Explore a myriad of local vintages. Try sea kayaking. Enjoy the sea breeze. Experience memorable traditions. Spend the night at a campsite. Hit the beach. Have a picnic by the ocean. Go on a culinary quest.
And you get to do and see all of these — all you have to do is plan a trip to Nova Scotia, one of the most exciting Canadian provinces. That said, before you organize a trip to this awesome province, you need to know what awaits you in each season.
In our guide, we’re spilling our secrets on the best time to visit Nova Scotia, as well as budget expectations, things to do, and so much more!
Why You Should Visit Nova Scotia
With so many Canadian provinces, one has to wonder — what makes Nova Scotia so special, and why should travelers bother to visit it?
Here’s our list of reasons:
- Nova Scotia boasts a plethora of fun and unusual events. For example, did you know Nova Scotia hosts the world’s largest food and film festival? Annually held in Wolfville, the “Devour! Film and Food Festival” is every foodie’s culinary dream come true. The province organizes many other extraordinary events, which we’ll get to in a bit.
- There are stunning beaches. We’re talking beaches that can be compared to those in the Caribbean islands — clear waters, white sands, and beachgoers in awe of their beauty. Bayswater, Martinique, Crystal Crescent, and Ingonish Beach are some of our top beach recommendations.
- Whether you’re traveling solo, with a friend, a partner, or with kids, Nova Scotia is going to be adventurous. From hiking at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, surfing on the Eastern Shore, and rafting on the Shubencadie River to going to the top of Cape Smokey and visiting a national park, Nova Scotia is full of fun and endless possibilities.
- It has iconic lighthouses. Just check out Peggy’s Cove and Cape Forchu, and you’ll see what we mean. Not only are the lighthouses beautiful, but they also shed light (pun intended) on the region’s past, as they used to welcome people who arrived on these shores for many centuries.
- Nova Scotia invites people to enjoy its (sea)food. This is most visitors’ favorite part of their trip — exploring different restaurants, trying out different dishes, and pampering their taste buds. More about what you can expect from Nova Scotia cuisine-wise in the FAQ section, so make sure to stick with us till the end.
- The province takes pride in its hospitality. The locals are friendly, polite, and always ready to help. While this may not be most people’s main reason to visit Nova Scotia for the first time, it can very well be a good reason to come back.
- You can explore the province’s rich wine history and taste it too! Apart from its signature wines, Nova Scotia is known for being the only place in the entire world that produces Tidal Bay wines. Wineries you should definitely visit include:
Overall Best Time to Visit Nova Scotia
The best time to visit Nova Scotia is in the high season, in July or August. In July, the temperatures in Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital, vary between an average high of 74°F and an average low of 54°F.
August sees average temperatures fluctuating between 74°F and 60°F. Summer is the ideal time to sunbathe on some of the beaches, go sailing, or enjoy kayaking.
Local festivals are also in full swing, and the entire region tries to make the most of the pleasant summer climate. If you go hiking, be on alert for mosquitoes.
July travelers should consider attending the Antigonish Highland Games and embrace the event’s Scottish spirit; the Halifax Jazz Festival is a must for jazz culture enthusiasts; the Stan Rogers Folk Festival invites you to embark on a musical adventure unlike anything you’ve ever seen (or heard!).
If you have any hopes about touching Nova Scotian waters, August is the time to take a dip in the otherwise cool Atlantic, which goes all the way up to 72°F during the summer months.
Those looking for some entertainment should add the Halifax Busker Festival to their Nova Scotian itinerary. Being home to the oldest Acadian festival in the world, the Nova Scotian Festival Acadien promises activities and fun for visitors of all ages.
Yet another August event, the Digby Scallop Days sees a vibrant live program, locals competing in the Scallop Shucking competitions, and the well-known Ceremony of Flags to wrap up the festival.
Lastly, note that as this is Nova Scotia’s busiest season, booking your accommodation ahead of time is recommended. That said, there are no drastic differences when it comes to high and low seasons in Nova Scotia.
