Halifax Highlights: Old, New, and Déjà Vu

Lush greenery and countless bodies of water dominated the serene view I saw as my flight descended into Halifax Stanfield International Airport, providing evident contrasts to the dryness of my drought-ridden state of California and the bustle of making a connection in Detroit. I was excited about my upcoming road trip through part of Nova Scotia, but first would be a day in this Maritime province’s capital city of Halifax — a return to a place I had only briefly visited during a family road trip as a teenager.

"Crossing the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge from Dartmouth to Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Crossing the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge into Halifax from Dartmouth

During my short time in Halifax before and after the road trip, I got a glimpse of the city’s history, culture, beauty, art and food … and déjà vu. Join me on a quick photo tour of my Halifax highlights.

Halifax Harbourwalk

"One of many Halifax highlights -- Boats and buildings along the Halifax Harbourfront, Nova Scotia"

Along the Halifax waterfront on the Harbourwalk

On this warm and sunny Sunday both residents and tourists were taking advantage of the beautiful day to spend time at the waterfront. The Halifax Harbourwalk is the longest downtown boardwalk in the world and has many shops and restaurants. It’s also a great place to enjoy views of boats on the harbour or absorb some history.

"Shops and restaurants along the boardwalk on the Halifax Harbourfront"

Shops and restaurants along the boardwalk on the Halifax waterfront

Cow’s Ice Cream, headquartered in Prince Edward Island, was rated by Reader’s Digest as having the best ice cream in Canada. I didn’t get to try it, but I talked to people in the long line (shown above) at the new store on the Halifax Harbourwalk and they agreed!

Historic Properties is a group of stone and wooden warehouses on the waterfront built between 1800-1875 that are now offices, shops and restaurants. The Old Red Store is located in one of the old buildings here with a heritage designation.

Pier 21

On the southern end of the Harbourwalk is historic Pier 21, a former ocean liner terminal that welcomed hundreds of thousands of immigrants from 1928 to 1971. Now the site of the Canadian National Immigration Museum and a place of significant importance for immigrants to Canada, it was the venue for an opening night reception for our upcoming road trip. Our group got to see some of the exhibits and experience how so many immigrants must have felt arriving at this place over the years.

"Exhibits at the Canadian National Immigration Museum at Pier 21, Halifax"

Canadian National Immigration Museum at Pier 21

“Peace – The Exhibition” is currently featured at the museum and will run through October 19, 2014. It focuses on how peace, violence and war have been key factors in Canada’s history of immigration. Viewpoints include those of “peace activists demonstrating to prevent war, soldiers fighting to end war, and immigrants coming to Canada to escape war”. I was particularly interested in this as a person who was growing up in the United States during the Vietnam War and hearing about the “draft dodgers” who were fleeing to Canada.

"Peace- The Exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Peace – The Exhibition at Canadian Museum of Immigration

A pub, an inn, the blues and more on Barrington Street

Walking along Barrington Street, a major street in downtown Halifax, I came across a number of interesting places such as those in the photos below.  Henry House (on the right, below) was built using ironstone and granite in 1834 and was the home of William Alexander Henry who later became one of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation. It’s now a popular restaurant and pub. Waverley Inn has been a Halifax landmark since 1876. The much newer Bearly’s, a live blues bar since 1987, has an eye-catching mural that grabbed my attention. Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, is also located on Barrington Street and there were quite a few people lining up for a tour as I walked by.

"A pub, an inn, and the blues along Barrington Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Clockwise from top left: Bearly’s, Henry House, Waverley Inn

Old Burying Ground

Farther along on Barrington Street at Spring Garden Road is the Old Burying Ground, registered as a National Historic Site and Provincial Heritage Property. There are only about 1,200 headstones remaining of the 12,000 people who are buried there. The oldest cemetery in Halifax, its first grave was dug on June 22, 1749, one day after English settlers arrived in Halifax.

