Anthem of the Seas

On Thursday 1 September, one of the largest cruise ships in the world and certainly the largest to ever visit Nova Scotia, docked in Halifax Harbour.  The MS Anthem of the Seas, carrying approximately 4,180 passengers (plus crew) towered over the Halifax waterfront, which, speaking in Nova Scotia terms, is “more than three Peggy’s Cove lighthouses stacked on top of one another”!


Photo of Anthem of the Seas towering above Pier 21!

Anthem of the Seas in Halifax

Photo Credit: Gary Brinton Photography

It was quite a spectacular sight and certainly kept tourism operators in the area very busy!

I had the wonderful pleasure of touring a group travelling on this ship around the greater Halifax and Dartmouth area.


They were as interested about Nova Scotia as I was about their travelling city!  One comment from the passengers summed it all up:  “Big and Bigger is not always better”.

Doppelganger and Dahlias

During the busy tourist season, my wife, Ann, often wonders where I am and what I’m up to…a bit of “Where’s Bob?” instead of “Where’s Waldo”.  Although I do try to keep my family informed of my whereabouts, a recent email made them question my Maritime touring and if perhaps, I had moved further afield.  A guest of BDT’s recently travelled to Iceland and sent me the following message:

“Not only did the gent I saw remind me of you, he had nearly the same Tilley hat you wore.  He also was very happy. As part of Iceland’s tourism activities, they’re bringing in lots of cruise ships from US, Canada, and Europe. I remember you telling us that was your specialty, so I assumed when I saw your double that was why you were there.”


Well, yes, my Tilley hat is a telltale sign of me, cruise ship excursions are certainly a big part of my business, but I haven’t taken any trips to Iceland nor am I running excursions in Iceland….I think I had to do a little convincing with my wife that I am not an international jet-setter!

I decided to spend some time with Ann and explore our own back yard.  We began in Halifax Public Gardens which is a glorious sight at this time of year.  Multiple weddings were being photographed, children were darting in and out of the flowers, but what really captured my attention were the Dahlias!  On, August 31st, Halifax is home to an Annual Dahlia Day Celebration, hosted by the Halifax Public Gardens & the Nova Scotia Dahlia Society and judging by the display in the gardens, it will be a spectacular celebration!

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From the city sights to country roads, Ann and I travelled along the Bay of Fundy and spent time exploring Baxters Harbour, Long Beach and Canning.

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I overwhelmed her with my wealth of knowledge about the area, chatted about tours I had brought here, buses that had broken down, Big Stop breakfasts and huge lobsters to be found!  I think she now believes I am not an International jet-setting tour guide…just a down-home Nova Scotian guy who loves his Province.

BUT, if you do happen to see my double anywhere, please send a photo or let me know where…

Seriously…the Big Stop?!

As a tour operator, we visit sites numerous times, but no tours are ever alike and we never get tired of seeing our beautiful Province and showing it off to others.  This particular day trip included a very unexpected “site”!

Many people who visit Nova Scotia want to see the World’s Highest Tides, which is fantastic, we have that to offer.  However, Time and Tide wait for no-one and if it means getting up at the crack of dawn to witness low tide, so be it.

In order to see low-tide in Hall’s Harbour, we had to leave Halifax at 6:15am – not your ideal vacation start time!  It was worth it.  We saw the Bay of Fundy empty, in all its muddy glory….but then what to do?  Certainly no attractions were open that early in the morning.  So breakfast, but where?  Where else than the Big Stop in New Minas.  This was certainly a first for me and thoroughly enjoyed by my guests.

By the time breakfast was finished, the world had come to life and we were able to visit Grande Pre before heading back to Hall’s Harbour to view high-tide.

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I’ve never thought about adding the Big Stop into an itinerary, but judging by how busy it was and how much it was enjoyed, it’s left me with something to think about.

Detours and Delays…

Due to our guests’ flight having an unexpected overnight detour and delay in Bangor, Maine, our sightseeing didn’t begin until a day later than expected.  We were however, still able to collect them from the airport and let the exploring begin!

Following pick-up from the airport, hotel check-in and settling in, we decided to tour Halifax with a visit to the Citadel where we witnessed the noon gun salute and had an interesting time exploring the Trench War Display.

