Travel lifestyle

Things to do in Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Lunenburg is Canada’s prettiest town. There is no question about it. A lot of towns like to claim that they are pretty but how can you compete with Lunenburg’s painted houses lining itd beautiful harbor? A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of only two urban centers in North America to have that distinction) this historic fishing village is a special place to visit. These are the best things to do in Lunenburg Nova Scotia.

If Canada’s vaccines pick up as planned, Lunenburg just might be open for business in late summer. So why not start planning now for your dream trip later? Some Lunenburg attractions may be closed due to COVID-19 so be sure to check for restrictions before booking any tour to Nova Scotia.

What to do in Lunenburg

Founded in 1753, Lunenberg is considered one of the best examples of a British Colonial settlement in North America. (Hence its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.) We have decided to include Mahone Bay in this Lunenburg guide, as much of the heritage and history of the two communities is intertwined. Located just 10 minutes apart, it’s easy to explore the beautiful heritage towns in one trip.

The Lunenburg Academy heritage building

There are things to do in Lunenburg to suit any type of traveler, but one of the best things you can do in this seaside town of Nova Scotia is to learn about the heritage buildings that have been meticulously restored and preserved. So when you arrive, be sure to take a long walk through the old town.

Explore Old Town Lunenburg

painted buildings historic downtown lunenburg
Painted buildings of Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Exploring the old town is one of the most interesting things to do in Lunenburg. There are more than 30 heritage buildings in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, each with its own story showing the life and times of Lunenburgs early settlers.

We discovered Lunenburge on an organized walking tour and learned a lot of insider tips, but even if you stroll through the streets you will be mesmerized. Lunenburg Walking Tours is hosted by a local Lunenburg resident dating back 8 generations. Check out tours here.

lunenburg pink house

Although a tour is highly recommended as we learned what of each heritage building was used for, you can tour them on your own as well. Here is a breakdown of the Lunenburg heritage attractions.

St. John’s Anglican Church

interior of St John's Anglican Church
Inside the beautiful St John’s Anglican Church

If there is one heritage building not to miss it is St. John’s Anglican Church. It had stood at the town centre of this fishing community since 1754. Sadly, arsonists set it on fire in 2001, but the town came together to raise money and put it back together. It is now meticulously restored and it truly shows the resilience of this community.

st johns anglican church lunenburg exterior
Exterior of the St. Johns Anglican Church

When it was destroyed, volunteers gathered pieces of the stained glass window to preserve the church and today St. John’s Anglican Church one of the most outstanding examples of Gothic Revival in North America.

Lunenburg Walking Tour

downtown lunenbur Nova Scotia
Downtown Lunenburg

The best way to start off your trip to Lunenburg is with Lunenburg Walking Tours. Walk through the historic buildings and learn about the characters who built the town. We met at the Old School Acadamy on Gallows Hill and worked our way down through the heritage district for three hours until we reached the waterfront. It was a fantastic tour and we don’t want to give too much away because you should book it! hosted by an 8th generation local who will tell you tales passed down from years gone by.

Lunenburg walking tour guide
Lunenburg Walking Tour Guide

We also learned little tidbits that only insiders would know. For expample, did you know that one the original colours of the famous painted Lunenburg houses was Oxblood? It is a red rusty colour that was literally made by the blood of the ox!

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

firsheries museum of the atlantic lunenburg
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

One of the top tourist attractions in Lunenburg, the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic stands proud on the Lunenberg waterfront. When you take a tour of the museum, you will have access to the working wharf of Lunenburg and you just may be guided by retired fishermen from the town of Lunenburg.

The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is located directly on the Lunenburg Waterfront.

Fisherman’s Memorial

fisherman's memorial in lunenburg nova scotia
Fisherman’s memorial

The Fisherman’s Memorial is located on the Lunenburg waterfront and is a moving memorial to the more than 700 people who lost their lives at sea. The names are etched into the granite columns. The names of the boats are also etched in to the rock with the most affecting being the “Vessels lost with all hands.” This fishing community paid a hard price

Ironworks Distillery

Make sure to visit the Lunenburg Ironwork’s Distillery paying homage to Lunenburg’s rum running heritage. This micro distillery is located in the Old Port of Lunenburg in the Old Ironwork’s Building dating back to 1893. The Iroworks Distillery makes vodka from apples picked in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, they make fruity liqueurs and the star attraction is their award winning rum. You can take guided tours of the distillery to see how the spirits are made.

Shipwright Brewing Company

boats at lunenburg waterfront

If brews are more your thing, take a tour of the microbrewing company overlooking the Lunenburg waterfront. YOu can take a brewery tour or just enjoy a pint as you take in the views of the waterfront.

Berlin Wall at the Luneburg Legion

There seems to be a piece of the Berlin Wall all around the world and it is fitting that this UNESCO World Heritage Site would have one as well. It has recently been moved to the front of the legion of Lunenburg (moved from the foundry) to honour the German heritage in the Lunenburg community.

Lunenburg Blue Rocks

blue rocks lunenburg nova scotia
Blue Rocks Lunenburg

Just a 10 minute drive from the town of Lunenburg is the Lunenburg Blue Rocks. We visited this picturesque fishing village for sunrise and it was absolutely stunning. Known as Lunenburg’s answer to Peggy’s Cove, Blue Rocks is famous for its fish shacks sitting on the water. In the morning, the sun glistens on the rocks and water creating the perfect setting for any aspiring photographer.

Kayak Tours

nova scotia kayaking south shore
Kayaking in Nova Scotia

While you are in Blue Rocks, you can book a kayak tour to search for seals and paddle through the islands to a secluded beach. Kayaking in Nova Scotia is a special experience. If you are looking to add a bit of adventure into your Lunenburg activies, make sure to include kayaking.

I don’t think we’ve paddled more anywhere else on earth than in Nova Scotia. We’re always looking for ways to get on the water. Paddling tours leave from the Blue Rocks Wharf area two times daily and sunset paddles are offered as well.

Halifax and Southern Railways Museum

If you want to see an interesting museum in Lunenburg, the Halifax and Southern Railways Museum depicts the railway heritage of the area. Located on the lighthouse route just outside of town, this museum displays a 1940s replica of the stationmaster’s office a model of the railway line from Halifax to Yarmouth. If you are a railway lover, don’t miss it.

Lunenburg Whale Watching Tour

lunenburg waterfront whale

One of the best activities you can do in Nova Scotia is to take a whale watching tour. Whales love. Tours leave from the Lunenburg waterfront and take you out to spot minke, pilot, fin, and humpback whales. But there is a lot of marine life in the waters of Nova Scotia.

Keep an eye out for dolphins, bluefin tuna, and even leatherback turtles. The waters off the coast of Lunenburg is home to an abundance of birds including the ever so cute puffin!

July through September is the best time to see whales in the North Atlantic waters off the coast of Lunenburg. Tours can be booked at the waterfront.

Bluenose II Schooner

candian dime with bluenose on it.
Our Canadian dime with the Bluenose Schooner on it

Lunenburg is the home port to the Bluenose II. The Bluenose is a famous Canadian schooner that is featured on our dime. (10 cent coin) It was undefeated from 1921 to 1946. The original Bluenose Schooner went down in 1946 off the coast of Haiti, but it was so beloved, that in 1963, the Bluenose II was launched in Lunenburg.

When it is in port, there are a couple of activities you can try on the Bluenose II. You can choose between taking a Harbour cruise or try your hand at being a deckhand for the day.

A History of Ships of Lunenburg and Mahone Bay

lunenburg boardwalk
Lunenburg boardwalk

Many of the same people who worked on the original schooner, helped build the Bluenose II in the same shipyard in Lunenburg. Lunenburg’s ship-building industry dates back to 1862. More than 270 ships were built in Lunenburg including The Bounty and Bluenose II. 500 were built in the Mahone Bay area nearby including the original Bluenose.

laurie swim's gallery

Lunenburg is home to many local artists and browsing the galleries of Lunenburg is a must. Start at the Lunenburg Art Gallery located on Lincoln Street. From there, walk through the main district in search of artists’ studios that are constantly popping up along gallery row. Lunenburg is definitely one of those places that attract artists with its picturesque setting.

art in lunenburb

Some Lunenburg Galleries to keep an eye out for are, The Laurie Swim Quilt Gallery. Her quilts are famous for looking like painting, but they are actually quilts. Others to check out are The Swan on Lincoln featuring pottery, sculptures paintings, and jewelry, La Have Weaving Studio which offers workshops, The Skullduggery which features ceramics and beautiful glass art at the Silastial Glass Art on Lincoln Street.

Hike the Bay to Bay

If you want to do some hiking, there’s a great trail that connects Lunenburg to Mahone Bay. It is 10 km long, so you probably won’t be able to do it all, but if you rent a bicycle, you can ride the gravel path from one town to the other.

Mahone Bay

mahone bay nova scotia
The Three Churches of Mahone Bay

Just a 10 minute drive from Lunenburg, Mahone Bay is a great stop on your Lunenburg Itinerary. We stopped at Mahone Bay while driving from Peggy’s Cove to Lunenburg, but it is so close, you can pop over anytime.

Founded in 1745, Mahone Bay was named one of Canada’s best small towns. It’s famous for The Three Churches that line the waterfront. Not surprisingly, this scene is one of the most photographed places in Nova Scotia.

mahone bay haskapa Berry store
Mahone Bay shops

Stroll the streets and do some shopping and stop in this Haskapa Berry store to stock up on the healing properties of this superfood. They make gin too! What I say is, if you are going to drink gin, make it “healthy” by adding a superfood into its ingredients.

Oak Island

Oak Island has certainly gained popularity since the reality TV show, the Curse of Oak Island started airing on the History Channel. Legend has it that the infamous pirate Captain Kidd buried his treasure on Oak Island. There’s an interpretive centre on the island and it can only be visited by an organized tour. We didn’t go here, but we felt that it wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include it due to the popularity of the TV Show.

Where to Stay in Lunenburg Nova Scotia

lunenburg arms hotel view
View from our room at Lunenburg Arms hotel

Lunenburg Arms hotel – Located downtown Lunenburg Arms hotel was the perfect location for exploring Lunenburg.  It is where we stayed when in Lunenburg and found it to be the ideal location.

Rum Runner Inn – Rumrunner Inn is also located on the harbourfront. We didn’t stay here but it comes highly recommended.

Restaurants in Lunenburg

scallops in lunenburg
scallops is the food of choice in Lunenburg

Lincoln Street Food – Offers a rotating menu of seasonal food. Its open concept kitchen serving market inspired food is a favorite for locals and travelers alike.

The Old Fish Factory Restaurant – Located in the former fish processing plant, the Old Fish Factory Restaurant has a wharfside patio that serves craft beer, pub food and local scallops.

Lunenburg is one of the top destinations in Nova Scotia and with good reason. I first heard about Lunenburg way back in 2001 when the hosts of a YTV program visited the small fishing village. I had wanted to go every since and I’m glad I got the chance. When planning a vacation in Canada, Lunenburg should be at the top of your list.

And these are the best things to do in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Have we enticed you to visit Lunenburg? What activities did we miss? Leave a comment below to let us know what to do next.

Read More about attractions and destinations in Nova Scotia

This post is in partnership with Tourism Nova Scotia, for more information on traveling to Nova Scotia check out their website for details.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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