Located on the northeastern coast of Nova Scotia, east of Halifax, the Eastern Shore is a beautiful rural slice of Atlantic Canada that’s home to charming villages, incredible beaches, outdoor adventure, history, and more. It also sees far fewer visitors, which makes it a great place for those wanting a quieter “off-the-beaten-track” destination.
From Guysborough and Canso to Sherbrooke and Lawrencetown, Eastern Shore Nova Scotia is full of pristine wilderness, historically-themed attractions, authentic fishing communities, and loads of stunning natural attractions. Paddle to hundreds of islands, surf the waves of Martinique Beach, or just relax in one of the many lodges and heritage homes while enjoying award-winning whisky or local beer.
The Eastern Shores of Nova Scotia also make a great road trip, as it lies between Halifax and Cape Breton, giving you plenty of opportunities for a multi-week Maritime adventure. So whether you’re looking for some adventure or just looking to kick back and relax, we’ve got you covered in this travel guide to the best things to do in Eastern Shores Nova Scotia.
Table of Contents
Guysborough County, Nova Scotia
Home to popular towns and places such as Guysborough, Mulgrave, and Canso, Guysborough County is a must-visit when exploring Eastern Shore Nova Scotia. It’s home to loads of breathtaking scenery and history and is a quiet place to truly get away from it all.
The area was established in 1604, along with the original Port Royal in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. The town is of national historic importance because it was one of only two British settlements in Nova Scotia prior to the establishment of Halifax in 1749. In fact, Canso played a key role in the defeat of Louisbourg. Today, the town attracts people from all over the world for the annual Stan Rogers Folk Festival and is home to a number of attractions.
Canso Islands National Historic Site
Travel to a time when remote fishing ports dotted the Atlantic coast and England and France vied for control of North America. Home to the remains of an 18th-century fishing settlement and the ruins of a battle-ravaged earthen fort, the Canso Islands National Historic Site is a great spot for anyone interested in the history that helped forge what we now know as Canada.
In addition to the history of Canada, this area is also rich in Mi’kmaq history as it was first used by the local Indigenous Peoples for fishing and transportation. Stop by the Parks Canada Visitor Centre to learn more and then hop on a fishing boat for a free ride over to Grassy Island to see the historic sites. For more adventure, and if the water is calm during your visit, paddle out on a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe, and enjoy even more time on the island.
The Whitman House Museum
Formerly the home of Canso’s most prominent 19th-century family, this three-story home has been fully restored with period furniture, folk art, photographs and other memorabilia. The Whitman House Museum is also home to a Widow’s Walk on the roof, which was once used by women to watch for their loved ones coming home from working out on the sea.
Black Duck Cove Provincial Park
This small day park is a great place for families to explore. It features a nice sandy beach, a rocky shoreline, and boardwalks to make walking easier. People enjoy visiting here for picnics, building sandcastles, beachcombing, or just relaxing.
Out of the Fog Lighthouse Museum
Out of the Fog Museum was Nova Scotia’s first museum dedicated to the display of lighthouse artifacts. Everyone loves to visit lighthouses in Nova Scotia but it’s also a good experience to actually learn about them too. For centuries, people here made their living from the sea and lighthouses and beacons were strategically located to direct county fishermen to safety. This small, intimate museum is run by the ‘Keepers of the Beacons’ who are former lighthouse keepers’ families and descendants, helping to educate visitors about lighthouses and the history of fishing and sailing in Nova Scotia. Visitors will find a large collection of lighthouse artifacts.
Mulgrave Road Theatre
Located along the waterfront of Guysborough, the Mulgrave Road Theatre has been a pioneer of new play development for more than 40 years in Eastern Shores Nova Scotia. There is always something new to see, as they’re always producing and promoting theatre that resonated with Atlantic Canadians.
Chedabucto Place Performance Centre
It always surprises us to find such a beautiful theatre in such a small place, but this state-of-the-art theatre does just that, promoting the cultural heritage of Guysborough County, with particular emphasis on the local area’s founding and diverse cultures. Striving to enhance the learning and networking opportunities for students and adults in visual and performing arts, multi-media production, and cultural entrepreneurship, they host a variety of events each year, attracting world-class entertainment to the area and a great place for visitors to enjoy a night out.