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A full day of touring took us to the coast to visit Peggy’s Cove, a Nova Scotia must-do for all visitors.  From there, we meandered along the Lighthouse Route and popped into the quaint community of Mahone Bay, known for its artisans, shopping and fabulous restaurants.  We ended the day with a visit to Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stunning architecture and beautiful views of the coastline.

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Visiting the dramatic tidal changes in the Bay of Fundy is a must-do.  After experiencing low tide in Hall’s Harbour, we made our way down the mountain offering superb views of the fertile fields in full swing with their produce.  At the bottom of the mountain is a rather gorgeous little museum, just off the beaten track, Prescott House.  The Georgian House with manicured gardens is definitely a place worth visiting…before heading back to Hall’s Harbour to witness high-tide.

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A quick trip into Wolfville was a must-do for me, as I had a beautiful care package my wife had prepared for my granddaughter, who works in the Wolfville VIC – Tourism is evidently in our genes!  Quite a handy place to pop into, not just for me but also my guests.


The following day, Dave, one of our other driver/guides, took these guests under his capable wings, as they headed north to tour the Cabot Trail.

We were thankful to hear their return flight home was without incident or delay.

From Sea to Sky

Based in Halifax, we usually collect our visitors from the airport, cruise ship or hotel, so it was a wonderful treat to collect visitors in Yarmouth.  They chose to travel to Nova Scotia on the The CAT ferry which sails from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth, on the South-west tip of the Province.

The Cat

This is the first summer in six years the ferry has been running and although a wonderful, quick passage between two countries, it has been experiencing low ridership.  Our visitors certainly seemed to have enjoyed the 5.5hr crossing.

From Yarmouth, we drove along the South Shore of Nova Scotia, stopping in Lunenburg before heading into Halifax, which is where our visitors would be based for the next few days.

Our first full day took us to the Annapolis Valley so we could explore the Bay of Fundy. Beginning in Hall’s Harbour, we saw quite a dramatic seascape as the tide was out and the ocean floor exposed.  We meandered our way down the mountain, through Port Williams and Wolfville to Grand Pre.  Here we learned about the sad history of the Acadian deportation and also visited the Deportation Cross, a memorial to the Acadians deported from here.

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We then headed to Evangeline Beach which offers breath taking views of Blomidon and the Bay of Fundy… quite a contrast to the city and indeed, other shorelines in the Province.


Our visitors had the chance to explore Halifax under the city lights by night and with BDT during the day.  Following a tour of the town, we meandered our way to Peggy’s Cove and, upon discovering it was one of the visitors birthdays, we had a delightful celebratory lunch at Rhubarb in Indian Cove.

I’m sure it was an early night for all, as I collected them at 4am the following morning to take them to the airport.

Off the Beaten Path

As a tour operator in Nova Scotia, I take many visitors along the shoreline to Peggy’s Cove and often onto Lunenburg, sometimes stopping at the Swiss Air Memorial or the lovely fishing village of West Dover.  On this particular trip, I decided to wander a little further off the “beaten track” and visit two small communities just outside Lunenburg; Blue Rocks and Stonehurst.

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Still working fishing villages, as can be evidenced by the fishing boats and lobster traps, the communities also boast a large artisan population.  This is not new.  Beginning in the 1900’s, this area attracted many artists, including Wallace MacKaskill, Joseph Purcell, William E. deGarthe and Jack L. Gray.  And who could blame them?  With gorgeous inlets surrounded by blue slate rocks, it truly is a beautiful, captivating area.

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It is reported that Blue Rocks is “Lunenburg’s answer to Peggy’s Cove” and the fish shack, sitting in the water, is the most photographed building in the county!  Whatever may be, I think it is a perfect place for a picnic on the rocks.

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Cityscapes and Seascapes

It’s always challenging to show the highlights of Nova Scotia when there is little time to do it.  Customized tours can turn short visits into whirlwind adventures, allowing you to see what you want to see, thus making the best of your time.   This particular tour took us from the cityscape to three distinctly different seascapes…with history, heritage and wine thrown in for good luck!

Beginning in the Port City, we enjoyed a peaceful stroll around Halifax Public Gardens, which truly is a splendid sight at this time of year, full of colour and scents.  A short drive took us to Citadel Hill allowing for stunning views of the city and where we could witness the noon-gun salute.  Our guests also enjoyed some great meals in the downtown area and even managed to find copies of their immigration papers at Pier 21!

