YOUR GUIDE TO ROAD TRIP SEASON: Where to eat, drink and wander in the South Shore and the Annapolis Valley this summer
It’s windows-down season again, finally. Time to hit the road. And why not to the South Shore or the Annapolis Valley? Both are within an hour’s drive of Halifax and together they’re home to some of the freshest food, finest wines and most stunning geography in the country. Read on for two day trips that will give you a good taste of both.
MORE THAN JUST LIGHTHOUSES AND FISH AND CHIPS, THE SOUTH SHORE IS WHERE THE PROVINCE’S BEST BRUNCH, BEACHES AND FINER DINING MEET
The Kiwi Café
19 Pleasant Street, Chester
From Halifax, take the meandering Highway 3 — part of the Lighthouse Route — along the coast to the village of Chester and The Kiwi Café. And do it with a slightly empty stomach; you’ll need it to really enjoy the all-day brunch here inside the bright café or out on the sunny, pet-friendly patio. The scrambled eggs with lobster and LaHave Bakery toast is always a good choice as is the Kiwi Breakfast Sandwich (toasted English muffin, fresh cooked egg, cheddar, bacon). Top it off with a fresh cup of Java Blend coffee or a Caesar and follow it with a stroll around a community that’s been here since 1759.
Historic Shelburne Waterfront
119 Old Birchtown Road, Shelburne
Hop back in the car and keep winding your way down the Lighthouse Route to the town of Shelburne, which, in the 1780s, was the fourth largest community in North America. Once a thriving fishing and shipbuilding centre, it’s much smaller today. But if you stroll along the waterfront it won’t be hard to imagine what life was like here. The port is edged by dozens of restored buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, including 33 original United Empire Loyalist homes. No wonder this place was used for the backdrop to historic films and miniseries like The Scarlet Letter and The Book of Negroes. Nearby, check out Boxing Rock Brewing Company and the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre.
Hirtle Beach Road, Kingsburg
Not up for the two-plus-hour drive from Chester to Shelburne? How about a 20-minute drive south of Lunenburg to more than three kilometres of white sand and rolling surf bookended by drumlin cliffs? If you’re not into the Atlantic chill, there are two small lakes to hop into just behind the beach. Or if you need to get warmed up before jumping in the ocean, take the seven-kilometre looped trail to Gaff Point from the west end of the beach. As you hike out to the tip of the peninsula, you’ll come across estuary, forest, rugged coastline and even a private beach.
Petite Rivière Vineyards
1300 Italy Cross, Crousetown
On a backroad about 30 kilometres west of Hirtle’s Beach sits this small winery overlooking rolling hills planted with row upon row of grape vines. French colonists planted the first vines in this area in the early 1600s, making it one of the oldest wine growing regions in North America. That French influence is still apparent here in Petite Rivière’s renowned bold and fruity reds, its French-style winery building, and the large terrace overlooking the vineyards that may make you think you’re in Provence. Learn more about it all on a tour (Wednesday – Sunday, May – October).
The South Shore Fish Shack
108 Montague Street, Lunenburg
You’re probably getting hungry by now (that is, if you didn’t hit up LaHave Bakery on your way to Petite Rivière, which you should). But if it’s too early for dinner, visit the South Shore’s crown jewel, Lunenburg, and this modern fish shack for the freshest seafood snacks around. Oysters, beer-battered fish and chips, clams, steamed lobster, cod tongues, scallops — take your pick. Pair with local craft beer or wine and harbour views from one of two patios.
Lunenburg Finer Dining
Dinner options in Lunenburg seem endless, but if you want the town’s finest there are really three restaurants to hit (all usually requiring reservations). Fleur de Sel is an elegant, award-winning resto with a garden patio that combines Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador’s love of classical French cuisine and carefully-sourced ingredients. A couple blocks away is the slightly more relaxed Rime Restaurant and Wine Bar, which is all about plating the region’s finest oysters, mussels, artisanal cheese and prime meats in innovative ways. Then there’s Lincoln Street Food, a more modern option than the other two that’s simple yet stylish with a short market-inspired menu. Think sustainable fish and meat, and vegetables always taking centre plate.
Cilantro The Cooks Shop
3 Kings Street, Lunenburg
All of that fine food may inspire you to attempt making your own. If you don’t have all the tools, make a final road trip stop at this bright green kitchenware store just outside of Lunenburg. There isn’t a better place for finding all of the gadgets you need.