Guysborough Waterfront Trail
This short 3.5km return hike offers beautiful views of the harbour along with interpretive panels to explain the history of the area. It’s a very easy route, basically flat, and is great for birding, running, and walking. The trail is open year-round and starts near the end of Main Street in Guisborough. At first, it starts off as a soft grassy path with many large old apple trees before transitioning into a gravel trail, leading you along the shoreline.
The secluded bays around the Guysborough area provide fantastic opportunities to go kayaking. If you’re interested in kayaking, you can rent them from Authentic Seacoast, which also offers yurt rentals, distillery tours, and more.
Authentic Seacoast Craft Beverages
As mentioned above, Authentic Seacoast is a big name around Guysborough. They operate the beautiful Desbarres Manor Inn, yurt rentals near the sea, kayak rentals, and of course, a tour of their distillery paired with tastings of their award-winning whisky, gin, vodka, beers, and even locally roasted coffee.
Stay in a Yurt
If you’re keen on a glamping experience, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better than the seaside yurts offered by Authentic Seacoast. Nestled within the pockets of their private oceanside vineyard-hopyard-apiary peninsula, this one-of-a-kind Glamping experience takes place in authentic Canadian-made Yurts. Some of them even have private wood-fired hot tubs!
Stay and Eat at Desbarres Manor Inn
As exciting as yurts sound, we actually stayed in the beautiful Desbarres Manor Inn, a gorgeous heritage home that was originally built for Supreme Court Justice W. F. DesBarres back in 1837. This magnificent, historic inn has been meticulously restored to its original grandeur, featuring casually elegant common spaces, luxurious guest rooms, original art, fine antiques and genuine Maritime hospitality. Step onto the lawns for an afternoon game of croquet or simply relax in the gazebo with your favourite book. Share the company of other guests in the Parlour Room before dinner with a cocktail or a glass of wine from the proprietor’s extensive wine collection and have a good night’s sleep in one of their 10 luxurious rooms with private 4-piece baths, cable television, telephone and wireless Internet. Best of all, the staff are just so lovely. We had a great time chatting with them as much as we could, and of course, we loved the service we received for both breakfast and dinner.
Eat at Desbarres Manor Inn
Whether you stay at Desbarres Manor Inn or not, they also have the best restaurant in Guysborough. Their seasonal menus take inspiration from the local fishermen and farmers as well as the organic gardens where they plant vegetables and herbs for their restaurant. They’ve won many awards as well, including Nova Scotia’s Cuisine of the Year, seven consecutive Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence, and have been featured on the Canadian Wine Annual’s Where to Eat & Stay in Atlantic Canada. Despite the recognition, the dining experience remains authentic and East Coast relaxed. The menu isn’t huge, but we loved everything we had during our time at the Manor, such as their pan-fried haddock, maple grilled salmon, and Whisky Spiced Pork Tenderloin.
Old Court House Museum
Located right next to the Desbarres Manor Inn, the Old Court House Museum has been fully restored, and still retains its integrity of being a public building. The museum opened in 1976 and is used to promote a better understanding of the area’s culture and history. Visitors will find a large number of artifacts in the museum that provide a glimpse into the past and how the locals made a living back in the day.
Goldboro Interpretive Centre
The Goldboro Interpretive Centre displays artifacts and photos of the mining and fishing history of Goldboro and the surrounding areas, helping to educate visitors about the old mining community from 1861-1942. This is also the home of Nova Scotia’s first natural gas plant.
Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia
Although Sherbrooke is technically part of Guysborough County, it’s one of the largest towns within Eastern Shore Nova Scotia, so we’re giving it its own section. This also helps to separate the areas and makes it easier for you to plan your trip and know where things are.
Located along the St. Mary’s River, Sherbrooke is a beautiful slice of the Maritimes. Gold was discovered in the area in 1861, which led to a 20-year gold rush. However, like much of the Eastern Shore, the economy of the community today revolves around fishing, tourism and lumber.
If you’re interested in reliving what life was like here during the gold rush days in the 1800s, this is the place to visit. As one of the top indoor attractions on the Eastern Shore, the Sherbrooke Village gives visitors a trip back in time, with costumed interpreters including a blacksmith, weavers, painters, and potters, in addition to horse-drawn wagon rides.
