Lunenburg is a colorful, postcard-worthy fishing town set in the scenic South Shore region of Nova Scotia. Every year its richly preserved British Colonial-style houses and Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic attract history buffs and explorers worldwide!
When I first laid eyes on its colorful seaside setting, I knew I wanted to visit.
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As its official home to the Bluenose Schooner — the internationally-renown fishing ship and record-beating racing vessel — Lunenburg fiercely prides itself on its fishing and seafaring heritage.
Not only that, but the Town of Lunenburg is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with two National Historic Sites. It’s quite the history and seafood-lovers bucket list destination!
Whether you have only one day or you plan to stay a few days, here are all the best travel tips and resources to help plan your trip to Lunenburg, Canada.
Best Things to Do in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
1. Stroll the Streets & Rows of Colorful Houses
My first mission whenever I travel is to find the best free activity. And walking is free, right?!
Stroll the streets of Lunenburg — you won’t be disappointed!
Lunenburg has one of the best well-preserved houses and grid-street style of the British Colonial era. Each house you pass truly has its own color as well as personality.
Both charming and colorful, a sweet stroll down the streets (careful, some are hilly!) is the perfect way to start your stay in Lunenburg and gather a sense of your surroundings.
2. Tour the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and (Maybe) See Bluenose II When in Port!
As Paul and I strolled around the Lunenburg Waterfront, reading the historic signs along the way, we came across the sign for the Bluenose Schooner – the famous one that bequeaths Canada’s license plates. But no schooner was there.
After reading the description, we discovered that the Bluenose, unfortunately, hit a coral reef off the coast of Haiti back in 1946 and sank, along with the bananas and seamen it was carrying.
Feeling bummed and like fools, we thought we could actually see the Bluenose.
But then, after reading some more, we discovered you can actually visit Bluenose II which often comes to dock at the Lunenburg harbor.
A visit to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic would have solved our riddle, so don’t miss out on discovering their rich seafaring and fishing heritage before gallivanting around town.
While there are posts and signs explaining the history of Lunenburg, you’ll get a more in-depth experience at the museum.
The museum is located right on the waterfront – you can’t miss it.
- Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic: Open everyday Monday – Sunday from 9:30 am – 5:30 pm (from mid-May to mid-October)
- Buy Tickets Here
3. Go Rum Tastin’ at Ironworks Distillery
Ever tried Ocean Aged Rum? The writers behind the marketing at Ironworks Distillery know how to make a sale, or two.
Their rum is specially crafted and aged in oak barrels as it travels on the Atlantic. The specially-selected Rum Boat carries, no – swaddles – the rum; swinging and raging inside the oak barrel.
The flavor of the rum is the result of its journey on the waves. Everything from the movement to the season temperatures alters the flavor.
The end product is what Ironworks Distillery calls their Ocean Aged Rum,
“..a truly smooth, tawney spirit of the North Atlantic. Born of the finest Guatemalan molasses, lovingly fermented and distilled in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, then aged on the formidable waters of the North Atlantic Ocean…..
…A rum that has never truly rested on its path to your glass.”
Now after a walk inside, a sniff of its scent, and a read of its story-telling, Ironworks Distillery has me sold on its rum!
4. Book a Seal & Whale-Watching Boat Tour
As nature would have it, you’re not guaranteed to spot whales or seals on a boat tour from Lunenburg. But the seamen who operate the tour are knowledgable and can optimize your chances as much as possible!
The tour offers a scenic way to visit the South Shore’s craggy coastline and spot some curious wildlife. As a bonus, you’ll have the chance to capture a picturesque view of colorful Lunenburg from the water as seen in the postcards.
It’s recommended to call or book your tour in advance.
5. Relax at one of Lunenburg’s Spa & Wellness Centers
(Sorry – I wasn’t allowed to take photos at the spa or gym!)
There are two main spas and wellness centers in Lunenburg for you to choose from! Spa at Ninety4 and emOcean Spa Wellness Centre.
We personally got to experience the emOcean Spa Wellness Center and can only recommend it to any traveler passing through!
emOcean offers day passes for the heated salt-water pool and a private gym with hot showers access.
But if you’re looking for massages, muscle therapy or anything technical, the staff are well-equipped and the place oozes relaxation.
6. Slurp, Shuck, or Gobble Down Fresh Local Seafood
I’ll always remember Lunenburg as the town where I first tried fresh clams, scallops, and even lobster!
For some reason, I find oysters so scrumptious. So much so that it feels like a creeping addiction.
In any case, Lunenburg serves up the best fresh and locally-sourced seafood. Get fresh catches of the day or sustainably sourced from local fishermen in nearby towns and communities.
Top Seafood Restaurants in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia:
- Salt Shaker Deli and Inn
- The Half Shell Oyster Bar (The cutest bar setting and view of the harbor)
- Grand Banker Bar & Grill
- The Savvy Sailor
- South Shore Fish Shack
- Old Fish Factory
- … just to name a few!
