Though the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has been open to the public for more than six decades, within its walls, time stands still. Here, steamships still travel up rivers, the Battle of the Atlantic wages on, and Nova Scotia is still rallying to aid in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. Through permanent and rotating exhibits, the museum—which is the largest of its kind in Canada—lets visitors relive these and other key moments in maritime history.
Located on Halifax's historic waterfront, the museum's collections house more than 24,000 artifacts of Canada's naval and maritime heritage. The permanent exhibition Halifax Wrecked intimately connects visitors with the events and aftermath of that historic disaster, considered to the the largest man-made explosion before the atomic bomb. A thorough Titanic exhibit lets viewers experience what life was like on the doomed ship, including a replica deck chair to sit in and an authentic one to admire. Evening talks and special events let visitors delve even further into their local heritage. Beyond receiving free admission for children 5 and younger, kids and parents will find plenty to enjoy, as well, including the massive tentacles of a full-size kraken and Merlin, the friendly rainbow macaw and museum mascot. At the William Robertson & Son store, guests can soak up the waterfront atmosphere or try their hand at making their own knot craft.
Surprisingly spry for a 90-year-old, Gus the gopher tortoise greets Museum of Natural History visitors while strolling around the premises and snacking on clover and dandelions. As the museum's mascot for more than six decades, Gus has amassed a substantial following, and he keeps his 1,500+ Facebook friends abreast of the latest goings-on at his home's seven permanent galleries. Unearthed tools, arrowheads, and Tupperware of the Mi'kmaq and Acadian peoples await in the archaeology exhibit, and the pre-contact culture, religion, and language of Nova Scotia come to life in the ethnology hall. Life-sized models of feathered bipeds and four-legged furballs lurk in the mammals-and-birds gallery. Live snakes, frogs, salamanders, and honeybees call Netukulimk home, embodying a Mi'kmaq conception of the relationship between the human and natural worlds.
The Theresa E. Connor and Cape Sable may not be sea-borne, but that doesn't stop visitors to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic from boarding the wharf-side vessels. Once aboard, they can explore above and below deck while retired fishermen and captains demonstrate their fishing skills and recount tales from their seafaring days. Inside the museum's 19th-century buildings, three exhibition floors share space with a 7-foot high vista tank, and 11 salt water tanks that comfortably house oceanic critters such as lobsters, eels, and Atlantic whitefish. More animals including scallops and sea anemone occupy the wharf, whose Tidal Touch Tank lets visitors stroke a bumpy sea star or share their first kiss with a mermaid.
Elsewhere in the museum complex, guests can launch a model schooner, watch fish-filleting demos, learn about Prohibition-era rum running, or take in fishing-related films in the Ice House Theatre. The Old Fish Factory Restaurant & Ice House Bar and the Salt Store Gift Shop, housed in a former salt storehouse, provide souvenirs both edible and otherwise.
The museum's season lasts from mid-May to mid-October.