"Old Burying Groundin Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Old Burying Ground

Statues and Memorials

I spotted a diverse group of statues and memorials throughout my walking tour. As an admirer of Winston Churchill, I had to take the photo of this statue in front of the Halifax Public Library on Spring Garden Road honoring him. The ten-feet-high bronze statue was sculpted by Oscar Nemon and represents Churchill as seen in a photograph taken while he was strolling down Spring Garden Road on the first of two trips to Halifax during World War II.

"Memorials and Winston Churchill statue in Halifax, Nova Scotia"

From Top left: Halifax War Memorial, Winston Churchill, Portuguese Explorer Memorial

A memorial I came across on the Harbourwalk honors Joao Alvares Fagundes, a Portuguese explorer who landed in Nova Scotia about 1520 and established the first colony of Europeans. This memorial was the result of the efforts of a Portuguese-American, Edmund Dinis, who wanted to shed some light on this little-known part of history. It surprised me to learn of the significant influence of the Portuguese in Nova Scotia history.

The Halifax War Memorial in the Grand Parade Square honors those who had died in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.

The Citadel

Atop a hill overlooking all of downtown Halifax and the harbor stands the Halifax Citadel. It’s easy to see why this location was chosen to fortify the town of Halifax when it was founded in 1749.  I didn’t have time to take a tour inside (where visitors can even to get to dress as and play at being a soldier), but I enjoyed the panoramic views from the hill. On the grounds below the fortress, is the iconic Old Town Clock that has been keeping time since 1803 (below, left). In the distance in the top right photo is the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge which I crossed coming into Halifax the night before.

"Flags flying at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and views from the top"

Flags flying at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and views from the top

Delicious indulgences

Now back in Halifax after the road trip, I enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill on Argyle Street. Here’s just a taste of that dining experience.

"Lobster Stuffed Digby Scallops and Blueberry Lime Cheesecake at the Five Fishermen Restaurant & Grill, Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Lobster Stuffed Digby Scallops and Blueberry Lime Cheesecake

The dishes you see in the photo were delicious. The first course was a perfectly prepared Blueberry Pan Seared Halibut that I sadly neglected to photograph. But let me share the ingredients: Fennel and Annapolis Valley apple slaw, tarragon honey vinaigrette, Nova Scotia blueberry syrup and parsnip curls. It was served with a 2008 Prestige Brut from L’Acadie Vineyards. Can you picture that? Can you almost taste it?

I’ve became very fond of Nova Scotia scallops and thoroughly enjoyed the Lobster Stuffed Digby Scallops in the photo above described as “Seared Digby Scallops stuffed with lobster, served with potato parsnip puree, braised leeks, tarragon cream and blueberry.” It was served with a 2011 L’Acadie Blanc from Luckett Vineyards.

I was quite full by dessert time, but I was glad not to pass up the Blueberry Lime Cheesecake served with a 2012 Vidal Ice Wine from Domaine de Grand Pré.

But it’s not just about food at the Five Fishermen. There’s interesting history here as well. The building was originally a schoolhouse when it was built in 1817, later becoming the John Snow & Co. Funeral Home. When the RMS Titanic sunk off the coast of Newfoundland in 1912, rescuers were dispatched from Halifax and wealthy victims like John Jacob Astor were brought to this mortuary. In 1917, the mortuary was used during the devastating Halifax Explosion. The Five Fishermen opened as a restaurant in 1975 and it appears to be haunted! I didn’t personally experience any ghosts, but there are plenty of staff who have reported sightings and odd occurrences.

Finally, déjà vu

"Getting a sense of déjà vu from a 19th century building on Sackville Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Sense of déjà vu on Sackville Street

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere …”

I stopped in my tracks as I was making my way from the Citadel toward the harbor and back to the Westin Hotel. Just across the street on the corner of Sackville Street and Market Street was an old 3-storied building that took me back in time to my visit as a teenager. I remembered being in that same spot on my first visit years ago when a young woman leaned out of a top floor window and began reciting the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Paul Revere’s Ride.

