The wide assortment of great things to do in Halifax helps to make Nova Scotia’s capital such a fun travel destination to visit in Canada! The friendly waterfront city has so much to offer visitors. Personally, Halifax remains one of our favorite destinations in the country.
What makes Halifax so much fun?
⚓ its unique maritime culture,
🇨🇦 the friendly Haligonians who live here,
🎉 the weekly festivals,
☀️ amazing summer weather,
🏞️ the abundant park space,
🍺 a booming craft beer scene,
🦞 delicious local seafood,
🏙️ the vibrant Waterfront,
🚗 adventurous day trips to pursue, and
➕ so much more!
This maritime city is awesome and there are so many fun things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia! We’re here to reveal in this travel guide what we’ve found to be the best things to do in Halifax, the best places to visit, and the best sights to see.
As this website always likes to point out excellent value, we’ve gone on to provide all of our signature budget travel tips for Halifax too! We’ve personally completed loads of on-the-ground travel research all throughout Nova Scotia’s capital to uncover how to experience all the best things to do in Halifax, on any budget. We’ll show you loads of free things to do in Halifax. Yet we’ll also show you where to go to indulge in a quintessential lobster supper.
Speaking of lobster, eating is a thing to do in Halifax! In addition to sights, attractions, and activities to do in Halifax, this travel guide dishes out quintessential local foods to try in Halifax and another four drinking things to do here. Halifax is a fun drinking town, after all, with plenty of sunny patios and loads of local beverages to try!
But don’t overindulge too much. It can be worth it to get an early start to embark on a day trip from Halifax. Nova Scotia’s capital makes for an excellent hub to reach lighthouses, UNESCO sites, the wine region, and the famous Bay of Fundy’s extreme tidal changes.
Buckle in for all the travel tips to reach these best things to do in Halifax and the surrounding area. We hope this guide can provide ideas for things to do in Halifax, whether you live here and are looking for something new to do, or if you’re in Halifax for a day, perhaps as a cruise port stop. You can easily use these recommendations as a Halifax bucket list to slowly tick off or a Halifax port guide to get to the best Halifax sights during a short visit.
We have strived hard to provide all the details, directions, prices, and tips you may need – now updated for 2023. It’s going to be another awesome year to explore Halifax!
20 Best Things to Do in Halifax
Here’s a handy Halifax map that pinpoints all of our recommendations for what to do in Halifax that are further detailed throughout this article. So feel free to come back to this map to get your bearings and connect the dots!
Without further ado, below are the 20 best things to do in Halifax!
1) Stroll the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk
Arguably the best thing to do in Halifax is simply roam around the Halifax waterfront. It’s a must-do in Halifax!
This working port on the Halifax Harbour boasts one of the longest downtown boardwalks in the world! The length of Halifax’s scenic harbourfront board spans 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). You could easily spend an entire afternoon aimlessly strolling amongst the timber-frame and stone warehouses lining the picturesque seaside.
Stop at the Queen’s Marque steps to dip your toes in the Halifax Harbour. Or relax at the popular orange waterfront hammocks while watching the boats pass by. Continue further down the Halifax Waterfront to consider embarking on a ferry ride or taking a proper Halifax Harbour tour. Found all along the waterfront are attractions like this, covered throughout the remainder of this travel guide of things to do in Halifax.
Ambling on this charming thoroughfare, you’ll inevitably stumble across Halifax’s Farmers’ Market, the historic Alexander Keith’s Brewery, Canada’s oldest warship, the drunken lampposts, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (each of which is further detailed in this Halifax travel guide).
But don’t go to the Halifax waterfront just for its attractions. Soak in the atmosphere. You’ll hear the chatter of seagulls, the lapping of the water, the soft creaking of boats against the docks, and the laughter of children playing on the Wave sculpture. This lengthy waterfront is such an alluring place that truly defines the city of Halifax.
If you were going to only do one thing in Halifax, let it be a visit to the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk. It’s a must-do activity in Halifax and it’s free!
2) Climb Citadel Hill for History and Views
The Halifax Citadel, also known as Fort George, is a star-shaped fort that sits atop the strategic high point of Citadel Hill. Given this location, you can go to Citadel Hill to enjoy sweeping views of Halifax and the harbour.
It’s all found at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.
You’ll find much more atop this military fort than views. The Halifax Citadel also packs in loads of Halifax history. Fort George is the fourth fort built atop Citadel Hill since the first Citadel was founded there in 1749. The current structure was built in the mid-1800s by the British to protect Halifax.
When visiting the Halifax Citadel, you can learn about all this history at the onsite museum. Then explore the fort’s walls, check out the many cannons, and soak in the sweet views of Halifax.
💡Tip: Try to be at Citadel Hill at Noon for the daily demonstration when those cannons are fired by gunners dressed in period uniforms. Known as the Noon Gun, the daily canon firing is a Halifax tradition that dates back to 1857!
Another regular occurrence to catch at the Citadel is the changing of the guards. It happens every hour. Don’t miss it!
For an even more in-depth background about Halifax’s military past, consider taking a guided tour of the Halifax Citadel, led by an 1869 soldier. These guided tours are complimentary with paid admission, run regularly from May-Oct, and are 45-60 minutes.
3) Shop at the Oldest Continuously Operated Farmers’ Market in North America
It was way back in June 1750, when the Halifax Farmers’ Market began, just a year after the city was founded. Nearly three centuries later, this Halifax farmers’ market is still going strong!
The 273-year-old market has grown over the years. As such, it changed locations throughout the years. And as the vendors themselves have moved around it has actually splintered off into two markets:
- The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market
- The Halifax Brewery Market
Yet it’s the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market that makes the claim as being the longest continuously operating market in North America. It is the larger of these two farmers’ markets, hosting over 100 vendors each weekend.
Head towards the south end of the Waterfront on a weekend day to peruse through all the local and seasonal treats. If you arrive hungry, there are some affordable lunch options to consider too. The Seaport Farmers’ Market is indoors and open year-round, so you can still visit it no matter the weather.
Also, be sure to check out the Halifax Brewery Market. This farmers’ market is named as such because it’s located in the same building that’s home to the historic Alexander Keith’s brewery.
The Halifax Brewery Market is centrally located along the waterfront and boasts 60+ vendors. You’ll need to be in Halifax on a Saturday morning to catch this farmers’ market in action because it’s only open once each week.
Whether at the Seaport Farmers’ Market or the Halifax Brewery Market, you can find everything from locally farmed produce and meats to locally made crafts and fresh flowers. Personally, we enjoy shopping here for Canadian staples like local honey, maple syrup, and even local spirits!
Whether you’re coming here to shop, eat, or simply browse, both of these farmers’ markets are a long-standing local tradition that makes for a fun thing to do in Halifax.
4) Go Canoeing in Halifax
Canoeing is a national pastime throughout Canada. And given all the water surrounding Halifax, this city makes for a great place to enjoy a leisurely paddle. The bustling Halifax Harbour can be an ideal spot to go for a row. It gives canoers and kayakers a great vantage point of the waterfront and the city itself.
There are a few different opportunities to canoe or kayak along Halifax’s popular waterfront, and they’re priced accordingly. A 90-minute kayak tour at centrally-located Harbour Watercraft is C$57.50.
For a more natural setting to kayak, consider heading out to Long Lake Provincial Park, just a 15-minute drive west of downtown Halifax. Here you can kayak around the lake’s inlets, islands, and natural shoreline of this protected park. Kayak rentals at Long Lake start at C$30, book here.
💡 But here’s a little Halifax budget tip to rent canoes for free! If you venture to the peninsula to a skinny harbour known as the Northwest Arm, you’ll come to St. Mary’s Boat Club, which provides free canoe rentals during weekends!
It’s a pleasant paddle through the sailboat-filled harbour, along the rugged coastline, and residential areas. You can even paddle across the Northwest Arm to Sir Sanford Fleming Park and briefly dock your canoe. Then you can have a stroll along the park’s waterfront trails or climb to the top of Dingle Tower, which further offers free admission.
These free one-hour canoe rentals at St. Mary’s Boat Club are only available on Saturdays and Sundays, so be sure to plan this excursion for a weekend. Although this is enjoyed mostly by locals, you don’t need to be a Boat Club member or even a Halifax resident to use the canoes.
