The best time to visit Nova Scotia is in the summer, during July and August. These months are the warmest. Spring, fall, and winter all offer different experiences. Our local travel experts can help you choose when to visit based on what you want to see and do. Learn about the province’s activities, events, accommodation, and food in this guide.
Surrounded by water, the maritime province of Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations. Its diverse landscape includes dramatic cliffs, coastal rock formations, sandy beaches, and rolling fields. There are islands, hiking trails and sun-drenched vineyards to explore. So, when is the best time to travel to Nova Scotia?
Three different bodies of water surround the province and influence each season’s temperatures. If you’re travelling to Nova Scotia, you’ll want to consider the weather conditions and how that affects the activities you can do.
If you’re confused about when is the best time to go to Nova Scotia, speak to the team of travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations. We can recommend the best time of year to visit, plus seasonal events in Nova Scotia.
When is the best time of year to visit Nova Scotia?
Summer is the best time to visit Nova Scotia, and these warmer months attract lots of tourists. Winter is the low season, and you may experience extreme cold and snowy weather. Though if you enjoy cold-weather activities, winter trips can be economical. You can also take advantage of some great deals and unique activities in the spring and fall. Here’s what to expect in each season.
[ Explore: Nova Scotia Train Tours ]
July and August: high season
Summer begins around the end of June and lasts up to August. It is one of the best times to visit Nova Scotia and see it in all its glory.
The temperatures range from mid-60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The Gulf of St. Lawrence in the north keeps it warm during this time.
Relax on one of the many idyllic beaches, try kayaking or sailing, and explore the waterfront areas. You can also attend some local events and festivals during these two months.
Like all tourist destinations, the region can get busy during the high season. We recommend planning your trip around the festivals you’re interested in. Hotels and transport must be booked well in advance.
[ Explore: Montreal to Halifax Train VIA Ocean Train ]
May-June and September-October: shoulder season
The summer season is bookended by the shoulder season. May and June, the spring months, and September to October, the fall months, are the shoulder season. This is neither the peak season nor a complete off-season, making it a sweet spot to explore Nova Scotia.
In the spring, you can expect morning fog and a landscape filled with blooming wildflowers. Temperatures are pleasant and range from 50 degrees Fahrenheit in early May to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in mid-June.
During the fall, temperatures are ideal for outdoor adventures like hiking or camping in the wilderness. The province’s forests have maple, birch, and oak trees, and in the fall months, the leaves of these trees change colour. This is a great time to drive along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island. There are over 20 hiking trails to explore in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and some take you past the changing colours. Kejimkujik National Park, the largest inland national park in the Maritimes, is another prime location to witness this seasonal marvel. If you are staying in Halifax, then take a short trip to Shubie Park and Sir Sanford Fleming Park, two of the best locations for seeing fall foliage near the city.
September and October are the best months for viewing the beautiful fall colours in Nova Scotia. The colours usually peak in the first or second week of October. Depending on when and where you go, you’ll see a vibrant mix of yellow, orange, and red leaves.
Aside from viewing fall foliage, you can enjoy popular attractions, such as Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, with fewer crowds.
[ Explore: Scenic Fall Train Rides in Canada ]
#1 Travel Tip: Dinner at Peggy's Cove
Enjoy a seafood dinner at the Sou’Wester Restaurant, the perfect spot for watching the sunset at Peggy’s Cove. Try the fresh steamed lobster served with garlic butter.
November to April: low season
Nova Scotia has an extreme winter season, with temperatures hitting as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The entire province is blanketed in snow and ice during the winter months. If you are not a fan of cold weather, this may not be the best time to visit.
However, this time of year is when accommodations offer some of the lowest prices. Around the Christmas season, there are plenty of indoor activities that you can do. You can also go skiing, snowshoeing or ice skating.
Popular events in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia holds many events to celebrate different aspects of the province, from regional food and wine to Acadian and Celtic cultures. Attending a local festival is a brilliant way to learn more about the area and its people, so check if your travel dates coincide with any exciting events.