For some reason, that moment in time has stayed in my mind, and I sometimes wondered who she was, the significance of the poem to her, and what prompted her to recite it loudly to passersby. It seemed a little eerie at the time.

Now, knowing Longfellow’s deep association with Nova Scotia as evidenced in his poems about Evangeline and the deportation of Acadians from Nova Scotia in the 18th century, I suppose that it’s not so far-fetched. But not only did I get a strong sense of déjà vu, I was vividly reminded that the years had passed quickly between that first Nova Scotia road trip and the one I was about to take. Savor every journey!

This introduction to my Nova Scotia trip just scratched the surface of what Halifax offers as a destination. I hope to have more time to spend in the future and wonder if there will be more déjà vu experiences.

Stay tuned for my Nova Scotia Joy Ride of 2014.

Thanks to Nova Scotia Tourism Agency for making my Halifax highlights experience possible.

For more information and interesting facts:

Destination Halifax

50 Things You Don’t Know About Halifax


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

59 thoughts on “Halifax Highlights: Old, New, and Déjà Vu

  1. Mike

    This was great, Cathy! I’ve never been to Halifax but wow it’s so beautiful. I liked your deja vu moment. Also glad you included the deliciousness as always. Lobster and cheesecake? Yes, please! We hope all is well with you both! 🙂

  2. Doreen Pendgracs

    Halifax is indeed a lovely city. You’ve captured its spirit and history quite nicely. There’s also a terrific chocolatier there called Sugah! You’re making me want to go back to this lovely maritime city.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      So glad that you mentioned Sugah. I had a sample of their tasty chocolates while I was there. Right up you alley, aren’t they?

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Yes, it is. It seemed to have a combination of aspects of other cities that I love, like San Francisco and Milwaukee (where I lived for a few years).

  3. Lisa Goodmurphy

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed your brief visit to one of my favourite Canadian cities, Cathy – but I can’t believe that you didn’t try Cows Ice Cream! It’s worth lining up for!! 🙂

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I regret that I didn’t try Cow’s. I had just eaten a big lunch and so wasn’t too motivated. At this moment, I’d wait in that line — without question.

  4. Leigh

    Your post brought back great memories. I spent a year of my childhood in Halifax, got engaged at a restaurant on the water in Halifax but didn’t actually make it back to the city last year. I loved the Citadel as a kid and as an adult I would love to be trying some local Nova Scotia wines.
    And how I miss those Digby scallops.
    I hope the sun stayed shining for most of your visit.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      How romantic, Leigh. I can totally picture an engagement on the Halifax waterfront. Next time you visit, check out the wineries. I’ve got a post coming up soon.

  5. Jackie Smith

    Never been there but it certainly looks like an inviting place. Love the blue sky shots as I always think of it as gray and dull – (and have absolutely no reason for thinking that unless it is the Seattle mindset I must have).

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      We really had nice weather most of the week. Rained a bit one day (and while on a ghost tour at night — perfect) and kind of cold and overcas the day before we left. I think I’d enjoy Nova Scotia in any weather, but I heard they had a really hard winter — as did many others in North America this past year.

  6. Alouise

    I was in Halifax, very briefly, a few years back with a friend, but we only had time to o to Pier 21 (which was a really great museum). I regret that I couldn’t see and do more, but now I’ll have an idea of what to check out when I go back there.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Although I got to see a bit of the museum at Pier 21 during our reception, I’d love to really spend some time there. They’ve done a great job in the design and exhibits — lots to see.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Oh, Neva — I’ve lot about the meal at The Fiver Fishermen countless times since I’ve gotten home. Highly recommend it.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I was very young (even younger than the Nova Scotia trip) when we visited PEI. It is definitely a place that beckons for a return visit.

  7. jan

    I really like the crisp blue of the ocean scenes in Halifax. The Five Fishermen Food looks inviting. How spooky would it have been if a young girl had stuck her head out of the window and started reciting…

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I’m almost afraid that NS will get the recognition it deserves, beyond the sites that tourists know about like Peggy’s Cove. Wouldn’t it be nice to keep places like that to ourselves?

