Canada’s ocean playground abounds with a plethora of picturesque parks, pristine lakes and preponderance of peaceful coastlines. In this post, I’ll share my favourite summertime hiking, biking, swimming and paddling day-trip destinations From Halifax, Nova Scotia. Click the title of each location for a fully detailed map, guide & 360° virtual tour.
A 1h 30min drive from downtown Halifax brings you to one of the best places to view Nova Scotia’s famous highest tides in the world. One hour you’ll be walking on the ocean floor, another you’ll be at a scenic lookoff, viewing the same area, now 20ft underwater. Breathtakingly beautiful coastline, 15km of hiking trails and a provincial park campground. Stay overnight and add in a hike at nearby Cape Split to really make the most of it.
A 25-minute drive from downtown Halifax brings you to some pure, authentic Nova Scotian coastal beauty. A short, rugged 45-minute hike contains a day’s worth of enjoyment.
Everyone loves the natural beauty of Duncan’s Cove Nature Reserve, as evidenced by its consistent rank as the #1 most viewed page on HalifaxTrails.ca. The views here leave a lasting impression on your soul. 3-4 hours to hike the entire trail.
A hike that begins and ends with one of the nicest beaches in the province. 7.5km return trip along an ultra-scenic peninsula. From hiking boots and hydration bladders to flip-flops and a cooler, this trip is pretty much an ideal way to spend a summer day in Nova Scotia.
Head in on the opposite side of Peggy’s Cove road and explore the inland parts of West Dover Provincial Park with glacial erratics acting as monolithic beacons to help guide the way.
Finish with a visit to the iconic peggy’s cove lighthouse and nearby local amenities.
The community of Prospect is the definition of a hidden gem. The sights along High Head Trail in Prospect’s Bill Freedman Nature Reserve are a great way to experience it. Like Peggy’s Cove, but without the tourism focus. Explore the endless ocean views and sit for a breathtaking sunset. Stop by nearby SS Atlantic Heritage Park to learn about the biggest nautical disaster that occurred on these shores before Titanic. Stroll the boardwalk, take in more beautiful scenery and a cup of tea at the Interpretation Centre.
Often voted as Halifax’s best beach, Crystal Crescent is more than that. With an extensive 11km hiking trail, the entire peninsula is there for your eyes to feast upon. Rugged and largely unmarked, it’s not an easy stroll, but well worth the effort. With plenty of great places to be transfixed by the crashing waves, you’ll want to pull up a seat and schedule lots of extra time to sit and take it all in.
Enjoy the eclectic shops and restaurants of Fisherman’s Wharf and work off the calories with a stroll along MacCormack Beach’s boardwalk. Or just bring a beach chair and enjoy your ice cream cone and live the #EastCoastLifestyle.
With centuries of history to explore including old fortresses, this park mixes natural splendour with cultural heritage. There’s so much to explore that it simply can’t all be done in one day. Come for multiple visits, focus on the North or South end, or bring a mountain bike to be able to go from one end to the other more quickly via Garrison Road.
People come from all around the world to tour Halifax’s connection with the Titanic disaster, but most people including native Haligonians don’t know about the equally devastating White Star Line disaster of the SS Atlantic. A museum/cafe’, boardwalk and peaceful coastal views of Terence Bay make for a beautiful memorial.
A scenic 1h 30min drive from downtown Halifax with over 20km kilometres of scenic coastlines, including everyone’s favourite; the sandy and easily accessible kind. Rocky cliffs pounded by ocean surf, and coastal habitats abound. Diverse, Nova Scotian coastal beauty summed up on one peninsula.
Clam Harbour is just over an hour’s drive from Halifax, on Nova Scotia’s wildly beautiful Eastern Shore. With 1.5km of sand beach and a 5km hiking trail with its own secluded mini-beaches. Formerly a campground, the remnants make for plenty of picnic and play room.
On-site surf rentals & lessons make it one of the most popular surfing destinations in the province. There’s also its famous sandcastle competition near the end of August.
Rails-to-trails on the Eastern Shore with Summer scenery galore. Lined with lush greenery and wildflowers. Take a break along salt marshes teeming with biodiversity or have a swim at one of Halifax’s most iconic beaches. There’s no better way to arrive at Lawrencetown Beach than on 2 wheels.
