On two wheels and at your pace — that’s the very best way to get to know Nova Scotia. This Atlantic province is big on trails and dramatic landscapes. There’s the Bay of Fundy, with the highest tides in the world, the highlands of Cape Breton Island, and spectacular Cabot Trail. Add to that seafood-centered cuisine and a burgeoning wine scene, plus “New Scotland’s” celebrated Celtic culture and passion for music, and you get a well-rounded vacation.
Bring along your own bike, rent wheels, or take a guided tour with a local outfitter. Whatever approach you choose, Nova Scotia isn’t a place you want to rush through. Here’s how to take it all in on a leisurely cycling vacation.
Bay of Fundy
Grande Pré to Burntcoat Head
The Bay of Fundy, clocking the highest tides in the entire world at around four storeys up, is a fascinating phenomenon. Ride about 12 miles along the coast from Walton to Burntcoat Head Park, the tidal record-holder. Then take your time exploring the red sand shore, cliffs, tide pools, and lighthouse. Ambitious cyclists can do the entire 78-mile Grande Pré to Burntcoat Head circle, passing through the rural Avon River Valley, ship building towns, vineyards, farms, and the Avondale Peninsula. Before you get started, check out Tourism Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy e-brochure to find out all the things to do and see en route. Pedal & Sea Adventures leads cycling trips around the province, including Fundy and the Cabot Trail.
Cape Breton Island
The legendary Cabot Trail
That the Cabot Trail is epic is no doubt. But you don’t have to tackle the entire 186-mile coastal highway — a top world cycling route — to enjoy the sweeping ocean vistas from the Cape Breton Highlands. Instead try an out-and-back day trip on the particularly beautiful top half of the island: Overnighting in Ingonish on the east side and riding 28 miles up to Dingwall, and back. If you can arrange a return lift to your lodging, pedal 65 miles from Ingonish up and over to the Acadian fishing village of Chéticamp on the west side. Be sure to allow après-riding beach time back in Ingonish, a favorite for its rugged cliffs and sandy shores. You can also park at a lot in Cape Breton Highlands National Park and cycle one of the many multi-use park trails.
You can always ride the whole loop too: A moderately tough up-and-down, forest-and-cliffside odyssey starting in Baddeck on the Bras d’Or Lake — one for the life list. Freewheeling Adventures and others lead guided tours of the
Cabot Trail, too. The options are plenty, as are the number of inns, restaurants, and artisan studios along the Trail, and wonderful things to see and do.
Farm to vine to table ride
Wine and bikes make a famous pairing. Luckily, Nova Scotia’s sunny Annapolis Valley is Canada’s next big wine destination. Ride in and around some 11 vineyards — including Domaine de Grand Pré Estate Winery and Luckett Vineyards in Wolfville — plus picturesque orchards, farms, breweries, and farm-to-table gastropubs. Take multiple days, if you like, on the scenic 30-mile Grand Pré to Blomidon ride — from the fertile Gaspereau Valley to the red-sand cliffs of Cape Blomidon on the Atlantic Ocean — sipping, swirling, and savoring it all.
Waterfront to urban parkland
With its signature star-shaped Citadel keeping watch since 1749, Halifax is a bustling harbor city with a lively waterfront. Ride from Halifax Waterfront to Point Pleasant Park, a historic military zone, for a good overview. This is an easygoing, 2½-mile (one-way) boardwalk-and-road ride that anyone , beginners and up, can enjoy.
I Heart Bikes rents wheels on the waterfront and leads two- and four-hour guided rides. Start at Casino Nova Scotia heading towards the park, where you can tack on a beginner’s loop around it or steep ride through the forested middle. In all, there are 24 miles of park trails. Pause for a picnic and beach swim, and check out the 1796 stone Prince of Wales Tower, the oldest martello tower in North America, most likely used to store gun powder. Here are four other favorite Halifax rides, all with minimal traffic.
Bike plus yoga and history
Want to add some bliss to your biking? Freewheeling Adventures organizes guided and self-guided trips hitting history and scenery on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, including multi-sport trips and a Bike & Yoga offering. Close to Halifax, a 70-mile South Shore ride weaves in and out of peninsulas and coastal inlets between Hubbards and LaHave, stopping in at Lunenburg, a colorful former rum-running and ship-building port town with lots of history. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site of charming 1750s British Colonial buildings. Continue on to the salt marshes of Rose Bay and the LaHave River head — or end in Lunenburg, sipping rum at Ironworks Distillery in a vintage blacksmith’s workshop.
Add even more sightseeing to your Nova Scotia cycling trip: Here are some top to-dos for the itinerary.
Start planning your cycling vacation at the Tourism Nova Scotia website.