If you’re interested in charming fishing villages, Acadian culture and history, lighthouses, delicious food, and seaside adventure, you’ll want to add Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores to your bucket list.
Located at the Western corner of Nova Scotia, not too far from the Annapolis Valley, Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores is a charming, peaceful place that’s also home to some great adventures. It’s the intersection where English and Acadian cultures meet, home to loads of Canadian history and is a truly unique place to explore. Even at night, if you’re not busy dancing to some live music, you can gaze up at the dark skies, which form part of North America’s first starlight destinations.
So whether you’re coming to learn an interesting part of Canada’s history, chow down on some incredible seafood while admiring the ocean views, or looking to see bright shiny stars from distant galaxies, we’ve got you covered in our travel guide to Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores of Nova Scotia.
1. Take a Walking Tour of Yarmouth
Whether you opt for a relaxing self-guided tour or a knowledge-packed guided tour, Yarmouth is a great place to walk around. Yarmouth is a beautiful little town, which makes it a great place to stroll around and admire the sights, sounds, and smells.
If you do opt for a guided walking tour, you’ll get to admire the beauty of the town while learning about the original light keepers, sea captains, shipwrecks, unique Yarmouth events and/or the crime, folklore, and Yarmouth legends that bring a little spice to this corner of the world.
2. Paddling Excursions along the Yarmouth Waterfront
If you’re looking to jump into a kayak, Song of the Paddle offers a variety of paddling excursions to see the Yarmouth Waterfront and its active fishery, as well as tours out at Ellenwood Lake Provincial Park. One of their most popular tours is the Yarmouth Harbour Tour from the Lobster Rock Wharf, which features their award-winning “a la kayak” Red Shed lunch.
Whether you are a seasoned paddler or a complete novice, Song of the Paddle has the equipment and expertise to make your experience a safe and enjoyable one.
3. Explore Frost Park
There’s a lot of beauty in Yarmouth but one place not to miss is Frost Park. This is a great place to visit in the centre of Yarmouth, which is home to an attractive green space, a 150-year-old, a three-tier fountain and a compass rose overlooking Yarmouth Harbour. Tip: Stand in the middle of the compass and start talking. Your voice will get naturally amplified. Super weird!
4. Cape Forchu Lighthouse
If you’re looking for a really unique lighthouse with jaw-dropping views, Cape Forchu Lighthouse is a must-visit. This historic landmark with its “apple-core” design, is the only lighthouse in Nova Scotia that can be climbed and has an intact lightkeeper’s dwelling that’s open to the public.
Located only 11 km (7 miles) from Yarmouth, it makes one of the top scenic drives in the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region of Nova Scotia and passes by other great places to see, such as a working fishing wharf, sandy beaches, and more.
Aside from the lighthouse itself, there’s also the 17-acre park seaside park that it sits on, combined with the Leif Erikson Park trails, look-off points, museum,café, a local craft shop, and of course, incredible views of the rugged coast.
If you time your visit right, you can also opt for the Climb The Lighthouse Experience, which allows you to climb 77 steps into the lantern room of the tower with a guide that will share some of the history and stories that this area is known for. For this, you’ll want to book online.
5. W. Laurence Sweeney Fisheries Museum
If you’re looking to learn more about the fishing industry, there’s hardly a better place than the W. Laurence Sweeney Fisheries Museum. This museum features some unique exhibits, including a simulation of a traditional fishing wharf, complete with fishing, processing and ship repair sheds, wharf decks and even a coastal freighter.
6. Yarmouth County Museum and Archives
The award-winning Yarmouth County Museum & Archives has over 20,000 artifacts that document Yarmouth County’s heritage, all housed in a historic former church. Visitors will find more than 25,000 photographs, a research library, thousands of documents on genealogy, businesses and more. There’s also the popular Mast Head Gift Shop, which features many local and Nova Scotian-made products.
7. Take a Boat Tour to the Tusket Islands
Jump on a massive, authentic lobster-fishing boat and take a tour to the Tusket Islands to learn all about the lobster fishing industry, see some beautiful Atlantic islands, enjoy some of the best seafood chowders you’ll ever have, and listen to some live music.
Lucien LeBlanc and his brother Simon operate Tusket Island tours out of Wedgeport, and when not actually fishing for lobster, they’re taking visitors like yourself out to the Tusket Islands and to their cabin for a delicious meal. They give a great historical tour of the islands, which are full of rich culture and history while teaching you how to haul a real lobster trap. Plus, Lucien is a great musician and will put on quite the show for you while also preparing one of the best seafood chowders we’ve ever had.
8. Visit the Tusket Courthouse
We weren’t sure what to expect when we visited the Tusket Courthouse, but it became one of the highlights of our time in the Acadian Shores near Yarmouth Nova Scotia. The Argyle Township Court House & Gaol is Canada’s oldest standing courthouse, built in the village of Tusket, Nova Scotia in 1805. It operated as a working courthouse and jail from 1805 until 1944 and then served as the Municipal office for the Municipality of Argyle from 1945 until 1976. In 1982, the building was partially restored and re-opened as a museum and historic site, becoming a National Historic Site in 2005. Not only do you get to see the courthouse, but you get to go downstairs into the dark and gloomy jail, getting a glimpse into the horrible environment the criminals would have endured.
In addition to the tour, there’s also the Argyle Township Court House Archives, which was established in 1983 and became the first Municipal Archives in Nova Scotia. The archive was formed around the large body of municipal records that remained in the Argyle and is a wonderful place for anyone that might have ancestry here to learn more about their background and family.
9. Explore the Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos et Centre de Recherche
If you’re looking for a true taste of history, look no further than the Musee des Acadiens des Pubnicos, which is located in the oldest Acadian colony still inhabited by the descendants of the founders. This museum will take you back to 1653 with original reproductions, hundreds of artifacts, and a traditional vegetable garden where you can even taste some of the food Acadians would have had way back in the day. Candied rose petals, anyone? Yes, please!
They also have a lovely gift shop featuring many products from local artisans, such as hand-quilted quilts, artwork, and jams, as well as traditional hand-quilting demonstrations that take place during the busy season on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1-4 pm.
10. Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse
We love visiting living history museums and Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse is truly one of the best. With 17 acres of land overlooking Pubnico Harbour, you’ll be able to experience 350 years of Acadian culture by conversing with the many costumed interpreters, eating home-cooked Acadian cuisine at the restaurant (we recommend the Rappie Pie for something really unique to the area), witnessing what an Acadian seaside village would have looked like, and learning about the fishing and farming traditions in the early 1900s.
11. Experience Living Wharves
Most people travel to Yarmouth Nova Scotia and the Maritimes to enjoy the seaside charm and tasty seafood but never actually get to see what the fishing industry is like. The Living Wharves Fishing Demonstration changes all that, giving visitors a hands-on opportunity to experience the tools and skills of Nova Scotia’s fishery while hearing tales from local fishermen.
During our visit, we went to Dennis Point Wharf, one of the largest commercial fishing wharves in Atlantic Canada. Over 1,000 fishermen and fisherwomen make their living at the wharf, and fish for more than 40 species of fish and shellfish — most notably lobster. During our tour, a retired local fisherman filled us in on some stories from life out at sea while teaching us different fishing skills such as splicing (braiding) rope and tying knots.
12. Enjoy a Lobster Boil on the Beach (and Spend the Night)
If you’re looking for a beautiful place to spend the night while also enjoying a traditional Acadian kitchen party with a lobster boil on the shores of Lobster Bay, make sure you add Argyler Lodge to your itinerary. Added bonus: They make an incredible breakfast as well!
13. Cape Saint Mary Lighthouse Park
Another beautiful spot to visit is Cape Saint Mary Lighthouse Park, which not only features a nice lighthouse but also incredible views of the sea, dramatic cliffs and sunset views. It’s located at a natural look-off site where visitors and locals come year-round to enjoy the incredible views. There are also picnic tables, an accessible picnic shelter, restrooms (portable toilets seasonally), a viewing scope, and bilingual interpretive panels explaining the founding of the village, the history of the lighthouse, local marine ecology, and even the fog. The park is also just a three-minute drive from beautiful Mavillette Beach Provincial Park.
14. Relax at Mavillette Beach Provincial Park
If you’re looking for a beautiful beach, Mavillette Beach Provincial Park should fit the bill. Located in the Yarmouth Nova Scotia and Acadian Shores region, this 1.5 km long sandy beach, which is backed by fragile marram grass-covered dunes, is simply stunning. It’s protected by boardwalks, features exposed sand flats during low tide and has warm water during the summer months.
For those wanting to go swimming, they offer supervised swimming on Saturdays and Sundays in the months of July and August, while the park facilities include change houses, vault toilets, freshwater taps, bird watching platforms, interpretive panels, and a parking area and boardwalks to access the beach.
15. Have Lunch at Ecole Dans l’Anse Resto Sur Mer
Not only does this place offer delicious seafood such as fresh lobsters, steamed clams, and snow crab, but it also offers homemade Acadian food, all with amazing views of the sea. It’s also housed in a former school, which gives it a historic feel and has some really beautiful rooms that you can rent for accommodation. The owner is incredibly friendly, which adds even more to the experience.
