Here’s Our Experience Driving to Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, and Peggy’s Cove, NS!
Looking to explore parts of Nova Scotia’s South Shore? A day trip to Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and Peggy’s Cove is a great idea! These popular seaside towns/attractions each have their own history and charm – that’s what makes them so popular.
Of course, these places are located outside of Halifax. So, you have the option to hop in a car and drive yourself or hop on a guided tour so that you don’t have to handle navigation and logistics!
We ended up going on a Halifax day trip with our friends who live in the area. Armed with a rental car, we made our own loop itinerary from Halifax and explored each of these places – and more!
So, here’s our experience visiting historic Lunenburg, cute Mahone Bay, and popular Peggy’s Cove on a day trip itinerary from Halifax. We’ve included everywhere we stopped for food, notable seaside attractions, and more!
Lunenburg & Peggy’s Cove Tours from Halifax
In case you are short on time – or don’t want to drive to Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove yourself – there are plenty of top-rated tours that will take you to explore these classic places in Nova Scotia!
The nice thing about tours from Halifax is that they are all slightly different to suit different interests. Many East Coast tours offer Lunenburg or Peggy’s Cove – so check out these tour options:
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Our Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and Peggy’s Cove Experience
Here’s a detailed breakdown of our exact day itinerary from Halifax down the South Shore coast to Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, and Peggy’s Cove.
Our Nova Scotia South Shore day itinerary consisted of (in order):
- Leaving Halifax
- Mahone Bay (+Lunch)
- Driving through Chester
- White Sails Cafe (Pit Stop)
- Swiss Air 111 Memorial
- Peggy’s Cove
- Returning to Halifax
We had numerous stops along the way for food, sightseeing, etc. We took Highway 103 out of the city towards Lunenburg, then used Trunk 3 (+ Lighthouse Route) to basically follow the coastline back in the direction of Peggy’s Cove/Halifax.
Driving to Lunenburg
If you have a car – like we did – the drive to Lunenburg is pretty simple.
Leaving Halifax past Long Lake Provincial Park, we hopped on Highway 103 heading southwest out of the city towards Lunenburg. The drive is about 50 minutes. You can follow signs off the highway to Northwest Road (324) all the way into town.
Once you get to Lunenburg, there is street parking on neighbourhood streets a short walk from the waterfront. This is where we parked.
Alternatively, there’s a massive paid parking lot right in the heart of town between the docks and the houses.
The central parking lot is likely to be very busy with cars and buses during the summer months so just keep that in mind. We cover everything about going from Halifax to Lunenburg here in more detail, if you need!
As mentioned, our first stop of the day was the town of Lunenburg. Lunenburg is a popular place to visit in Canada because of its historical significance.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s considered “the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America”.
Established in 1753, the town is largely unchanged from a layout perspective and features much of the original wooden architecture.
We just walked around to take in the sights and shops. We started at the waterfront where there are numerous tourism booths promoting various attractions and tours. We actually saw the Bluenose II come in from a sailing tour (which you can book).
Once it was docked, you could walk onto the upper deck for free – so we did that. It was neat to be on such a prominent part of Canadian history!
We wandered along the harbour to the quieter areas where you’ll find an old antique shop with lots of spindrifts for sale. Other attractions, like The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, are also down there.
After walking along the harbour, we headed more into the town to have a look at the many shops, cafes, inns and B&Bs, and other historic points of interest.
Montague Street has many places to eat and drink so be sure to check it out. Our friends like Shipwright Brewing Company but there are quite a few other options as well. You’ll probably find a place that suits your food/drink needs!
Further up the hill (the whole town is essentially a grid system), Lincoln Street has a number of art galleries you can explore. A local cafe, Laughing Whale Coffee Roasters, is also on Lincoln Street.
At the top of the hill on Fox Street, you can find Hillcrest Cemetery close to the Lunenburg Academy. It’s a beautiful old building – which is apparently haunted – and is worth photographing.
Don’t forget to just wander around and enjoy the wooden buildings, their unique architecture, and the various colours of each of them!
Oh, and if you need to use the washroom, the Bluenose Public Washroom Lunenburg was clean and convenient close to the waterfront.
Visiting Mahone Bay
After leaving Lunenburg, we headed up the road/coast for only about 15 minutes (on Trunk 3) to Mahone Bay.
This is another smaller seaside town with colourful buildings that house shops, cafes, historic inns, and much more.
You can also explore the shoreline along Mahone Harbour. Our main purpose for a stop in Mahone Bay was for lunch, so we headed to The Biscuit Eater.
This is a cafe/restaurant and book shop tucked away just a short walk from the main triangle intersection in town.
We had coffees and juices and biscuit sandwiches – like a BLT or pulled chicken with brie and cranberries – but on a biscuit. They also had a biscuit basket which had spicy jalapeños and creamy slaw.
Everything we had was really good and the guy serving us was super friendly!
We didn’t go on this visit, but our local friends said that the Tea Brewery is also very good. The Boulangerie La Vendéenne also has good French pastries on the way back to Highway 103 from Mahone Bay.
Driving Between Mahone Bay and Peggy’s Cove
After lunch, we left Mahone Bay and headed for Peggy’s Cove – but took our time meandering along Trunk 3. This road offers a mix of seaside views and dense forest which makes it really pretty.