Part of an extensive rails-to-trails multi-use trail system extending from Halifax to the South Shore and beyond. This section of the trail has riverside explorations, cool coastal breezes, picnic parks and popular public beaches (Queensland & Cleveland Beach).
A 13km section of the Rum Runners Trail, connecting Halifax to Lunenburg. The BLT Trail has a small waterfall, access to numerous lakes, and connects to the extensive Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail. Blissfully zone out on your bike, stop for a hike along the Bluff Trail and finish with a dip in Cranberry Lake for a triathlon of summer enjoyment.
Another rails-to-trails, multi-use trail, the unique salt marsh habitat is a haven to a plethora of birds. A cool breeze from the water makes the causeway a great place to enjoy the heat. If you’re biking the trail, you can continue on to the above mentioned Atlantic View trail for a stop at iconic Lawrencetown Beach.
Hidden gem alert! The lookoff at Susie’s Lake is a spectacular place to go for a dip. It’s hard to believe a 15-minute hike from behind an ugly business park will bring you to this view. A freeing experience that the clothing-optional crowd knows all too well.
Pristine lakes with no houses or development of any kind. Short, enjoyable hikes bring you to these urban oases. Part of Halifax’s proposed Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park which would be North America’s largest urban wilderness park. One visit and you’ll agree that we need to add it to Halifax’s resume’ ASAP!
Halifax’s newest urban wilderness park encompasses 2 lakes; Colpitt & Williams. Part of the Purcell’s Cove Backlands and the McIntosh Run Singletrack Trail system, an area popular with hikers and mountain bikers.
Colpitt Lake, thus far, has the best swimming access spots, but half the fun is in exploring this untouched urban wilderness to find a new favourite spot of your own.
With access to two lakes and over 10km of compacted crusher dust trails for walking or biking, there are lots of ways to spend your day. There’s supervised swimming access to First Lake via Kinsmen First Lake Beach, and to Second Lake via its scenic forested trails or a 500m jaunt from Metropolitan Ave.
The trails on both lakes are easily accessible, well-marked, and maintained. Adjacent to Kinsmen First Lake Beach is a splash pad and picnic area, making it very #family-friendly.
A supervised beach complete with change facilities, a beach volleyball court and picnic area. Sandy Lake is an ideal place to spend the day. Swim at the beach, hike its trails or have a picnic by the lake.
A one hour drive from downtown Halifax lays the province’s longest sand beach. Stroll the endless sand, or take a cool dip in the lifeguard supervised section (July & August). On-site surf shop, rentals & lessons.
With its new boat launch access, Long Lake is now one of the best places in the city to spend a day at the lake. The new Lakeview Trail is easily accessible for all, take a dip in the lake wherever you see fit, or paddle out to one of the islands, the park is your oyster.
The public boat launch gives you free access to Halifax’s beautiful Northwest Arm. A gift with a lasting impression donated to the people of Halifax from a man with a knack for lasting impressions on society.
This wide, easy flowing Class 2 river is ideal for paddlers of any ability (water levels notwithstanding). With a couple of day-use parks with river access along the way, you can plan a paddling adventure of a couple of hours or a couple of days.
Watch eagles soar overhead while you cruise by huge trees with exposed root systems clinging to the riverbank. The river usually moves at a lazy pace, which works just fine for this relaxing, scenic paddle.
Rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard on-site and explore the historic gem of Dartmouth. Do a leisurely cruise along the historic Shubie Canal and/or explore either of the two huge lakes at opposite ends of the park.
Shubie Park is also home to the only campground in the Halifax Regional Municipality. A #family-friendly park with public beaches, biking & walking trails easily accessible to all. One of the crown jewels of the city.
These are just a few suggestions from my experience and I hope to add more to the list as the summer goes on. If you’ve got a favourite destination that isn’t listed, let me know in the comments below. Browse HalifaxTrails.ca by these tags to find more free guides: #Beach, #Paddling, #Swimming.
All of the work I do on HalifaxTrails.ca is a labour of love. If I’ve helped you discover and explore these gems, please support my work so I can continue expanding and updating to help people like you discover our great outdoors. Happy Trails!
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