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Topic: Nova Scotia Trip - Suggestions  (Read 3470 times)

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« on: August 18, 2016, 07:24:03 am »

Hey everyone! I'm not 100% sure this is in the right spot, but it seemed to make the most sense to me.

With very little time to plan, and as our schedules lined up with time off of work and the kids school/grandparents, my wife and I are planning on doing our first trip to Nova Scotia. We live in Uxbridge, MA, and have from Friday September 9 - Sunday Sept 18 available, to see whatever we can see. So far we have no real plans besides "NOVA SCOTIA!"

So I thought I'd come on here and ask some of the people who've been there what the best things to see are. I've read through a bunch of the other trip threads, and I think I have a general idea of what's happening on the island, but not about what should be done/seen on the island.

About us a little bit - this will be my wife's first "long" ride. We've done many 4-5 hours days in the Adirondacks and around NY, NH, VT, ME, without much issue on a multitude of bikes. However, looking online, it seems like there will be a least a few days of 8 hours +/- in the saddle, which might stretch her a bit. So, instead of the long slog up from MA, my wife is flying directly into Sydney, as there are some really cheap one-way flights for her from our area, and then we could meet at a hotel in Sydney once I get up there. This would end up being about 1/2 the price of the ferry for us and the bike round trip. Has anyone done something like this? It adds a small level of inter-spouse coordination (always fun), but it shouldn't be too much of an issue. I assume they have some form of taxi service out of the airport to Sydney if I'm late or she's late.

Also, as my wife is not exactly what I would consider a 'camper', and is not really up for 'adventure riding', but more for smooth comfortable touring on the back (taking pictures this time!), we won't be camping and will be staying in hotels - this I'm OK with. We've decided to take the 2013 Triumph Trophy SE for this trip for the weather protection and general comfort the bike offers - plus good gas mileage and a decent sized gas tank should help between stops. We have all the rain gear and communication devices we need.

So, for those of you who have been there, for that time of year, where would you go? What are some 'must sees' for a young(ish), kids-free couple to see? What are some nice towns to explore? How about the ferry from Portland vs driving? Anything to keep in mind regarding GPS, gas, etc. that I might not think of? At this point, we are in the very rough stages of planning, but we really don't have a lot of time to sit down and organize, so any information you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2016, 03:03:07 pm »

The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton is on my bucket list.
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2016, 03:36:48 pm »

I went a few years back.

The Cabot Trail is certainly worth it.  I don't know if you'll care for the quaint towns along the southern part of the peninsula.  They're nice, but don't let the map fool you.  The main highway is a fair distance outside of town, so going through towns is a 35 mph nightmare that gets old real fast.  Not sure if any of them are better than the others.

Halifax is the big city.  I'm sure there's stuff to do there, but I can't say how much you'll like it.  I didn't go to hang out in a city.  Sydney is the major "city" on the northern tip (near top of Cabot Trail).  I didn't think too much of the NE corner of the peninsula.   Cold, damp wind coming off the the Atlantic and nothing really special to see.  The NW corner (Cabot Trail) was much better.  Once you get south of Halifax, the east coast gets better.

For Canada, try to keep it in the Summer months.  It can be below freezing overnight easy during summer months.

The ferry always intrigued me, but cost vs. time saved didn't seem to work out in my favor.  I would have rather taken it from Boston, but I think that route has been discontinued.

Otherwise...be sure to check that your credit cards and cell phone will work in Canada without outrageous surcharges.  Matching receipts will be fun because your statement will show the converted price.  Convert some cash into Canadian play money when you get there and be sure to convert it back when you return.  Your local bank will charge considerably to "deposit" foreign currency and do the value conversion.  It's much cheaper or free at the border.  You never know when you'll need some paper money.
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2016, 05:12:18 pm »

Expect rain but hope for good weather.
Late september is after the regular tourist season, call ahead for seasonal attractions.
The ferry crossing is now a Cat, and takes about five hours, more or less.
There is good food and good beer to be found. I haven't had a bad meal on my last trip.
Things and places to see: Lunenburg, Peggy's cove, Halifax Citadel and waterfront, Bras d'Or lake area, Louisbourg, Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail,  Bay of Fundy, etc.
Follow the roads along the coast.

Enjoy your trip.

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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2016, 07:49:56 pm »

Ditto re Cabot Trail, especially since your wife is flying into Sydney. It's a must-see and must-ride road. I still have only driven it, but I will get out there on a bike some day. However, that time of year you could get any kind of weather. Heated vests and grips/gloves and good rain gear are essential just in case.