You simply need to make advanced reservations to snag a canoe for free and get out on the water! Be sure to make a reservation in advance, as canoes do get fully rented out. More info is at Halifax Recreation.
Tip: Clear days make for enjoyable conditions. But more important than sunny days, we recommend using canoes when the winds are calm in Halifax. On windy days, people have been known to flip right into the harbour! You can check the wind forecast for Halifax here on WindGuru.com. Ideally, winds under 10 knots make for nice paddling conditions in Halifax.
5) Visit Halifax’s Fantastic Museums!
Halifax boasts many worthwhile museums throughout the city, depending on your interest, whether you’re wanting to learn more about Halifax’s major role in the Titanic disaster, explore Nova Scotian nature, do something
There are many wonderful museums all throughout Halifax to peruse! We love how each of Halifax’s museums puts a strong emphasis on Nova Scotian culture. These museums offer loads of insights into both Halifax and Nova Scotia, through a local lens.
💡 Tip: If the weather is cold or rainy, Halifax’s museums can be a great indoor option when searching for activities. Visiting museums is a great idea for things to do in Halifax on a rainy day.
The following are the five most popular and often-recommended museums to visit in Halifax:
⛵️ 5.1) Halifax Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
If you only have time for one museum, the Maritime Museum is our suggestion.
Halifax’s Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the city’s most popular museum. Conveniently located along the Halifax Waterfront, visitors to the Maritime Museum can explore over 30,000 artifacts! The museum does an excellent job of immersing visitors in the rich seafaring history of the region.
Perhaps most notable is the Titanic exhibit, which tells the story of Halifax’s grim role in the Titanic’s recovery efforts. You can see several artifacts from the tragic sinking from the alluring, like a wooden deck chair, to the morbid, such as a body bag.
Yet there is so much maritime curiosity to explore here, which goes far beyond that famously unsinkable ship. Visitors can also explore restored vessels and enjoy interactive displays that provide a unique, hands-on learning experience.
Those who are really interested in history could easily spend several hours perusing through what is Canada’s largest maritime museum.
💡 Budget tip to get in for free: It’s normally a C$10 adult ticket to get into Halifax Maritime Museum during the summer months. But for those who come Tuesday, after 5:00 pm, entry is free! On Tuesday evenings the museum has extended hours until 8:00 pm and offers free admission each week during this three-hour period. There is also usually a free Tuesday Talk at the museum during this time too.
🐢 5.2) For Nature Lovers: Museum of Natural History
Explore Nova Scotia’s diverse ecosystems, flora, fauna, and ancient life. Permanent exhibits include a coastal aquarium, Nova Scotia forests, the Gully (deepest submarine canyon in eastern N America), and an 18-foot round screen theatre, among other attractions. This long-standing museum (est. 1868) is also home to live animals, such as 100-year-old Gus the Tortoise.
🏛️ 5.3) For Those Exploring Their Canadian Heritage: Museum of Immigration
Halifax’s Pier 21 is the last surviving seaport immigration facility in Canada, often drawing comparisons to Ellis Island in the US. This National Historic Site of Canada now houses the Museum of Immigration, where visitors can discover 400 years of Canadian immigration, experience what it was like to immigrate through Pier 21 between 1928 and 1971, and even use their genealogy services to investigate your family’s Canadian immigration story.
👨👩👧👦 5.4) For Those with Kids: Discovery Centre
This interactive science museum fosters curiosity through loads of hands-on exhibits in addition to live science demonstrations, educational programs, and dome theatre. With four floors of displays covering topics such as science, technology, and engineering, this museum provides an immersive experience for kids that adults can appreciate too.
🎨 5.5) For Art Lovers: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia showcases the province’s diverse artistic talent and cultural history. One of its highlights is the collection of works by Maud Lewis, a celebrated local folk artist. In fact, you can visit her restored home, now housed within the gallery. The Art Gallery also hosts a variety of rotating exhibitions featuring contemporary and Indigenous art, ensuring there’s always something new and captivating to discover.
💡 Budget tip to get in for free: Go on Thursday 5 pm – 9 pm, when admission is free of charge as part of “BMO Free Access Thursday Night.”
6) Tour the Halifax Harbour by Boat
Halifax Harbour cruises are popular pursuits for visitors to the city. These harbour tours are a quintessential experience for visitors to Halifax to gain perspective of the port city while cruising in the storied Harbour.
Yacht cruises can be worth the splurge, such as this Wine & Cheese Sunset Cruise of the Halifax Harbour. Soak up the views in luxury with a glass of local wine in hand, as the sun dips down into the sea and the city of Halifax lights up.
Yet for a more affordable and well-rounded tour of Halifax Harbour, we suggest the popular Harbour Hopper tour. It’s a fun 1-hour Halifax tour on an amphibious vehicle that travels along Halifax’s streets and plunks right down into the Harbour, all while visiting many of the city’s most famous sites along the way. Expect to pass by the Halifax Citadel, the Halifax Public Gardens, St. Paul’s Church, Georges Island, the Waterfront, and so much more.
This informative and comically narrated tour provides a much more complete experience of the Harbour and Halifax itself, with many time slots and budget-friendly prices. If you only have one day in Halifax, we’d strongly recommend the Harbour Hopper tour as the best thing to do in Halifax for an excellent overview of the city and its sights. Check prices and availability here.
💡 Budget Tip: Create Your Own Halifax Harbour Cruise for C$2.75
While a sunset cruise or the Harbour Hopper tour are excellent options to experience Halifax Harbour, we must show an alternative way to tour these waters for less than $3.
For the most economical way to get out into Halifax Harbour, simply take the public ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth. While you won’t get any narration to learn about the city, you will get an inexpensive boat ride into the harbour. This public ferry is primarily used as transit rather than a touristic pursuit. Yet locals and visitors alike are welcome aboard this affordable boat ride across Halifax Harbour.
The fare is only C$2.75 each way and ferries depart about every 15 minutes. You can even ask for a free transfer to continue on, by bus, to other locations across the Harbour.
Currently, there are two ferry routes: the Halifax-Alderney Ferry and the Halifax Woodside Ferry. We suggest visitors take the Alderney Ferry, which brings passengers to the cross-harbour municipality of Dartmouth. It’s a quick and fun ferry trip across the harbour, that takes about 12 minutes each way. During the journey, you can enjoy some of the best views of the Halifax Waterfront.
💡 Tip: Upon boarding the ferry, grab a seat on the back of the top deck. Many people will pile into the front seats. But it’s the back seats that will offer fleeting views of Halifax city skyline.
Once the ferry makes it across the harbour, you can take the opportunity to explore Dartmouth. There’s a small waterfront here, a park, and a whole ‘nother town to discover with some great restaurants, cafes, bars, and more.
And that free transfer we mentioned earlier can be used for buses too. So if you’re on the Dartmouth side of the Halifax Harbour, consider catching the #60 bus onward to Fisherman’s Cove. (We’ll explain why next.)
Or take that same bus down to Woodside Regional Park, where you can catch a different ferry back to Halifax. Doing so creates a loop around the Halifax Harbour to give a slightly different vantage point upon the return from Woodside.
Whether by ferry (on the cheap) or a proper Harbour cruise, taking a boat trip into the Halifax Harbour is another “must” for things to do in Halifax.
7) Wander Around a Nova Scotian Fishing Village: Fisherman’s Cove
Halifax has a maritime history built around fishing. So visiting a historic fishing village makes for a fun thing to do in Halifax. Nova Scotia’s fishing villages can be intriguing enclaves to explore with lots of photo opportunities abounding.
When visiting Halifax, the most popular day trip to see a fishing village is to Peggy’s Cove, where visitors will find the famed Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse alongside a recreated fishing village. Yet it should be noted that a visit to Peggy’s Cove will either require an hour’s drive with your own transportation or you’ll need to join a day tour, which typically runs between $50-$100.
For a closer and more budget-friendly alternative to Peggy’s Cove, we recommend venturing across the Halifax Harbour by ferry and then taking the bus to see “Fisherman’s Cove.”
There is no lighthouse here. But you will get to see a restored 200-year-old fishing village full of colorful buildings, seafood shacks, artsy boutiques, and fishing boats lining the canal.
It’s also a great spot to take a leisurely stroll, watch the fishing boats come and go, or simply soak in the serene maritime atmosphere. Also, consider walking next door to MacCormack’s Beach Provincial Park to walk the boardwalk trails and enjoy this natural portion of the coastline the Halifax Harbour.
Back at Fisherman’s Cove, there’s also a Heritage Centre to learn more about the historic fishing village. The Heritage Centre and Fisherman’s Cove itself are free. So Fisherman’s Cove makes for yet another one of the many great things to do in Halifax, on any budget.
8) Visit McNabs Island to Explore Halifax Off-the-Beaten-Path:
If you’re planning a visit to Fisherman’s Cove, don’t stop there. This is the perfect opportunity to visit McNabs Island. We find McNabs Island to be one of the most underrated things to do in Halifax.
This half-day excursion isn’t among the most popular attractions in Halifax. Yet it’s something we highly recommended to anyone who enjoys nature and wants to get off the beaten path to inject a sense of adventure into their Halifax itinerary.
McNabs Island is the largest island in Halifax Harbour and has about 400 hectares (roughly 1,000 acres) of parkland to explore. With historic forts, beautiful beaches, and even some wildlife, it’s a fantastic place for hiking, picnicking, and bird-watching.
While exploring McNabs Island, learn a bit about its sordid history. McNabs Island has been used as a military fort, an amusement park, and even a soda factory. You can still find some of those bottles scattered throughout the island today. Given the history of this island, it is yet another of Canada’s National Historic Sites located in the Halifax area.
McNabs Island has a well-maintained network of trails that zigzag across what is the largest island in Halifax Harbour. Those trails will take you to old crumbling forts, scenic cliffs, secluded beaches, and the modern-day ruins of former homes that remain on the island today. Plan to spend at least a few hours exploring the trails across this interesting island.
Getting to McNabs Island directly from Halifax can get pricey since you’ll need to charter a boat for the 30-minute ride from Halifax to McNabs Island. Find operators here.
Yet a more budget-friendly way to reach McNabs Island is from Fisherman’s Cove, where Captain Mike Tilley will give you a lift in his skiff. It’s C$30 round-trip from Fisherman’s Cove to McNabs Island and back, which takes about 5 minutes each way.
Red Grey Beard,” as he’s also known, is full of local knowledge about the island and even has some personal ties that he’ll share with you. Be sure to ask questions and get him to tell you some tales.
9) Pay Your Respect to the Victims of the Titanic
This is one of the more somber things to do in Halifax. The Fairview Lawn Cemetery is notable because it has the grim distinction of being the final resting place of the most Titanic victims.
Survivors rescued from the infamous maritime tragedy were brought to New York City. But the White Star Line had an office in Halifax, which commissioned 3 ships with the task of recovering the victims from the icy waters.
Some were never found, while others were buried at sea. But a total of 209 bodies from the Titanic were hauled back to Halifax. The White Star Line paid for simple gravestones, many of which remain unnamed because the victims couldn’t be identified.
Today, the Titanic section of the Fairview Lawn Cemetery provides visitors with a glimpse into this historic event in which Halifax played a vital role. Viewing this section of the cemetery, you may notice the curved layout of the gravestones that somewhat resembles the bow of a ship. If you go to Fairview Lawn, do note that it’s still an active cemetery that’s open to the public. So your respects is the only thing you’ll pay to visit.
Although a visit to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery is one of the more somber things to do in Halifax, it’s an interesting local sight to experience Halifax’s role in this tragic event.
10) Go Hiking around Point Pleasant Park
Although Halifax is Nova Scotia’s largest city, it still maintains some enormous park space that’s only a short stroll from downtown. Located at the southern tip of the Halifax peninsula, this beautiful park offers stunning views of the harbour and the surrounding ocean.
It’s a popular spot for locals and visitors alike to enjoy walking, jogging, or cycling along the trails and waterfront pathways. Point Pleasant is a great place to come get some fresh air, do some light trekking, or have a picnic by the sea on a nice sunny summer day.
Point Pleasant Park packs in 25 miles of hiking trails that weave across the peninsula and out toward the sea views. For a solid route that goes around the perimeter of the peninsula, take the Point Pleasant Park Loop. Yet we’d advise taking some detours from the loop to use the wooded trails in order to explore some of Point Pleasant’s historic sites.
Be sure to find the Prince of Wales Tower, which is the oldest Martello-style defensive tower in North America (1796) and one of Canada’s National Historic Sites. Locally known as “the roundhouse,” the Prince of Wales tower was built in 1796 as part of the city’s defensive fortifications. While you won’t be able to enter the tower itself, it’s an impressive historic site with interpretive signs to check out as you explore Point Pleasant Park.
One aspect that makes Point Pleasant Park unique is that Halifax doesn’t actually own it. Instead, the city rents this land from the British for 1 shilling (about 10 cents) each year, with a 999-year lease. What a deal!
Many National Historic Sites in Canada have an entrance charge, yet this one is free. Neither the tower nor Point Pleasant Park has an entrance fee. Perhaps we can thank the British and their generous lease agreement!
Hiking or biking around Point Pleasant Park is a fun thing to do in Halifax for those who are looking to get active within the city!
11) Go to a Free Festival in Halifax
Halifax has festivals all throughout the year and these events really come to a pinnacle over the summer. It seems that there is some major event happening in Halifax every single weekend over the summer. Perhaps best of all, for those traveling to Halifax on a budget, most of the festivals are free! Or they at least have a free component.
Perhaps one of the biggest festivals of the year is the Halifax Jazz Festival. It does have modest entrance fees for some of the more notable performances. Yet it still maintains many free concerts throughout the four-day annual event. But Sunday is the day to go because that’s the free day for the Jazz Festival. On Sunday, even the main stage remains complimentary to watch a jam session.
Halifax’s most popular (mostly free) annual summer events include:
- Royal Nova Scotia International Tatoo (June-July): World-class spectacle of music, dance, and military displays held annually in Halifax, showcasing both local and international talent. 💲 Ticketed event.
- Halifax Mural Festival (July): A celebration of street art, transforming the city into a vibrant, open-air gallery with live painting, workshops, and art-related events. 💲 Free.
- Halifax Canada Day (July): Commemorates the nation’s birthday with lively festivities, live performances, and an impressive fireworks display over the harbour. 💲 Free.
- Halifax Jazz Festival (July): A captivating lineup of local and international jazz artists, drawing music lovers to enjoy a week of soulful performances at various city venues. 💲 Ticketed, but usually has free performances.
- Halifax Pride Festival (July): A vibrant, inclusive celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, featuring a lively parade, concerts, and various events throughout the city. 💲 Free.
- Halifax International Busker Festival (August): Astonishing street performances, including acrobatics, comedy, and music, set along the picturesque Halifax waterfront. 💲 Free, tips are strongly encouraged.
- Halifax Natal Day Festival (August): Marks the city’s birthday with a weekend of family-friendly events, live music, and fireworks. 💲 Free.
- Nocturne (October): A visual spectacle of contemporary art displayed across the streets of Halifax at night.
These are all on for 2023!
12) Board Canada’s Oldest Warship: HMCS Sackville
While strolling along the Halifax Waterfront, visitors can find decommissioned warships docked along the harbour that you can now explore and tour!
Perhaps most prominently is Canada’s oldest surviving warship, the HMCS Sackville.
This Royal Canadian Navy corvette was used during World War II and was crucial in winning the Battle of the Atlantic. The historic ship is the last remaining of 123 corvettes.
Today it is now a museum ship that is a worthwhile detour off of the Halifax Waterfront boardwalk. You can explore all throughout the WWII ship, from the bow and down into the engine room to learn about the wartime conditions. Visiting the ship offers an opportunity to learn about the brave sailors who served on it, providing a unique insight into Canada’s naval heritage.
As a free (donation-based) Halifax attraction, visiting the HMCS Sackville fits as yet another budget-friendly thing to do in Halifax!
