Nova Scotia was made for road tripping. Scenic roadways wind along the entirety of its 7,500 km (4,660 mi) of coastline, offering some of the best views in Canada. These roads pass through tiny fishing villages, where people carry on centuries-old traditions, and more established urban centres where amenities are plenty. Many of these routes pass by Nova Scotia’s famous lighthouses, and stopping for a picture is often impossible to resist.

 

As you tour along one of the most scenic drives of  Nova Scotia - keep your eyes open for bald eagles overhead, and whales in the waters below. There are plenty of cultural attractions to explore as well, as Nova Scotians proudly display their Gaelic, Acadian and Mi’kmaq roots.

 

Of course, no road trip would be complete with stopping at one of the many delectable restaurants and inns that serve up Nova Scotia’s famous seafood. Bring your camera, your appetite, a sense of adventure and our newest Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Backroad Mapbook or Nova Scotia Backroad GPS Maps – your scenic Nova Scotia road trip awaits! Here are our favourite roadways to navigate in this Maritime paradise:

 

 

Cabot Trail

This 300 km (185 mi) expedition is one of the most scenic drives in Nova Scotia and travels along the Gulf of St Lawrence and Atlantic Coasts of Cape Breton Island, taking travelers through and along the edges of the stunning Cape Breton National Park for much of its length.

 

The island is characterized by its numerous coastal fishing villages, where Acadian and Gaelic culture remains strong, and the densely wooded, mountainous and lake-strewn interior. Charming towns such as Ingonish preserve the culture of Scottish settlers on the Atlantic side of the island, while Chéticamp and other towns on the Gulf of St Lawrence side tell of the island’s French heritage.

 

The Trail often hugs steep coastal cliffs, offering plenty of ocean viewpoints to explore. Many of the communities along the way offer chartered whale watching tours, and hiking trails leading into the National Park are numerous as well.

 

For some of Nova Scotia’s oldest and most authentic culture, as well some of its most unforgettable views, the Cabot Trail is one road trip you don’t want to miss.

 

 

Marine Drive

Hugging the coastline of Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, this road less travelled will give you a chance to see some of the best of Nova Scotia with none of the crowds.

 

In Musquodoboit Harbour, explore the Musquodoboit Railway Museum, which sits in a beautifully restored Canadian National Railway Station, or take a walk along the Musquodoboit Trailway to some incredible views at Gibraltar Rock. Further along, Jeddore Oyster Pond features the Fisherman’s Life Museum, complete with guides in period dress.

 

Near Lake Charlotte, stop to kick off your shoes for a walk along Clam Harbour Beach, one of the most gorgeous sandy beaches in Nova Scotia. Taylor Head Provincial Park, near Spry Harbour, has some incredible coastal trails – there is no shortage of places to stop and explore during your unforgettable Nova Scotia road trip.

 

A long portion of the drive stretches along the Bay of Islands, where you can soak in some of the most gorgeous ocean vistas you will find anywhere. The forests in this area are particularly impressive in fall, when they come alive in a blazing display of reds, oranges and yellows. We could go on and on about the things to see and do along Marine Drive, but it’s probably best you come and explore for yourself!

 

 

Lighthouse Route

Following the South Shore for 349 km (210 mi) from Yarmouth to Halifax, this route is known for its quiet communities, sparkling ocean views and, of course, its lighthouses.

 

A good way to start this Nova Scotia road trip, if travelling east, is at Yarmouth’s lighthouse, which dates all the way back to 1839. Further along, a region known as the French Shore is scattered with rustic fishing villages, where residents make a living the same way they have been for generations.

 

If you explore the backroads inland from here you can reach Kejimkujik National Park, one of Nova Scotia’s top destinations for kayaking, canoeing, hiking and camping. Further east is the historic town of Lunenberg, where the Bluenose schooner was constructed in 1921. In Mahone Bay, classic churches, art galleries, restaurants and cafes offer plenty of places to stop and take a break from driving.

 

Famous for more than its lighthouses, the Lighthouse Route offers some of the very best of Nova Scotian culture and scenery.

 



 

Evangeline Trail

Running for 290 km (180 mi) between Yarmouth and Mount Uniacke, this area is known for its high tides and fertile soils, as well as its many inns, bed and breakfasts and restaurants.

 

The Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens are a highlight along the Trail, featuring a restored Acadian farm cottage that is open for viewing. Near Digby, the Bear River First Nation Heritage and Cultural Centre provides fascinating insight into Nova Scotia’s indigenous history. A short ferry ride off of the Trail will take you to Balancing Rock, one of the most impressive rock formations in Nova Scotia, and one that will certainly have you scratching your head.

 

All along the backroads you will pass historic lighthouses, some with restaurants, museums or gift shops. Fort Anne National Historic Site in Annapolis Royal dates back nearly four centuries, and we recommend taking the Graveyard Tour with a local history interpreter to get some fascinating insight into the lives of Fort Anne residents.

 

With so many places to stop, make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to tour Nova Scotia’s Evangeline Trail!  

 

 

 

Glooscap Trail

Stretching from Wolfville to Amherst, this 365 km (230 mi) route offers a look into a rustic and charming area of Nova Scotia around the Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay. The area is steeped in Mi’kmaq culture, with the name Glooscap referring to a spiritual figure who threw mud at an errant beaver, creating the Five Islands.

 

The famous tides of the Bay of Fundy are on full display along the Glooscap, as is the abundant wildlife which lives on and around the ocean. All along this meandering coastal backroad are old farmsteads, Victorian houses and quaint churches. There are many side trips that access hiking trails, beaches and lighthouses for you to stop and stretch your legs at – we recommend starting with Burntcoat Head Park.

 

Or, for a look into Nova Scotia’s distant past, stop at Joggins Fossil Cliffs, where exposed layers of rock reveal the world’s most complete fossil record of life in the Coal Age. If you’re feeling like a snack, stop by That Dutchman’s Farm in Upper Economy for some of the tastiest cheeses you can find anywhere in the Maritimes.

 

The scenery, ecological diversity, cultural significance and rural charm make this an undeniably pleasant road trip.

 

 

 

Sunrise Trail

Running for 315 km (200 mi) between Amherst and Canso Causeway, the Sunrise Trail skirts the shores of the Northumberland Strait, with stunning views and plenty of roadside attractions to explore.

 

There are several branch trails to navigate as well, and getting off the beaten path can often yield the most rewarding results. One uniquely Nova Scotian place to stop is the Cape George Point Lighthouse, which offers the perfect photo opportunities for you and your fellow travelers.

 

Or, take a stop at any of the scenic falls that are scattered along the Sunrise Trail – highlights include Arrowhead, Park and Morar Brook Falls. A short detour off the Sunrise Trail will take you to Heather Beach Provincial Park, known for its stunning views and red sand bluffs.

 

All along the Sunrise Trail you will pass through rolling farmlands, creating a peaceful backdrop for a summertime drive – roll down the windows and let the ocean breeze calm your senses. If birding is your thing, stop at Waterside Provincial Park, where bald eagles and osprey are a common sight. Or, stop at Arisaig Provincial Park to see some millions-of-years old fossils.

 

There are hidden gems all along Nova Scotia’s Sunrise Trail – seek and ye shall find!

 

 

You can find these incredible scenic drives of Nova Scotia and more in the latest edition of our Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Backroads Mapbook and ourNova Scotia Backroad GPS Maps!