Also, if you are in Sydney, do a day-ride out to Fortress of Louisbourg. It's well worth it if you are at all into history, and you could make that your first day. Be prepared to spend one day getting there, seeing it, and then back to Sydney.

You want to try to take advantage of some of the great music in Nova Scotia, and especially in Cape Breton. This site is very good for doing your research (http://www.cabottrail.travel/) and lists music performances.

Years ago I stayed at a place in the Margaree Valley called the Normaway Inn and Cabins. We stayed in a cabin, which is cheaper. They have music on-site most nights and a great restaurant. It will be a bit more expensive, but you'll score big points with your wife. Natalie McMaster, one of Canada's greatest fiddlers, is from the area and sometimes just shows up to play at the Normaway Inn. Maybe you'll get lucky and see her there.

If you have time the Annapolis Valley down in southern Nova Scotia is a great place to visit and is close to Halifax. Annapolis Royal is a great little town and the first European settlement in all of North America, so it has a lot of history. There's a nice route south along the coast  from Halifax that will get you there eventually, but will take a long time if you visit every little town. You can also speed things up getting to Annapolis Royal, by cutting west on the #8. As already suggested, Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg would be essential places to see, and you should try to spend a night in Lunenburg to give yourself time to look around and try out one of the great restaurants there.

Since I'm just a semi-frequent tourist to Nova Scotia, I won't pretend to know all the great roads, but maybe some
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« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2016, 08:00:44 am »

Kosciuszko national park
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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2016, 12:17:21 pm »

The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton is on my bucket list.

Did it last year. It's the best!  You gotta go both ways. Wish I made the dirt road side trip to Meat Cove.


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« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2016, 12:23:15 pm »

Did it last year. It's the best!  You gotta go both ways. Wish I made the dirt road side trip to Meat Cove.

Also buy local beer & wine. It's a lot cheaper thaN the crappy stuff you can get cheap in the USA. 

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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2016, 03:31:49 pm »

I've ridden to Nova Scotia from Vancouver 6 times in the last 18 years and just returned home 5 days ago from the most recent ride there. Each trip for me has covered different parts of NS so my memory may be a bit vague and things undoubtedly have changed in places so I'll keep my thoughts a bit general.

My most recent Spot track route :
https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=11b7457969b2e93a90&hoursPast=0&showAll=yes

First, a comment above made reference to to easily freezing in summer months. Not sure where that came from but, without checking all the weather stats, I'd bet you a cold beer that that bit of info is incorrect.

As for routing, take the ferry over from Maine if you can. I had planned to do that this year but my revised route just didn't get me over to that part of Maine so I rode to Saint John, New Brunswick ( not to be confused with St. John's, Newfoundland ) and took the ferry over to Digby. Remember to always check the ferry schedules as both routes can get busy and the waiting times might not fit your schedule.

Follow the roads around the perimeter of NS. You need a good detailed map for this. If you take the main, high traffic route you won't see a thing and you might as well stay home. This year, when I landed in Digby, I stayed close to the coast all the way to Truro and it was well worth it. Traffic moves at a decent pace and the small towns are nice. My recollection of the south side of NS is pretty much the same. I think it was Bridgetown that was full of old heritage homes. We don't see much of that here in the west so I just loved it.

Along the Bay of Fundy, are a few tidal power projects. Do a bit of reading before you go to understand them if you like that sort of thing; I find it quite interesting.

September would be my choice for NS as the motels will be easier to book.

A few towns that I would suggest :

Digby - I stayed at the Admiral Digby Inn which is a short distance from the ferry terminal and a short ride into town. Great views and a great onsite restaurant. Downtown Digby is small but vibrant and with limited accomodations.

Annapolis Royal - just down the road from Digby. I've stayed here 3 times and it would be my choice for a NS newby. There are a number of beautiful heritage guest houses right in the center of town by the old cemetery and fort. Take the cemetery tour if it's available; they have, IIRC, the oldest non-aboriginal marked grave in N.America here. There is also a great little pub right by the docks that has great fish & chips. And, if you're a beer drinker, there are a lot of local / regional brews. Skip the Alexander Keiths - it's Canada's answer to Bud Light. One server told me it's only good for making beer battered fish & chips; I'd agree.

On this most recent trip, I rode along the Minas Basin, just along from Digby & AR. Really pretty and very little traffic.

