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. Visitors can also enjoy the museum's largest artifact, CSS Acadia, a 101 year-old ship on the water (check for availability). 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.
Certified by Transport Canada for safety, Four Winds Charters' experienced captains have been floating guests across picturesque St. Margaret's Bay for more than two decades. Tours and private charters set sail toward scenic coves and private islands as dolphins and sea birds pass by on their watery commutes. Four-hour deep-sea fishing trips drop anchor approximately 5 miles from shore, allowing the included hooks, rods, and hand lines to grab at mackerel, cod, and shipwrecked inner tubes. Catering is available for both private charters and fishing trips upon request.
Despite setbacks such as 2003's Hurricane Juan, members of the Murphy family have steadfastly hosted tent and RV campers in their own backyard on the Atlantic Ocean for more than 50 years. They like to keep their small campground intimate; their 50 overnight sites are nestled together so visitors can meet each other over complimentary coffee in the morning. At night, campers gather under the stars for bonfires, and staffers boil fresh mussels or play guitar and recount pieces of seafaring folklore. A number of campsites include electricity and water hookups, though others remain un-serviced to maintain a rustic atmosphere and repel hairdryer-stealing bears.
The camp provides panoramic views of the coast and a historical fishermen's wharf where boats still visit today. A sandy beach welcomes long walks by the rocks and cliffs, past landmarks such as a 40-year-old whale skull or games of horseshoe and croquet along the grass. The Murphys also invite visitors into the ocean-side recreation hall to learn cribbage or browse antique tools. Captain Brian Murphy guides guests out into the breaking waves on scenic boat tours, fishing tours, and mussel tours that cover up to 5 kilometres of coastline. For those wanting to explore the water on their own, campground staffers also provide rental rowboats, canoes, and empowering pats on the back.
If you ever wanted to pet a snake or watch a crocodile snap its jaws around prey, this is the place to go. The Maritime Reptile Zoo Limited houses a variety of creatures including alligators, tortoises, monitors, and the massive reticulated python. The zoo often rescues these animals from dangerous situations and takes care of them in a safe environment. During interactive sessions, patrons can watch the animals eat their meals or feel their scales. Right before closing time, Drake, the African spurred tortoise, comes out for his daily walk around the zoo while zookeepers teach patrons about his feeding habits and behaviors.