I was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and although I don't live there now, I'll always be a Maritimer through and through. One of the things I love most about this land also known as Canada's Ocean Playground is the beautiful coastal terrain that seems to never be more than a half hour drive away from any spot in the province. And of course, the lobster and donairs are amazing.
Although I mostly hike in the Canadian Rockies now, I first fell in love with hiking in Nova Scotia. Walking along coastal cliffs listening to ocean waves crash against the shore below is just as incredible to me as standing at the summit of a mountain. Look out to the horizon and it's endless. Breathe in the sea salt-filled air. This place is magical.
Cape Split is my favourite hike in Nova Scotia. It's 16 km round trip and located in the Annapolis Valley, my favourite part of the province for its beauty, charm and great wineries. The hike is a moderate uphill walk through forest (you can hear the ocean occasionally) with an amazing reward at the end.
The trail finishes at a cliffside lookout over the Bay of Fundy where rock pillars rise from the water, which sparkles in the sunlight. This is a popular hike, so you may have to share the lookout with others, but it's a perfect spot to have lunch.
Closer to Halifax, the 8-km round trip Duncan's Cove hiking trail is set on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore and features dramatic Atlantic Ocean coastline—I felt like I was in Scotland here. I hiked Duncan's Cove on a cloudy day, which added to the rugged atmosphere. To access the trail you'll walk through a picturesque, quaint fishing village.
Those who love the beach will love hiking at Gaff Point, as you get to walk down a boardwalk then gorgeous Hirtle's Beach to get to the trail. This 7-km loop is located outside the port town of Lunenburg (a UNESCO World Heritage Site and must-visit for seafood chowder) on Nova Scotia's South Shore. Gaff Point offers a variety of terrain—forest, meadow, rocky coastline and sandy beach. The countryside and houses in the area are beautiful, too.
Last but not least is Cape Chignecto on the Bay of Fundy. I haven't explored as much of this provincial park as I'd like to (it has over 40 km of hiking trails), but what I have seen was spectacular and I plan to return to hike the 51-km multi-day Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail one summer.
When I visited the area with my parents in 2012 I was completely enchanted by it. Cape Chignecto is true wilderness, over three hours northwest of Halifax by car. (Side note: it's hard to believe it's been four years since I've been home in the summer. I can't wait to get back this July).
We walked an interpretive trail and the Red Rocks Trail along the beach down from the visitor centre. We learned that the rocks are an ancient, rare sandstone formation, originally part of Africa. The entire area has remarkable geological features like the Three Sisters sea stacks. It's also on my bucket list to stand-up paddleboard and kayak around here.
The next time I visit this area I want to check out the Cape d'Or lighthouse, and of course stop for some clams and chips (the best my family has ever had) at Diane's Restaurant near Five Islands Provincial Park. Life is good in the Maritimes!