Halifax - Port Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
Spring/summer May-September, cruise ship season, the temperature is around 15-25 degrees Celsius. The weather can be very unpredictable and changeable throughout the spring and summer season, and can be sunny, windy, rainy, cold, cloudy and hot, all within a couple of hours. The key to the weather is to wear layers. Never leave the ship without an umbrella and rain jacket, and have two or three layers you can take on or off to be prepared for whatever the weather brings.
Sights & Sites
Victorian Garden Nick and I
- Victorian Garden – About 15/20 minutes walk from the ship in land and further along the boardwalk, the Halifax Victorian Gardens are a very pleasant place to spend an hour or so. The gardens are free; there are various trees and flower sections to peruse, a bandstand where several live music shows are on during the summer months, and a coffee stand.
- Halifax Boardwalk – Walking to the right from the ship takes you to the boardwalk, and all the attractions of it are right there. Many pleasant restaurants of different cuisine types, bars, coffee shops are along here. As you keep going, you come to the new food truck area, which hosts about a dozen trucks selling various tasty local treats. There are several seafood trucks, a bakery one, crepes, and poutine.
View from Citadel
- Citadel – The Halifax Citadel is situated right in the center of the city, and is one of the top sights to see in Halifax. Try to get there for 12pm for the daily 12 o’clock gun going off. You can take tours of the citadel or wander about alone.
- Museum of the Atlantic – This museum along the Halifax Boardwalk chronicles the maritime history of Halifax, with exhibitions on the seafaring past and present of the town.
- The Board Room – Local board game store where you can pay your $5 entry fee and play their board games as long as you like. They open at 11am, close long after we sail, and your entry fee includes decent Wi-Fi, and they have coffee, local beers and ciders, and snacks inside, makes this a good rainy day option for crew.
Halifax Distilling Company
- Halifax Distilling Company – Located on Water Street, right behind the Museum of the Atlantic, is the welcoming rum distillery, which as well as making its own brand of Nova Scotia rum from start to finish, also has a bar area with snacks, tasty coffee and home made rum cake. Using the bar or snack area, or having a coffee and using the Wi-Fi has no charge, and you can take a tour of the distilling facilities with the very knowledgeable staff for $12.95, or for $19.95 as well as the tour you get a full flight of rums to taste (as seen in my video at the bottom of the page)
- Museum of Immigration – This is located just next to where we dock, and is a museum covering the history of the immigrants to Halifax and the roots of its inhabitants. It gives a thorough education on the people who came to settle in Halifax from where, when and why and is of particular Internet to anyone who has family emigrate here. It is open from 9am-6pm daily, and cost is $15 CAD for adults, and crewmembers receive the student discount, taking the cost to $9.30 upon showing their crew ID card.
- Titanic Graveyard – This is a little further out, but is walk able by following the map if you wish, but expect to take an hour to get there (or take a cab or Uber), otherwise this stop is on several of the tours in Halifax. This is the final resting place for 112 of the Titanic’s sinking’s souls, and is a somber but interesting place to see. Many of the headstones are unmarked, some identities on the stones having been figured out long after their burial there, and some showing some of the youngest victims of the tragedy. There is no cost to look around the graveyard, and there is a lot of information available on signs around it to help educate visitors.
- Peggy’s Cove – This is undoubtedly the most popular tour from Halifax, and with good reason. The remote tiny village with the most photographed lighthouse in North America is rugged and a photographer and nature lover’s paradise. I have been three times myself, and keep going back as it is delightful. You can reach Peggy’s Cove on a ship tour, take a local tour, or by hiring a car and heading out. The countryside on the way to the cove is very picturesque with the rolling hills, lush green fields, tiny villages and farms and forests you see along the way, as well as many friendly farm animals and flowers. However you get there, wrap up warm with layers, as it is always a few degrees cooler in the cove then in Halifax town. There are small stalls and shops from local artists here selling paintings, jewelry, small sculptures, which are all worth a peek, and the small restaurant has great clam chowder, worth sampling, whether or not it is included in your tour. Their hot chocolate helps keep the bitter wind at bay as well. If you go here on tour, the guide will likely show you a demo of live lobsters, picking up at east one and letting you pose for photos with it, so you can see and learn first hand about the creatures you will likely sample at some point during your time on this itinerary.
Halifax has a lot of souvenirs based on its Scottish roots. There are kilts, clan information, as well as Celtic style jewelry from companies like Amos Pewter, as well as tartan clothes and Halifax and East Coast t-shirts etc.