Halifax Jazz Festival
The TD Halifax Jazz Festival is one of Canada's oldest and largest annual jazz festivals. Spanning over two weeks, usually in July, this extravagant festival features a lineup of top jazz artists and ensembles. Along with jazz, you'll see performers from the blues, Latin, and R&B genres.
Celtic Colours International Festival
Celtic Colours International Festival is an annual music festival usually held in October on Cape Breton Island. Since its inception in 1997, the festival has been a popular crowd-puller. It features talented musicians from the Celtic music world.
Devour! The Food Film Fest
Devour is a noteworthy street food rally conducted by the students of the Canadian Culinary School. The event usually takes place in Wolfville in October and lasts around six days. You can expect a stellar lineup of internationally renowned chefs, experiential food tours, practical workshops in film and food, food tastings, and much more.
Starlight Festival is an annual celebration in the Acadian Skies and Mi'kmaq Lands Region of Nova Scotia. It is held annually, in the late summer or fall season, and the dates depend on the moon cycle. You can enjoy guided stargazing, hikes and walks, astrophotography courses, museum exhibit tours, and more.
Often held in July in the Dartmouth region of Nova Scotia, Nova MultiFest represents the different cultures of the province. It highlights the music, art, and cuisines native to each culture. You'll see performances and exhibits and taste exquisite culinary favourites as you celebrate Nova Scotia's multiculturalism.
Halifax Fringe Festival
The Halifax Fringe Festival is an annual performing arts festival held in late August and early September in Halifax. It lasts for two weeks and showcases non-mainstream theatre artists and a variety of original plays.
#2 Travel Tip: Try Nova Scotia wines
Sip your way through the Annapolis Valley on a winery tour and learn about cool climate wines, including Tidal Bay, Nova Scotia's signature style. Typically, tours run from May to October. — Katherine Foxcroft
Where to stay in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia welcomes tourists year-round and has accommodation options for all budgets. Choose from luxurious resorts, waterfront cottages, vintage bed and breakfasts, and charming countryside inns. Here are a few places you could add to your Nova Scotia trip.
- White Point Beach Resort in Hunts Point. This resort made it to National Geographic Traveller’s list of top 10 coastal destinations in the world. Stay in one of the comfy hotel rooms, or choose an oceanfront cottage. Located on Nova Scotia's South Shore, the resort is right by the water. Enjoy the stunning ocean views as you walk along the sandy beach.
- Muir Halifax Hotel. The Muir is a beautiful deluxe hotel in the heart of downtown Halifax near Queen's Marque, an emerging culinary district. The property has sweeping waterfront views, ocean access, an in-house art gallery, and a wellness centre.
- Cabot Cape Breton in Cape Breton. This resort overlooks the magnificent Cape Breton coastline. With some of the best professional golf courses in the world, this resort is a paradise for golfers. Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs are the popular award-winning golf courses on the property.
- Pictou Lodge Beachfront Resort. This property is right across the Northumberland Strait, and the Pictou beach is on the property. You can head for a quick swim anytime in the warm waters of the strait.
- Oak Island Resort. This property on Oak Island offers many accommodation options. You can stay in a nautical-themed hotel room, a beach house, or the ocean chalet. On-site amenities include a swimming pool, bike rentals, and a tennis court.
Famous Food in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia's cuisine is typically Canadian, with plenty of seafood. The province is famous for its lobster and scallops. Here are a few dishes you must try during your visit.
- Halifax Donair. When in Halifax, eat a Halifax donair. This tasty snack is similar to the Turkish Doner Kebab and is made of a pita wrap and spiced beef slices. As well as the meat, the pita is filled with onions, tomatoes, and a sweet garlic sauce or condensed milk sauce.
This is one of the most popular dishes in Nova Scotia and is loved by locals and tourists. Visit Johnny K’s Authentic Donairs or Snappy Tomato in Halifax.
- Seafood. Nova Scotia has saltwater and freshwater coastlines, so it is no surprise that seafood dominates food menus. Fish is served across the province in many ways - raw, steamed, baked, deep-fried. Delicious dishes made of lobsters, clams, mussels, and more can be found near the coast. Fish and chips and snow crab cakes are popular.