7. Attend an Event at the Historic Theatre
There are actually two theatres in town — with one being Tripadvisor’s #1 thing to do in Lunenburg. Glimpses Theatre Troupe whips up an entertainment recounting the rich history and folklore of Lunenburg in a creative and funny way. There’s no upfront cost, however, donations are suggested.
Then there is the Lunenburg Opera House which hosts a variety of events from live music to performers, plays, and more! Sometimes the events will be hosted outdoors in the nearby park up the street.
8. Shop for Whimsical Finds on Lincoln St.
I am a straight-up sucker when it comes to cute shops! I love them so it’s crucial that I spent the better part of my afternoon hopping from shop to shop.
Most of the shops I strolled through, like Dots & Loops, offer handmade treasures and whimsical finds by creative artists.
From jewelry to garden decor, or even dog bananas, the shops on Lincoln St. offer the chance to find a special gift or personal favorite keepsake for everyone.
9. Relax on the Lunenburg Waterfront & Watch the Boats Go By in a Brightly-Colored Muskoka Chair
We probably relaxed on the Lunenburg Waterfront more than we can count while we were in town.
The waterfront can get lively with activity, with visitors docking their boats for the day and exploring the town.
To enjoy the waterfront view at its best, especially at sunrise or sunset, grab a colorful chair on the boardwalk!
Facilities such as public bathrooms are on-site. Laundry and even showers are available on the Zwicker Wharf should you have a boat at the marina.
Unfortunately, our van parked in the lot across from the wharf didn’t count!
10. Rent a Bike, Visit the 3 Bookstores, or Grab a Coffee & Pastry!
If you’re short on time, a visit to Lunenburg wouldn’t be complete without three things:
- grabbing a coffee and pastry at No. 9 coffee house,
- renting a bike for the day at Lunenburg Bike Shop Rhumb Line
- scouting out a good read at one of the three bookstores
And to make things easier, you can find all three bookstores, No. 9, and the bike rental store on the same street located one right after the other. 🙂
Where to Stay in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Most of the available accommodations are old B&Bs inside old colonial-style houses.
You can maneuver between them on the classic, British-style grid walk streets and choose the best for you!
Or, take a look at the best Lunenburg hotel deals in advance to prepare for your stay. Rooms may fill up fast during the high season!
Best Coffee Shop in Lunenburg to Work or Relax
I already mentioned Paul and I’s favorite place to go for coffee and cakes in Lunenburg… No. 9 coffee house!
It’s not just our favorite either; all the locals come here to grab their morning fixes before heading to work. While the line can get long, it never takes long!
I do recommend getting there just after opening hours though in order to snag a fresh-out-of-the-oven cheddar cheese scone.
Needless to say (but I will anyway), we visited No. 9 coffee every single day for 5 days straight!! We were there so often we started to become like locals ourselves!
It’s a great place to work on your laptop or chat over business or life as well.
If you’re staying for just one day, definitely take time to visit No.9
If you’re visiting Lunenburg for 2 days or more, explore around and try out the coffee and cakes at Shop on The Corner.
A Brief History Lesson of Lunenburg / Fun Facts
The history of Lunenburg is comprised of many elements. Here I’ll just name a few!
Firstly, Lunenburg was founded in 1753. Before that, the area was once named, “Mirligueche” by the Mi’kmaq and Acadian Indians. Mirligueche, meaning “Milky Way,” was a prosperous region with pristine forests and wildlife.
The succeeding expanse of European settlement was largely due to the 17th c. French settlement over Acadia. The Mi’kmaq were recorded here by Champlain on the coast of LaHave – his drawings show the native settlements.
Secondly, as the Town of Lunenburg nicely puts it,
“To the Acadians, it was Mirligueche. To the English, it became Lunenburg in honour of King George II, Duke of Brunschweig-Lunenburg. To the United Nations, it is a heritage treasure unlike any other….”
Thirdly, the architecture that’s so astonishingly beautiful in Lunenburg remains largely intact, with no fewer than 8 being built before the 18th century.
The combination of design styles — from Germans to Swiss to English — shows the rich heritage and combination of European settlers across the centuries.
And despite all this change, “nearly 250 years after its first streets were laid, the original plans, the architecture and the uses for common spaces remain intact.”
Best Day Trips from Lunenburg
If you stay for a couple of days and you find that you’ve exhausted your Lunenburg to-do list, why not go for a scenic drive down the coast to other towns?
Here are the best day trips you can take from Lunenburg:
- Blue Rocks
- Peggy’s Cove
- Mahone Bay
- Rissers Beach Provincial Park
- LaHave Islands
- and even Halifax!
Lunenburg ultimately offers both adventure and relaxation, history and modernity, and all things colorful and classic!
I truly think with my top ten things to do in Lunenburg you’ll be staying pretty busy for a few days.
I hope this travel guide to Lunenburg helps you plan your trip to this bucket list destination on the scenic, craggy coast of Nova Scotia.