, and maybe with better planning we would have.

There's a ferry that runs from Saint John in New Brunswick to Digby on the western north shore of Nova Scotia. If you are driving up from the U.S. or from across Canada you should consider the ferry. The ferry's website is here.

Depending on where you are staying in Nova Scotia the ferry can cut hours off your trip and miles off your journey. We ended up driving almost three extra hours each way because we didn't use the ferry.

There's two drawbacks to this, however.

One is that the ferries don't run very often. Depending on the time of the year the ferry leaves Saint John at 9 a.m. or noon (there's also a very late night one part of the year). That almost forces you to stay overnight in Saint John, which we didn't want to do. So we bit the bullet and drove all the way up to where Nova Scotia is attacked to New Brunswick and then down into Nova Scotia. The ride was pretty monotonous, so if you can, take the ferry.

Unfortunately, the timing on the return from Digby is almost as bad: 4 p.m. year-round, with an 8 a.m. trip added during the heavy tourist season. neither one of those was convenient for us either.

The other drawback to the ferry is price. It can be quite expensive. The ferry costs $32-$42 an adult each way, and that's not including the cost of the vehicle. We estimated it would have cost us over $200 each way if we had taken the ferry.

(We took this photo in Digby, which was founded by American Loyalists who fled the United States after the Revolution.)

The Nova Scotia provincial government has said that it will work to restore ferry service between Yarmouth and the state of Maine, making it easier for U.S. tourists! The previous ferry service died in the recession a few years ago, but the province is willing to commit about $21 million over the next seven years to help get the service going again, contingent on finding a private partner and support from the Canadian government. This is something to check into if you plan on going to Nova Scotia, though it probably won't help if you want to travel soon.

Bring U.S. Dollars

Nova Scotia Citadel Re-Enactors
Nova Scotia Citadel Re-Enactors

Don't Bother Seeking Out a Currency Exchange Before Going!

Just Take Your U.S. Cash!

If you are traveling from the United States you shouldn't bother converting your U.S. dollars to Canadian dollars before heading to Nova Scotia.

The two currencies are so close in value that many places, stores and restaurants we visited took the U.S. cash at par. The toll roads all accepted American money at an even exchange rate as well. And almost all of the time we got Canadian money back when the places gave us our change. So we always had a little Canadian money in our pockets anyway.

Interestingly, the one type of store that insisted on taking our U.S. dollars at the currency conversion rate rather than at par was the supermarket. We stopped at several of the large chain supermarkets, and in each one they did this. It turns out the supermarkets get so many U.S. tourists each year that the registers have a currency conversion button. So the cashier rings up your total in Canadian dollars, then presses the button and the total pops up in U.S. dollars. It wasn't much of a difference, but I imagine it's important for the supermarkets to get every penny they can -- it's such a low-margin business.

Because the currencies are so close in value, try to use cash rather than credit cards because of course the credit-card companies always charge a foreign-exchange fee. So even if they offer a good rate it's not worth it.

(We took this photo at the Citadel in Halifax, where guides dressed as 1860s soldiers performed the military drills of that era.)

Make Sure There's Wi-Fi

Nova Scotia St. Mary's Bay
Nova Scotia St. Mary's Bay

Stay Some Place That Offers Free Wireless Connection...

...and Bring Your Computer, IPad or Other Electronic Device!

The campground we stayed in had free wi-fi, and each night we would take our laptop out of the car and set it up on the table to help us plan the next day's adventures.

With the computer we were able to find out opening times, plan which roads we were taking, and even where we would stop to eat. We were able to check the weather (on our trip it was mostly rain!) and we were able to make reservations when they were required.

Being connected to the Internet also enabled us to read more about the places we had visited each day while they were still fresh in our minds, answering any questions we might have thought of and giving us a fuller appreciation of what we had seen.

The other big advantage to having our laptop with us: We kept an online diary of what we had done each day, and because things were fresh in our minds we were able to really capture what we felt and what we thought was interesting about each place we visited!

(Shown here is the rocky coastline along St. Mary's Bay.)

Visit the Travel Center

Nova Scotia Bay of Fundy Seals
Nova Scotia Bay of Fundy Seals

Stop at the Official Travel Center When You Enter Nova Scotia

...Whether by Car or by Ferry!

There is a travel center right after you drive across the New Brunswick border into Nova Scotia, near the town of Amherst. Look for the replica of a white lighthouse. It's pretty easy to see.

We found all the information we could ever want about things to do and places to see, augmenting what we had already looked up on the Internet.

But the real advantage for us were the workers at the travel center. They were extremely helpful in talking about the roads on the province, how long it would take from place to place, where the better places were to go down on the beach etc. They answered all our questions and gave us suggestions on things to see we hadn't thought about.

And if you do end up taking the ferry, there's a travel center in Digby that I'm sure would be just as helpful.

(Here are two seals that we saw when we were out on the Bay of Fundy in our futile quest to spot a whale -- for the full story see our lens here. )

Get a Tide Table

Nova Scotia bay of fundy
Nova Scotia bay of fundy

Knowing the Tides Will Help You Enjoy the Bay of Fundy!

The Bay of Fundy has some of the world's largest tides, with one billion tons of water flowing in and out during a tide cycle (according to the Bay of Fundy tourism website).

