Cruising into the mouth of the harbor of Nova Scotia’s capital city harkens back to the first English settlers who began a town here in 1749. You’re also taking the same route as that of the World War I and II “war brides” who arrived from England and other parts of Europe, after having met their new Canadian servicemen husbands during the war years. Halifax was the official starting point for new immigrants to Canada.
In fact, you will be anchored at an ocean liner dock that adjoins one of Canada’s most famous museums, Pier 21, which is most easily described as our northern neighbor’s Ellis Island. From 1928 to 1971, over a million immigrants looking for a new life in a new country were processed right here.
You’ll find Halifax’s naval history bodes well with the present day, as it is still home to Her Majesty’s Canadian Dockyard, the hub of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Atlantic Fleet.
Whether you take a guided tour of the downtown, visiting the iconic Citadel Hill, or venture to the cemetery where many of the Titanic’s victims are buried, this is a city with strong ties to the North Atlantic.
Nova Scotia is blessed with abundant seafood – its scallops, lobster, clams, halibut and haddock are first class – and everywhere you go in Halifax you’ll hear music with a Celtic edge, even though the faces you see will be from every corner of the world.
This may be partially due to the city housing five universities, which means an influx of domestic and international students every September. They help create a youthful vibe to this urban center that’s now been around for 270 years.
If you choose to walk in the downtown core, be aware that many streets leading to and from the harbor are quite hilly, a little reminiscent of San Francisco. But there will be delights to discover, like Saint Mary’s Basilica and the new, ultra modern Central Library (both on Spring Garden Road) as well as the beautifully kept, very Victorian, Public Gardens at the corner of South Park Street and Spring Garden Road.
Indeed, Spring Garden Road has some fine shopping, as do the Historic Properties that nestle the waterfront, about a half-hour walk from the cruise terminal.
You may want to purchase some locally made Nova Scotia crystal and/or the attractive Nova Scotia tartan, in beautiful shades of blue and green.
Growing grapes for wine making began in the 1600s in the province with the early French settlers, but it has become increasingly popular (and an important industry for many) in the past few decades. This is due to international awards bestowed on several Nova Scotian wines -- and on what some call the Nova Scotia Chardonnay: L’Acadie Blanc.
So much in this unique city is truly a blend of old world meets the new!