Last Updated on July 8, 2023
Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital and largest city, has been welcoming visitors for over 265 years. Halifax is a city steeped in maritime history, culture, and nature.
Maritime history buffs will find lots to feed their curiosity at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Titanic Burial Ground at Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Nature lovers should check out Halifax Public Gardens and Point Pleasant Park. Culture aficionados will enjoy the Halifax Boardwalk and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Photographers will find unique photo opportunities throughout the city.
Titanic Burial Ground at Fairview Lawn Cemetery
On April 15, 1912, at 2:20 a.m., the RMS Titanic sank. White Star Line, the company that owned the ship, had offices in Halifax, so they commissioned four Canadian vessels to go to the disaster area and look for bodies.
These vessels recovered 328 Titanic victims and returned 209 bodies to Halifax. They buried individuals they believed to be Protestant in Fairview Lawn Cemetery.
You’ll notice several things about the burial ground. They arranged the headstones in rows resembling the bow of a ship, all carrying the date April 15, 1912. Since the water temperatures were freezing, historians believe that the victims died from exposure soon after the Titanic sank.
As they recovered bodies, they assigned each body a number. Each headstone has that number engraved on it. Some gravestones don’t contain names, because in some cases there were no distinguishing marks to determine the body’s identity. Through the years, research shows some names were misspelled.
White Star Line purchased the plot of land and a small black granite headstone for each victim. Family, friends, and groups paid for the larger, more elaborate headstones with additional engraving.
Look for the monuments that are the tributes to the Unknown Child and the Celtic Cross.
To learn more about the Titanic Burial Ground, visit Fairview Lawn Cemetery.
Halifax Boardwalk and Waterfront
The 2.5-mile-long harbor front is one of the longest urban boardwalks in the world—restaurants, shops, and entertainment abound. The waterfront sits along a working harbor, so you’ll find a lot of activity on the water too. It makes for fun viewing as you sit in the bright orange hammocks to chill and enjoy the ocean breeze. You’ll see everything from naval ships to ferries and sailboats.
Take in the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market that has been around since 1750. It’s the longest continuously operating farmers’ market in North America and has over 250 vendors. It’s the perfect place to grab a snack on your stroll along the waterfront.
During summer, the kiddos will enjoy a quick cool down in the fountain at Bishop’s Landing. Additionally, the Submarine (Children’s) Playground is an interactive submarine playground structure with portholes, a periscope, and a sea-themed slide.
Maritime enthusiasts will want to take in the CSS Acadia and the HMCS Sackville, Canada’s oldest warship. The CSS Acadia is the only ship still afloat that survived the 1917 Halifax Explosion.
Art lovers will want to take in the blue wave sculpture, one of the most photographed items on the boardwalk; the Drunken lampposts; and the art murals.
Discover more about Halifax’s waterfront here.
Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
In the mid-1800s, they built the star-shaped Citadel fortress overlooking what is now Halifax. The star shape was characteristic of 19th-century British military forts because it provided the garrison the ability to fire in sweeping arcs.
Begin at the Information Center for a guided tour or opt for a self-guided tour. History comes alive here with re-enactments of the two regiments that played significant roles in Nova Scotia’s history, the Royal Artillery and the kilted 78th Highlanders.
The Royal Artillery operated and maintained weapons, ammunition, and powder. In Halifax tradition, the Royal Artillery fires the daily Noon gun at the Halifax Citadel, which is the oldest continuous Noon gun in the world.
Add a historical escape to your time in Halifax by being a soldier for the day at Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. This experience dresses you in an authentic uniform from the Queen’s Army, where you’ll participate in the soldier’s foot drills, and train in firearms with a genuine rifle.
Other activities at the Citadel include an immersive Army museum and an after-dark ghost walk. To learn more, visit their site.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, located on Halifax’s waterfront, continues the Titanic theme started at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. The museum is Canada’s largest and oldest maritime museum. Their Titanic exhibit represents how Halifax responded to the Titanic tragedy, and their Titanic collection includes over 20,000 artifacts and photographs.
The museum contains nine other permanent exhibits, including The Halifax Explosion, The CSS Acadia, a Gallery of Small Crafts, WM Robertson & Son, Theodore the Tugboat, the Days of Sail Gallery, The Age of Steam Gallery, Shipwreck Treasures, and The Navy Gallery.
Check out more information on the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
Halifax Public Gardens
Established in 1867, the Halifax Public Gardens is the oldest Victorian garden in North America. Located in the center of downtown Halifax, across from Victoria Park, this 16-acre retreat became a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984.
