If you like the romance of the open road, you'll love Nova Scotia.
With almost 7,600 kilometres of coastline ringing Canada's Ocean Playground, driving getaways are a great way to see the sights.
The province offers 11 touring routes-dreamy drives all-filled with back roads and beaches, folk festivals and artsy bou-tiques. The drive begins with the granddaddy of all great Nova Scotia drives: the Cabot Trail-a nearly 300-kilometre arc that traces the northern tip of Cape Breton Island and travels through a portion of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. You'll want good, sound brakes-and not just for the hills and hairpin turns: the terrain will prompt you to pull off for photos of moose, whales, bald eagles, and to visit museums, craft shops, ceilidhs, and community suppers. Just one example: Le cen-tre de la Mi-Carême in Grand Étang offers a fascinating peek into a centuries-old Acadian tradition of la Mi-Carême, a cele-bration and masquerade that contrasts with the Lenten period of austerity.
Cape Breton is also blessed with three other most impressive driving routes-the Ceilidh Trail, known for musical events, hiking and beaches; the Marconi and Fleur-de-lis Trails, which meet at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, and the Bras d'Or Lakes Scenic Drive that passes by the island's boating mecca, Baddeck.
Crossing over from the Canso Causeway, drivers have a wealth of coastal choices: to the south, the Marine Drive treks past quiet seaside villages, surfing beaches, and coastal hiking trails. Folk singer extraordinaire Stan Rogers once traipsed these byways; each July, the town of Canso hosts an annual folk festival in his honour.
To the north, the Sunrise Trail offers meandering country roads, farmers' markets, and sheltered beaches along the Northumberland Strait. Continue through northern Nova Scotia along the Glooscap Trail, with coastal drives that include a stunning view from Parrsboro down to the rocky shores of Advocate Harbour. Along the way, look for fossils, caves, coves and those perfect spots for sea kayaking.
A scenic drive that begins and ends in the port city of Halifax starts with a trip down the South Shore's Lighthouse Route-full of fishing villages and sandy beaches. Pull into Peggy's Cove, perhaps the country's most famous and most-photographed lighthouse, and stand on the giant granite wave-washed boulders. Continuing along the Lighthouse Route, you can stop at bistros, bakeries and boutiques in Mahone Bay, Chester and historic Lunenburg.
Farther along this route you'll round the southwestern-most tip of Nova Scotia. The seaport of Yarmouth celebrates its 250th anniversary this year (see page 50), and offers amazing views of the Cape Forchu lighthouse. You may want to take a trip down the Digby Neck peninsula, catching a ferry to Brier Island to enjoy superb whale watching.
As you continue on, you'll head back up toward the Bay of Fundy, then onto the Evangeline Trail through the Annapolis Valley. There, you can get a taste of history at Port-Royal National Historic Site (the reconstructed 1605 habitation of the French colonists); Fort Anne (Canada's oldest national historic site); and Grand Pré National Historic Site (where you can learn about the tragic tale of the 18th century Grand Dérangement-the Deportation of the Acadians).
A highlight of this route is a twisty hill that descends into the centuries-old fishing village of Hall's Harbour. It's a delight to see the fishing boats resting on the muddy ocean floor, then, six hours later, to see them bobbing on the waves, thanks to the rising tides of the Bay of Fundy. While in town, stop into the Hall's Harbour Lobster Pound. Take a tour, then select a lobster-they'll cook it up fresh for you to enjoy, al fresco, on the patio.
What are you waiting for? Gas up, get out there and have fun!