Nova Scotia’s South Shore is a secret gem for cycling enthusiasts, offering a compelling landscape of coastal beauty, charming towns (including one that’s a UNESCO site), with a side of nature. Not only will you be wowed by the seashore, but also warmly welcomed by friendly Nova Scotians. With my one-week Nova Scotia cycling itinerary in hand, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable experience, both on and off the bike.
Explore the South Shore of Nova Scotia via scenic rail trails and quiet backroads near Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, and Bridgewater. In this guide, discover an unforgettable Nova Scotia cycling itinerary, rich with details on cycling routes, local attractions, delectable dining options, and comfortable accommodations along with a couple of boat tours that are perfect for a day when you need a break from your bike.
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Information about cycling the South Shore of Nova Scotia
The Blue Route in Nova Scotia is a work in progress with the aim to connect 3,000 km of safe bike routes across Nova Scotia via a mix of trail, paved shoulders, bike lanes, shared lanes, and local streets. Check out the Blue Route map showing what’s been completed and what is planned. Some of what is described in my Nova Scotia cycling itinerary covers trails that are already part of the Blue Route.
Rum Runners Trail
The 119 km-long multi-use Rum Runners Trail connects Halifax and Lunenburg via former rail trails, passing through Hubbards, Chester, and Mahone Bay. Some parts are in rough shape, so check before you commit to cycling the whole trail. The Bay to Bay and Dynamite Trails, two trails on my Nova Scotia cycling itinerary, are in great shape.
A word of caution
My Nova Scotia cycling itinerary takes you on multi-use rail trails, quiet backroads, and occasionally on busier roads when there is no other option. Many of Nova Scotia’s smaller highways and backroads don’t have a shoulder, or its very small. Please bike defensively and if necessary, stop and pull completely off the road if you hear a large vehicle approaching.
I found most drivers in Nova Scotia to be extremely courteous, though I had one very close call on a road with a shoulder and no other cars around. I have biked tens of thousands of kilometres over a lifetime and know there will always be reckless idiots around, but I don’t let that stop me from cycling. If you’re very uncomfortable with road biking, stick to the rail trails and quiet backroads like the Second Peninsula.
Map of the stops on the Nova Scotia Cycling Itinerary
Day 1 Nova Scotia Cycling Itinerary – Arrive at Halifax International Airport
If it’s late when you arrive at the airport, stay onsite at the Alt Hotel. If not, pick up a rental car and drive to Mahone Bay via Peggy’s Cove. Alternatively, if you’ve got your own car, make your way to Mahone Bay, your base for the next couple of days.
Day 2 Nova Scotia cycling itinerary: Discovering the Mahone Bay Area
Morning: Start your Nova Scotia cycling adventure in the pretty town of Mahone Bay famous for its iconic three churches along the waterfront. Head to the Barn Coffee and Social House for coffee and baked goods. It’s a local favourite.
Pick up your rental bike at Sweet Ride Cycling, open year-round Wednesday to Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM. If you’ve forgotten any bike gear, this is the place to stock up. They also sell bulk candy – and there’s lots to choose from.
Cycling route AM: The Dynamite Trail – Indian Point Loop (approximately 25 km)
From Sweet Ride Cycling bike northwest on Main Street in Mahone Bay. Continue about a block past Betty’s at the Kitch to reach a kiosk and parking area for the Dynamite, Bay to Bay and Adventure Trails.
The 10 km long Dynamite Trail (part of the Rum Runners Trail) is a scenic, multi-use repurposed rail line from Mahone Bay to Martin’s River, offering pretty views of the bay, and wooded areas. There’s a wonderful piece of art along the route called High Tide. Look for boats in the trees.
The biking is flat and easy on the Dynamite Trail. A few well-placed benches beckon you to stop and take in the view.
Cycle 15 km back to Mahone Bay via Station and Oakland Roads, admiring the coastal scenery along the way. There are a few hills on this section but very little traffic. There is the option to do a short out and back ride along Indian Point Road from Indian Point Cove, before returning to Mahone Bay.
Afternoon day 2: Cycle to Bachman’s Beach at the end of Second Peninsula (Approximately 30 km return)
Cycling route:There are three options for this bike ride. Highway 3 can be busy, so be very careful.
Take the Bay to Bay Trail from Mahone Bay to Schnare’s Crossing Road (the safest option), left on Highway 3, right on Herman’s Island Road, right on Princess Inlet Road, and left on Second Peninsula Road – all the way to Bachman’s Beach.
The more scenic option takes you on Highway 3 for several kilometres. Turn left onto Maders Cove Road, right on Herman’s Island Road, right on Princess Inlet Road, and left on Second Peninsula Road.
Cycle the Bay to Bay Trail in one direction and the road option in the other.
Scenic cycling beside the water along quiet Maders Cove Road.
Peaceful biking for much of the length of the Second Peninsula Road, with long sections beside the water. Great birdlife including seabirds, ducks, bald eagles, and ospreys.