If you only have two hours
The town of Halifax and all its amenities are very close to the ship. You can walk to the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market within 5 minutes of leaving the ship, and there is free Wi-Fi there, as well as in the terminal where we dock. If you need any practical things, such as toiletries, laundry detergent, or snacks, the best place for choice and low cost is the Atlantic Supermarket, less than 10 minutes walk from the Halifax dock. The Halifax Harbor walk is just 5 minutes walk to the right from the ship, right past the Farmer’s Market. The Harbor Walk is a pleasant and picturesque walk, and there are a lot of restaurants, bars and cafes along the waterfront, as well as buskers playing music in the summer. Further along the waterfront, there are food trucks with local foods, the Museum of the Atlantic, and the Halifax Distilling Company which has tours of the rum distillery, Wi-Fi, coffee, cakes and snacks available, right behind the Museum (15-20 minute walk from the ship).
What is it known for?
Halifax is known for its Scottish roots, with most of the settlers here hailing from there, hence the name Nova Scotia – New Scotland. In this regard, there is a heavy Scottish influence here still, with many people speaking Scottish Gaelic, kilts a plenty to buy or wear, and most local tour guides wear kilts to show off the heritage. The town of Halifax itself if known for old Scotland-esque inclement weather conditions, with some very heavy storms at any time of the year. Seafood is fresh and plentiful here, and of high quality, and is the mainstay of many of the restaurants.
Food & Drink
Seafood is the most popular, local and fresh choice in Halifax. Cold-water species such as scallops, lobster and mussels are among the top tastes. Most local restaurants have excellent seafood to try, as well as great seafood at the food trucks along the Harbor Walk, which is one of my top choices on a sunny day, and The Drunken Goat’s gastro pub with beer garden right by the water is an excellent choice of place to sit and relax with a beverage (or food) in better weather. Phil’s Seafood on street is a little further out of the way but worth the walk in my opinion for their scallops. I enjoyed it so much I featured it in my articles about my Top 5 Seafood Restaurants in the Canadian Maritimes. If you make your way out to Lunenburg, I would highly recommend The Grand Banker as your choice for lunch, as the seafood, atmosphere and service are impeccable – also found in my article.
The Seaport Farmer’s Market right next to the ship has several small eateries with succulent lobster rolls if you don’t want to venture far to sample the king of crustaceans here. There is also a great selection of international fare, such as Korean food at Gangnam Korean Restaurant (on Barrington Street), Japanese sushi and noodle dishes at Hamachi along the Harbor Walk (try the ginger, honey and lemon juice if you like zesty and sweet treats) and Thai food at Thali Thai, also on Barrington Street. Thali Thai and Gangnam Korean restaurants both have very tasty and filling lunch specials on for around $10-13 CAD, and all of these eateries mentioned have free Wi-Fi.
The ship terminal has free Wi-Fi, which usually has a decent enough signal for checking emails and suchlike, but not strong enough if you are doing any uploading or downloading. The Seaport Farmer’s Market in the next building is a little better, and no purchase at any of the stalls necessary, but how good the signal is depends on how many people are utilizing it at the time. Wi-Fi is available in most restaurants and bars, and in some spots around the city in the street too. My favorite spot from last year – The Choco Café – located on street, sadly closed down. The Smiling Goat is located along the Harbor Walk right in front of where the Choco Café was, but the service is nowhere near as friendly or welcoming as the other Halifax establishments I’ve been to, internet speed is very intermittent, and there are limited table space if you have a laptop, so I wouldn’t go here as my first choice, as almost all bars and cafes have Wi-Fi. A lesser known Wi-Fi spot find is the Halifax Distilling Company, which as well as distillery tours, has a bar, light lunch foods, and coffee and cake options available, and free Wi-Fi comes with any purchase, and if you’re lucky, you may meet Julie, the charming owner. If you enjoy board games, it is worth noting that The Board Room (on street – see above in sites and sights section – insert link here?) also has free Wi-Fi included in your admission if you wish to use their facilities anyway, and is about 12 minutes walk from the ship.
US dollars are accepted in many businesses in the center of town, plus all the stalls in the market in the ship’s terminal and the Seaport Farmer’s Market next door, but the rate you will be given is often given as one to one, which is less favorable. Credit and debit cards are accepted everywhere, and major Canadian banks, the Bank of Montreal, and Canadian Bank is available in the city. Check with both of their rate that day though, as they often offer different rates, so check which one is better before exchanging, and crew, show your crew card. If you don’t receive fees for using foreign currency on your credit or debit card, you get the best exchange rate, but as always cash is king.