13) Catch Halifax’s Free Outdoor Theatre: Shakespeare by the Sea
Shakespeare By The Sea is a beloved Halifax summertime tradition that showcases outdoor performances of Shakespeare’s plays set in the enchanting venue within Point Pleasant Park. It’s the largest and longest-running outdoor theatre festival in Atlantic Canada.
While the plays are often Shakespearean classics or adaptations, they also feature other (non-Shakespearan) classics too. For example, the 2023 season brings Pinocchio in addition to the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare by the Sea performances usually run from July to early September. For 2023, it’s July 8 – September 3. For an up-to-date schedule, check the Shakespeare by the Sea Calendar.
Admission is pay-what-you-can and they’ll gladly accept any donation. The seating is on the grass, so bring a blanket or a chair. Otherwise, you can rent them for C$5. It’s a neat experience to watch live theatre under the open sky at dusk, enjoying this unique thing to do in Halifax.
Note: In addition to the aforementioned Shakespeare by the Sea outdoor theatre series, Halifax also typically has outdoor movies during the FIN Outdoor Film experience in the Public Gardens. However, after 20 summers, notice was given that they would not be presenting these screenings during the 2023 summer season. To see if this beloved tradition may return in the future, check back at FIN Outdoors.
14) Take a Stroll Through the Victorian Gardens: Halifax Public Gardens
Halifax Public Gardens is a 16-acre oasis right in the heart of downtown Halifax, offering a serene escape from the bustling city. The Halifax Public Gardens are one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian Garden in all of North America.
This impressive garden boasts beautifully manicured lawns, vibrant flower beds, and a variety of trees, providing an idyllic setting for a leisurely stroll.
Be sure to wander through the blooming flowers and over the quaint bridges. While strolling past charming ponds and ornate fountains, visitors can even find a replica of the Titanic. Perhaps consider pausing for reflection. Or indulge in an ice cream cone from the vendor in the garden’s pavilion.
The Halifax Public Gardens are a popular attraction in the summer. Yet it’s a fairly big space in the middle of the city, so you may end up seeing more traffic in the form of ducks rather than people.
While many notable gardens around the world charge hefty entrance fees, Halifax’s Public Gardens are open to the public for free! So while walking around this city on a nice summer day, be sure to amble through these gardens. It makes a great free thing to do in Halifax.
15) Go Skating for Free at the Emera Oval
A fun and free Halifax activity is skating at the Emera Oval. Rollerblades are popular here. But you can opt to go retro and borrow a pair of roller skates instead! Bikes, scooters, and even plastic toy cars are also available over the summer.
And all of these equipment rentals are entirely F-R-E-E! It’s all such good, clean fun. Slap on a pair of skates and go!
In the winter, the Emera Oval becomes ice, and hence free ice-skating commences for a popular wintertime activity in Halifax. Whatever season you visit the Emera Oval in, just be sure to bring an ID, which is required for any of the free rentals.
Taking a few spins around the Emera Oval is one of the fun things to do in Halifax for families. Kids love it! (But so do we.)
16) Check Out Halifax’s Vibrant Street Art
Halifax has a thriving street art scene, so keep your eyes peeled while roaming around town. We appreciate how some of the artists keep true to the city’s maritime theme.
One of the best (and easily accessible) murals can be found sprawling along the backside of Freak Lunchbox, which is a fun candy store located in downtown Halifax.
To get started on your street art pursuits, you can find this mural located here on Google Maps. Continuing throughout this downtown area, around Barrington Street and Argyle Street, looking for vibrant street art in alleys and on the side of other buildings.
Halifax’s North End neighborhood is another good area to find a burgeoning street art scene. You can find several impressive murals along Agricola Street, Gottingen Street, and the surrounding areas. More recently, several murals have sprouted up in the Quinpool District too.
Keep an eye out for public art displays as you roam around Halifax. New street art pops up all the time around this vibrant city.
17) Why Visit the Library during a Trip to Halifax
Given its glass facade and eye-catching design, this library is a great place to visit in Halifax for any architectural buffs and casual travelers alike.
Inside the Halifax Central Library, you’ll find an Escher-like series of stairs taking you to the top floor. And it’s well worth ascending, whether you’re into architecture or not.
Arguably the best reason to venture over to the Halifax Public Library is for the panoramic views you can find on its top floor. There’s also a café up there. So grab a cup of coffee and gaze out over Halifax’s downtown at those harbor views.
The library makes an interesting thing to do in Halifax for its unique architecture. So come to see that, but stay for the free wifi or simply to take a break from a busy day of sightseeing in Halifax.
18) Find the Drunken Lampposts
If these street lamps look a little tipsy, it’s not because you overindulged at one of Halifax’s spectacular patio bars. These lampposts were placed on the Halifax waterfront in 2013 as a temporary art installation. But the drunken lampposts were beloved so much that the city decided to keep them as permanent fixtures.
The drunken lampposts have since become a funny little Halifax attraction for travelers to seek out. They are said to represent “the nakedly honest portraits of unseemly behavours that are often playing out on our own streets after dark.” We think it’s hilarious. These drunk lampposts really show off Halifax’s quirky side and its sense of humor.
Where are the drunken lampposts in Halifax? You can find the drunken lampposts while strolling along the waterfront. They are located on the pier in front of the Bicycle Thief restaurant. Here’s the exact location on Google Maps.
💡 Tip: To get the best shots of this funny site, go early on a weekday morning. During weekend afternoons in the summer, this attraction will be flooded with many other Instagrammers and photographers trying to snap a picture.
19) Visit Historic St Paul’s Church for a Halifax Oddity
St. Paul’s church is the oldest building in Halifax, dating all the way back to its founding in 1750. St Paul’s is also the oldest surviving Protestant church in all of Canada. It’s worth visiting this historic church to soak in the history, admire the Georgian architecture, and simply enjoy the peaceful atmosphere inside.
Yet what makes St Paul’s particularly interesting is a face that remains forever etched into one of the church’s windows.
Reminders of the tragic 1917 Halifax Explosion, which claimed about 2,000 lives, can be found throughout Halifax. Yet perhaps none are as attention-grabbing as the lingering silhouette that is etched into this historic church’s window.
Lore tells of a deacon that happened to be standing perfectly aligned with the window at the time of the explosion. This legend continues that an intense heat left his profile burnt into the glass. The deacon’s portrait remains in St. Paul’s window today. Hence, St. Paul’s church makes for a fascinating offbeat sight to see during a trip to Halifax.
20) Visit the Iconic Halifax Clock Tower
If you’re walking to or from the Halifax Citadel, you must take a moment to check out what has become an iconic landmark in the city: The Halifax Town Clock. It’s a three-story clock tower that dates back to the early 1800s and sits at the base of the Citadel.
The clock was a gift from Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, to the people of Halifax way back in 1803. The clock has been keeping time ever since, and it’s definitely a must-visit spot for its historical significance and the fantastic view it offers of downtown Halifax and the harbor.
It’s yet another attraction to check out, making it a great way to conclude this Top 20 list of things to do in Halifax.
So go snap of pic of this famous Halifax landmark as you make your way to the waterfront for some drinks. Because that’s what we’re talking about in one of the next sections of this Halifax tourism guide – drinks! But first, check out some awesome things to do as day trips from Halifax.
Best Nova Scotia Day Trips from Halifax
In addition to all the awesome things to do in Halifax itself, there are also a variety of day trips located within an hour or two away from Nova Scotia’s capital. There are famous lighthouses to see, record-breaking tides, and UNESCO-listed village World Heritage Sites.
Meanwhile, adventure seekers can pursue an adrenaline-packed day of Tidal Bore Rafting or take a hike along the precipitous coastal cliff of Cape Split. After such hair-raising adventures, sipping some local tidal bay wine in the nearby wineries can make for a perfect way to wind down.
There are a few tours from Halifax to pursue such day trips. Yet those with their own transportation will find the most economical way to reach these sites.
If visiting Halifax without a car, consider renting one, even if just for a day or two.
💡 Tip: If visiting over the summer, be sure to secure your rental car as early as possible, because rental cars do become sold out during the summer high season. Search rental cars for your travel dates.
21) Visit the Scenic Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse
Peggy’s Cove is the quintessential day trip from Halifax. At Peggy’s Cove, you’ll find a beautiful lighthouse on a rocky point, surrounded by a recreated fishing village. It’s a beautiful sight that can be like stepping into a Nova Scotia postcard.
