During this excursion you’ll visit five museums that through their collections, interpretations and exhibits, will give you an overview and an appreciation of Halifax’s heritage. As we drive from one museum to the next you will also have an opportunity to see much of historic Halifax and Dartmouth.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The first stop is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the largest site in Nova Scotia that collects and interprets the various elements of our marine history. During this visit you will learn about the ‘Age of Steamships’ and see various examples of local boats, vessels of both the Royal Canadian and Merchant Navies and WWII convoys. You’ll also learn about the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’, the Halifax Explosion of December, 1917, and Nova Scotia’s role in the Titanic disaster. This stop will last approximately 60 minutes.
Halifax Citadel Fortress
Next, we’re off to visit the Halifax Citadel. The present Citadel is the fourth in a series of forts to occupy the hill overlooking Halifax Harbour. It is an excellent example of a fortification circa the 19th century, and is complete with defensive ditch, ramparts, musketry gallery, powder magazine and signal masts. Your driver guide will introduce you to the fort, point out the location of the museum, gift shop and café, powder magazine, exhibits of interest, washrooms, stairways, etc. You may choose to join one of the guided tours given by Citadel staff (dressed in period costume), or you may opt to tour on your own. Our stop here will last for approximately 60 minutes.
Admiralty House Museum
Halifax was one of four principal overseas naval stations of the British Empire and, most importantly, was a Royal Navy dockyard. Our city was/is called “The Warden of the North“ because of it’s commanding presence on the North Atlantic. High on a hill overlooking the Dockyard is the stately Georgian mansion known as Admiralty House, once the official summer residence of the Admiral of the North American Station. It is now the Maritime Command Museum and our next stop. Here we’ll find more than 30 rooms of displays including model ships, medals, badges, ship’s bells and other memorabilia, as well as armaments and accouterments associated with navel life. Our visit will last for approximately 40 minutes.
Shearwater Aviation Museum
Next, we’ll drive across the second of Halifax’s harbour bridges, the A. Murray MacKay (circa 1971) which will give us a great view of the inner harbour known as Bedford Basin. We’ll also be able to see the anchorage site from where the convoys of WWI and WWII departed. This is also the area where the December, 1917 Halifax Explosion occurred. Our drive/tour will take us along the harbour on the Dartmouth side and will afford us great views of both Halifax and the harbour itself.
Halifax harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world after that of Sydney, Australia. The story of our next stop involves the United States Navy and it’s Air Station circa 1918-1919. Starting out from Bedford Basin, convoys of ships were successfully supplying Great Britain by 1917. The enterprise was so successful the German Navy had to change its focus and deploy large, sea-going submarines (complete with mounted, six-inch guns) off the coast of Nova Scotia.
As neither Canada nor Britain had suitable aircraft to counter this threat, the United States agreed to extend its air patrols to the coasts of Nova Scotia. They established two air stations, one at Halifax (called Shearwater) and one at Sydney on the island of Cape Breton.
Lieutenant R.E. Byrd (later Admiral Byrd of South Pole fame) was tasked with the establishment of these air stations. We’ll visit the Shearwater Aviation Museum (circa 1978) which has over 6000 artifacts. The museum has eleven derelict/retired aircraft which represent the various types of aircraft flown from the base. We will spend approximately 60 minutes at the museum.
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Returning to Halifax, we’ll stop at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History near Citadel Hill. Look for the giant Spring Peeper (a type of frog) attached to the side of the building. The museum has exhibits on man and his environment in Nova Scotia. T his is the place to learn about fossils, dinosaurs, whales, birds and more. They have live snakes, frogs, insects, and butterflies in their Nature Center. During our visit, we’ll stop and say hello to the museum mascot, Gus, an 84+ year old tortoise. Our visit will last for approximately 60 minutes.
At your convenience, we will make a stop for lunch. All the museums have washrooms.
After our stop at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, we’ll make our return to the cruise ship dock where we’ll find our next museum, Pier 21 - Canada’s Immigration Museum, sometimes referred to as Canada’s Ellis Island. Pier 21 has the goal of telling the story of all immigration to Canada along with the mandate to tell the story of nation-building by highlighting our earliest beginnings and immigration from 1867 to the present day. While not an official part of your excursion (unless you want it to be), you should have time to explore Pier 21 on your own as your ship is just a few feet away.
As with all our excursions, both the sites and itinerary are not fixed. We can and will modify any excursion to suit what you, our guest, wishes to see, experience and do. All you need to do is ask.
There are approximately twelve other museums which could be substituted:
- SS Atlantic
- Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
- Mount Uniacke Estate
- Atlantic Aviation
- Dartmouth Heritage
- Black Cultural Center
- HMCS Sackville
(the last surviving sub-hunting Corvette from WWII - docked near the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic)