A busy, metropolitan city, Halifax is nevertheless fully engaged in enjoying the great outdoors. While locals make the best of harsh Atlantic winters with skiing, skating, and other snow sports, they’re looking forward to sun and sand the second the last snowflake melts.
Walking and Hiking in Halifax
Even if you’re not feeling overly energetic, plan to take a stroll along the downtown waterfront. A seawall promenade winds past docks filled with all manner of boats (tall ships, tugboats, and visiting yachts), harbor-front restaurants, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Historic Properties, and south to Pier 21. While it’s possible to do all your downtown sightseeing on foot, an easier option is to catch a cab to Citadel Hill, from which it’s downhill all the way back to the harbor. At Citadel Hill, take the time not only to visit the fort but also to walk around the perimeter, and then cross Sackville Street to the Public Gardens, a delightful place for a flower-filled stroll.
McNabs Island is a popular destination for day-tripping hikers.
Point Pleasant Park, 2.5 kilometers south of downtown, off Young Avenue, is laced with hiking and biking trails. The obvious choice is to stick to the water, along a two-kilometer (one-way) trail that hugs the shoreline, passing Point Pleasant itself before winding around to the Northwest Arm. Other trails lead inland to historic fortifications and through the remains of forests devastated by Hurricane Juan in 2003.
Across the Northwest Arm from downtown, Sir Sandford Fleming Park flanks the water in an upscale neighborhood. Again, it’s the seawall walk that is most popular, but another pleasant trail leads up through the forest to Frog Lake.
Take the Bedford Highway north from downtown and then one kilometer north of the Kearney Lake Road junction and watch for Kent Avenue (to the left), which leads into a dense old-growth forest protected as Hemlock Ravine Park. From the pond and picnic area, a world away from surrounding development, five trails branch off into the forest. Some are short and perfect for younger and older walkers, while others, including the trail to the hemlock-filled ravine, are steeper and can be slippery after rain.
Bicycling in Halifax
The local municipality, with its many lakes and harbor-side coves, has put considerable effort into making the city as bike-friendly as possible. The Halifax Regional Municipality website has a PDF bike map, or pick one up at the information center. A centrally located source for rentals and advice is Ideal Bikes (1678 Barrington St., 902/444-7433). Standard bikes cost from $25 for two hours or $50 for a full day.
Freewheeling Adventures (902/857-3600 or 800/672-0775) is a local tour company that runs recommended guided bike trips along the South Shore, starting from Hubbards, just south of the city. Guests ride for up to six hours per day, stay in cottages or B&Bs, and have all meals included. Rates start at $2,300 per person.
Water Sports in Halifax
Swimming and Sunbathing
Municipal swimming pools include Northcliffe Pool (111 Clayton Park Dr., 902/490-4690) and Needham Pool (3372 Devonshire Ave., 902/490-4633).
Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park lies a half-hour south of Halifax, off Highway 349, and is the locals’ favorite Atlantic beach. Its sand is fine, and the sea is usually cold, but summer crowds heat up the action. Nature lovers will enjoy the 10-kilometer trail to remote Pennant Point, while naturists will want to gravitate to the farthest of the park’s three beaches—one of Canada’s few official nude beaches.
If you’re visiting Fisherman’s Cove, head east for eight kilometers along Cow Bay Road to reach Rainbow Haven Provincial Park. The park protects wetlands at the mouth of Cole Harbour and an ocean-facing beach. The beach is often windy (it’s not uncommon to see people sunbathing back in the dunes), but on calm days it’s a delightful place to soak up some rays and maybe, if you’re brave, take a dip in the water. At the end of the park access road are changing rooms and a concession selling beachy food (ice cream and hot dogs).
Canoeing and Kayaking
Based on the Northwest Arm, Saint Mary’s Boat Club (1641 Fairfield Rd., 902/490-4688) rents canoes at no cost on a limited basis through summer. Canoes are available June-September (Sat.-Sun. 11am-7pm).
Golfing in Halifax
Halifax and the surrounding area are home to more than a dozen courses, varying from 9-hole public courses to exclusive 18-holers. The Nova Scotia Golf Association website has links to all provincial courses.
Host of the 2012 TELUS World Skins, Glen Arbour Golf Course (Glen Arbour Way, off Hammonds Plains Rd., 1 km west of Bedford, 902/835-4653) is one of Canada’s finest links. Choose from five sets of tees, to a maximum of 6,800 yards. The course has abundant water hazards, 90 bunkers, and fairways lined by hardwood forests. Greens fees top out at $105 in midsummer, dropping as low as $60 for twilight golf in October.
Lost Creek Golf Club (310 Kinsac Rd., 902/865-4653) enjoys the same forested environment as Glen Arbour, but without the valet parking and high greens fees (golfing is just $46). To get there, take Exit 2 from Highway 101 and follow Beaverbank Road north for 10 kilometers; turn right on Kinsac Road and then left on William Nelson Drive.
One of the region’s most enjoyable layouts is Granite Springs (25 km west of downtown, off Hwy. 333 at 4441 Prospect Rd., Bayside, 902/852-4653). This challenging course winds through 120 hectares of mature forest, with distant ocean views. Greens fees are $58 ($38 twilight).