That's a lot of water! And it affects when you can get down on the beaches and when you really should seek higher land. Many locals will warn you that you don't want to be too far out on a beach when it comes time for the tide to come in!

The tides also affect when you might want to see some of the scenic views, so it's well worthwhile to get a fresh tide table and carry it with you when you are traveling around. Several travel centers in various places in Nova Scotia had them, which was fortunate for us because we didn't plan ahead!

The Bay of Fundy tourism site also lists the tides for a number of areas along the bay. You can check them out here.

Things to Do in Nova Scotia

Our Online Travelogue of Our Vacation!

As mentioned above we spent six days in Nova Scotia recently, and wrote a daily travelogue of what we did and what we saw. Check it out here. It may help you with your plans!

Things to Do in Nova Scotia: Highlights of Our Family Vacation
Nova Scotia offered our family a good mix of what we look for on when we go away on vacation. There's beautiful scenery to hike through, historical and cultu...

Are You Planning a Vacation in Nova Scotia? - Or Have You Already Been There?

Nova Scotia St. Gilbert's Lighthouse
Nova Scotia St. Gilbert's Lighthouse

We hope these travel tips help you if you are planning on visiting Nova Scotia, or once you are there!

We'd love to know how many people are reading this preparation for a trip.

Shown here is the Gilbert's Cove lighthouse, in a light rain.

Are You Going to Nova Scotia on Vacation?

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Book Your Vacation Today

We have used to book our recent vacations, and haven't had a problem yet. You do have to spend a bit of time reading the reviews to make sure the hotel you select is exactly what you want, of course. Sometimes a good price just means that the hotel has had a lot of poor reviews and has dropped what it charges to attract customers!

One other bit of good news is that you get a free night's stay after booking 10 nights. The freebie has to be on a subsequent trip, but it has helped us save money. Check out today:

Things to Do in Montreal

Our next major family trip was to Montreal, another part of Canada that offers many things to do. Here are some of our reviews to help you if you decide that Montreal would be more your thing!

Things to do in Montreal: Highlights of a Family Vacation
Montreal, the largest French-speaking city in the Canadian province of Quebec, was chosen as the site of our Spring Break family vacation this year. My daugh...

Montreal's Biosphere: An Evironmental Museum in a Geodesic Dome!
The biosphere is a museum dedicated to increasing public awareness of the environmental issues facing the world today. It does this by mixing a lot of inform...

Highlights of Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica
The Notre-Dame Basilica in the Vieux-Montreal section of the city is well worth a visit, as it is considered one of the grandest churches in North America. C...

The Library of Congress, National Portrait Gallery and the Zoo!

Our Washington, D.C. Vacation

Our vacation before we went to Nova Scotia was in Washington, D.C., where we spent five days visiting the many places the U.S. Capital has to offer tourists. Here are some of the reviews we wrote about those sites:

Renoir and Highlights of the Phillips Collection: A Washington D.C. Family Day Trip
The Phillips Collection opened in 1921 as America's first museum of modern art, and it is still considered one of the premiere places to see such masterpiece...

Highlights of the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, photographs, maps and other items in its collection. The Thomas Jefferso...

Highlights of the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are located in the same building, and are officially called the Donald W. Reynolds Cent...

National Museum of American History: A Washington D.C. Family Day Trip
The National Museum of American History in the heart of Washington D.C. is one of those places that can really capture the attention of every member of the f...

Ford's Theatre, Where Lincoln Was Assassinated: A Washington D.C. Family Day Trip
Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. was the scene of America's greatest tragedy. On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln, having successfully guided the c...

The National Zoo: A Washington D.C. Family Day Trip
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is a great place to take the kids when they need a break from all the monuments...

Highlights of the National Gallery of Art: A Washington Family Day Trip
The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., and is a great change of pace from the many museums that are nearby. The pain...

Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore: A Tourist's Guide to Comic Book Heaven!
Geppi's Entertainment Museum is located in Baltimore and is dedicated to all sorts of American pop culture: comic books, television, radio, movies, magazines...

Thomas Edison's Laboratory: A New Jersey Family Day Trip!
The Thomas Edison laboratory in New Jersey is a great family day trip. Edison was the inventor of the first practical electric bulb, the motion picture camer...

Gettysburg Battlefield Museum: A Pennsylvania Family Day Trip
The Gettysburg Visitor Center and Museum, located in the Gettysburg National Military Park, is the best place to start any visit to the Civil War battlefield...

Thomas Edison House Glenmont: A New Jersey Family Day Trip!
Thomas Edison, one of America's greatest inventors, lived for more than four decades in a 29-room mansion called Glenmont in the exclusive Llewellyn Park nei...

George Washington's Headquarters in Morristown: A New Jersey Family Day Trip
The Ford Mansion in Morristown, New Jersey, served as George Washington's Revolutionary War headquarters during the winter of 1779-1780, close enough to New ...

Highlights of Fort McHenry, Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a great place to visit, full of inspiring history, lovely grounds and cool views. It's also a place to ...

Highlights of the Frick Collection
The Frick Collection is an art museum in Manhattan's Upper East Side, and is world-famous for its collection of Old Master paintings. Included in the collect...

We hope these travel tips will help you if you are planning on visiting Nova Scotia.

Now here is your chance to share your advice, or comment on the tips we have listed or this lens in general.

Thanks for visiting!


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