Karen’s Top Tip
Base your day in Halifax around the weather if you can. It can be very temperamental. There are great tours from here – the town of Lunenburg, and visiting Peggy’s Cove – the top sellers, and Lunenburg my personal favorite. If you want to stay in town, if the weather is dry, a walk along the waterfront, then to the Victorian Park and the Citadel are my top picks, and if the weather isn’t complying, check out the culture at the Museum of the Atlantic, of the movie of right next to it, or The Museum of Immigration right by the ship, or head along the Harbor Walk to find a spot you like and enjoy a local beer or coffee.
My experience here
I have been to Halifax many times. Being Scottish, I feel very at home with the Scottish roots, abundant tartan, clan references and even the occasional bagpipes being played in the city. I have been on quite a few of the tours here, and my two personal favorites were lovely Lunenburg, and Peggy’s Cove.
Lunenburg is an exquisite small town, which is itself a Unesco World Heritage site, due to its colorful buildings and very well kept original architecture. People are friendly, and the guide I had on this tour (Robert – a former high school history teacher), was one of the best tour guides I have ever had. His extremely thorough knowledge of the history of the town, as well as his obvious passion for all things Lunenburg made the entire tour a joy. His tip to try local seafood at the restaurant “The Grand Banker” was well received by myself and many guests on the tour also. We met the owner Adam who was gracious and welcoming to all, and their seafood chowder was brimming with marine morsels.
Peggy’s Cove is a treat I have been to three times already, and I’m planning on returning this season again. I’ve found it always beautiful, and always cold, so wrap up warm! Going here on a tour is the easiest way to see it. If you have time, check out the small artist’s stalls and shops for authentic Nova Scotia art souvenirs.
I’ve been to the Seaport Farmer’s Market many times, often stopping in on the way out into town, as they have free Wi-Fi if I need to check something, and there are a lot of interesting arts, crafts, and food stalls with locally made delights to check out. All the food stalls give samples – little pieces of lobster roll, honey coated peanuts, and popcorn to name a few – which are a great way to try the fares without/before committing to buying.
The Harbor Walk is one of my favorite spots in Halifax. I’ve been along it many times and stopped off at quite a few of the places along it. Hamachi Japanese Restaurant has great Japanese food, a pleasant atmosphere with tables outside when it’s sunny, as well as free (but not always reliable) Wi-Fi, The Drunken Goat is an outdoor restaurant/beer garden which is my pick for hanging out with friends on a sunny day (also free Wi-F- for customers), the food trucks are fun for outdoor eating, (but not always cheaper than actual restaurants, as they would appear). The Museum of the Atlantic is at the father end of here, and there’s a children’s play park for little ones.
The Citadel I’ve been to several times, and it is a good walk from the ship if you want some exercise, and if you go, try to be there to hear/see the 12 o’clock gun go off. The free tours within the Citadel are interesting, but the quality and level of “interestingness” of them varies with who is giving the talk that day I have found. They are free though, so if you don’t enjoy the storyteller, you can always excuse yourself and self-guide the rest of the way reading the many well appointed information signs.
My Most Memorable Moment
For me, Halifax is all about the seafood. I have had some of the best seafood of my life here, in several different places, and I find it very difficult to visit without sampling something. The first time I fell in love with the seafood here was in 2006 when I went on a mission with a friend to find small local haunt Phil’s Seafood – about 45 minutes walk from the ship – and worth it. I returned in 2016 to find the place and see if their fried scallop were as magical as in my memory. They were. (They close on Mondays though, so don’t make the trip out if you dock there on a Monday – don’t be disappointed like I was!) I then discovered more scallops along the Harbor Walk at the food trucks, and in the Irish restaurant Claddagh? Right behind it. Lunenburg’s Grand Banker provided excellent seafood chowder, (as well as their famous ‘Lunenburger’ – a burger fit for a king with everything on it if you’re not into seafood), and some tasty lobster rolls at the Seaport Farmer’s Market. The weather can’t always be relied upon in Halifax, I got stuck in one of the most unforgiving pelting rainstorms I have ever seen here, with rain flowing like a river down all streets in the town center, but the salty air and fishes, and the salt of the earth friendly people here have never let me down.
Here’s my guide to the best things to see, do, eat and drink in Halifax, Nova Scotia.