Yet given Peggy’s Cove’s notoriety, it has become is a very popular attraction near Halifax that draws in the crowds, particularly during mid-day. So plan your visit accordingly to best enjoy the picturesque sight.
💡 Tip: Go early in the morning, just after sunrise, when very few others are around. We also find it can be pleasant to go around dusk.
It’s free to visit Peggy’s Cove, as there is no entrance fee. Just be prepared for a 45-minute drive from Halifax, each way.
Alternatively, take a day tour from Halifax. This Peggy’s Cove Tour is the least expensive we’ve found online, receives great reviews, offers direct pick-up from downtown Halifax, and has multiple departure times throughout the day (we suggest 8:30 am if available). Because it is a small-group tour that regularly sells out, be sure to book in advance. Check availability for your travel dates.
22) Visit the UNESCO town of Lunenburg
Lunenburg is one of Nova Scotia’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, designated as such for being the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. This colorful fishing village dates all the way back to 1753. Read more about Old Town Lunenburg’s UNESCO designation.
With dwindling fish stocks in recent years, it’s tourism that now helps Lunenburg thrive.
To better understand Lunenburg’s seafaring past, be sure to check out the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic ($C10). And to better appreciate the town’s unique architecture and rich history, consider a walking tour (C$25).
Lunenburg is a must-stop detour from Nova Scotia’s Lighthouse Trail. Wander around the picturesque town and practice your photography skills on the original architecture that’s held strong over the course of more than two & a half centuries.
Try some local seafood from places like the South Shore Fish Shack, with a sunny deck overlooking the Lunenburg Waterfront. Wash it down with some local beer from Shipwright Brewing Company or some spirits from Ironworks Distillery, housed in a former blacksmith shop.
Lunenburg is located a bit more than an hour’s drive away from Halifax. And a day trip including both Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove can make a good combo, driving from Halifax on the same day. Exploring Old Town Lunenburg is another free thing to do from Halifax for those who are driving.
Lunenburg tours from Halifax are also available, many of which include Peggy’s Cove since its along the way. Consider one of these Lunenburg tours from Halifax:
- Half-Day Small Group Tour of Nova Scotia’s South Shore – Goes to (1) Lunenburg, (2) Mahone Bay, and (3) Peggy’s Cove. 6 hours, C$175.
- Nova Scotia Day Tour – Visit Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, and the Annapolis Valley – Goes to (1) Peggy’s Cove, (2) Queensland Beach, (3) Mahone Bay, (4) Lunenburg, (5) Bay of Fundy (Wolfville Waterfront Park) and (6) Lightfoot & Wolfville Wineries
23) Experience the Record-Breaking Bay of Fundy Tides
On the other side of Nova Scotia from Halifax is the Bay of Fundy, which is home to the most extreme tides in the world. It’s quite a sight to witness and a rare chance to walk on the floor of the ocean!
We suggest three very different spots to observe the tidal action, which are all free to experience:
- Burntcoat Head Park – Walk on the ocean floor at low tide and marvel at the towering rock formations and tidal pools.
- Halls Harbour – Pursue tide-watching at this small harbour, where you’ll see boats gently rise and fall, and eat at the adjacent restaurant while waiting for tidal changes.
- Fundy Tidal Interpretive Area – watch the impressive tidal bore rush up the Shubenacadie River from an observation deck with informative signs to learn about it.
If you have a car, you can drive to any of these tidal attractions (more info on each, below). If you don’t have your own vehicle, then consider a Bay of Fundy tour from Halifax.
Burntcoat Head Park
About a 1 hour, 15-minute drive from Halifax, you can reach Burntcoat Head Park, home to the world’s highest recorded tides. If you make the trek from Halifax to Burntcoat Head Park, be sure to check the tides (listed on the website) and plan your visit accordingly.
We suggest trying to time a visit during low tide for the opportunity to walk on the ocean’s floor. This also provides an opportunity to wander the tidal pools that form when the ocean is out. See what marine life you can find that may have been left behind. If time permits, watch as the Bay of Fundy dramatically fills the area you were once standing on, creating an aquatic landscape that shifts with each passing hour.
For a different view of the tides in a harbour setting, consider the 90-minute drive from Halifax to Halls Harbour. Here, visitors can witness this extreme act of nature as boats are seemingly lifted up and then lowered onto the harbour floor. At Halls Harbour, the tide swings a staggering 40 feet (~12 meters)! For perspective, imagine the tide rising and falling to the height of a 4-story building!
Look a the pictures below, first at high tide, then low tide.
It’s an amazing natural phenomenon to experience this in person. Walking along the ocean floor and seeing boats resting on the bottom of a harbor is mind-boggling. And yes, you can walk down there, which really helps put things into perspective.
Again, be sure to check the tides before you go and plan a visit for low tide. Halls Harbour is also known as Baxters Harbour and you can find the tide forecast here.
💡 Tip: If you’re waiting around for the tides to change, don’t hesitate to pop into the adjacent Lobster Pound restaurant to try one of their local specialties like the lobster poutine!
Fundy Tidal Interpretive Area
Completely different than the ocean tidal change and the harbour tidal change, coming to the Fundy Tidal Interpretive Area offers a vantage point to witness Nova Scotia’s famous tidal bore in the Shubenacadie River. This is a remarkable natural phenomenon where the incoming tide forms waves that travel up the river.
Informative displays help to deepen your understanding of the Bay of Fundy’s powerful ecosystem. But the main draw is the observation deck to see the tidal bore in action. You may even catch adventurous souls doing tidal bore rafting (see next)!
24) Extreme Adventure: Tidal Bore Rafting
Don’t just watch those extreme tides. Experience them! A popular adventure pursuit in the Bay of Fundy is something known as Tidal Bore Rafting.
While the Bay of Fundy tides steadily fills the bay, the tidal flow is not-so-gradual when it reaches rivers. There are about 60 known places in the world where the phenomena of a tidal bore occurs. Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River is one of them.
Rivers in this region flow into the bay, just as most rivers in the world flow outward into the sea. But here in the Bay of Fundy, that all changes soon after low tide. The extreme tides rise in the Bay of Fundy and eventually begin to flow into the river. As the approaching water reaches the river, the rising tide is squeezed into an increasingly narrow space in the river. When the tide moves inward, it momentarily changes the course of the river to flow upstream.
During this process, waves and rapids are temporarily formed atop the sandbars. This is the tidal bore! And it’s now possible to go whitewater rafting upstream, during these changing tides. It’s such a crazy experience and is such a thrill! Check out the video below to get a glimpse at what it’s like.
For complete directions from Halifax, tips to know, who to book with, ways to save, and much more information about this Halifax day trip, be sure to check out all the details in our complete post that reviews: Tidal Bore Rafting on the Most Extreme Tides in the World!
25) Cape Split: One of Nova Scotia’s Best Hikes
Also in the Bay of Fundy area is what we’ve found to be one of Nova Scotia’s most scenic hikes. It’s the Cape Split hike!
These jagged cliffs dramatically jut out for 7 kilometers right into the Bay of Fundy, where the extreme tides do their thing.
The only way to get here is the hike down to the cape. It’s a 6-kilometer trek each way that winds through a forest, before ultimately opening up to the barren cliffs that drop off into the bay.
For those who are active, hiking Cape Split is a perfect recreational pursuit you can to do as a day trip from Halifax!
It’s also another free activity. Just park your car at the trailhead and set off. The Cape Split trailhead is about a 90-minute drive from Halifax, located here.
Tip: If you want to check out the tides at Halls Harbour, do this hike in between the tide change to compare before and after.
26) Drink Tidal Bay Wine at Annapolis Valley Vineyards near Halifax
While in Nova Scotia’s tidal area, it’s only appropriate to drink the signature wine variety of the region: Tidal Bay.
There’s a burgeoning scene of wineries throughout the rolling hills of the coastal farmland of Annapolis Valley. Just a short hop away from Halifax, visitors can find these vineyards that produce the area’s signature white wine.
Tidal Bay is Nova Scotia’s first wine appellation and winemakers must maintain strict standards, such as 100% Nova Scotia grapes, in order to have the Tidal Bay designation. It’s a crisp & refreshing white wine, with green fruit notes and a distinct minerality. Appropriately for the region, it pairs exceptionally well with seafood.