Yes, summer is the tourist peak season which sees higher temperatures and an influx of visitors, but Nova Scotia is neither London nor Rome — the crowds are always manageable, and even the busiest roads are within normal limits.
Cheapest Time to Visit Nova Scotia
Budget-minded folks should consider booking a trip anytime from November through April, as this is Nova Scotia’s low season.
In November, the temperatures range between an average high of 47°F and an average low of 35°F. Being a rainy month, November isn’t a particularly popular time to visit, which translates into many lodging options and a budget-friendly trip.
December has average temperatures varying between a maximum of 37°F and a minimum of 24°F.
Snow slowly appears and covers the province, and while December is arguably the cheapest month to visit Nova Scotia, the Christmas season is celebrated with local markets, which do see plenty of locals coalesce.
In April, the temperatures range between an average high of 48°F and an average low of 34°F.
If Easter falls sometime in April, you’re in for a holiday treat, as there are numerous Easter fairs and workshops you can attend, making this time especially suitable for a family holiday!
All in all, Nova Scotia may have extreme winters with frigid temperatures, but the affordable accommodation prices, as well as the homey atmosphere, seem to compensate for it.
Least Busy Time to Visit Nova Scotia
The least busy time to go to Nova Scotia is either in May and June or September and October.
The May–June period precedes the vibrant summer season, and the September–October period provides visitors with the relaxing vibe they need after summer is all done and gone.
Both shoulder seasons are perfect for travelers trying to escape winter’s cold and summer’s hyperactive schedule. The climate is ideal for recreational activities such as camping or hiking, although the fall months require more endurance.
May visitors should expect temperatures ranging between an average high of 58°F and an average low of 42°F. The month is reserved for the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival.
June temperatures hover around an average high of 67°F during the day and an average low of 51°F at night. Both locals and visitors get excited for the upcoming Privateer Days, as they’re given a chance to “go back in time” to 1780.
September temperatures vary between a maximum of 67°F and a minimum of 53°F. Key events include the Atlantic International Film Festival and the Canadian Deep Roots Festival.
October visitors witness average temperatures fluctuate between 56°F and 44°F. The month lures travelers who wish to marvel at fall’s changing colors.
Apart from the fall foliage, live music coming from bars and pubs also attracts people’s attention — all because of the Celtic Colors Festival. A unique celebration, the Celtic Colors Festival boasts a plethora of activities, events, and world-class concerts.
Worst Time to Visit Nova Scotia
While Nova Scotia is lovely at all times, January, February, and March are absolutely unbearable when it comes to harsh weather conditions.
This January–March period sees temperatures ranging from an average low of 17°F and an average high of 38°F. January is also the month that sees the most rainfall.
Unless you’re coming from a cold country yourself, you’re going to have a hard time enjoying your Nova Scotia itinerary at this time.
That said, weather-wise, these months are ideal for drinking hot cocoa and going to warm restaurants. If you’re courageous enough to stand side by side with the cruel weather, then ice skating, skiing, and snowshoeing are activities absolutely worth considering.
If you happen to visit Nova Scotia in February, you can’t miss the South Shore Lobster Crawl. It’s — hands down — the event that “saves” the otherwise monotonous winter season.
From the sensational lobster rolls sandwich to soothe your inner foodie to live music events that warm your soul, the South Shore Lobster Crawl gets better and better with each passing year.
Those thirsty for something new and refreshing should mark their calendars for the Nova Scotia Icewine Festival. A premier annual winter wine festival, the Nova Scotia Icewine Festival event features wine that will keep you coming back for more.
While March sees a slight increase in temperatures, it’s still not enough to make the weather enjoyable, so the same winter mindset and activities apply.
Things to Consider
Now that you know what the best time to visit Nova Scotia is, let’s see what else you should keep in mind before you go:
- If you visit in summer, pack light to medium weight clothing. If you go in winter, bring heavyweight clothing. Waterproof clothing items come in handy for each reason.