Bachman’s Beach is quiet – and a good place to take a picnic lunch, if you’ve planned.
Dinner:The Lunenburg Yacht Clubin season. It’s not fancy but views over the water are excellent. Plan on a late lunch or early dinner here if you cycle the Second Peninsula Road. You’ll have to detour a couple of kilometres onto Herman’s Island.
Day 3 Nova Scotia Cycling Itinerary: Mahone Bay to Lunenburg and Bridgewater
Morning:Return to the Barn Coffee and Social House (8 AM – 5 PM) or try The Nosy Crow Bites & Brews (9 AM – 3 PM)
Cycling Route AM: Take the Bay to Bay Trail (part of the Rum Runners Trail) from Mahone Bay to Lunenburg (22 km return)
Start at the same location as the Dynamite Trail in Mahone Bay but cross Main Street to pick up the Bay to Bay Trail.
The Bay to Bay Trail is a scenic multi-use trail that connects two of the most picturesque towns in Nova Scotia.
Enjoy flat easy cycling until Lunenburg through mixed forest, a wet open area (where we came across a porcupine), and then past colourful houses as you roll into Lunenburg.
Lunch:The Knot Pub in Lunenburg – a classic pub bar with darts.
Cycling Route PM: Mahone Bay to Bridgewater via the Adventure Trail (28 km return)
Start in Mahone Bay at the same spot as the Bay to Bay and Dynamite Trails. Follow the signs to the multi-use Adventure Trail which connects to the Centennial Trail in Bridgewater.
Cycle 14 km one way from Mahone Bay to Bridgewater through the forest and past a series of pretty lakes. This was the busiest of all the trails I cycled with many more ATV’s. Everyone was very polite and gave me the right of way.
The Adventure Trail close to Mahone Bay is rough for the first kilometre or so and then gets better.
Dinner: Head to Rebecca’s Restaurant on the water’s edge in Mahone Bay. In high season make reservations. Park across from the restaurant – where you get the iconic view of the three churches. Another Mahone Bay option is the well-regarded Mateus Bistro.
Optional activities out of Mahone Bay
Some of the suggested bike rides don’t take too long, so if you’re keen to do more in the Mahone Bay area, I’d suggest the following.
Explore Mahone Bay on foot
Spend a morning exploring the town of Mahone Bay at a leisurely pace, popping into local stores. My favourite was The Teazer Gift Shop. Don’t expect to walk out empty-handed.
The Salty Dog Sea Tour of Oak Islandin Nova Scotia, led by the charismatic and knowledgeable guide, Tony, is way more interesting than I ever expected. While you won’t set foot on the island itself, you’ll boat through the pristine waters surrounding Oak Island, a place shrouded in mystique and legends. Over a few hours, Tony shares his insider knowledge and delves into the heart of the island’s mystery. As the boat tour progresses, you’ll hear tales of buried treasure, and the relentless quest for answers that has intrigued generations for the last two centuries.
If you’ve watched The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel, you’re a history buff, or an aspiring treasure hunter (like my daughter after this tour!) the Salty Dog Boat Tour is an absolute must. Get ready to be enlightened, and thoroughly entertained – and at the end, enjoy the show and tell experience where Tony passes around some of his treasures.
Day 4 Nova Scotia Cycling Itinerary: Bluenose II + Biking Lunenburg to Blue Rocks
Morning in Lunenburg: Start the day with a delicious breakfast at the Savvy Sailor Cafe (8 AM – 3 PM, seven days a week). On warm, sunny days try and score an outside table with a view.
Optional Boat Trip – Blue Nose II Sailing
My daughter and I took a half day break from the bike and enjoyed a fabulous couple of hours on the Bluenose II (the famous sailing boat on the back of the Canadian dime) out of Lunenburg. Sometimes when the boat is at the dock in Lunenburg, you can go on board, but our timing was such that we were able to go out for two hours, with four of the sails up, including the main sail – one of the largest ones in the world.
I think what was so extraordinary for me about the experience, was how many crew it took to sail the boat (we had 19 working on board), how seamlessly they worked – especially when it came to raising and lowering the heavy sails, and how beautiful the boat is, especially when the sails are up.
You don’t get very far on a two hour cruise – but you get a great view of the Lunenburg waterfront from the boat. We were lucky to see some porpoises, but the main event is watching the captain and all the young people at work.
Pick up your rental bike at the Lunenburg Bike Shop, (Wednesday – Saturday 10 Am – 4 PM, April till October) after the boat trip on the Bluenose II.
Cycling Route: Lunenburg waterfront to Blue Rocks and out to the end of Stonehurst Road (21 km return) with the option to explore Heckman’s Island (add at least another 10 km return). On the return you can pick up a section of the Bay to Bay Trail that parallels Highway 332. Cycle down to the Lunenburg waterfront on steep hills from the Kissing Bridge – Starr Street intersection.
Bike Lunenburg’s colourful waterfront, stopping to admire the Bluenose II if it’s at the dock, the Fisherman’s Memorial and the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic.