Port Bickerton Lighthouse Interpretive Centre
If you’re looking for a lighthouse that offers magnificent views of the sea, add the Port Bickerton Lighthouse Interpretive Centre to your Eastern Shores bucket list. Visitors can learn a lot about Nova Scotian lighthouses here while also admiring views from the top of the lighthouse. However, another great reason to visit is for the general area. There are picnic tables, benches, and even a 3 km loop trail that takes you around the property.
St. Mary’s River Salmon Education & Interpretive Centre
Babe Ruth was famous for baseball but did you know he also went angling in Nova Scotia? St. Mary’s River has been a long-time hotspot for nature lovers and anglers, including Babe Ruth himself. Visitors can learn about birds, bats, butterflies, wood turtles, and other native species.
Get Clean at The Soap Company of Nova Scotia
Located near Sherbrooke, The Soap Company of Nova Scotia has been keeping people clean for years, offering soap that is organic, gluten-free, and nut-free products for those looking for a more natural way to scrub themselves as well as unscented and scented with essential oils. Sought out by folks suffering from scent and/or chemical sensitivities, these products make a meaningful difference for those who must avoid scent, synthetics, nuts, gluten and latex-reactive ingredients.
Just before entering the town of Sherbrooke heading west, you’ll pass by lovely Stonewall Park, which is home to gravelled walking trails, a boardwalk, platforms overlooking the St Mary’s River, and picnic tables. The stone wall was constructed by hand many years ago and it’s a great place to get out, stretch your legs, and go for a walk. Right across the street is the river, which can enjoy while having a picnic.
Goldenville Gold Mining Interpretive Centre
If you’re interested in learning about the mining industry that took place between 1861-1942, this is the place to go. The Goldenville Golf Mining Interpretive Centre is located in the old Goldenville Presbyterian Church and features the historic church and the museum, all in one. The centre has photos, artifacts, and stories told by the miners about how this place became a major gold-producing area.
As one of the premier lodges in Eastern Shores Nova Scotia, Liscombe Lodge is an attraction in and of itself. We spent a couple of nights here, enjoying our beautiful cabin overlooking the river, the delicious restaurant, and the many activities offered, such as kayaking, canoeing, tennis, a human-sized chess board, and more. Guests have the option of staying in the lodge, the riverside chalets, or the riverside bungalows. As mentioned, the restaurant alone is worth visiting, as they offer a very good menu with items such as seafood chowder, their signature maple planked salmon, lobster mac & cheese, and so much more.
Hike the Liscomb River Trail System
Located right next to the Liscombe Lodge cabins is the Liscomb River Trail System, which offers a 9.6 km trail through the forest, along the river, and across a suspension bridge, including the chance to see a fish ladder that was constructed to help restock Atlantic salmon. The ladder is formed by 15 pools separated by concrete weirs. The Liscomb River salmon run begins the first two weeks in June and ends in late October, peaking in July before the water warms.
Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia
Located in the eastern reaches of the Halifax Regional Municipality, Sheet Harbour can be found along the Eastern Shores Nova Scotia Marine Drive scenic route, framed beautifully by two rivers and the harbour itself, Sheet Harbour is a great base for exploring the region.
Sober Island Boat Tours
What do you get when boat builders, lobster fishers, and dreamers start a boat tour company? Well, you get a very good, authentic tour of the area. With a rugged shoreline, stunning sunrises and sunsets, and so much beauty all around you, taking a boat tour is one of the best things to do in Eastern Shores Nova Scotia. Hop aboard and enjoy Sober Island Boat Tours‘ 2-hour tour to see wild islands, the Sheet Rock Lighthouse, wildlife, and more. If that’s not enough, see what it’s like to fish for lobster and join their four-hour lobster fishing tour.
Sober Island Brewery
If you love beer, you probably love craft breweries, which means a visit to Sober Island Brewery is a must-do when visiting Sheet Harbour. Don’t let the name fool you, their beers do have alcohol. Every 800-litre batch starts with well water, and every ingredient is locally sourced whenever possible. The oysters in our stout are from nearby Pristine Bay, every can is filled by hand, and their recipes are built from scratch and by using the full-mash process. None of this “extract” business. What you end up with is a high-quality craft brew, with fan favourites like Beth’s Black Oyster Stout and the Marigold Blonde.