But back to the food. Ecole Dans l’Anse Resto Sur Mer was one of the best restaurants we enjoyed during our entire time in Nova Scotia. Plus, the prices are very reasonable. The seafood is “out of this world” and they serve traditional Acadian dishes such as Rappie Pie, a well-loved traditional Acadian dish that is a mix of potatoes and chicken that is unique to this region. It’s not a pie in the conventional sense, as there is no pastry crust, but it is a popular local dish that is served in many households for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas. We highly recommend a visit!
16. Go Clam Digging
If you have never dug for clams, this is your chance to try it out!
Located at Belliveau Cove, a local guide will meet you at the beach (timing will depend on the tides), give you the tools of the trade (a shovel and a bucket), and then walk you out into the shallow sea to dig for clams. If they’re bigger than 3-inches, you can keep them, or if you’re not planning on a fresh clam dinner, you can simply throw them back and watch them bury themselves under the sand using their tongue. It’s a really interesting experience and a unique way to enjoy your time in the maritime.
17. Admire Smuggler’s Cove in Metaghan Nova Scotia
One of the most beautiful places we visited during our trip was Smuggler’s Cove, which is located in Meteghan, an area within the Yarmouth and Acadian shores region. Smuggler’s Cove is aptly named due to it being a prime location for the smuggling of liquor back during prohibition in the 1920s. You can access the beach by accessing the 80-step stairway that leads down to the ocean floor during low tide. There are interpretive panels on site that explain the history and if you look across from the staircase, you’ll see the cave where liquor was stored during high tide, and then picked up by locals during low tide.
18. Have a Hearty Dinner at La Cuisine Robicheau
If there’s one thing you’ll find along the Acadian Shores, it’s great food, and La Cuisine Robicheau adds to the reputation with an award-winning locally-inspired restaurant serving up delicious seafood and
Acadian dishes with a local flair since 2012.
They specialize in Acadian cuisines such as Fricot, Mini-Fishcakes, Smoked Salmon, Seafood chowder, Haddock, Scallops, Seafood Lasagna, and more, while pairing it with local drinks such as Corberrie Cider and Maison Meuse wine. During our visit, they even had live music, including an incredibly talented violinist. Highly recommended!
19. Visit the Sainte-Marie Catholic Church in Church Point
If you’re looking to see a truly impressive church, head on over to the Sainte-Marie Catholic Church in Church Point Nova Scotia, the tallest wooden church in North America. Constructed in the form of a cross, it features a magnificent steeple that stands 190 feet in height with architecture that was influenced by the famous chateaux of the Loire Valley in France. It’s currently closed but if you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth a stop to admire the exterior.
20. Look to the Dark Sky in North America’s only UNESCO Starlight Tourist-Certified Area
While you can always admire the night sky from almost anywhere on Earth, few places compare to a dark sky reserve, which is an area that is mostly free of artificial light, allowing you to see a much more beautiful sky filled with bright stars from distant galaxies.
The Acadian Skies & Mi’kmaq Lands, located within the Yarmouth Nova Scotia & Acadian Shores region, is the first destination in North America to receive a Starlight certification by the Starlight Foundation, an organization supported by UNESCO.
While this region has many locations to really admire the dark sky, some of the best spots are found at Trout Point Lodge, Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse, Port Maitland Beach Provincial Park, Wedgeport Nature Trail, Mavillette Beach Provincial Park, Ellenwood Lake Provincial Park, and Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site.
21. Trout Point Lodge Culinary School
Speaking of Trout Point Lodge, it’s also a fabulous place to just get away from it all. This lodge offers luxury adventure travel, guided stargazing and other ecotourism vacations from its secluded location in the heart of the Tobeatic Wilderness near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
However, another highlight here is the seafood cooking class where you’ll learn how to prepare seafood like the pros, you’ll get your fill of what’s in season–scallops or salmon, oysters or mussels–while learning how to prepare seafood from real pros, all while doing it in the Acadian tradition alongside its cousins, Cajun and Creole.
22. Take a Night hike with Nuit Stella
Speaking of star gazing, it’s not too often you can find a guided night hike, but Paul Lalonde has done just that with Nuit Stella, which offers guided hikes to discover the wonders of nature after the sun sets and experience the timeless shores of Baie Sainte-Marie. We did a short one-hour to with him through a popular trail behind the Sainte-Marie Catholic Church to get a feel for nature at night. He was great at making you think about the senses you have at night versus the day, really making you think about it. It was made extra special by all the fireflies that graced us with their presence.
23. Drink Some Tusket Beer
When you’re around the Tusket area, stop in for a fresh pint of beer at the Tusket Falls Brewery. They have a variety of beers on hand, a pretty tasty restaurant menu, and a lovely taproom.
Looking For More?
While Yarmouth Nova Scotia and the Acadian Shores, which includes the country of Clare and Argyle, are stunning destinations to visit, there’s so much more to Nova Scotia and the Maritimes. For more things to do, check out our guides below.