Stay for a while… there’s so much to see and do!
If you’re coming “from away” (as folks out here say), you made quite a trip to get here. So, why not make the most out of your effort by extending your stay and turning this conference into a vacation? Below are a few personal suggestions from the conference organizers on hot spots and things to do in Nova Scotia. They’re sure to make both the paleontologists and their travelling companions with equally happy.
#1: The Annapolis valley: Home of vineyards, orchards, and some of the word’s earliest tetrapod remains
Located just an hour from Halifax, and sandwiched between the Triassic basalts of the North Mountain and the granite of the South Mountain, the Annapolis Valley has a unique microclimate that creates the perfect conditions for growing apples and grapes… which means wine and cider! A whole lot of wine and cider.
With hundreds of acres of lush vineyards and over a dozen wineries, the Annapolis Valley is Nova Scotia’s Napa. It is also home to the spectacular views of Blomidon Provincial park; the “birthplace of hockey”; Acadia University and the pretty college town of Wolfville; Just Us! coffee roasters and museum; the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Grand Pré; and tons more. But, the highlight for conference for attendees is sure to the Blue Beach Fossil Museum, and the rocks of the surrounding area, which yield a diverse collection of crucial early Carboniferous tetrapod material that spans Romer’s Gap.
- General Tourism Info
- Food and Wine
- Blue Beach Fossil Museum
- Blomidon Provincial park
- Landscape of Grand Pré (UNESCO)
- Birthplace of Hockey
#2: The Fundy shore: Land of dinosaurs, amethyst, ancient dunes, and the world’s highest tides
A sometimes overlooked gem, Nova Scotia’s Fundy shore is a magical destination (and a top spot for both of the conference co-organizers), with activities to satisfy rock hounders, hikers, theatre goers, beach bums, and paleontology fiends alike. Around Parrsboro, dramatic red Triassic sandstone cliffs are capped by basalt formed during the breakup of Pangaea, which are themselves cut through by beautiful columnar joints and crusted with amethyst. The rocks of south side of the Bay of Fundy contain important early dinosaur remains, as well as abundant Carboniferous trackways, both of which can be seen at the Fundy Geological Museum. On the northside, the Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases a Carboniferous ecosystem like no place else on Earth: with the trees literally still standing upright! Hailed by none other than Charles “Grandfather of Geology” Lyell himself as “the most wonderful phenomenon perhaps that I have seen,” the moment you step onto the beach you’ll see for yourself why these cliffs deserve their UNESCO World Heritage status.
In between those two key stops, you’ll have a hard time figuring out how to prioritize your time. Should you take in a play at the unique Ship’s Company Theatre in Parrsboro? Wander the majestic shores of Five Islands Provincial Park? Picnic by the cliffs at the Cape d’Or Lighthouse? Hunt for amethyst on Partridge Island? Or venture into Cape Chignecto Provincial Park to see the startling bluffs, and perhaps prove your mettle by roughing it at one of the backcountry campsites? There’s so much to do… and no reason not to stick around and do it all!
- General Tourism Info
- Fundy Geological Museum
- Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Cape Chignecto Provincial Park
- Five Islands Provincial Park
- Cape d’Or Lighthouse
- Ship’s Company Theatre
#3: The South Shore: Coastline, beaches, and heritage
There’s no Nova Scotia image more iconic than the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. Despite its overuse on postcards, it still never fails to elicit awe even in a jaded traveller (and to the geologically inclined, the glacially striated granite and erratics scattered about are something to see too!). Peggy’s Cove is located just an hour from the vibrant, multicultural city of Halifax (with an urban population of 300,000 it is the region’s “metropolis”). Don’t stop at Peggy’s Cove, however. From a base in Halifax, or taking advantage of the myriad of accommodations in one of the many charming coastal towns along the South Shore, you’ve got a lot to discover.
You definitely don’t want to miss Lunenburg, a preserved 18th century community that is one of only two urban areas in North America recognized with UNESCO World Heritage Status. Nor do you want to miss out on visiting Kejimkujik National Park and Kejimkujik Seaside for a chance to canoe, enjoy the beach, or see what the stars really look like in this official Dark Sky Preserve. In between, you’ve got over 350 kms of coastline to explore, dotted with charming towns, wave-battered shores, enticing white sand beaches, and more. In addition to being gorgeous, the whole area is soaked in history. For example, you can visit Birchtown, the location of the largest settlement of Black Loyalists (freed slaves who fought for the British during the American Revolutionary War).
Come see what the South Shore has to offer!
- South Shore Tourism
- Peggy’s Cove
- Black Loyalist Heritage Centre
- Kejimkujik National Park and Kejimkujik Seaside
#4: Halifax: A great big little city
For the fossil enthusiast, Halifax’s Natural History Museum is the place to go. It houses the province’s collections, plus excellent visiting exhibits from around the world. Once you’re done there, you’ve got a whole city left to explore! There’s too much to do in Halifax to list here, but in between enjoying the cutting edge cuisine, the dozen plus microbreweries, music, theatre, and art galleries, make sure you try to fit in some of these locals’ secret activities (by which I mean some of Jason’s favourite things to do when visiting!):
1.Plunge into the crowds at the Seaport Farmer’s Market on a Saturday, and then unwind across the road with some samples at Garrison Brewing Co.; 2. skip the gaudy tours, and take a public bus to the Fairview Cemetery to visit the final resting place of many of the victims of the Titanic disaster and the Halifax Explosion; 3. walk up to Dalhousie University and check out the cute —and free!—Thomas McCulloch Museum, with its fabulous collection of ceramic mushrooms, created by the famed Lorenzen family of Lantz, NS (these mushrooms are housed in the Smithsonian and other institutions); 4. take a return trip on the Dartmouth ferry from the Halifax Harbour and enjoy a harbour cruise for the bargain price of $5, courtesy of the Halifax public transit system; 5. take a lunch to go and enjoy it on the slopes of Citadel Hill, watching the city unfold below you; 6. take a tour of Halifax’s breweries and brewpubs, or skip the hassle and head to Stillwell, Halifax’s premier beer bar, where you can sample many of them; 7. enjoy the quiet beauty of Point Pleasant (look for the abundant exposed turbidites), just a few minutes walk from downtown; 8. or take a stroll through Halifax’s immaculate and free city gardens.
Of course, you can also throw yourself into the city and see what you find… There’s so much to discover you’ll won’t be disappointed.
- Halifax tourism info
- Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market
- Lorenzen mushrooms
- Titanic cemetery
- Halifax Beer Bus