- While staying at a hotel is always a possibility, an exciting way to explore Nova Scotia is by choosing a campsite instead.
- Apart from Halifax, don’t expect dynamic nightlife. That said, you can hear Gaelic songs and Scottish bagpipes all over the region at concerts or in pubs and restaurants.
- Tipping 15% to 20% is customary.
- If you’re driving, keep an eye on weather updates, especially in winter. Road conditions in Canada change in the wink of an eye — even more so if there’s snow involved.
- Nova Scotia is generally very safe, so if we were you, we wouldn’t worry too much. Of course, the risk for petty crimes such as bag snatching is always present, but that goes for any location. In fact, we’d rather urge you to take the necessary caution while hiking or during other outdoor activities, which brings us to the next point.
- If you go hiking, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, as many ticks carry Lyme disease. Not to scare you, but Nova Scotia is a region with the second-highest number of ticks in Canada.
- Coming across ATMs is easy in populated areas but not in more isolated regions, so make sure to bring some cash with you at all times.
- While most credit cards are widely accepted, many stores have a minimum of CA$5 to CA$20 per-purchase rule.
- If you’re trying to avoid heavier traffic on the roads and people-packed pubs, don’t visit during public holidays. So, keep your eyes peeled for the following Canadian holidays: New Year, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday, Labour Day, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Thanksgiving Day, Remembrance Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.
- If you’d like to save money, consider staying with a local (Couchsurfing is a solid option), go on a free walking tour (check the Halifax Free Walking Tours, but tip your guide at the end!), look for Halifax Happy Hours info, and purchase the Nova Scotia Museum pass for some great deals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are things cheaper in Nova Scotia?
Ranked as the fourth cheapest province, Nova Scotia has living expenses 16% lower than the national average. Also, living in Nova Scotia is cheaper than living in other Canadian provinces, such as British Columbia or Ontario.
However, this doesn’t tell you much about your potential expenses in Nova Scotia as a tourist, and that’s what we want to help you with.
All things considered, you should set aside CA$151 ($111) per day during your stay. You’ll need CA$44 ($32) for food and CA$23 ($17) for transportation. Also, hotel prices for a couple are CA$166 ($121) on average.
That said, different travel styles come with different expenses. Find yours based on the following figures:
- CA$62 ($45) – for travelers on a tight budget;
- CA$151 ($111) – for those with a mid-range budget;
- CA$349 ($255) – for visitors with no budget limitations.
Lastly, keep in mind that the above-mentioned figures are merely approximations and, as such, are subject to change.
What are some fun facts about Nova Scotia?
Here are some fun facts about Nova Scotia:
- 12 whale species swim in the Nova Scotia waters (perfect destination for whale watching!).
- Nova Scotia is frequently referred to as “Canada’s Ocean Playground”, as it has 13,300 kilometers of coastline.
- With around 21,345 square miles, Nova Scotia is the second smallest Canadian province.
- Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland. Here’s how the story goes: in 1621, King James I gave the territory to it to Sir William Alexander, a Scottish colonizer, who named the land Nova Scotia.
- Nova Scotia’s motto is Munit haec et altera vincit (“One defends and the other conquers”).
- The Nova Scotia Tartan is the first provincial tartan in the country.
- People from Nova Scotia are called Nova Scotians, but also Bluenosers. Allegedly, the term denoted “early Nova Scotian sailors who would be out in the cold weather and supposedly their nose would get cold and turn blue. The other one refers to the early settlers who would eat a lot of blue potatoes and herring.”
- The province’s official bird is the Osprey, a large fish-eating bird — smaller than an eagle, but larger than a hawk.
- Nova Scotia has over 150 lighthouses — more than any other Canadian province!
- Besides shipbuilding and fishing, tourism has become one of the most significant industries in Nova Scotia.
How many days do I need for Nova Scotia?
We believe you’ll need around seven days to see Nova Scotia without being under the impression that you’re skipping activities or places to see. Of course, if you can stay even longer, that’s even better.
