Discover tales of hidden treasure, explore old forts, or experience white sand beaches and turquoise waters, all in beautiful Nova Scotia. Include a visit to Cape Breton Island, where you’ll experience Gaelic, Acadian, and Indigenous cultures, outdoor adventure, and one of the top scenic drives in the world.
We’ve pulled together a list of top island destinations in Nova Scotia and all the ways you can experience them:
100 Wild Islands
The 100 Wild Islands are actually a group of over 280 pristine wild islands between Clam Harbour Beach Provincial Park and Taylor Head Provincial Park, just an hour from Halifax. Noted for their historical and ecological significance, most of these islands are now protected in perpetuity. These islands offer sheltered coves and turquoise water with white sand beaches and windswept headlands. Explore the area with Coastal Adventures, who offer a multi-day sea kayaking expedition led by biologist and sea kayaking expert Dr. Scott Cunningham.
Brier Island & Long Island
Bay of Fundy & Annapolis Valley
Brier Island and neighboring Long Island are the launch points for multiple whale watching excursions in the Bay of Fundy. Catch a glimpse of some of the whale species that call these waters home during the peak viewing months of July through September, including the rare right whale. Whale watching excursions are available aboard a traditional fishing boat style vessel or, for those looking for a bit more adventure, a speedy Zodiac.
Near Mahone Bay
For over 200 years, Oak Island has been the destination of treasure hunters seeking the fabled Oak Island Treasure. In fact, this treasure hunt has been the subject of the History Channel show The Curse of Oak Island. No one has been successful in finding any treasure yet, but the storied island is worth a visit. Book a tour with The Friends of Oak Island Society for exclusive access to this now privately-owned island and get the latest on Canada’s most famous treasure hunt.
Sable Island National Park Reserve
Off the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia
Located about 300 kilometers southwest of Halifax off the coast of Nova Scotia, Sable Island is shrouded in mystery. Visited by very few due to its remote location and transportation challenges, Sable Island is on the bucket list of many adventurous travelers. This National Park Reserve is home to the beautiful wild Sable Island Ponies and a large breeding colony of grey seals lives on the island’s beaches. Special permissions are required by Parks Canada to gain access to the island, with an approved tour operator like Kattuk Expeditions and Picture Perfect Tours. Transport takes place by airplane or boat, although conditions must be just right to enter and exit the island.
Cape Breton Island
This island is perhaps Nova Scotia’s most famous and certainly our largest. Home to the Cabot Trail, voted as the Best Scenic Drive in Canada in 2017 by USA Today’s 10Best, Cape Breton is not short on new experiences. Discover Celtic, Gaelic, Acadian, and Mi’kmaq cultures, hike the 26 trails in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, golf at world-class courses including widely-acclaimed Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs, saunter along sandy beaches, dine on fresh lobster and seafood, peruse eclectic and charming artisan shops and boutiques, and explore North America’s largest historical reconstruction at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site.
Goat Island, Eskasoni
Cape Breton Island
Experience a unique multicultural tour on Goat Island, a collaboration between Eskasoni First Nation and the Highland Village Museum that showcases the two intertwined cultures: Mi’kmaw and Gaelic with Eskasoni Cultural Journeys. This tour will explore the common threads that link the two cultures both historically and in present day. Your experience includes a traditional feast, where you’ll listen to stories and music, and participate in the traditional fishing practices of the Mi’kmaw.
Baddeck, Cape Breton
This island is located just off the coast of the village of Baddeck in the Bras d’Or Lake, Canada’s only inland sea. The Kidston Island Lighthouse stands as a beacon on its shores and provides a great photo op when in Baddeck. For a more immersive experience, explore the waters around the island with Lighthouse Bites: Full Moon Adventure hosted by North River Kayak Tours. This adventure brings together a full moon, kayak tour, local food, and local music. Depart Baddeck on a guided kayak tour, land on the beach near the lighthouse and revel in a one of a kind evening under the starry summer night sky.
Georges & McNabs Islands
These two islands are impossible to miss when exploring the Halifax Waterfront. Enjoy a visit to Georges Island with Kayak Halifax on a Halifax Islands Glamping and Culinary Adventure featuring gourmet local food and guided hikes, including exploration of the tunnels beneath Fort Charlotte on the island. Enjoy a breathtaking view as the sun sets over the Halifax skyline from alongside a campfire before settling in for the night in your safari-style canvas tent. Or, explore the waters around the island in a sea kayak. Kayak Halifax also provides the opportunity to take part in McNabs Island Culinary Adventure including exploring the Halifax Harbour by kayak, a guided hike, and a gourmet picnic lunch.
Bay of Fundy & Annapolis Valley
This remote and rugged island can be yours for the night. Your Own Island: Bay of Fundy Adventure begins with a Zodiac trip to the island with your guides from Advocate Boat Tours. Upon arrival raise a glass of Isle Haute cocktail or fresh lemonade, then you’ll hike this protected island, enjoy a catered picnic and take a paddle around the island’s rocky shoreline. Keep an eye out for the grey seals who call this area home! Upon arrival back on the island, savor a barbecue of fresh seafood paired with Nova Scotia’s Tidal Bay white wine and a cozy campfire before calling it a night in your luxurious tent.
Cape Sable Island
Located just off the shores of Barrington Passage, this island is easily accessible by car over a causeway linking to the mainland. Explore The Hawk Beach, featuring a 1,500-year-old “drowned forest” of petrified tree stumps that are exposed at low tide. Stay in the town of Clark’s Harbour at Mama’s By the Sea B&B and receive first-rate hospitality, check out the tallest lighthouse in Nova Scotia, at 101 feet, take a stroll along the boardwalk, or travel back over the causeway to Barrington Passage for a sweet treat at Dan’s Ice Cream Shoppe.