Recommended seafood restaurants include Churchill's Restaurant in Digby. Visit Rudder’s Brew Pub and Seafood Restaurant in Yarmouth and enjoy waterfront views as you dine. For a casual setting, head to The South Shore Fish Shack in Lunenburg, known for its fried seafood and lobster dishes.
- Hodge Podge. Hodge Podge is a traditional Nova Scotian one-pot meal made with fresh seasonal vegetables. This soup is usually served in summer and has a creamy consistency. Try this dish at places like The Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville.
- Blueberry Grunt. Oxford, Nova Scotia, is considered the blueberry capital of Canada. An abundance of wild blueberries grow in the region, so Blueberry Grunt is a must-try Nova Scotian dish. This dessert is made by combining a blueberry mixture with biscuit dough and then cooking it on the stove in a tightly covered pan. This blueberry treat is a crowd favourite. Restaurants like Salty's in Halifax or Island View Restaurant on the Western Shore may feature Blueberry Grunt on their menu.
- Rappie Pie. Rappie Pie is a traditional Acadian dish made with grated potatoes and meat. First, grated potatoes are treated to remove their water content. Then, the potatoes are blended with broth, meat (most popular option is chicken) and onions, and the mixture is baked.
You can try an authentic rappie pie in eateries in the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region. Dennis Point Cafe in Pubnico serves rappie pie.
Wildlife Viewing in Nova Scotia
Each season offers spectacular wildlife viewing experiences. Both spring and fall witness the return of migratory birds, with Cape Sable Island and Cape Breton Highlands providing excellent birdwatching opportunities.
As summer arrives, marine mammals, including pilot, minke, and humpback whales, can be seen in the coastal regions, and whale-watching excursions in the Bay of Fundy are a highlight. May to September is the best time to go whale watching. Throughout the year, seals and eagles are a common sight along the coastline. Puffins and seabird boat tours are available during the summer months.
Moose, black bears, lynx, and bobcats live in the forests of Nova Scotia. While these animals generally remain out of sight, there is a chance you could see them if you go hiking on the mainland or Cape Breton Island. You might see white-tailed deer and red squirrels, too.
[ Read: Whale Watching in Canada ]
#3 Travel Tip: More choice if you book early
Book your vacation to Nova Scotia early to secure the best accommodation and tour options. January to April is a great time to start planning your summer trip (peak season).
The best time to visit Nova Scotia depends on your interests and preferences. Summer is the most popular time to visit Nova Scotia. Warm weather conditions are perfect for exploring the outdoors. Although winter is cold, some travellers and winter sports enthusiasts will welcome the reduced crowds and snowsport opportunities. Plan accordingly and visit soon!
Frequently Asked Questions
How many days do you need in Nova Scotia?
A week (5-7 days) in Nova Scotia will allow you to explore the province's main attractions. However, the longer you stay, the more you'll see. If you are short on time, then you can discover the city of Halifax in 2 or 3 days.
What is the warmest month in Nova Scotia?
July, August, and September are the warmest months in Nova Scotia.
What is the tourist season in Nova Scotia?
There are three tourist seasons in Nova Scotia. Summer is the high season while winter is the low season. Spring and fall months make up the shoulder season.
When can you see the northern lights in Nova Scotia?
You may see the northern lights in Nova Scotia in the months of September, October, or March.
Is Nova Scotia warm in May?
Nova Scotia is warm in May. The daily high temperatures can be between 44°F and 63°F, while the daily low temperatures are between 31°F to 46°F.
Is Nova Scotia cold in June?
June marks the beginning of summer in Nova Scotia. It will start to get warmer. By mid-June, the average temperature is usually between 60 and 65°F.
About the author: Hannah Poaros-McDermott is the Senior Content Coordinator at Fresh Tracks Canada. She has previously written for and shared her local knowledge in Where Vancouver, Where Whistler, and Essential Vancouver magazines. Originally from the UK, Hannah travelled... Read more
Popular Train Trips to Explore Nova Scotia
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