It’s about an hour’s drive from Halifax to get to the Annapolis Valley wine region featuring Tidal Bay wineries. In particular, Luckett Vineyards is one of the more popular wineries that we really enjoy.
It’s also a budget-friendly choice, as Luckett has a scenic tasting room with a tasting of five wines starting at only C$12. While there, be sure to wander through the grape vines to find the red phone booth that makes for some great photo ops.
In addition to Luckett, other popular Annapolis Valley wineries to visit include:
- Lightfoot and Wolfville Winery – A certified organic, family-owned winery known for its handcrafted, small-lot wines, located in the Annapolis Valley. Visitors can enjoy tastings and farm-to-table dining with stunning views.
- Benjamin Bridge – Renowned for its world-class Méthode Classique sparkling wines, this winery offers tastings, tours, and intimate culinary experiences.
- Domaine de Grand Pré – Nova Scotia’s oldest farm winery, Domaine de Grand Pré offers a diverse range of wines and is home to the acclaimed Le Caveau restaurant.
Of course, you’ll need a designated driver to be able to enjoy multiple wineries. Instead, consider a proper Annapolis Valley wine tour from Halifax. The Wine and Lunch Escape makes three stops at three Annapolis Valley wineries and a very nice includes lunch! The wine tour receives excellent reviews, but it does book up. Check availability and reviews.
Also, if you enjoy a good drink, there’s much more to drink within the city of Halifax itself. And that’s a perfect segway into our next section of this Halifax travel guide!
Drinking Things to Do in Halifax
Halifax is said to have the most bars per capita of any city in Canada. With such an accolade, drinking IS one of the best things to do in Halifax!
So in addition to drinking Tidal Bay wine at Halifax’s neighboring vineyards (as suggested above), be sure to partake in these other drinking experiences throughout HRM.
27) Tour Alexander Keith’s Historic Brewery
This Halifax mainstay is one of the oldest breweries in North America, dating back to 1820. Keith’s has maintained the historic brewing facility that goes back nearly two centuries in Halifax’s history.
It’s a fun brew tour that’s one part history, one part brewing, and one part Nova Scotian tradition. It’s an equation that adds up to a great time, complete with intimate local music performances and many opportunities to drink Keith’s beer while being toured through the old hallways!
Visitors will learn just as much about the namesake Scottish brewer that became Halifax’s beloved mayor, as you will the brewing process.
The tour includes four glasses of different styles of beer, adding to the value of this fun brewhouse tour!
28) Partake in the Halifax Tradition of a “Ceilidh”
One Nova Scotia drinking tradition is attending a cèilidh (pronounced kay-lee), which is a party of Gaelic folk music and dancing. Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland,” after all. And it’s during a cèilidh that Halifax’s Scottish roots shine brightest.
During the aforementioned Alexander Keith’s brewery tour, they’ll fully demonstrate what a cèilidh is like. Yet try to make it to an actual cèilidh while visiting Nova Scotia. For those heading up to Cape Breton, know cèilidhs are common occurrences up there. Yet if the timing is right, you can be fortunate to catch this tradition of a cèilidh in Halifax too.
One place that has regular cèilidhs in Halifax is Durty Nelly’s. They often have a cèilidh on Thursday nights 7-10 PM. Check their event calendar to see if one is occurring while you’re in town. The ceilidh itself is free. Just pony up to the bar for a pint while enjoying the live Gaelic music. Beers start at C$7.75.
Alternatively, you can also try the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse. They often host live traditional music sessions, and they’ve been known to turn into a full-on cèilidh. Check their gig calendar.
29) Patio Drinking is a Quintessential Thing to Do in Halifax
During the summer months, Halgonians and visitors alike love drinking on a sunny patio. There’s nearly a sport to patio drinking in Halifax and it’s become a hardened summertime tradition in this city.
The BG is a perennial favorite on the waterfront. We love it too for the local beers and the open-air wooden seating directly on the Waterfront with views of the Halifax Harbour. It’s the perfect atmosphere to sip on a beverage on a bright sunny Halifax day. It’s a popular spot in the middle of the Waterfront that tends to get particularly busy during weekends.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of patio bars to enjoy drinks all throughout Halifax. The Lower Deck also sports a welcoming patio along the Waterfront during the summer months. Or go across the harbour to the Wooden Monkey in Dartmouth sweeping views of the Halifax skyline to accompany your cool beverage.
Another one of our favorite waterfront patios in Halifax is Stone’s Throw. This patio bar on the northern fringes of the Halifax waterfront isn’t as popular as the centrally located, BG. Yet for those who want to enjoy patio drinking in Halifax on a budget. During happy hour (4:00-6:00) Stone’s Throw offers local Nova Scotia craft beer for C$6 for a generous 16 oz. pour. There’s also $6 wine and rotating cocktails.
The patio bar is hidden in plain sight, as it’s part of the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. We recommend Stone’s Throw for inexpensive pre-dinner craft beer on the waterfront.
30) Drink Halifax’s Fantastic Local Breweries
Halifax has a fantastic local beer scene! There are loads of breweries, brew pubs, and cideries to check out all throughout the city. Brewing runs deep in Halifax and is currently having a major resurgence producing delicious results!
Halifax breweries have lots of appeal and new brewpubs are sprouting up all the time. At last count, we tallied over 20 breweries, brewpubs, and cideries across HRM. All beer-loving Halgonians seem to have their favorites.
Personally, we really enjoy Good Robot, Two Crows, and Propeller Brewing Company, to name a few. But try ‘em yourself and tell us which of Halifax’s local breweries you like best!
To sample some beers by the Halifax Waterfront, hit up Garrisons Brewery, near the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. Enjoying their C$2 tasters from the variety of brews across their dozen taps is easy on the wallet too. At that price, grab a few at a time. We recommend the 8% Juicy Double IPA for those who like a hoppy beer if they have this specialty brew on tap.
Use the Good Cheer Passport to Find Halifax Breweries and Earn Prizes
Those beer lovers visiting Halifax, make sure to join the (free) Good Cheer Trail Passport Program! This passport can be used to discover local breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries all throughout the province of Nova Scotia. An excellent interactive map can be found on the Good Cheer Trail Passport website, to help you navigate your way to each of Halifax’s breweries.
Once you collect a stamp from 15 different places, you can redeem your Good Cheer Trail Passport for a free t-shirt to commemorate your drinking accomplishment! You’ll also be entered in a drawing for a grand prize.
Pick up your passport at any of the participating breweries and at the Halifax Tourism Office. Alternatively, use the digital Good Cheer passport found on the Taste of Nova Scotia Mobile App.
And while the passport can be used throughout the entire province, you can easily collect 15 stamps right in Halifax. We can tell you from personal experience that this is a fun pursuit.
Eating is a Thing to Do in Halifax!
There are some interesting things to eat in Halifax that are unique to the city and to Nova Scotia. So these final five things to do in Halifax offer up some suggestions for these interesting foodie finds throughout the city.
Halifax has a designated official food that you may find surprising. It’s a must-try, reviewed below.
Yet it’s Nova Scotia’s seafood that simply can’t be ignored. Whether oysters, scallops, lobster suppers, or local haddock (fish), there is lots of seafood to try throughout Nova Scotia’s capital. And while seafood can tend to be expensive, of course, you know that we’re offering up our signature budget tips to help you enjoy the best of Halifax’s dining scene without spending a fortune.
31) Try the Official Food of Halifax: The Donair
The Halifax Donair has been proclaimed the official food of Halifax. And lucky for budget-conscious visitors to the city, the Halifax Donair makes for an inexpensive meal to try while in town.
It may look like a Greek gyro or a Turkish doner kebab. Yet here in Halifax, donairs have taken on their own identity.
What is a Halifax donair? A large pita is stuffed with shaved spiced beef, rather than lamb or other doner meat. But what really makes it a “Halifax donair” is the “donair sauce.”
A concoction of condensed milk, sugar, garlic, and vinegar is what gives a Halifax Donair its distinction. As the story goes, it was 1973 when a Greek immigrant adjusted his recipe to local tastes by using beef and developing the signature sauce.