Once you get to Truro, try to stay off the main highway. You can get that kind of crappy riding anywhere although it is fast. Head towards Pugwash on the Northumberland Strait and follow the coast roads towards Cape Breton. Many of these coastal routes are named and well signed. Check at the NS tourism web site as I'm sure they will have a map with these scenic routes marked. I recall from my ride in 1998 that the pointy part of the coast at Ballantynes Cove was pretty special. And many of these roads can get crappy; paved, but crappy.

In September, you may be able to get a room in Cheticamp up on the Cabot Trail but when I was there a couple weeks ago everything was solidly booked and the roads busy. I stayed in Port Hawkesbury. Not pretty but I just did a quick run up the CT until it turned inland and then headed back south.

Baddeck is nice IIRC and the A.G. Bell museum well worth the time.

Louisbourg has an old fort which is ok if you like that stuff. We stayed in a nice motel right near the fort 10 or so years ago.

I haven't been along the south shore for many years but it was very nice and quiet until you get close to Halifax.

Halifax is a bit gritty as they say in polite circles. Go down to the the beautifully developed waterfront for a few hours but I wouldn't spend the night. Lots of great spots for lunch.

Stop at Peggy's Cove for the picture of the lighthouse or your friends will never let you forget that you missed it. Then move on to Mahone Bay. This was one of our favourite towns. Lunch on the veranda and a tour of the pewter works downtown.

Lunenberg is a good place for the night - lots of history.

Yarmounth - I had -planned to spend the night but that didn't work out. That would be on my list as there are lots of motels right near the ferry terminal.

That's about it without hogging the discussion.

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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2016, 08:22:51 pm »

My wife & I drove across Canada in '93 and loved Nova Scotia, so much so that we flew there the next year for our vacation. Unfortunately we haven't been back since. It's so expensive to fly there from the west coast.

Lots of great suggestions for places to visit above. I'll just add that rather than staying at hotels, stay at a bed & breakfast instead. There's an excellent publication put out by the Nova Scotia travel bureau for accommodations. I don't know what prices are like now, but it was $40 to $45 / night back then. Hosts were incredibly friendly and breakfasts were hardy and delicious. It's a great way to get some local flavour. If you have an idea where you want to get on your day's travel, ask your host to recommend a B&B in the area.

Oh, one recommendation - Kejimkujik National Park. We just spent a short time there but it's supposed to be great for canoeing. We liked the name so much, we named our dog kejimkujik, or keji for short.

I may have to add a ride across the country to my things to do.
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2016, 04:07:34 am »


Oh, one recommendation - Kejimkujik National Park. We just spent a short time there but it's supposed to be great for canoeing.


IŽll second this. It is an absolutely beautiful park

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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2016, 11:32:52 pm »

I made the trip from Ontario this past July. My cousin lives just outside of Halifax so I had a home base and I keep in touch of course. This past week (August 15) she said the temperatures were very high, the vegetation is browning and they could really use some rain. Being Nova Scotia, that might have happened the next day. Always have a rain jacket at the ready. Also keep in your budget the time and expense to stay another day or two if you have to in order to enjoy the ride. I'm not saying it's crap weather out there but it is an Atlantic province and when you get to Cape Breton, throw in the elevation variable for temperatures and cloud cover.

Very important to know for this year - it's the biggest construction year in a long time for the Cabot Trail. The province made it clear enough in the news, even suggesting to hold off plans to visit to 2017 for people who can't handle delays and some rough spots. What they are doing looked like future years will be a dream but I wasn't complaining. I got my ass shot in the air harder on some expressways between towns in the south. There was only one full stop construction hold up for about 5 minutes. For a 6 hour loop with stops, pretty damn good. There were plenty of areas though where the surface is dug up, crews are at work and you'd be on lane diversions for a stretch.

Do the Cabot Trail counter clockwise if you only have time to do it once. That puts you on the outer side of the road, nearest the ocean.

This map might give an idea of distance and real time from my experience in July on weekdays. Taking the "Eastern Shore" route from Halifax can tie up the better part of the day to get to Cape Breton. At times I felt like I was the only person using the route. Otherwise you can slab it up the center of the province. Margaree Forks to Baddeck is almost an hour. Brochures suggest allowing a minimum of 4 hours for the Cabot Trail loop. I think I used up 6 hours.

http://i1296.photobucket.com/albums/ag17/Charliebrm/Nova%20Scotia/Nova%20Scotia%20routes%20my%20map_zpsfmtptbuz.jpg

I found the turns and inclines in some places got interesting, like someone forgot to mention that. But campers and trucks are using the same road. No worries if you keep your mind on the business at hand. The "Trail" is actually a working, main thorough fare to get around Cape Breton, as opposed to being an alternate route for kicks. There are places to pull off to the side along the entire trail so no problem getting off for a stretch and checking out the views in safety. I thought that was a great feature. I'm more for scenic sweepers than technical through the trees so the trail suited me perfectly. The inclines are routed like a series of short waves up the hillsides instead of longer bits with switch backs, if that makes any sense.