Henley House Pub & Restaurant
If you’re looking for something to eat, Henley House Pub & Restaurant should be near the top of your list. Located literally next door to the Sober Island brewery, they offer an extensive menu, including Smoked Haddock Fishcakes, Chicken Penne, and Seafood Chowder.
MacPhee House Community Museum
These days, it can be hard to imagine life without plastic, but at the MacPhee House Community Museum, which is located in a historic house, you can explore their “Life Before Plastic” exhibit to learn what life was like on the Eastern Shore from the 1850s onward. Visitors also enjoy the exhibition that explores the impact of the World Wars.
Taylor Head Provincial Park
Created out of a rugged wind-swept peninsula that juts 6 km into the Atlantic Ocean, Taylor Head Provincial Park is one of the most beautiful provincial parks in Nova Scotia. This unique land formation consists of 16 km of unspoiled coastline that anyone can enjoy. There are three hiking trails to enjoy as well as interesting geological features, scenic look-offs, secluded beaches, and wildlife, such as porcupines, eagles, osprey, over 100 species of seabirds, songbirds, and shorebirds. The area is known for high winds and salty air, which means the vegetation you’ll find includes stunted white spruce, tamarack (also known as hackmatack or larch), juniper, and a variety of lichens are the main survivors here. It’s a great place to spend the day and visitors will find pit toilets, picnic tables, change houses, and an interpretive kiosk.
Coastal Adventures in Tangier
If you’re looking to join a kayaking tour out at sea, you’ll want to link up with Coastal Adventures in Tangier, which offers half-day and full-day excursions. This is a great way to explore the islands and the rugged coastline with someone who knows where to go. However, if you do have experience, they can also rent you kayaks.
Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean
Is camping next to the ocean on your Eastern Shore Nova Scotia bucket list? If so, Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean is one of the most interactive campsites in Nova Scotia, offering both RV and tent sites, open and wooded camping options, and the chance to have something literally metres from the water. They have 25 un-serviced tent sites, 20 serviced RV sites, 3 seasonal sites, 4 rental units, laundry, game rentals, tested well water, a dump station, ice, firewood, basic camping supplies, kayak rentals, fishing tours, island drop-offs, a canteen, a recreational hall, swimming, clam digging, and more! It’s also the perfect base for exploring the 100 Wild Islands area, which is considered to be one of the last remaining intact and ecologically rich island groups of its size in North America.
Murphy’s Scenic Boat Tours
As mentioned above, Murphy’s also offers scenic boat tours, so you don’t have to be standing with them to enjoy time out on the water. This one-and-a-half-hour tour takes you around the coastal island, offering breathtaking views, beaches and cliffs, and the chance to spot wildlife, such as seals, eagles, porpoises, and whales. You can even try your hand at fishing during the tour and/or opt for their mussel tour, which includes picking your own mussels and taking them home for supper.
Norse Cove Seaside Camping
Another great option for camping is Norse Cove Camping, a small-footprint wilderness campground that offers camping and modern amenities. Wake up to the sounds of the ocean and enjoy the hiking trails around the Eastern Shore. This dog-friendly campground started off next to an abandoned blueberry field and now offers picnic tables, a central BBQ area, a wash house with hot showers & flush toilets, charging stations, a longhouse with games, a monarch waystation, and even a Café that offers coffee and homemade snacks, along with camping gear and handmade items that you may purchase. Toss in kayaking rentals and this truly is a slice of Nova Scotia paradise.
Spend a Night at the Marmalade Motel
When it comes to accommodation near Sheet Harbour, it’s hard to beat the Marmalade Hotel. We stayed here for two nights during our visit and absolutely loved it. The rooms are bright and well decorated, creating a truly inviting feel with everything you need, including a coffee station, lots of charging options, and a TV with Netflix and Disney +. Each room also has a private balcony with ocean views and as with most hotels, you can drive right up to your door, which comes in handy when you have lots of bags.