However, to truly sense what this Canadian province has to offer, ideally, you need a whole week.
This way, you can combine active days where you hit the beach, hike, and engage in recreational activities with less active days, where you go from one restaurant to another and pick a local museum to visit.
What is the official food of Nova Scotia?
Nova Scotia’s cuisine is a neat blend of its surrounding water availability, agriculture, and dishes brought by settlers. While there are many dishes, the following ones truly stand out:
- Nova Scotia lobster
- Goldwater seafood
- Creamed lobster
- Rappie pie
- Deep-fried pepperoni
- Nova salmon
- Pictou County pizza
- Garlic fingers
Finally, you can’t fully explore Nova Scotian cuisine without trying out some of its notable drinks, such as:
- Tidal Bay Wine (alongside some signature wines)
- Bluenose Rum
- Whiskey (probably where the Scottish heritage is felt the strongest).
What is the best way to get around Nova Scotia?
The best way to get around Nova Scotia is by car. It’s convenient and allows for much more independent planning. However, public transport should also suffice (or at least be combined with renting a car).
For example, Maritime Bus operates in more than 50 locations, all throughout the Maritimes. Loved by both locals and travelers, it’s a budget-friendly option. Halifax Transit also provides solid bus routes throughout Halifax.
Ride-sharing is also common. There’s a nice selection of taxi operators but keep in mind taxis can get pricey.
Those who wish to engage in a low-impact exercise and, at the same time, make it from point A to point B, opt for renting a bicycle. While there are many biking routes in the province, you can’t make it everywhere by biking.
What natural disasters happen in Nova Scotia?
Some of the natural disasters that may happen in Nova Scotia include:
- Severe storms
- Storm surges
While natural disasters can’t be predicted or controlled, it’s always good to know what to expect in the season when you’re planning your visit.
For instance, the official hurricane season runs from June to November. While it’s rare for hurricanes to make their way to the Maritimes, it may happen, so keep an eye on hurricane-related information if you visit during that period.
Which is better to visit: New Brunswick or Nova Scotia?
This is entirely subjective, as it depends on what you hope to see and what your expectations are from the trip. For instance, if you expect to see more tidal landscapes, pick New Brunswick.
On the other hand, Nova Scotia seems to be a popular choice for those determined to visit the best Canadian island — Cape Breton Island.
Also, New Brunswick is said to have colder winters than Nova Scotia, so factor this in if cold weather is not your cup of tea. That said, as you already saw, Nova Scotia has cold winters anyway.
Just make sure to research both destinations before you make a decision. Our suggestion, however, would be to visit both (if possible), and each has to offer something unique.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Nova Scotia?
We covered a lot of information in our guide — let’s recap the most important.
- Wish to experience Nova Scotia at its prime? Go in summer, in July or August. The weather’s pleasant and supports all outside activities. Also, most festivals take place in the summer period, so if you go during this peak tourist season, you’re in for a treat.
- On a budget but still keen to explore Nova Scotia? Plan your trip during the province’s low season, which is anytime from November through April. Unfortunately, the weather conditions aren’t attractive to tourists, which translates into lower prices but fewer events as well.
- Want to avoid crowds? Consider going either in May and June or September and October. These shoulder seasons are when you can have Nova Scotia to yourself without the summer hype and back-to-back events. It’s also the ideal time to turn to nature and take advantage of agreeable temperatures for activities such as hiking or camping.
- Not a fan of cold weather? Then don’t visit in winter, that is, in January, February, or March. Nova Scotian winters scream snow and ice, and if you’re not a winter lover, you’ll hardly find any pleasure in going when the weather’s at its worst. That said, chances are you’ll still have an amazing time even if you end up going, as that’s how special and enticing Nova Scotia is.
All in all, the best time to visit Nova Scotia is a resounding always, as it’s a great destination for all kinds of preferences, interests, and above all, budgets, so if you get the chance to visit it, don’t hesitate.
In fact, why not book your Canadian trip today? Happy travels!