About 25 minutes after Mahone Bay we made a point to pass through the tiny town of Chester. It’s a historic seaside village where you can check out the boats in the harbour. After looping down to the water, we drove up on Queen Street through the main area.
This is where you’ll find galleries, a tavern, cafes – like The Kiwi Cafe – and gift shops.
After Chester, it was another 50 minutes to our next stop – White Sails Bakery & Deli (Address: 12930 Peggys Cove Rd, Tantallon, NS B3Z 2K4).
We’d suggest driving Trunk 3 all the way there. This way, you can get ocean views (and can even stop at a beach or two) around St. Margaret’s Bay. We especially loved the part of the drive around Queensland Beach Nova Scotia.
At the bakery, they have delicious sweets on the left and a massive menu board for savoury lunch items on the right. As this was a “sweets” stop, we got things like chocolate chip cookies, a Chocolate Skor Bar, and a cinnamon sugar donut for takeaway.
If you’re not in a rush, they have picnic tables to sit down by the water – in case you want this to be a longer stop.
They also have a deli as well so they do things like smoked meat sandwiches. White Sails is directly off the road (Peggy’s Cove Road) making it an easy stop.
After this stop, you’ll already be on Peggy’s Cove Rd, which is part of the famous Lighthouse Route, and can head south towards Peggy’s Cove!
Swissair 111 Memorial Site
Address: 8250 NS-333, Indian Harbour, NS B3Z 3R5
Before we got to Peggy’s Cove, we made a stop just up the road at the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial Site.
On September 2, 1998, Swissair flight 111 crashed into the ocean about 8 kilometres offshore. With no survivors, the multi-nation recovery effort that followed impacted Halifax (and the surrounding area) profoundly.
Now, you can visit a rock monument that remembers those who died and the efforts that followed. The memorial site is reachable after a short walk on a trail along the rocky, barren coastline.
Read More: Best Time to Visit Parts of Canada (Seasons Explained)
There’s a small parking lot making it easy to stop and there are various bits of information to read along the way.
On a clear day, you can see out to sea and easily see Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse. Unfortunately, it was foggy the day we visited so we didn’t get that experience!
Visiting Peggy’s Cove
If you drive another 5 minutes down the road, you’re basically at Peggy’s Cove and the location of the famous Lighthouse.
When you arrive, there are actually two parking lots: one near the visitor centre and another very close to the actual Lighthouse. We cover all of this in our specific guide on going from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove.
We chose the first parking lot so that we could walk through the small village of Peggy’s Cove before reaching the coastline to see the Lighthouse.
Up near the Lighthouse, there are large, new wooden boardwalks which are great for accessibility.
There’s also a renewed pathway on the rocky terrain heading towards the lighthouse. This pathway ends, however, and it’s all rough coastline walking (a mix of flat rock, large boulders, and grassy areas) to the Lighthouse.
The rugged area around the coast is basically a free-for-all where you can clamber your way across the coastline (at your own risk).
The day we visited was quite foggy so we noticed fewer people visiting (for July) – but it was still quite busy. The weather made the area very mysterious and yet very peaceful.
We just walked around taking photos, exploring tide pools and had a sit down on the flat rock taking in the sea air.
You pretty much go anywhere you want – but listen to the posted signs. Dry, white rocks are generally safest but it is very dangerous to get close to the crashing waves of the rocky shoreline.
Keep in Mind: Rocks that look black mean the waves can reach there. It’s definitely a no-go zone. Tourists die there unfortunately and the warning signs make no joke about this saying “you’ll be rewarded with death”. So please, be careful!
As for amenities, there’s a visitor centre with washrooms, some shops, small galleries, and a café/restaurant close to the lighthouse (where the second parking lot is). This is also where you typically find the tour buses parked.
That’s why we recommend the parking lot further away because you get a sense of the little fishing village and cove on the way.
Peggy’s Cove Insider Trail Tip: Just east of Peggy’s Cove is Polly Cove Hiking Trail. It’s more rugged and less busy than Peggy’s Cove. You get a good view of Peggy’s Cove and Lighthouse from about 500 metres to 1 km away. It’s very open with different paths so you can walk as long or as short as you please!
Returning to Halifax
After our time at Peggy’s Cove, we hopped back in the car and continued back towards Halifax. We took the same road – now called Prospect Road (333) – all the way back.
It rolls along the south shore past lakes, more rocky shorelines, and forests before spitting you out by Long Lake Provincial Park. From there we headed back towards Downtown via Trunk 3 but you can also easily hop on Highway 102 to drive elsewhere in the city/region!
Heading to the Canadian East Coast? If you’re planning a Canada trip, check out these other helpful guides on Atlantic Canada and more:
- Things to Do in Halifax Nova Scotia
- How to Spend One Day in Halifax, NS
- Where to Stay in Halifax – Accommodations and Areas
- Packing for a Canada Trip
And there you have it – our experience exploring Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, and Peggy’s Cove on a day trip from Halifax.
It’s definitely best to have a car so that you can move at your own pace and make stops at whatever interests you – but hopping on a guided tour to some of these locations is also a nice way to explore a bit more of Nova Scotia!
As always, Happy Waddlin’,