Winter is not the season for whale watching; spring through to late autumn is the time for this. However, if you find yourself in the region in winter, as a visitor destination Nova Scotia turns the season to an advantage, with many activities and events making the most of the cold weather and the stark beauty of the environment. Here is what to expect weather-wise, and what to do while you are there.
Nova Scotian winter runs roughly from mid December to mid March. The temperature range is between 0ºC and minus 15ºC. So, it is cold!
The weather can vary greatly from region to region, and from day to day even within a region. A Nova Scotia resident comments on Trip Advisor, “We have a saying here: If you don’t like the weather, wait a day.” The three main ski areas of Nova Scotia are Ski Martock (the nearest to the capital, Halifax), Ski Wentworth (the largest area) and Ben Eoin (which is on Cape Breton Island and has the highest vertical at 815 feet). Ski Martock also offers visitors the chance to experience night-time skiing.
A ride on a beautifully decorated sleigh, pulled through the snowy landscape by handsome horses, is perhaps the quintessential winter experience. Many farms offer sleigh rides, with additional extras to appeal to would-be visitors. For example, Daniel’s Northfork Ranch boasts ‘a wooded trail lit with Christmas lights and a fire pit for enjoying hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows.’
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, covering almost 1,000 square kilometres, is renowned for the beauty of its varied landscapes all year round. In winter it has a special beauty, with frozen lakes, snow-covered forests and miles of snowy trail paths. Snowboarding and cross-country skiing are just some of the activities offered. Adventuring in such a wild area in extreme winter conditions can be dangerous, so the entire area is monitored and maintained by a professional team. Visitors are advised to check conditions before setting off for the day.
A working maple tree farm might seem a strange visitor attraction, but in fact Sugar Moon Farm, in north Nova Scotia, offers plenty to experience and discover. Visitors can learn how to tap a maple tree for the sap before watching it being made into maple syrup. It would be hard to watch that without also trying a maple- based brunch in the restaurant. As well as this, there are 30 kilometres of snowshoeing trails to work off the calories.
While whales are in short supply in Nova Scotia’s winter, eagles are definitely on the watch list. One place in particular, Sheffield Mills in the Annapolis valley, is so abundant in eagles that it has an annual Eagle Watch. Michale Gautreau, part of the committee organising the event, states that it sees the largest population of eagles in eastern North America. One reason for this may partly be that the eagles have been fed for years with scraps left over from chicken processing. During the Eagle Watch days, they are fed at 8am and 10am. Over 1,000 visitors arrive for the event, which also includes opportunities to see an eagle exhibition and have a pancake breakfast.