One-hour historical and horticultural tours are available throughout the week by reservation. On tour, you’ll find wrought-iron gates, a bandstand, statues, two stone bridges, three fountains, a large pond, and two smaller ponds.
In 1907, the large wrought-iron gates were erected as an entrance to the Public Gardens to honor the Halifax Provincial Battalion.
Halifax Public Gardens features several statues, including The Roman Goddesses of the Public Gardens. The Roman Goddesses include three statues and six urns installed in 1887 in flowerbeds around the bandstand. Chief Justice Sir William Young’s estate gifted these to the gardens. The sculptures represent Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and fertility; Flore, the goddess of flowers and spring; and Diana, the goddess of woodland and wild animals. Recently vandals destroyed the statue of Diana.
The Public Garden’s bandstand offers free concerts on summer Sunday afternoons. To discover more details before you go, visit Halifax Public Gardens.
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Pier 21 is Canada’s equivalent to the United States’ Ellis Island and the entry point for more than a million immigrants. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 celebrates Canadian immigration throughout Canada’s history.
Interactive exhibits allow you to imagine the journey to your new home in Canada through a replica of a ship’s cabin and dining room. Once you’ve immigrated, experience the journey onward to the west in one of the colonist railway cars.
For more information, visit the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Point Pleasant Park
Halifax rents Point Pleasant Park from the British Government for one shilling (approximately ten cents in US dollars) a year. They have a 999-year lease on the 186-acre park. If you’re out for a run, you can access the park through a neighborhood or the container shipping port area.
A mix of flat land and hills with wide paths and gravel trails makes Point Pleasant Park an interesting place for walking, running, or bicycling. Hikes include views of McNab Island, the open ocean, and the North West arm. The beaches make a beautiful place for shelling, while wooded paths provide for serene walks.
Point Pleasant Park is a dog-friendly park for leashed dogs. Dogs can enjoy some freedom in a limited off-leash area.
In the park, you’ll find ruins of forts and old artillery batteries that provide a sense of Halifax’s history. The Sailor’s Memorial, the most significant monument, honors members of the armed services lost at sea. Another historic area within the park is The Prince of Wales Tower National Historic Site, an 18th-century Martello Tower, the oldest in North America.
To download a map of Point Pleasant Park, visit their website.
On December 6, 1917, the Halifax Explosion devastated Halifax’s north end. They rebuilt the award-winning Hydrostone neighborhood in an English-garden style. It’s ten blocks wide and one block deep. The broad tree-lined boulevards spotlight 1920s-style row houses in a Tudor-Revival style, made from Hydrostone concrete blocks.
The neighborhood’s Young Street boundary, known as Hydrostone Market, is lined with restaurants and shops. Boutiques sell fine art, jewelry, and handmade soaps. After some shopping, indulge yourself at the Uptown Salon and Spa for a day of total relaxation.
Then check out Hydrostone Market’s casual dining fare that includes gourmet pizza, sandwiches, and sushi.
If you’re in the mood for Italian food, Salvatore’s Pizzaiolo Trattoria serves award-winning thin-crust gourmet pizza. Sal’s Pizzaiolo Trattoria goes for simplicity in their pizza. The original comes brushed with garlic-infused extra-virgin olive oil, Sal’s traditional tomato sauce, covered in mozzarella cheese, grated Parmesan, and herbs.
For Asian cuisine, try Hamachi Kita, where they serve sushi and arguably Halifax’s best tempura.
Visit this site to learn more about the charming Hydrostone neighborhood.
Fort Needham Memorial Park
The Fort Needham Memorial Bell Tower is a tribute to those who lost their lives or were injured in the 1917 Halifax Explosion. The bells strike on the hour between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and at dusk there’s a light show.
The park features a children’s playground, picnic tables, and an off-leash dog area, making it an excellent place for families to enjoy time together. To learn more about the Halifax explosion, click here.
Spring Garden Road
Spring Garden Road gets its name from the freshwater spring that runs directly underneath the road.
Located on the front lawn of the former Spring Garden Road branch of the Halifax Public Library, be sure to see Halifax’s Winston Churchill statue. It stands 10 feet tall and weighs one and a half tons. The sculpture represents Churchill during a visit to Halifax.
Between South Park and Brunswick, you’ll find many one-of-a-kind shops. And Spring Garden Road borders Halifax Public Gardens on one side.
To learn more about the Spring Garden Road, visit their site.