THE WINE MAY HAVE PUT THE VALLEY ON THE MAP, BUT ITS BACKROAD FOOD, DRINK AND OUTDOOR GEMS ARE HELPING KEEP IT THERE
Frais Catering – Wolfville Farmers’ Market
24 Elm Avenue, Wolfville
You won’t be able to do everything on this list in one day, but any Saturday visit to the Valley should start with breakfast at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market. Over 60 farmers, chefs and artisan vendors set up shop there in the old apple warehouse just off Main Street, but the two you should meet first are Stephane Levac and Sarah Morrison, owners of Frais Catering. Locals know their breakfast sandwiches made on fresh, homemade bagels rival any this side of Montreal. Now you do too. Market hours: Saturday 8:30 am – 1 pm (year-round), Wednesday 4 pm – 7 pm (May – December).
Hiking – Blomidon Provincial Park and Cape Split
Blomidon: 3138 Pereau Rd, Canning
Cape Split: 999 Cape Split Road, Scots Bay
The Valley is packed with solid hiking trails to walk that breakfast sandwich off, but the ones at Blomidon Provincial Park and Cape Split — both about 30 kilometres from Wolfville — should be at the top of your list. On Blomidon’s 14 kilometres of interconnected loops you’ll come across 600-foot cliffs, a red sand beach, mixed forests and fantastic spots for picnics overlooking the Minas Basin. Cape Split’s gorgeous and moderately difficult 16 kilometre coastal trail rises from sea level to 200 feet through old forest. The reward at the end is a grassy field on top of sheer cliffs where the Bay of Fundy and Minas Basin meet.
The Wolfville Magic Winery Bus
You may want to get off your feet after a good hike, and this hop-on, hop-off winery excursion may be the ticket. A classic British double-decker bus will pick you up in Wolfville and drop you at five nearby wineries: Domaine de Grand Pré, Luckett Vineyards, L’Acadie Vineyards, Gaspereau Vineyards, and Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards. Together they’ll give you a broad cross-section of the region’s unique terroir and a taste of some of the most acclaimed wines in the country. Thursday – Sunday, June 1 – October 15.
Choose Your Own Winery Adventure
The Magic Winery Bus will give you a great overview of the region’s wines, but there are others you should check out on your own. Among them: Benjamin Bridge, one of the country’s premium sparkling wine houses; Planters Ridge, a state-of-the-art winery in a 150-year-old barn; and Avondale Sky, the 2015 and 2016 Winery of the Year recipient at the Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards. Many have snacks or even full meals available to pair. Just remember that designated driver.
The Union Street
183 Commercial Street, Berwick
If your winery tour takes you west of Wolfville towards Berwick, stop into this newly renovated pub, restaurant and award-winning music venue on the town’s main drag. Locally minded before “local” was a buzzword, The Union Street is, as Chef Michael Smith said, “Canadian cuisine at its best. . . . It’s the sort of neighbourhood joint that we all wish was just down the street.” Expect fresh pub-inspired eats (including vegetarian options), craft beer and cider, lots of natural light, the best of small-town service and an intimate live music hotspot where the likes of Joel Plaskett, Matt Mays and Ron Sexsmith have played.
11827 Highway 1, Grand Pré
On your way back east, take the Evangeline Trail to this mini Eden near Grand Pré. Most know Tangled Garden for its homemade jellies, jams, chutneys, mustards, vinegars and liqueurs, but you can also walk the four-acre labyrinth of gardens here. And take a boozy pop with you. Made with fresh juice and a splash of liqueur, they’re the perfect pairing to a summer stroll.
D’Vine Morsels at Avondale Sky Winery
80 Avondale Cross Road, Newport
If your winery tour takes you to Avondale Sky Winery, stay for lunch at its summer-only restaurant. The menu changes, but the focus is on seasonal medium plates that last year included a charcuterie and cheese board, seafood chowder, quinoa strawberry salad, pan seared scallop risotto, a lobster roll and more. Whether you’re seated inside the restored church or on the patio looking out over the vines, it’s bucolic dining at its finest.
The Flying Apron Inn & Cookery
3 Summerville Wharf Road, Summerville
Though slightly off the beaten path, this is the perfect spot to end your Valley road trip. The restaurant and four-star inn is typically known for its always changing menu sourced with ingredients from within 15 minutes away, cooking classes and “Dining on the Ocean Floor” excursions, but it’s the desserts alone that make the trip worth it. The options change almost daily and could include a strudel or pie, gluten-free chocolate cake, crème brûlée, lemon tart or cream cheese pie. They’ll all take you to one sweet nirvana.
Want more South Shore and Annapolis Valley road trip ideas? Pick up the 2017 Curated Guide or visit thecuratedguide.ca.