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By Jane Cassie (For Travel Writers’ Tales)

1. East Coast

pic #1 East Coast Drive 1

Although there are more direct driving routes from Halifax to Antigonish, if you have more travel time, take a detour onto Highway 7 and enjoy this prettier route. The ribbon of asphalt hugs up to the rugged Atlantic, curves around tranquil bays and links together quaint fishing villages that dot the way. Some, like Pleasant, Pope, and Ships have Harbour as their last name. For others it's Cove; Murphy, Clam and Harrigan, to name a few. And some are just downright funky. Quiddy, Mushaboom, Ecum Secum–although it's uncertain who they're named after, like all the other seaside settlements along this route, they're a reminder of the riches that that thrive in the waters beyond.

pic #2 East Coast Drive2

Buoys bobble above lobster traps, markers outline oyster beds, clam beds sprawl out on tidal flats. And many of these delectable edibles end up on the supper table. Although diners are in short supply along this route, Sheet and Musquodobolt Harbours are two of the busier townships where you can sample the daily catch. Or you may want to pack along a picnic and stop at one of the dozen-or-so provincial parks that dot this route; the sandy strip at Martinique Beach, the sliver-thin peninsula touting Taylor Head or Sherbrooke that overlooks the lazy St. Mary's River.

pic #3 East Coast Drive 3

Recommended Restaurant: Henley House Pub and Restaurant - Haddock cakes, battered clams, mussels in wine sauce are just a few favourites–along with lots of great pub grub!

2. South Shore

In spite of being just an hour from bustling Halifax, it feels like time stands still when moseying along this section of the famous Lighthouse Route. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lunenburg is a good place to start. Browse the hilly streets boasting crayon-coloured homes, cruise on the replicated Bluenose, Nova Scotia's sailing ambassador, or soak in some history at Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic.

pic #4 Coloured buildings Lunenburg

Historic homes, quaint shops and manicured parks hug up along Main Street of Mahone Bay, the next precious seaside gem. You can find everything from quality antiques to local artworks and don't forget to photograph the three proud churches are poised along the waterfront.

pic #6 Three shoreline churches in Mahone Bay

Continue on Route 3 as it parallels the shore then cruise through Chester. Founded in 1759 this town is now known for its kayaking, yacht races and Tancook Ferry ride. Boutiques, craft shops and eighteen holes of golf greenery also gobbles up your leisure time.

pic #5 Lunenburg Blue Nose

Last but certainly not least on this scenic stretch is Peggy's Cove, the famous lighthouse that made her way into many TV shows. People come in droves to see this iconic beacon, so best to arrive later in the day when the tour busses have gone home. The light is also prettier for all those photos you'll end up taking.

pic #10 Peggy's Cove

Recommended Restaurant: The Seaside Shanty - This quintessentially eatery hugs up to Chester Basin and dishes up awesome seafood chowder, accompanied by a bay view

pic #7 Seaside Shanty in Chester

3. The Cabot Trail

This three hundred kilometre route that loops around Cape Breton is touted to be one of Canada's finest road trips. While embracing the area's Scottish heritage, it showcases some of the East Coast's spectacular vistas and landscapes.

Cape Breton Highland National Park stakes claim to about a third of the Cabot Trail (950 square kilometres). And just beyond the Visitor's Centre is where the real highlights begin.

pic #9 Cove on Cabot Trail

The first must-see is Ingonish, a seaside hamlet boasting an expansive beachfront, Highland Links Golf Course, and the Keltic Lodge, a hilltop haven offering everything from chichi accommodation to spa treatments.

pic #11 The Keltic Lodge, Cabot Trail

A total of twenty six hiking trails weave around this wonderland, and the park map pinpoints the trailheads, providing a brief synopsis of each one. A few lead to tranquil lakes, others to cascading waterfalls and many to panoramic viewpoints.

pic #8 Head’s ruddy coloured boulder

From Neil's Harbour, you'll head inland where a number of outlooks are etched into the route, and after traversing the pristine parkland you'll be gazing out at the massive Gulf of St. Lawrence. Pleasant Bay village, settled by Scottish immigrants in the early 1800s is appropriately coined the island's whale watching capital. A short distance beyond is the fishing village of Cheticamp, and then Margaree, where the oldest hatchery in the province exists.

pic #12 Cabot Trail - roadway below carving through trees

Recommended Coffee Stop: Danena's where you'll also want to fuel up on fresh-out-of-the-oven pastries. Yum! Location: 30001 Cabot Trail, Dingwall

There you have it–three amazing drives in a province where natural beauty blends seamlessly with intriguing culture, Canada's heritage and East Coast hospitality.



PHOTOS by Jane & Brent Cassie

Photo captions:

East Coast:
#1 East Coast Drive 1
#2 East Coast Drive2
#3 East Coast Drive3

South Shore:
#4 Coloured buildings Lunenburg
#5 Lunenburg Blue Nose
#6 Three shoreline churches in Mahone Bay
#7 Seaside Shanty in Chester
#8 Head’s ruddy coloured boulder
#10 Peggy's Cove

The Cabot Trail
#9 Cove on Cabot Trail
#11 The Keltic Lodge, Cabot Trail
#12 Cabot Trail - roadway below carving through trees

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