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Arrival in Halifax
I started my journey in the city of Halifax and spent the night there before heading out on my two-hour drive to Antigonish the next morning. Having less than 24 hours in a city has never stopped me from exploring, so I did what I do and squeezed in some sightseeing before I got on the road. While I arrived after most businesses had closed, and would be leaving the next day before the city really got going again, I still had a fun time exploring the beautiful waterfront in Halifax. It is full of shops, cafes, restaurants, and even has the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, so don’t miss it.
If you have more time to explore than I did, here are some suggestions: Solo Travel to Halifax: Why, How and 10 Things to Do.
Do you like history and/or shooting antique rifles? Then you have to visit the Halifax Citadel! Located on one of the highest points in the city, it is a fort that was built in 1749 and in operation until the late-19th century, it is now a living museum where you can immerse yourself in the military history of Halifax. For an added fee, you can even dress up like an old-timey British soldier and fire an antique rifle, an activity I highly recommend.
How Does One Pronounce Antigonish?
You may not have heard of the town of Antigonish (An-tee-go-nish), I admit that I had not prior to this trip. But, you may have heard of St. Francis Xavier University, which is located in this town, because of its many distinguished graduates which include a former Canadian Prime Minister. The town officially has a population of about 4,600, but it definitely feels like a much larger place. I think that’s in part because the locals really know how to throw a party.
Once I reached Antigonish from Halifax, as part of the lead up to the Highland Games, I attended a memorial ceremony. Commemorating the Battle of Culloden, this morning ceremony has been taking place since 1982. A cairn (a man-made pile of stones used as a marker) was built in 1938 to commemorate three men who had fought in the Battle of Culloden and who had immigrated to Nova Scotia from Scotland in 1791. It was a spectacular morning remembering these men with the backdrop of the ocean, not to mention we also enjoyed a wee dram of Scotch to properly cap off the celebration. Under normal circumstances, it would probably have been a bit early in the morning for me to drink, but when in Rome…
Tasting My Way from Halifax to Antigonish
Now that the Scotch has gotten my taste buds going, it would only be fair to explore other delicious options in the Antigonish region of Nova Scotia. The Knoydart Cheese House was a stop I had to make as I love cheese. All of the cheese is made using milk from the adjacent farm, which is the only grass-fed certified organic dairy farm in Atlantic Canada. I can confirm that the cheese is delicious.
After you’ve visited the Knoydart Cheese House, you should drive five minutes down the road to the Steinhart Distillery. The Steinhart family has been distilling alcohol for almost 300 years, and now you can enjoy some of those secret family recipes. I was impressed at the variety of spirits available as most distilleries usually specialize in just one or two types. That isn’t the case here as they offer a variety of flavored vodkas and gins, whiskys, the occasional smoked beer, and they are currently working on a tequila. They are probably most famous for their infused spirits which you will find served at many establishments in Nova Scotia. I enjoyed a delicious sampler as I chatted with the friendly staff, and caught up on the local news that included some drama with lobster fishermen.
I can’t emphasize the word friendly enough to describe the folks you’ll encounter out here. Canadians are generally known as a friendly bunch, but I have to say that the friendliness you will encounter in Atlantic Canada is on a scale that makes the rest of us look rude. Keep that in mind during your visit to Nova Scotia, because it can be a bit unnerving at first for someone from a larger city, until you realize that that’s just how people act when they’re just all really genuinely nice and great people!
Continuing my exploration of the food in the area, I highly recommend visiting the chocolate shop on Main Street in Antigonish called Peace by Chocolate. The shop is owned by a Syrian family who lost everything when their chocolate factory was bombed during the civil war in Syria in 2012. They were then forced to leave Syria and were finally able to relocate to Antigonish as refugees in 2016, where the Hadhad family was able to reopen the family’s chocolate business. A film adaptation of their story, also called Peace by Chocolate, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021. From Halifax to Antigonish and all around the world, this story has warmed hearts.
I was not only moved by the family’s story, but also at how the town of Antigonish has supported this family who had lost everything in a senseless war and has welcomed them with open arms. It should also surprise no one that Antigonish has welcomed many Ukrainians who have been displaced due to the current war in their homeland. As I mentioned before, the people you’ll meet here are genuinely some of the best people you’ll ever encounter.
I posted a video on Instagram you can see here if you’d like a very quick tour of the Knoydart Cheese House, Steinhart Distillery, and Peace by Chocolate.
For those who want a bigger party, add the Annual Stroll the Main Street Fair to your pre-Highland Games festivities. Don’t let the generic sounding name of this street fair fool you into thinking it’ll be an afternoon of drinking tea with your pinky in the air. I think street party is a more accurate description of this event as they close off a large portion of Main Street and fill it with vendors selling everything from one-of-a-kind crafts to cotton candy. Performers ranging from musical acts to buskers are also on hand to thrill and entertain you. For a taste of what’s in store during your future visit, check out the video I posted to Instagram about the street fair.
Now that you’ve gotten a preview of my trip from Halifax to Antigonish and some of my pre-Highland Games festivities, look out for my next article for more of my adventures as I experience my first highland games, discover more about the area, and attempt to perform a magic trick at a lighthouse!
Thank you to Tourism Nova Scotia for sponsoring my trip. All experiences and impressions are my own, and Solo Traveler maintains complete editorial control over all content.
Last updated: 24th July, 2023