This motel also offers an outdoor hot tub, a newly renovated fire pit area, and the option for breakfast delivered to your room, including coffee, pastries, seasonal fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and orange juice. You can even pre-arrange midnight snacks such as chocolate, candies, popcorn, or a charcuterie board.
Musquodoboit Harbour (and Area), Nova Scotia
As you head into the Musquodoboit Harbour area, you’re getting pretty close to Halifax. In fact, Halifax is only about 45 kilometres west of this slice of Eastern Shore Nova Scotia. With a hospital, RCMP detachment, postal outlet, schools, recreational center, library, municipal office and other services, Musquodoboit Harbour is a hub for many of the surrounding communities. This community was settled in the 1780s, mostly by British Loyalists, and is now a popular hub for travellers visiting the Eastern Shore.
Fisherman’s Life Museum
Fishing is such an important industry in the Maritimes and at the Fisherman’s Life Museum, you can experience a traditional fishing family’s home. Once home to Ervin Myers, his wife, and their 13 daughters, the home was built in the early 1900s and gives visitors a glimpse into how they hooked rugs, how they cooked meals on a wood stove, and what life was like back in the day.
Memory Lane Heritage Village
Take a trip down memory lane at Memory Lane Heritage Village, a 1940s living history village with 16 rescued and restored buildings with period artifacts, including a church, cookhouse, icehouse, general store, and a one-room schoolhouse. Kids will love all the chicks, kittens, and lambs that roam around the grounds and the gift shop offers 1940s-related products and local crafts.
Clam Harbour Beach Provincial Park
Clam Harbour Beach is a long, wide, natural sand beach that makes a great place to spend a hot summer day. The beach is supervised on the weekends in July and August and features a picnic area on top of the bluff where you may see multiple rabbits running around on the grass field. Some of the popular things to do include hiking, walking, hanging out with friends and family, and building sand castles (the annual Clam Harbour Sandcastle Competition that has taken place every August for over 35 years). There’s also a warm, shallow tidal stream that runs through one side of the beach, offering families a fun way to float down the stream on inflatables.
Musquodoboit Railway Museum
Located in a restored Canadian Northern Railway station of 1918, the Musquodoboit Railway Museum and Tourist Bureau has five railway cars and is home to tickets, posters, maps, photographs, and other artifacts that tell the stories of Nova Scotian railways.
Architecturally, the Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum is an excellent example of twentieth-century railway station design with nicely furnished waiting rooms, freight sheds, ramps, platforms and living quarters for the railway agents. Don’t miss the rare ex-CN GE 44-tonner, Snow Plow car, CN Caboose. and the unique mail crane. There’s also a Visitor Information Centre, Museum Gift Shop, and a food truck and beer garden.
Black Sheep Gallery
Featuring folk, self-taught and outsider art from the US and Canada with an emphasis on the works of Nova Scotia folk artists past and present, the Black Sheep Gallery is a popular stop for anyone interested in art. Located within an old fish plant on the shore of Jeddore Harbour, the gallery displays the work of over 40 Nova Scotian folk artists, along with folk artists from Quebec and Ontario. Canadian artists shown at the gallery include Maud Lewis, Joe Norris, Everett Lewis, Joe Sleep, Eddie Mandaggio, Angus Trudeau, Edmond Chatigny, Ewald Rentz, Barry Colpitts, Charlie Tanner, Leo, Ransford and Bradford Naugler. The gallery also carries a number of videos, books, and magazines relating to Nova Scotia folk art for visitors to peruse.
Musquodoboit Harbour Farmers Market
Connecting many of the communities on Eastern Shore Nova Scotia, the Musquodoboit Harbour Farmers Market is a vibrant place to find great products and crafts, including homemade bread, cakes, pies, bath products, jewellery, and artwork.
The Deanery Project
Located on a beautiful 25-acre oceanfront property on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, the Deanery Project has become a dynamic education and demonstration site for environmental sustainability, skills development, the arts, and community building. Their facilities include meeting spaces, accommodations, hiking and bicycling trails, as well as water access to the protected wilderness areas of Ship Harbour Long Lake, Tangier Grand, and the 100 Wild Islands. Learn about local wildlife and how your family can help protect these amazing animals with hands-on activities about forest management, sustainable energy systems, healthy living, food sovereignty and much more.