Nearly 50 years later, there are now donair shops all over Halifax. But his “King of Donair” shop is still in Halifax too. So go there to try this deliciously messy meal. Just grab some extra napkins!
Official Website: King of Donair
32) Eat Local Maritime Oysters in Halifax
Nova Scotia, along with the surrounding maritime provinces, is known for its fresh oysters. So be sure to try some freshly-shucked raw oysters on the half-shell while you’re in Halifax.
Local oysters are a culinary delight to try in Halifax. Being so close to the source helps to ensure freshness. The shuckers really take their oysters pretty seriously around here. The quality and freshness are unparalleled.
You’ll find many oyster varieties on the menu local to Nova Scotia and the surrounding Martime provinces. But keep an eye out for Sober Island oysters in particular, which are farmed about a 100-km west of Halifax and considered a premium oyster.
Many oyster bars can be found all throughout Halifax. Often recommended Halifax oyster bars include the Press Gang, Barrington Steak House and Oyster Bar, Five Fishermen, Waterfront Warehouse, and McKelvie’s Restaurant, among many others.
💡 Budget Tip: Oyster Happy Hours
Oyster prices vary in price around Halifax but are typically somewhere around C$3+ per oyster (2023 prices). So wouldn’t be unusual for a dozen oysters to cost C$40+ at a Halifax restaurant or oyster bar. Thankfully, oyster happy hours around Halifax will help to enjoy these mollusks for less.
Here are a few places in Halifax with known oyster happy hours:
- Highwayman – C$2 oyster daily 4:00-5:00 pm.
- Lot Six Bar & Restaurant – Dozen oysters for $C24
33) Try the “Best Fish & Chips in Canada!”
Halifax and many coastal communities throughout Nova Scotia have been based around fishing throughout the local waters. So a great way to try the local catch is with fish & chips!
The fish used around Halifax is local haddock, a type of cod, found locally in the cool & clean Atlantic waters offshore. The mild white fish makes for some particularly awesome fish & chips!
Fish & chips are fairly commonplace on menus throughout Nova Scotia, a nod to the province’s British roots. You can find fish & chips ranging from upscale restaurants to pubs and super casual counter-service joints.
While in Halifax, try fish and chips at Fries & Co., Willman’s Fish & Chips, or Evan’s Fresh Seafood in Dartmouth. But if you want what’s been considered Canada’s best fish & chips, head over to John’s Lunch.
Cross the Halifax Harbour to the Woodside area of Dartmouth to find what Canadian Living deemed as the “best fish & chips in Canada.” John’s Lunch coats its haddock with a homemade batter, mixed fresh every morning, then fries the battered haddock to crisp golden perfection. We must concur with Canadian Living, as this Halifax institution definitely delivered the best fish & chips we’ve had in Canada!
Prices vary by the number of pieces: 1-piece (C$9.75), 2-piece (C$14.00), 3-piece (C$17.50) meal. 💡 Budget tip: the 3-piece meal is plenty for couples to share, adding value to this delicious meal!
Official Website: John’s Lunch
34) Try Some Canadian Snacks at the Waterfront:
There are some tasty treats and local snacks to try while wandering around the Halifax waterfront. Most of them are easy on the budget too! Here are some quintessential local snacks we suggest trying while visiting Halifax:
Ice Cream: Cows Creamery & Moon Mist
Cows Creamery is known to have the best ice cream in Canada and is often listed as the world’s best ice cream. It’s a staple in the neighboring province of PEI, you can also find a Cows Creamery location directly on Halifax’s waterfront. Scoops for this primo ice cream start at C$4, a sweet price for this tasty treat that we think lives up to the hype!
And for a uniquely Nova Scotian treat, keep an eye out for “Moon Mist” ice cream at any of the ice cream joints along the waterfront. This colorful mix of grape, banana, and bubble gum ice cream is a Nova Scotia tradition that can only be found around these parts.
Eat a BeaverTail on the Halifax Waterfront
BeaverTails are a beloved Canadian snack food that originated in Ottawa and quickly spread across all of Canada. So you can now find this flattened fried dough at a kiosk along the Halifax boardwalk. They’re shaped like (you guessed it) beaver tails and covered with cinnamon & sugar. If that’s not sweet enough, you can choose to have it loaded up with an assortment of other sugary toppings, from a maple spread to Nutella. BeaverTails start at about C$5.
Enjoy Canada’s National Dish in Halifax – Poutine
If you’re visiting Halifax from outside the country, you must try Canada’s national dish – poutine. It’s an economical snack/meal/gut bomb. For the uninitiated, poutine is a delicious concoction of french fries covered in squeaky cheese curds and brown gravy.
Perhaps one of the most convenient places for poutine on the Waterfront is Smoke’s Poutinerie. It’s a poutine franchise that has a kiosk in a central location on the Halifax waterfront.
Yet locals in Halifax point to Willy’s Fresh Cut as the best poutine in town. We visited, devoured, and concur. Prices range from C$6.00 for a small to C$9.50 for a large. Willy’s is located at Pizza Corner, which is another eating thing to do in Halifax that’s further explained next.
35) Eat Lobster in Halifax
Nova Scotia’s waters are teeming with lobster fishing boats, and the province exports millions of pounds of lobster globally each year. So be sure to try this delicious local seafood while visiting Halifax.
Usually served boiled and served with classic sides, such as potato salad, restaurants in Halifax, many restaurants in Halifax feature local Nova Scotia lobster on their menus. Yet for a local tradition, consider a lobster supper, which can be a fun way to connect with Bluenosers (Nova Scotians).
To see if any community lobster suppers may be occurring during your visit, check local Facebook events, Eventbrite, Kijiji, local bulletin boards, or community social media pages. Yet for more of a sure bet, head out to the longstanding Shore Club in Hubbards (a 45-min drive from Halifax) for a traditional lobster supper, with mussels, and all the fixins.
Once considered the “poor man’s protein,” Nova Scotia lobster has since transformed into a premium culinary delight with prices to reflect that. Throughout Halifax, lobster is often at “market price” throughout Nova Scotia. Expect to pay somewhere around $C40-$C60 for a full lobster supper in Halifax (2023 prices).
If that’s a bit steep for those on a budget in Halifax, consider indulging in a lobster roll instead. Chunks of chilled, succulent lobster meat are tossed lightly with mayo and served in a toasted, buttery roll. It’s a simple, yet incredibly delicious way to enjoy lobster in Halifax. Expect to pay roughly $C25-C$35 (2023 prices) for a lobster roll in Halifax, which may or may not include a modest side like a bag of chips.
Here are just a few notable suggestions among the many places to eat lobster in and around Halifax:
- Five Fisherman – Upscale restaurant in a historic setting known for its seafood dishes, with lobster suppers at market price.
- McKelvie’s – Situated on the Halifax Waterfront, this seafood restaurant serves steamed lobster at market price and also offers a delicious lobster pasta (C$49).
- Salty’s – Located directly on the Halifax Harbour, Salty’s has a more casual downstairs and a more upscale upstairs restaurant, each with steamed lobster at market prices.
- Dave’s Lobster – Seasonal counter-service joint slinging various lobster rolls (market price) and even a lobster grilled cheese, conveniently located on the Waterfront.
- Shore Club – A 45-minute drive east of Halifax will take you to this lobster supper institution, with traditional communal seating, live music, and all the accompaniments. (1-pound lobster dinner: C$43.95, 1.5-pound: C$54.50).
- Halls Harbour – Given the 1.5-hour drive from Halifax, it’s a smart idea to include as part of a Bay of Fundy day trip. In addition to lobster meals (market price), this active lobster pound has a wide variety of lobster dishes, including lobster nachos (C$25.50), lobster mac & cheese (C$24.50), lobster BLT salad (C$30), and our personal favorite – lobster poutine (C$23.25)!
And if you haven’t got your fill of lobster in Halifax, also check out our separate article about lobster in Nova Scotia’s neighboring province: 6 Best Ways to Experience Lobster in PEI.
More Halifax Travel Tips
Here are a few more travel tips to help you explore Halifax!