Cycle quiet roads out of Lunenburg on a route that offers fantastic ocean views and leads to the charming fishing village of Blue Rocks.
Leave Blue Rocks on Blue Rocks Road. Turn right on Darby’s Head Road and left on Stonehurst Road. Continue to the end of Stonehurst where you’ll discover a quintessential Nova Scotia scene of fishing boats.
Day 5 Nova Scotia Cycling Itinerary: Lunenburg to Hirtles Beach
Morning: Get coffee and baked goods at No9 Coffee Bar at 139 Montague Street in Lunenburg. They open at 8 AM.
Cycling Route: Cycle from Lunenburg to Hirtles Beach via Masons Beach Road, Highway 332, Indian Path Road, and Kingsburg Road out of Rose Bay. (40 km return)
The entire bike ride is on roads. Out of Lunenburg, take the scenic and quiet Masons Beach Road for 5 km to reach Highway 332. Highway 332 can be busy, but it has a decent shoulder. On Indian Path Road, exercise caution, as the shoulder disappears. (Note that the bridge is under repair on Highway 332, so you must cycle Indian Path Road until its fixed.) Turn left into Highway 332 and take it to Riverport and Rose Bay. Turn right on Kingsburg and right again on Hirtles Beach Road till it ends.
Near the intersection of Tannery Road and Masons Beach Road you pass one of the quintessential stops for a view of the Lunenburg waterfront.
Beautiful cycling along the LaHave River to Riverport.
The bike ride from Rose Bay winds its way to Hirtles Beach on quiet roads past colourful homes, WaveWood Designs Gallery (worth a stop), with ocean vistas as you get close to Hirtles Beach.
If you want to increase your mileage for the day head for the free LaHave Ferry (departs East LaHave on the ¼ hour and ¾ hour) and cycle from La Have to Petite Rivere and back (26 km return), with stops at the LaHave Bakery, Crescent Beach, and Rissers Beach Provincial Park. If it’s summer or early fall, pack a bathing suit.
Lunch:The Rose Bay Store & Bistro – (9 AM – 8 PM daily) A great place to get sandwiches, breakfast items, coffee drinks, snacks, alcohol and more. You could also eat at LaHave Bakery if you take the ferry.
Morning Day 6: Drive down to the LaHave Bakery for breakfast, open 9 AM – 4 PM daily.
Cycling Route: Middle LaHave loop ride via LaHave Ferry (22 kilometres) or via Lunenburg (33 kilometres)
Option 1: Park the car in LaHave but take your bikes on board the La Have Ferry. It runs on the hour and ½ hour. From the far side of the river cycle northwest towards Middle LaHave on Highway 331. Turn right on Crouses Settlement Road, right on Grimm Road, and left back to the ferry.
Option 2: There is a second longer option from Lunenburg. Follow Masons Beach Road out of Lunenburg to reach Highway 332, but this time pick up Grimms Road. Follow it down to Middle LaHave, continue on Highway 331. Turn right on Crouses Settlement Road, left on Grimms Road, and retrace your route to Lunenburg.
Enjoy LaHave River views as you cycle parallel to the river.
Cycle quiet Crouses Settlement Road through scenic rural areas with open fields, forests, and pretty farmhouses.
It’s a fun bike ride down Grimms Road to reach Middle LaHave.
Dinner: River Pub known for its waterfront patio overlooking the LaHave River.
Day 7 Nova Scotia Cycling Itinerary: Centennial Trail in Bridgewater
Morning: Grab coffee and baked goods at Fancy Pants Cafe in Bridgewater, open 7:30 AM weekdays, 9 AM weekends.
Cycling Route: Bridgewater Centennial Trail (approximately 8 km) with options to continue on the Adventure Trail or ride a section of the LaHave River Trail.
The Bridgewater Centennial Trail begins in the town center and follows the former rail line.
As you pedal along this well-maintained trail, you’ll pass through lush forests, past residential neighborhoods, and the pretty landscapes around the LaHave River.
Don’t miss a stop on the bridge over the LaHave River for gorgeous views. Add in a side trip to see the DesBrisay Museum to learn about the region’s history.
Dinner: La Casetta for fresh pasta. Located at 513 King Street.
Optional activities with extra time in Bridgewater
You probably won’t have the time to cover everything on my Nova Scotia cycling itinerary – so if you have extra time in the Bridgewater area consider biking or driving a 31 km loop that includes LaHave, Crescent Beach, Petite Riviere Vineyard, and Pine Grove. There’s some lovely coastal scenery, and a beautiful beach to walk. Stop in at the colourful Maritime Painted Saltbox and enjoy a wine tasting at Petite Rivière Vineyards.
Wrap-up and departure
I hope my Nova Scotia cycling itinerary will get you thinking about a trip to this beautiful province. Nova Scotia’s South Shore offers a perfect blend of cycling, history, culture, and natural beauty for a truly unforgettable holiday.
A giant thank you to Tourism Nova Scotia for hosting me on this cycling trip. All thoughts and opinions are mine alone.