The Annapolis Valley is traditionally the third most-visited tourist spot in Nova Scotia, and now its many operators are relying on Atlantic Canadians to show their support this summer.
“Tourism was the first industry to be hurt by COVID-19, and the last industry to be helped,” says Judy Rafuse, executive director of the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We are missing a lot of our out-of-province tourists this summer, so we really need to support local.”
The Annapolis Valley spans a huge geographical area spanning from Digby to Windsor. So whether you’re interested in playing a round of golf, filling baskets of fruit at a U-pick, enjoying a fresh seafood dinner, popping in and out of locally-owned shops or going whale-watching off Digby Neck, Rafuse says now is the perfect time to experience it.
TASTE LOCAL FLAVOURS
Nothing compares to fresh Annapolis Valley produce, and Rafuse promises there are still plenty of farmers’ markets operating this summer. You’ll likely notice some temporary changes that allow for proper social distancing, but you can still get your fill of great-tasting, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.
The ideal climate means the Annapolis Valley is also a hotspot for vineyards, with wineries in Wolfville (Luckett Vineyards, Gaspereau Vineyards, Benjamin Bridge, Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards, L'Acadie Vineyards), Newport (Avondale Sky Winery), Port Williams (Planters Ridge Winery), Canning (Blomidon Estate Winery), Bear River (Annapolis Highland Vineyards), Lawrencetown (Beavercreek Winery & Cafe) and more.
“For your favorite drinks, the Annapolis Valley has the best selection of wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries,” says Rafuse.
While this summer won’t include the usual hop-on, hop-off bus Magic Winery Bus option, guests can still book an eight-hour Annapolis Valley winery tour that adheres to Public Health guidelines.
It isn’t a trip to Annapolis Valley without indulging in as much fresh seafood and shellfish as you can hold. Rafuse says it’s fun to watch fishing boats return with their bounty, ready to be transformed into delicious dishes at local restaurants. To truly eat like a local, she suggests enjoying Hall’s Harbour lobster and Digby scallops.
GO BACK IN TIME
Located in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Grand-Pré National Historic Site shares the powerful story of the Acadian people through multimedia displays, artifacts, statues and storytellers.
At Port-Royal National Historic Site, you can explore the grounds and experience a taste of frontier life in the early 1600s.
Fort Anne National Historic Site was the centre of early European colonization and settlement in the 1600s and 1700s, and now visitors can explore the relationships between the Mi’kmaq, French, British, Acadians, and African Nova Scotians who have called it home.
Spending time out in the fresh air has never been more important, and what better way to appreciate nature than wandering through more than 17 acres of beautiful flowers? The Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens are open daily and currently offering special Atlantic Bubble ticket pricing of $10 (including tax). The lush grounds showcase gardening methods, designs and materials representing more than four hundred years of local history.
Pack up the kids and make a day of it exploring Oaklawn Farm Zoo in Aylesford. They’ve added new directional signs to keep everyone flowing in the same direction, but guests can still meet everything from farm favourites like chicken and horses to exotic animals like monkeys, lions and pythons.
Ready for some exercise? The Harvest Moon Trail connects the Grand-Pré National Historic Site to the historic seaside town of Annapolis Royal, winding through beautiful towns along a former railbed. It’s perfect for hiking and cycling, and offers trailside access to farmers’ markets, wineries and restaurants so there’s always somewhere to take a break.
Rafuse says you could even do the entire 110-kilometre Harvest Moon Trail as part of a multi-day trip, breaking it up with visits to local attractions and overnight accommodations. Annapolis Valley hotels, motels, cottages and campgrounds could especially use your support this summer.
Cape Split is a hike you’ll never forget, with a trail that overlooks the Bay of Fundy and its world-famous tides. It’s about a five-hour round trip, so be sure to plan ahead so you’re back before dark.
“Some people still haven’t seen the tides. We take them for granted, living here, but they’re a must-see,” adds Rafuse.
If you want to experience the Annapolis Valley from above, companies like East Coast Balloon Adventures will float you overhead in a hot-air balloon during sunrise or sunset, providing unforgettable views. It costs between $275 and $325 per person, but Rafuse says it could be the perfect way to spend your vacation dollars doing something you’ve always wanted to do.
“It’s a different summer for sure, but you’ll still get a great Annapolis Valley experience,” says Rafuse. “There are so many neat things you might not think about, and there’s something for everyone.”
Heather Laura Clarke