David and Sky Media
This is the fourth post in a series of travel stories about how to enjoy the Shubenacadie waterways, sponsored by the Shubenacadie Canal Commission's Transition Program. ControlNancy Stapleton (A River Runs Through It),Helen Earley Date Night at the Fourth Gate, andJeremy Hull's Paradise Failed.
In the heart of Nova Scotia lies a historic waterway that connects Halifax Harbor to the Bay of Fundy. That's right, 114 kilometers long and meandering through the province from coast to coast, this natural beauty is known as the Shubenacadie Canal Waterway. Nova Scotia is a hidden gem, known by many for its unique history and inspiring nature, but did you know it's also the perfect place to plan a great vacation?
Flowing from city to city, filled with incredible shops and parks, here you can really plan a trip that combines your favorite interests. From hiking the many nature trails to dining at local cafes, local shopping to unforgettable nights in riverside accommodations, the Shubenacadie Canal is a traveler's paradise.
In fact, there is so much to see and do in this part of the countryside that it's hard to decide! We recently spent some time in the area and here is our suggested itinerary for a day exploring the canals:
Morgenmad i Dartmouth – Two We Love στο Café by the Sea
Visit the Fairbanks Center and paddle at Shube Park
Walk (or bike) the Shubie Trail section to the Portobello Incline
Lunch in Enfield - we love Rob Bitar's meal
We visited local shops - lots to choose from, we visited the Sweet Spot chocolate shop
Visit the Blacksmithing Museum
Have a drink at Coldstream Clear
Staying at Riverside accommodation - we stayed at the Gravity Luxury Domes
Visit the Fundy Tides Interpretive Center
Breakfast at Maitland
1. Breakfast in Dartmouth - we love Two If By Sea Cafe
Start your day in downtown Dartmouth, where you'll find plenty of great cafes and breakfast spots to choose from. Lured by the soothing aroma of buttery pastries and coffee, our first stop on the tour was the bustling Two If By Sea Cafe. In a bright and warm atmosphere, we enjoyed homemade prosciutto and provolone croissants, paired with local root coffee. Although this is the perfect place for a cup of tea, catching up with friends or reading a book - the Shubenacadie Canal is calling our name!
2. Visit the Fairbanks Center and paddle the Shubie Canal
On an adventurous day, we visited the Fairbanks Center at the entrance to Shube Park. Free and open to the public year-round, the center features exhibits and displays that illustrate how the canal's waterways functioned and give visitors an insight into the area's rich history and natural environment. There are even scale models of the locks along the canal! Next to the Fairbanks Center you will find a shop where you can rent kayaks, canoes and paddles from Wildwood Water Sports. Or if you have your own boating equipment you can bring it here and there are plenty of places to get on the water. Offering the perfect setting for a peaceful sailing adventure, you will fall in love with the waterway's lush forest environment and natural beauty. We actually took our dogs on a kayak and they loved it! Accompanied by curious ducks beside us and beautiful songbirds overhead, we glide into the calm waters of Shube Park and realize that this is an experience unlike any other in the city. But don't worry, if you're not into the water, we encourage you to still check out the trails here.
3. Walk (or cycle) the section of the Shubie Trail up to Portobello Incline
From Shubee Park, drive 10 minutes down the road to find the Shubenacadie Portobello Slope between Lake Charles and Lake William. Now a beautiful path with scenic views at the water's edge, it was once the site of a marine railway (one of two along the canal) that carried ships about 600 feet horizontally, descending and rising about 33 feet. Largely untouched since its use in the 1870s, there are now interpretive panels advising visitors of what lies ahead and what is buried in the ground. We love this area because it's a great place to walk the dog and enjoy the reflected view and imagine how different ships passed by 150+ years ago.
4. Lunch at Enfield - we love Rob Bitar's lunch
When you walk into Elmsdale you look forward to a good lunch and treating yourself to Rob Bitar's will not disappoint. Recommended by so many, we can't wait to check it out! Our food is fresh, delicious and the service is extremely friendly.
5. Visit a local shop - lots to choose from, we visited the Sweet Spot chocolate shop
Craving something sweet, we popped into the Sweet Spot chocolate shop before leaving Elmsdale. Browse through a huge selection of handmade chocolates, truffles, fudge, candies and more, this is a chocolate lover's paradise! Hard to decide as there were so many choices, but we finally settled on the chocolate mint tart and velvety truffles. None of them lasted long!
6. Visit the Blacksmithing Museum
Along the winding river north of Elmsdale you'll find the town of Shubenacadie and the Tinsmith Museum. Built in 1896, this charming store is filled with antiques and displays spanning more than a century. Everything from household items, farm tools, clothing, furnished rooms, military exhibits and more help visually tell the building's history, including its important role in making milk jugs in Nova Scotia in the 1900s. There is also a shop craft shop selling local creations.
7. Have a drink at Coldstream Clear
We then drove another 10 minutes down the road to the town of Stewiacke. Here you can rock a life-size mastodon replica, play mini golf, hike a nature trail or visit the Coldstream Clear Distillery tasting room. We couldn't resist a cold drink after a day of adventure. With a focus on hand-crafted Nova Scotia spirits, we sampled one of their unique cocktails - how beautiful does it look! They also have a nice patio that you can enjoy, but it started to rain so we were cozy inside.
8. Stay in riverside accommodation - we stayed at the Gravity Luxury Domes
In keeping with our Shubenacadie River theme, we found the perfect location for the Gravity Luxury Domes high above the river. Open year-round, this unique residence offers guests a luxury glamping experience, with each dome featuring its own stone patio, propane counters, and stunning views of the Shubenacadie River. Immersed in nature, this place is perfect for bird watching. We saw several eagles from the dome windows and even saw some Shubie's beams playing in the waves below to experience the tide. Enjoy falling asleep to the peaceful raindrops on the dome, it's the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life while truly experiencing the beauty of the river. In the morning, fresh from a good night's sleep, we enjoyed breakfast in bed overlooking the river. I loved that the place had a full kitchen to cook our own food!
Other places we've lived and loved nearby include:
Tidal Rafting Resort
Crestevon by the sea
9. Visit the Fundy Tides Interpretive Center
The Fundy Tides Interpretive Center, located in South Maitland, is a great place to learn about the world-famous tides and tides in the Bay of Fundy - a daily natural wonder on the Shubenacadie River. We enjoyed reading and learning about the history and wildlife of the area through the interpretive displays and then headed to the lookout to admire the river. If you time your visit around the tide schedule, you might just see it go by! We rocked the rafters down, a perfect way to end our admiration of the Shubenacadie Canal.
10. Maitland Breakfast
Before heading home, we had lunch at Canada's oldest grocery store - Frieze and Roy and its indoor Mudslide Cafe. Their club sandwiches and chips are amazing!