Halifax is a harbor town. A narrow neck opens up to the protected waters of Bedford Basin, making it ideal as a naval and shipping port. Before Europeans arrived, this body of water was a sanctuary and home to Indigenous Mi’kmaq for millennia.

In the 18th century, the British Royal Navy established a military presence that shaped the city and is still present today in its historical landmarks and Canadian naval yards.

Today, the harbor accommodates container ships and welcomes cruise ships. The Halifax harbor boardwalk is a playground, likely the most visited kilometer on Canada’s east coast. From time well spent in dockside bars, restaurants and attractions, visitors widen their circle of curiosity to explore downtown Halifax, Dartmouth across the harbor and beyond to iconic and UNESCO-listed sites within an hour of the urban core – Peggy’s Cove, Grand-Pré, Wolfville, Lunenburg.

After 15 years of walking Halifax’s streets – I still live nearby – and forging precious memories, here’s my guide to the ultimate four-day weekend in and around Halifax.

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Argyle Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia, lined with bars and restaurants
Argyle Street is full of excellent bars and restaurants © DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images
  • When to arrive: Touch down on a Thursday night and depart on Monday night – June to September – for the ultimate four-day Halifax super weekender.
  • How to get from the airport: To fully explore this one-hour radius itinerary, pick up your rental car. If you’re sticking to the urban area, hop on a Metro Transit bus, hail a taxi or grab an Uber or Lyft.
  • Getting around town: Halifax is a walkable city, so park the car and stroll around downtown. To thoroughly explore the city, grab the Metro Transit route guide to the bus and ferry service. To reach out-of-town sites, you’ll need that rental car.
  • Where to stay: A plethora of hotels, AirBnBs and even university residencies give visitors a wide range of options. If you're on a tight budget, book a clean student dorm room at Dalhousie for just $56. Downtown and waterfront hotels are pricey, but the Courtyard Halifax Downtown is a good bet from $230 to $350. At the high end from $450 to $600, the Muir at Queen’s Marque is sumptuously self-indulgent and proudly Haligonian.
  • What to pack: The dress code is decidedly casual. Haligonians prefer comfortable, practical wear. For evenings out to see live theater or settle into a nice dinner, the dress code rises a notch to smart casual. For those cool nights and out-of-town excursions, dress in layers and pack a light, waterproof jacket.

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Evening: Welcome to Halifax! Get a quick orientation with a walk around the downtown hillside neighborhood on either side of Barrington Street. These ten or so blocks leading down to the harbor are chock-full of shops, bars and restaurants that buzz with nightlife. To discover some of Nova Scotia’s excellent craft beers paired with hearty pub grub, settle into Stillwell taproom on Barrington in the center of the action. Still thirsty? Just wander. You’ll bump into another bar, another pub on every block, and places like the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse where the drinks and the traditional tunes flow.

Georges Island off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia
Pack a picnic and take the short ferry ride to explore Georges Island © Spacewalk / Getty Images


Morning: Slip down to the waterfront boardwalk to watch the sunrise over Georges Island, a stone’s throw from the docks. Of the many cafes, Cabin Coffee is a good choice to start the day, either hanging out to hear the local scuttlebutt or grabbing and going with a breakfast bun and coffee special. Ocean-themed public art animates the route – a whale’s tail bench, fishing schooner hammocks, a wave-shaped sculpture, and drunken sailor lampposts. Learn about Halifax’s nautical past, including its grim role in the Titanic disaster, at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

How to spend the day: Catch the shuttle to tiny Georges Island, a national historic site crowned by the remains of Fort Charlotte. Combine the short ride over with a Perfect Picnic package and a tour of the creepy military tunnels. If you return from your Georges Island getaway with more time in your day, walk up the steep streets toward the white town clock and into the fortress atop Citadel Hill. Pose for pics with the fuzzy-hatted soldiers in their red uniforms and kilts. Take a guided tour to see the inner workings of this beautifully preserved stronghold.

Dinner: Seafood is the way to go in Halifax, as it is across Nova Scotia. Classic favorites doing it right for decades include Five Fishermen and McKelvies. Upstarts like Shuck Seafood and Oyster Bar are adding dimension to Halifax’s seafood scene with its extensive oyster menu.

After dark: Halifax is home to a distinct eastern Canadian music scene that mixes traditional roots with alternative and hip hop. Check who’s playing the downtown live music venues like The Carleton, Bearly’s House of Blues and Gus’ Pub. Neptune Theatre always has something fun on stage – shows like The Full Monty, Frozen or A Midsummer Night’s Dream are typical. Influences spilling over from four universities, a theater school and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design give Halifax a decidedly artsy edge. See what’s on for independent theater, comedy, dance, film, festivals and live music at small stages, clubs and pubs across the city.