This pic is the west coast, heading south. That stretch of road cut in the distance was all traffic cones and dirt/gravel with some ruts. You can see they are widening it to two lanes.

http://i1296.photobucket.com/albums/ag17/Charliebrm/Nova%20Scotia/Cape%20Breton%20West%20Coast_zps86hfq1so.jpg

Some times it would be just me on a stretch for at least a minute, no one else in sight to the front or the back. I rode it during the middle of the week. They don't gouge on the price of gas. It's in the same ball park every where and competitive to the prices in the mainland. The same with local family restaurants. Some of the tourist trap cafes though can be spendy but they are few and coffee and a pastry for 50% more than expected won't break the bank.

The towns with the most services up there are Baddeck and Cheticamp. I stayed 2 nights in Margaree River Forks which is between those two towns. The second night was because I was rained in (I mean RAIN and you can't tell the sky from the hills for 24 hours) for my intended day on the trail and the second day it flipped to blue sunny skies and temperatures nearing 30 Celsius. Gorgeous.

A place like Margaree means a motel and supermarket in one village, gas station and convenience store 10 km east and then north, breakfast restaurant and gift shop 15 km east. Or go west 15 km to 2 other restaurants. All of them close early. At least it's quiet. Reminded me a bit of the north of Scotland. Fly fishing is what everyone other than people on motorcycles seems to be there for.  What I did was have my hot meals in restaurants during the day and pack stuff like sandwiches or groceries to make them, fruit, snacks and essentials for coffee in my room because I tended to ride every day until after dark. The motels would be open but local services were closing up. The 2 cup coffee kit in the room will not get me through the night and the next morning. It sounds like OP intends to find more comfortable surroundings. I was solo and watching my cash and time for the whole vacation.

It's been about a month and I am wishing I could be back there right now.

For the other touristy check marks, I like Mahone Bay, Lunenburg (the Bluenose II was in port, yeah!). Halifax Harbour has artisan gift shops. You can walk for an hour or more easily. If you need some outdoor gear in a pinch there is a Mountain Equipment Co-Op down there. Visiting Lunenburg and Mahone Bay with time to walk around and have lunch would be a mid morning to late afternoon kind of trip from Halifax.
Peggy's Cove is a one trick pony but yeah, people expect you to go there so toss it into other route plans. Also Wolfville is a trendy college town. Fresh, fresh, seafood is available practically everywhere. Personally I would skip the fish & chips and try any chowder instead, and at home I'm the other way around. I hardly ever order chowder. When in Rome . . .  

Finally I have to let my old 1984 Yamaha FJ1100 take a bow. This beastie never complained and hauled the mail with ease over the 5,500 km excursion. That includes an 800 km day of non-stop rain on the monotonous slab from one end of New Brunswick to the other. Same thing happened to me in 2010. Did I mention I [email protected]$k!ng hate New Brunswick?

 http://i1296.photobucket.com/albums/ag17/Charliebrm/Nova%20Scotia/Cape%20Breton%20bike%20parked_zpsgl1kxxki.jpg
 
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« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2017, 08:09:03 pm »

Although I posted some info for the OP, I have gotten away from doing that recently. And, I think this thread is an example of why that is. A few of us spent a lot of time relating our experiences and suggestions. But, not so much as a peep or thank you from the OP. I try to be optimistic about these threads and suspect that other riders looking for similar info will get some value from them but any form of acknowledgement from the OP would be really nice and appropriate.

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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2017, 05:08:35 pm »

I'm gonna pin this thread for riders to use as a reference  Bigok
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« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2017, 09:31:42 pm »

https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20170217/e9117eba788ba8724721a094103b35c0.jpg
https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20170217/fefd2f7dbb64ce377c6dcafd5a90dce4.jpg
https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20170217/87d3b6936adf6654e4a135b48ed81dfa.jpg
The Cabot Trail is the most beautiful place on earth (that I've been to). 


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