☀️ Best Time to Visit Halifax:
There is little debate that Summer (June-August) is the best time of year to visit Halifax. This is the warmest time of year for Halifax, yet temps usually remain mild and crisp, with highs ranging from 18°-24°C (~65°-75°F) in the afternoon. Blue, clear skies becoming increasingly prevalent.
All seasonal establishments are open. Summer also brings an influx of events and festivals across Halifax. Yet summer is also peak season for Halifax. So visitors may encounter high-priced accommodation, crowds (particularly on weekends), long waits for attractions and restaurants, and/or availability problems.
While summer can be an ideal time to visit Halifax, one could make a solid argument to travel to Halifax in the early Fall for optimal conditions. Temperatures are still mild, with highs ranging from 16° to 22°C (61°-72°F). And it’s the month of September that actually has the greatest propensity for clear skies. Fall visitors to Halifax may also get an opportunity to see foilage around the city. stunning fall foliage. Yet another perk is how Halifax becomes less crowded after Labour Day.
There’s never a bad time to visit Halifax, but do know that winter can be quite cold, with temperatures often below freezing. Seasonal establishments will be long shut down before winter even begins, so that may limit your activities. There’s usually a good amount of snow during winter in Halifax, so this brings about the opportunity for winter sports.
🧥 Pack for the Weather:
Halifax’s maritime climate can be unpredictable. Pack layers and a rain jacket, especially in the spring and fall. If your trip to Halifax is in the next week or so, here’s the Halifax 7-day forecast.
Also, understand that even during warm summer days, temperatures can dip down towards 11°C (low 50s F) in the evening. So be sure to pack a light jacket or sweater to keep warm, even in the summer. To see what weather averages are during any time of year, find year-round Halifax weather averages on WeatherSpark.
⏰ Local Time in Halifax
Remember, Halifax is in the Atlantic Time Zone, which is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Your phone will adjust automatically. But just make sure you’re aware of the time change.
⚠️ Not from Canada, eh? You need travel insurance!
While Halifax is a very safe travel destination, accidents can occur. If you’re visiting Canada from the US, be sure you have medical coverage while within the country.
If not, you won’t be covered by Canada’s health care system. Medical costs will be outrageous should an unforeseen accident occur. Medical coverage is an absolute must, but travel insurance will also cover other mishaps like trip cancelation and lost luggage, which can also be assuring to have. For Americans visiting Canada, we recommend World Nomads travel insurance which contains the medical coverage you need to have while traveling in Canada. Get a quick quote for your travel dates.
✈️ Getting to Halifax
Halifax is well connected by flights to the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Air Canada and WestJet have numerous flights throughout Canada, which make for convenient connections elsewhere.
For those traveling to Halifax from the US, direct flights are limited to Boston year-round, so a connection will likely be necessary. Although, there are seasonal direct flights between Halifax and Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Philadelphia, and DC.
We’ve spotted flights around $400 and less for roundtrips from US locations. Of course, airfare prices change regularly. Search around to score a good deal on flights to Halifax. Get creative with your flight searches and be sure to book at least 3 weeks out (or more) to secure a low fare.
🚐 Getting from the Airport to Downtown Halifax
The Halifax Airport is 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from downtown, so it takes over a half hour to get into town. A taxi will cost you a flat rate of C$65 and Uber estimates are C$55-C$60.
For travelers on a budget, the Regional Express Airport 320 bus runs every 30-60 minutes and drops off in Scotia Square, right in the heart of downtown Halifax. The cost is only C$4.25, so it’s quite the savings over taking a taxi! Find all the timetable and route info: Regional Express 320.
🚶 Getting Around Halifax
Halifax is a very walkable city. Most all the attractions, restaurants, and bars that we’ve mentioned throughout this guide can be walked to. Be sure to pack a pair of comfortable shoes!
Those driving to Halifax and staying downtown (recommended), may find they have no need for their car throughout the visit. If the need arises, you can use Halifax Transit as an affordable way to get around the city. Uber is now in Halifax too, providing a convenient option.
📍 Where to Stay in Halifax
The best area to stay in Halifax is downtown, preferably close to the Waterfront. Part of the beauty of Halifax is its walkability. Staying within the downtown core will allow easy access to almost all of the best things to do listed throughout this Halifax travel guide.
Most Halifax hotels are naturally located within this area, so there are plenty of options to choose from. Just consider booking early.
📍 For Summer Reservations – Book Early!
If staying in Halifax over the summer, particularly during a summer weekend, be sure to secure a reservation as soon as possible. Hotels will be sold out and those that still have availability will likely have very high prices. Book early to have your pick of hotels and to secure a good rate.
With over 100 properties listed, we’ve found Booking.com to have the most hotel listings and often the best prices too. Search Halifax hotels on Booking for your travel dates to lock in your accommodation.
🚗 Use Tours or Rental Cars for Day Trips from Halifax
There’s no need to rent a car to get around Halifax itself. In fact, it may even be a burden to find parking. Yet Halifax makes a great central base to explore much of Nova Scotia.
We’ve found rental cars to be surprisingly inexpensive in Halifax, with rates as low as C$50 per day for an economy car. Most of the major car rental agencies have locations in downtown Halifax (Hertz, Avis, Budget, Alamo, etc.). Often rental car prices were cheaper from those downtown locations compared to picking up a rental car at the airport.
We scoured through all the main booking sites and even got quotes from agencies directly. In doing so, we noticed the best rental car rates in Halifax by searching on Priceline. Book your rental car as early as possible, because these also become sold out during popular summer days. Search rental cars for your travel dates.
🚰 Tap Water in Halifax
Halifax’s tap water is safe and delicious to drink, so bring a reusable water bottle.
💬 Know the Local Lingo in Halifax
You may encounter some new words and phrases while in Halifax, or even while reading this article. To help you make sense of things, here are a few local words we’ve picked up during visits to Halifax:
- Bluenoser: A term for someone from Nova Scotia. It originated from the schooner, Bluenose, which is featured on the Canadian dime.
- Caper: Someone from Cape Breton Island.
- Scotian: Another term for someone from Nova Scotia.
- Maritimer: A term for someone from the Maritime provinces, which include Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
- The Peninsula: The Halifax Peninsula, is a smaller portion of the city of Halifax that includes downtown and the waterfront and is defined by water boundaries that include the Halifax Harbour, Northwest Arm, and Bedford Basin.
- HRM: Stands for “Halifax Regional Municipality,” which is the 5,000+ sq km wide region that includes Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Halifax County.
- The Valley: Refers specifically to the Annapolis Valley region of Nova Scotia.
- Sociable!: Similar to “cheers!” Raise your glass, say “socialable!”, and take a drink.
- Donair: A popular fast food item in Halifax, similar to a gyro, but with a distinct sweet garlic sauce.
- Kitchen Party: A social gathering in someone’s kitchen, often involving music and dancing. This is a common tradition in Atlantic Canada.
- Storm Chips: Bags of potato chips Nova Scotians stock up on before a storm.
📖 Order a Free Halifax Visitor Guide
Want some more info and ideas for Halifax, be sure to check out Discover Halifax. It’s the official tourism website for Halifax and has loads of great information. If you live in the US or Canada, they’ll even mail you a complimentary Halifax Visitor Guide by using this link.
If you want even more travel info for Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the Maritimes, consider ordering a Travel Guide. We like the Lonely Planet Nova Scotia, which was last updated in 2022.
Best Things To Do in Halifax: Conclusion
We hope that this post has helped to give you lots of ideas for what to do in Halifax and show that it is very possible to enjoy many things to do, whatever the travel budget. Halifax is a wonderful city that has proven to be one of our favorite lengthy stays while traveling all over the world.
We have absolutely fallen in love with Halifax while roaming around the city.
If this travel guide has helped you plan your things to do in Halifax, please let us know in the comments below.
Or if you have been to this fun Canadian city and have your own travel tips or suggestions for things to do in Halifax – let us know too! We will actually be roaming around Halifax once again in the summer and fall of 2023, now as a family with little ones in tow. 😊 So we’d love to use your Halifax travel tips and update this article again!
Happy travels to beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia! 🇨🇦
Publishing note: This article about the Best Things to Do in Halifax was originally published in November 2017. It was most recently updated in May 2023, in an effort to reflect current pricing and up-to-date info.