Lawrencetown and Chezzetcook Area, Nova Scotia
The areas of Lawrencetown and Chezzetcook are basically the closest Eastern Shore communities to Halifax. These can easily be part of a day trip from Halifax if you don’t have time to explore the rest of the Eastern Shore. In Lawrencetown, you’ll find a cool surf vibe with some of the best surfing in Canada.
Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Beach Park
While surfing is famous in Tofino on Canada’s west coast, Lawrencetown is where it’s at on the east coast. This popular sand-and-cobble beach is noted for its surf and has supervised swimming areas in July and August. The park features ramped boardwalks, change houses, showers, and flush toilets. Even if you’re not surfing, it’s a great beach for a stroll.
East Coast Surf School
From June to October at Lawrencetown Beach, East Coast Surf School offers surfing lessons, wetsuits, and surfboard rentals. This is one of the best beaches to learn surfing. We did one of their one-hour lessons when we were there and had a blast trying to ride the waves.
Kannon Beach Wind and Surf
Another place where you can learn to surf, stand-up paddleboard, and windsurf along Eastern Shore Nova Scotia is Kannon Beach Wind and Surf. This is the largest surf shop in Eastern Canada and offers a variety of ocean sporting gear to pick from.
Acadian House Museum
You don’t have to visit Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores to learn about the Acadian culture. Even on the Eastern Shore, you can experience the unique and exciting Acadian culture in West Chezzetcook. Take a step back in time with the guides at the Acadian House Museum, who will show you how the isolated Acadian community survived through the years. Their bright culture is still rich in history and full of emotion. Check out the vegetable garden, open up the Cabano to the unique antique tools that they used, and step inside the 1850s house to discover their collection of artifacts, placed to represent the era’s traditional living setting. There are live demonstrations of ancestral skills, including bread baking, butter churning, broom making, toy making and much more. There’s even a local shop with Acadian-themed memorabilia.
Atlantic View Trail
Even if you don’t walk the entire length of Canada on the Trans Canada rail trail, you can experience a little part of it here in Eastern Shore Nova Scotia as it runs through woodland, salt marshes, and beaches. Enjoy the breathtaking views along the trail while looking for wildlife.
Hope For Wildlife
It can be hard to spot wildlife “on the road”, but it’s easy at Hope for Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation facility that has rescued, rehabilitated and released over 80,000 orphaned and injured wild animals from over 250 species. Tours are available for no charge, but donations help keep the centre running and helping the animals.
In addition to the ongoing provision of care they offer, Hope for Wildlife also aims to connect people to wildlife in a positive way through knowledge and understanding. In addition to all the tours they give, they also offer offsite educational presentations to the communities of Eastern Shore Nova Scotia and collects a wide range of data from animals treated at their rehabilitation center.
Uprooted Market & Café
After days of activities, everyone needs a hot cup of java and one of the most popular places in the area is Uprooted Market & Cafe offers tasty meals made with local seasonal vegetables, free-range meats and cheese, and of course, caffeine. They also offer local produce that you can buy to make your own meals.
Rose and Rooster Bakery
This small café is located in the heart of Grand Desert and offers breakfast and lunch during the week plus brunch on the weekends. The coffee and espresso beans are roasted in Nova Scotia, and all the bread and sweets are made in-house from scratch. Rose and Rooster Bakery even has a front and back patio where you can relish in the sun as you ponder your time along the Eastern Shore.
Barry Colpitts Folk Art Black Sheep Gallery
Barry Colpitts has been carving since 1989 and his work has become very popular with collectors throughout North America. His brightly decorated house is hard to miss on an Eastern Shore road trip and has become a popular attraction for local people and tourists alike. His house has been featured on the Life Channel’s “Weird Homes” in 2001 and his artwork was featured on the 2009 Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival poster, just to name a few of the highlights. Two of his chairs were recently donated to the Canadian Museum of History and one of his carved chairs was added to the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Stop by, admire some art, and perhaps say hello to Barry!
Want More Things to Do in Nova Scotia?
While the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia is a lovely place to explore, there’s so much more to Nova Scotia and the Maritimes. Learn more in our Atlantic Canada travel guides: