It’s taken me the better part of my life to visit Canada’s Atlantic provinces. And that’s totally on me. After finally making my way from my west coast home to take in the magnificence of Nova Scotia’s east coast, I was delighted by the beauty and hospitality I encountered along the way. My time was all too brief. But I managed to spend quality time wandering around and experiencing the delights of the province’s Acadian Shores during 48 hours in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Enjoy our guide on the things to do in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
48 Hours in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Yarmouth is located 300 km and a three-hour drive southwest from Halifax, the provincial capital. You will need a car for exploring Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores region, as public transit is not that great. If traveling from the United States for a day or weekend, note that The Cat ferry travels between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine, every day in summer. The crossing takes about 3.5 hours.
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Things to do in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Visit Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse
Yarmouth is part of Nova Scotia’s Acadian Shores region. Acadia is the former home of French-speaking Catholic settlers who were expelled from their home (present-day Nova Scotia) by the British in the 18th century.
Many Acadians were welcomed to Louisiana, which was still a French territory at that time. That state’s Cajun history, language and culture is a result of that forced migration.
You can experience 350 years of Acadian culture at Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Savour home-cooked Acadian cuisine and hear the Acadian dialect from costumed interpreters. Learn about fishing and farming traditions at this early-1900s seaside village, located a short distance away in Pubnico.
Take in the view at Cape Forchu Lighthouse
A lighthouse shaped like an apple core? You can find it at the charming Cape Forchu Lighthouse, about 20 minutes from downtown Yarmouth.
The scenic drive to this beautiful lighthouse in Yarmouth passes rugged coastal views, locals enjoying outdoor activities on local beaches, and Instagram-worthy colorful fishing floats and shacks.
Enjoy a stroll along the seaside hiking trail in the 17-acre park. Then sit for a spell to take in the magnificent ocean view. Climb the Lighthouse steps for an even more spectacular vista, then finish with a visit to the museum, café, and local craft shop. Tip: try the lobster rolls and ice cream at the Lighthouse cafe.
Stargaze in North America’s only UNESCO Starlight tourist certified area
Look up, way up! Discover the night sky from within North America’s only UNESCO Starlight tourist-certified area. From stargazing at Trout Point Lodge to viewing the amazing night sky from the accessible viewing platform on the Wedgeport Nature Trail, you will be starstruck (see what I did there?) at what the night sky will reveal.
Enjoy a walking tour of Yarmouth
Yarmouth is a small and very walkable city. Its downtown is filled with colorful buildings, murals and objects that are a photographer’s dream. Explore the scenes and secrets of Yarmouth on a guided Yarmouth Walking Tour.
The knowledgeable guide will spill the tea on the city and region’s history, its colorful characters, and where to find some great photo spots, like Frost Park and the city’s bight murals.
Take a tour of Tusket Island
The scenic Tusket Islands are just a 25 minute drive from Yarmouth.The Islands are full of history on subjects ranging from lobster and tuna fishing, World War II spies, shipwrecks, and buried treasure.
Hop aboard a fishing boat for a scenic tour with a local fisherman, who’ll teach you the ways of the fisher and lobsterman, alongside servings of homemade seafood chowder and music.
Yarmouth and Acadian Shores is home to a large lobster and seafood fishery. If you love lobster, attending an Acadian Kitchen Party or a beachside Lobster Boil is a must do.
Walk oceanside on the shores of Lobster Bay, gather round the fire as the local band plays Acadian tunes while sipping some fine Nova Scotia bubbly. Try playing the “spoons” or singing an Acadian tune while the chef prepares lobster in a boil on the beach. This is pretty-much peak Nova Scotia right here.
Where to Stay in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Yarmouth has some charming rental homes and a few hotels. During my 48 hours in Yarmouth visit, I stayed at the Rodd Grand Yarmouth, a friendly if somewhat serviceable hotel. Its big benefit is that it is very well-located in downtown Yarmouth. The Rodd is in walking distance of everything, including the waterfront dock, restaurants, shops and local parks.
Where to Eat in Yarmouth
Honeybee Deli and Ice Cream – A local favorite, with an eclectic menu that includes poutine sushi, fresh juices, korean fare and ice cream. Do try the Moon Mist flavor, a combination of banana, grape and bubblegum. Don’t knock it til you try it!
Sip Cafe – I enjoyed a delicious daily oat milk latte here during my stay. Sip Cafe is busy and friendly and just a few blocks from the Rodd Grand Hotel. Their coffee is great and their tea selection is massive.
Gaia Global Kitchen – A world of food flavors in downtown Yarmouth. From jerk chicken nachos to dhaba curry, drunken noodles and Canadian haddock fish and chips; everyone will find something to enjoy here.
Heritage Brewing Co – A great craft brew pub in the heart of downtown, Heritage is retro-chic while serving up tasty, locally crafted brews.
The Shanty Cafe – Homemade goodness abounds at this social enterprise local restaurant in downtown Yarmouth. The large menu covers many diner favorites like soups, burgers, wraps and egg-forward breakfast dishes. You’ll eat well and feel better supporting this enterprise.
Rudder’s Brew Pub & Seafood Restaurant – A local favorite that’s well known for its seafood, outdoor patio deck and waterfront views.
Yarmouth Farmer’s Market – Held every Saturday in summer from 9 AM to 1 PM. Yarmouth Farmers’ Community Market supports over 45 growers, producers, and artisans within Yarmouth County. Each market day you can find freshly harvested vegetables, meats, seafood, baked goods, preserves, condiments, prepared foods, jewelry, handmade crafts, and lively local music.
Where to Shop in Yarmouth
I’ve got two spots on my shopping list, and they’re as unique as the Acadian Shores. The first is Frenchy’s, a Nova Scotia retail legend that is a must visit, even if you don’t have a lot of time. The chain, founded by Edwin Theriault (whose nickname was Frenchy), opened in the 1970s at the dawn of the clothing upcycle movement.
Theriault took bales of clothing from the United States and sold them in Nova Scotia and now throughout about 150 stores in Atlantic Canada. Yarmouth has a colorful blue and yellow Frenchy’s in its downtown.
The thing to do at Frenchy’s is to dive into the open bins for curated used clothing. Finding treasure in the bins can be time-consuming, but getting deals and “Frenchy’s finds” are a shopping badge of honour in these parts. You should absolutely try it.
The second is Sea Hags and Scallywags, an eclectic art gallery shop that supports local Nova Scotia artisans. Started in 2007 as an artists’ cooperative of sorts, the store hosts the works of 25 resident artists and artisans.
From visual art pieces to stained glass, beach glass, swordfish bills, and jewellery made from silver cutlery, there are a wide variety of pieces for visitors to choose from.
The store is connected by an interior tunnel (decorate in an eclectic style) to an antiques shop displaying marine and household items. Think old lobster traps, outdoor washing tubs and unique furniture. Both places are great fun and unique spots to browse.
No matter how you choose to spend 48 hours in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, the warmth and hospitality of the this city by the sea will linger long after you’ve returned home.
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Photo credits: Claudia Laroye; Tourism Nova Scotia