  8. Nancie

    I’m with Lisa. Cow’s ice cream and Buds french fries would have made your visit complete 🙂 The Five Fisherman is an institution in Halifax, and I’ve had my fair share of awesome meals there over the years. You were lucky to get some nice weather. I spoke to my Dad on Father’s Day, and he was telling how cold and wet it’s been.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I know — it was a mistake to miss Cow’s no matter how I full I was. And Bud’s — what was I thinking???

  9. Francesca (@WorkMomTravels)

    I completely enjoyed reading this! Nova Scotia and the other Maritime Provinces have long been on my list of places to travel to. I’m consistently drawn to places surrounded by water with strong ties to fishing and nautical heritage. I, too, am surprised to learn of the Portuguese influence in Nova Scotia. I experienced the same thing in Cape Cod; huge Portuguese influence there, too. But now I guess it makes sense: Cape Cod and Nova Scotia really aren’t that far apart!

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Water, fishing, nautical heritage — Nova Scotia is a perfect place for you. I enjoyed this trip so much. Hope you get a chance to go there soon, too.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Thanks, Laura — I wanted the photo of the bridge to convey the feeling that I got while we drove across it.

  10. Jeff Titelius

    What a journey through the past and present of Halifax! I would have loved to have learned all about the historical events and those who played a major role. Stunning scenery and scrumptious food make for a perfectly well-rounded experience. Thank you for a wonderful maritime tour!

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Well-rounded experiences are what I’m all about — food, natural beauty, history, etc. It makes for a full travel experience in my book. Halifax has a lot to offer in all those aspects.

  11. Agata

    I went to Halifax few years ago and I think this is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada! I have even thought about moving there for a year. I visited all places you described Cathy and even had a short argument with people from Pier 21 museum: I felt that Polish part in the Jewish history was misleading so I protested. All in all I had a wonderful time there and I wish to get back some day to this lovely place!

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Oh, I’d like to hear more about your Pier 21 experience. I hope that the people you talked to were interested in your viewpoint. The staff that I met were very nice and proud of their museum. I’d be happy to get you in touch with the appropriate person if you’d like.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I think that Halifax fits those requirements well, Andrew. You’ll find lots of waterfront in much of Nova Scotia!

  12. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    The exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Immigration sounds fascinating and I would love to see it as well as the Peace exhibition which is of special interest to me, too. I also grew up during the Vietnam war and nightly broadcasts by Walter Cronkite and can remember huge arguments raging for and against “the conflict” and the “draft dodgers”. Thanks for the tour!

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I’m glad that you can relate so well to my feelings about that time. It was just a portion of the Peace exhibit, but a very important part of it for me.

  13. Marcia

    Funny how that memory has stayed with you, Cathy.
    I’ve not been to Halifax but your post made me realize that I made assumptions and created some images about what I thought the city would be like. It looks much different that I imagined.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      It is funny how certain things stay in our heads no matter how much has gone by. I think a lot of people have a different picture of Halifax — and Nova Scotia for that matter — than what I saw. More to come.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Thanks, Irene — I got around as much as I could on foot in a short period of time. Luckily, Halifax is a very walkable city with many key sites in easy walking distance.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Well, thanks for that, Clare. Always makes me feel good to introduce someone to a place they didn’t know about it. Hope you’ll get to Halifax sometime and see for yourself what a cool city it is.

  14. Lucy

    I didn’t know much about Halifax before either but it looks like a great city to explore – I do love waterside cities and your photos are beautiful.

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  16. Vanessa @ Green Global Travel

    I’ve never been that far north before, but I always want to because I love the colder weather. I will definitely have to make a stop in Halifax someday now! I was already sold at the ice cream, scallops, and cheesecake, but seriously, it looks like a place that can’t be missed!

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  19. Heather

    Excellent retrospective of Halifax, which was my birth city. I have fond memories of walking along the Historic Properties as a kid, especially during the Tall Ship Festivals that Halifax periodically hosts!

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