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We had absolutely gorgeous weather to explore the Eastern Shore!  Beginning with a stroll on the Dartmouth Waterfront we then cruised along the shoreline to visit the Fisherman’s Life Museum and took a step back in time at Memory Lane Village.

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An early morning departure from the city took us to Peggy’s Cove, where we enjoyed breakfast on the rocks before meandering along the coastline to the quaint fishing village of Lunenburg.   Then to a very different fishing village on the other side of the Province, Hall’s Harbour.  Here, we could witness the glory of the Bay of Fundy and the dramatic difference in the high and low tides.


While waiting for the tide to change, what better place to relax in than a vineyard?  Spectacular views, superb wines and a joyful atmosphere.  Life is good in Nova Scotia.

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Two Contrasting Coastlines

From the sights and sounds of Halifax and Peggy’s Cove Coastline then over to the Bay of Fundy to explore vines and tides – a packed but relaxing two-day tour.

As we drove through Halifax, we passed the Cathedral Church of All Saints and couldn’t resist popping in for a quick look – Beautiful!  The weather was gorgeous so a stroll around the Halifax Public Gardens was definitely in order prior to visiting the Citadel for the noon gun salute….and to hear the pipe band.

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We headed to the shoreline for the afternoon to explore the quaint fishing village of West Dover, the Swiss Air Memorial and finally Peggy’s Cove.

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The second day of our adventure took us to the Annapolis Valley.  Beginning at Hall’s Harbour, we walked on the empty harbour floor, knowing in a few hours, this would be completely filled by the Bay (the days tidal range was 39.6ft).

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Leaving the harbour, we visited Grand Pre to learn the sad story of the Acadian Expulsion then headed to the Gaspereau Valley to visit Lucketts Vineyards.  Not only did we enjoy the fine food and spectacular scenery, Pete Luckett was on hand to answer questions and tell us his story.

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We returned to Hall’s Harbour to find the tides had come in and dramatically changed the scenery.  The phenomenal Bay of Fundy never ceases to amaze my visitors or me.

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Popular tours this year

Due to our specialty  of customized tours, we seldom do the same tour twice.  However, already this summer, we have seen some repeat tours, not quite exactly the same but very close none-the-less.

The Bay of Fundy and its extreme tidal range has been very popular, especially from Hall’s Harbour…that may also have something to do with the scenic drive, temptation of lobster and so much to do and experience in between tides.  From stepping back in time and experiencing Grand Pre, taking in spectacular vistas to sampling superb wines at Planters Ridge Winery and munching on cheese at Fox Hill Cheese House.

It was an absolute delight to have a 3yr old on one of our trips – reminded me of why I am so happy to be a Grandfather!  So much energy and so much fun but they go home with the parents at the end of the day;)  Truthfully, the wee fella made my day – what fun he was.  Our trip was apparently the high-light for him:

“Obviously you made our day balanced. He is a super busy boy all the time. Max cried on Sunday on our way home, that he doesn’t want to leave Halifax. Tim said that this Sat trip was the highlight of the entire 3 day visit.”  Words we love to hear!

So to our Ontario friends, thank you for visiting and I do hope we see you again!

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History, Harbours and Bagpipes!

When visiting Halifax, the Citadel is always an obvious choice for a tour and this particular tour was a memorable one.  We arrived in time for the noon gun ceremony which our young, visually impaired client thoroughly enjoyed – especially when the pipes began to play. Being a piper himself, he spent about an hour with the 78th Highlanders!  What an experience for him.

We visited the Titanic cemetery and toured historic Halifax before heading out to the coast to Peggy’s Cove.  Although shrouded in fog, it was still a postcard picture!

Lunenburg was beautiful in all its summer glory so we enjoyed a cruise around the harbour…and had the opportunity to watch a Canadian Customs Inspection of a sailboat – not your average visit.

From one harbour to another on the other side of the Province – Hall’s harbour.  Here we watched the tidal ranges and toured the lobster pound.  Our young client thoroughly enjoyed “playing with” a huge 10lb lobster a Hall’s Harbour Lobster Pound– what a Nova Scotian treat!

To top off our three-day trip, we visited the Annapolis Cider Company in Wolfville and the Barrelling Tide Distillery in Port Williams – a tasty end to a wonderful vacation.

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