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Tourists stroll along the rustic wooden boardwalk in front of the classic wooden architecture of the UNESCO World Heritage British colonial settlement.
Spend a day exploring colorful and charming Lunenburg © lazyllama / Shutterstock


Morning: Wake up early for your Lunenburg day trip. In just over an hour, you’ve traded the Halifax waterfront for the Lunenburg waterfront, a UNESCO world heritage site. Yup, all those colorfully painted 19th-century wood-clad houses, hotels, inns, shops and restaurants lined up a hill so steep that they seemed stacked atop each other make up the best example of a British colonial town in North America, qualifying it for UNESCO status.

How to spend the day: These historic, lively eight blocks step down to docks where Canada’s famous tall ship, the Bluenose II, is often moored and open to visitors. The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – including two more historic ships – interprets the fishing heritage of the town and of Nova Scotia. Wander the streets. Order locally caught fish and chips at the South Shore Fish Shack. Sample spirits at Ironworks Distillery located inside a former blacksmith shop where smiths pounded out hardware for the many ships built here.

Dinner: Return to Halifax, park the car and cross the harbor aboard one of the ferries that links the waterfront to downtown Dartmouth every 15 to 30 minutes. Top Canadian chef Renée Lavallée runs The Canteen, a creative restaurant that belies its name. Try the scallop and leek risotto.

After dark: Get into a friendly axe-throwing contest at the Timber Lounge or sip cocktails at Dear Friend Bar. If lively taprooms are your jam, settle into Battery Park Beer Bar and Eatery.

A local vineyard in Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Take a wander through the vineyards of Wolfville and sample what takes your fancy © Danita Delimont / Shutterstock


Morning: Up and at ‘em again, this time for your Annapolis Valley day trip. In under an hour, you’re in Nova Scotia’s verdant valley bookended by world-record tides and framed by twin ridges – extensions of the Appalachians worn to nubs by time. In this fertile, protected valley, apple orchards, corn fields and vineyards thrive.

How to spend the day: Begin with a coffee stop at Just Us Coffee, Nova Scotia’s best-known craft roaster that takes organic and fair trade seriously. Continue on to the nearby Grand-Pré National Historic Site – the grassy, shaded grounds that tell the story of French Acadians at the interpretation center and the memorial church. French settlers brought dyking technology here in the 18th century, claiming this land from the shallow sea and farming it for decades before British forces brutally exiled them and claimed the land for themselves. Like Lunenburg, Grand-Pré’s colorful history earned it UNESCO World Heritage status.

Spend the afternoon touring wineries, pausing at farm outlets along the way. Sample world-class Brut at Benjamin Bridge, tart rosé at L’Acadie Vineyards and rich Lucie Kuhlmann red at Gaspereau, among others. Lunch on the patio at the hilltop Luckett Vineyards comes with a free phone call in the red British phone box set mid-vineyard. Try the bookish bistro Library Pub & Wine Tavern in Wolfville for a light lunch. The best choice for beer fans is Church Brewing, set in a handsome, former church of solid stone.

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Dinner: Head back to Halifax to try yet another of the excellent downtown restaurants. Newbie Salt + Ash is making a splash, where nearly everything is prepped over an open flame. Also new, Fawn is turning heads with expertly prepared European classics like Steak au Poivre.

After dark: It’s worth experiencing Halifax’s downtown wine bar duel by comparing the new Peacock on the waterfront with the established Obladee in a former bookstore for elevated local seafood dishes and wine pairings.


Morning: Savor your last day in the port city with a stroll along the boardwalk. Head south. Stop at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, where first-person accounts of immigrants and refugees who entered Canada at this pier may move you to tears. Continue walking 1.6km (1 mile) south to Point Pleasant Park for a seaside walk on the trails that crisscross the peninsula and pass historic structures like the stone Prince of Wales Tower.

How to spend the day: After your vigorous morning walk, you’ll be especially impressed with a savory lunch like Bulgogi poutine at Black Sheep inside the old brick Keith’s Brewery building.

Sorry for the reminder, but it’s time to catch your flight. You’ll leave with a camera roll and a head full of Haligonian holiday memories. But before you go, take a last look around to start your return to-do list. From this quick introduction, you already know you’ll need a return trip to see and do all those things you missed and to explore beyond that one-hour Halifax radius.

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