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Nova Scotia Travel Guide

Nova Scotia is a lobster-shaped, maritime province[1] with a landscape that changes drastically with intrigue – from rustic farms and gently rolling hills, to boggy uplands and glacial lakes, to dense inland forests and rugged, mountainous peaks. The province truly romances its visitors and is famous for its quaint fishing villages.[2] Encompassing over 55,000 square kilometers of land, Nova Scotia as Canada’s anchor in the Atlantic Ocean is cut off by the sea from Canada except for a narrow isthmus called the Chignecto, which attaches to New Brunswick; the rest of the province is an island connected only to the peninsula by a mile-long causeway.[3] This isolation has helped preserve the myriad traditions of its French-Acadian, Scottish, and Loyalist settlers and their slower way of life.[4]

Nova Scotia is not just a pretty place, however. It is also one of Canada’s more historic and storied provinces. Like with Newfoundland, historians believe that Vikings visited Nova Scotia around 1000 AD, but date its actual “discovery” to 1497 when John Cabot reached the northern tip of Cape Breton Island and claimed it for England. The French, however, were the first to settle the area. In 1605, explorer Samuel de Champlain founded Port Royal on the peninsula’s southwest coast on the site of present-day Annapolis Royal. Sixteen years later, the region was established as “New Scotland” and granted to Sir William Alexander by Scottish king, James I.[5]

During the 18th century, Nova Scotia was embroiled in an Anglo-French struggle for the Atlantic region of North America. An agreement in 1737 gave the British sovereignty over the peninsula and the French control over Cape Breton Island. In the early 1740s, however, the French tipped the balance of power in the region when it completed construction of a stalwart fortress at Louisbourg on the east coast of the island. In retaliation, the British sent a wave of settlers who established a fortified settlement at Halifax to counterbalance the French military’s stronghold of the north.[6]

In 1755, another war broke out between the British and French. During the war, the British deported all French settlers or Acadians who refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Over the course of a few years, 15,000 Acadians were removed from their homes by force and shipped to American colonies where they were equally unwelcomed. Most of the Acadians eventually settled in the bayou country of Louisiana; their descendants still live there today and are called Cajuns.[7]

When the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, even Cape Breton Island came under British rule. All of Nova Scotia became even further anglicized after the American Revolution. An estimated 30,000 Loyalists fled the United States and settled along the Atlantic coasts. In 1867, Nova Scotia was one of the four founding provinces of Canada.[8]

Ethnically, Nova Scotia is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. While Halifax is very English both in its history and its character, the rest of the province shows the cultural influences of the English, the Irish, the French, the Ger­mans, and the Scots — whose descendants today make up over a third of the popula­tion. These influences become very apparent for visitors traveling around the province.[9]

The province’s economy has always depended naturally on fishing. Even today, it accounts for one-third of Nova Scotia’s revenues. Timber has been a thriving industry as well over the past few decades. The Annapolis Valley is also a fertile region with its dairy farms and productive orchards. Tourism, however, is the province’s fastest growing industry. Great natural beauty describes the spectacular Cape Breton Highlands National Park where the recreational facilities are first-rate. Among the Maritime Provinces, Nova Scotia is easily the most popular among both American and European tourists.[10]

Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Canada. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1996. ISBN: 1556507100.

Simpkins, Mary Ann. Canada. New York: Prentice Hall Travel, 1994. ISBN: 0671882783.

[1] Carroll, 311
[2] Simpkins, 161
[3] Carroll, 311
[4] Simpkins, 161
[5] Carroll, 311
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Simpkins, 161
[10] Carroll, 311

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