A comprehensive guide to cycling in Nova Scotia
The Halifax Stanfield International Airport is approximately 33 km/20 miles from the core of Halifax city, on a route not suitable for biking. There is an alternative route through Musquodoboit Harbour, but it’s long, and as you approach Halifax, requires that you use the unpaved railbed to avoid busy urban roads. Car rentals are available at the airport, as are a number of taxicab services. Metro Transit also offers an express service to and from the airport and downtown.
The Trans Canada Highway enters Nova Scotia from New Brunswick near Amherst. It’s about ten hours’ drive from Montreal to Amherst, and another two to Halifax.
VIA Rail Canada provides transcontinental train service, with stations in Halifax and Truro. Dismantled bikes can normally be accommodated, for a nominal fee.
Greyhound from New York and Voyageur from Montreal both connect with Maritime Bus, which services Atlantic Canada. Bikes can be shipped for a small fee.
Public transport is reasonably good in the greater Halifax area. Metro Transit bus serves Halifax, Dartmouth, and Bedford, as well as portions of the country.
Bicycles are generally subject to the same regulations as other vehicles and must obey all traffic signals and signs. They must stay as close as is reasonable to the right side of the roadway, and ride in single file. Proper helmets are required by law.
Freewheeling provides top quality bicycles for rent by the day or week. Delivery can be arranged anywhere in the province, or bikes can be picked up at headquarters on the Aspotogan Coastal Route on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Learn more at: Nova Scotia Bike & Sea-Kayak Rentals
Cycling routes in Nova Scotia:
Cape Breton Island:
Home to a number of popular cycling trails, including the Celtic Shore Coastal Trail, Ceilidh Trail, Bras d’Or Lakes, Fleur-de-lis Trail, Marconi Trail, and the world-famous Cabot Trail. All of the routes on Cape Breton Island offer phenomenal scenery with hilly terrain.
Traffic volume tends to be low in the spring, but can get busier in the summer and fall. Cycling culture in Cape Breton is good. Most drivers are reasonable friendly, and adhere to the one meter law when passing cyclists. Services along the route are typically sparse, except in bigger towns like Baddeck where many cyclists traveling the 300km Cabot Trail loop begin and end their ride. Cheticamp is another small hub. It’s an Acadian town at the western entrance to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Self-guided cyclists will enjoy the challenging Cabot Trail. There are paved shoulders in parts of the national park, and quiet parallel roads through the Margaree Valley and between Dingwall and Neil’s Harbour. The other Cape Breton Island trails are not as frequented by cyclists travelling on their own, due to the remote areas and lack of services available en route.
The most common way to travel to Cape Breton is by flying to Halifax, and driving to Baddeck (approximately four hours). Although it is also possible to fly to Sydney, Cape Breton, and drive one hour to Baddeck.
Moderate/Challenging: Canada, Nova Scotia: Cabot Trail Bike Tour
Very Easy: Canada, Nova Scotia: Mabou & Celtic Shores Coastal Trail Bike or Walk
The South Shore:
The South Shore of Nova Scotia can be best approached from Halifax by following the converted railbeds through Beechville, Timberlea, Hubley, and Tantallon. There is a bike-friendly coffee shop at the old railway station in Upper Tantallon called the Bike & Bean Cafe. An alternate option is to ride along the paved Route 3, sharing the road with other vehicles. During peak commute hours, and sunny beach days, this route can be very busy, and does not have paved shoulders.
The Aspotogan Peninsula, accessible from Hubbards (about 40 minutes from Halifax, or a little over an hour from the airport), is a 52 km loop encompassing delightful curves, photogenic fishing villages, side roads with scenic diversions, beaches, and lovely cafés. There are some narrow paved shoulders, and traffic volume tends to be low except on sunny summer Sundays! Home to Freewheeling Adventures, this route provides a number of services, and is a favourite training or recreational ride for Halifax cyclists.
From Hubbards to Lunenburg, cyclists will find a mix of conditions on roads and rail beds. From East River to Chester there is a dedicated paved shoulder, making road sharing manageable. Cyclists can switch from road sharing to unpaved rail bed riding from Chester to Indian Point, then quiet coastal lanes to Mahone Bay. There is excellent riding from Mahone Bay to Lunenburg, through Maders Cove, Sunnybrook, and Second Peninsula. Day trips to Blue Rocks (past Lunenburg toward Stonehurst) provide additional cycling. To travel further, cyclists must pick their way along coastal route 3. You will discover many short side trips to wonderful harbours, beaches, and other surprises, and occasional short stints on Hwy 103 all the way to Yarmouth.
A note about the Peggy’s Cove Loop: the juncture in Upper Tantallon provides a gorgeous route to Peggy’s Cove and back to Halifax. Unfortunately, it is often too heavily trafficked to recommend to cyclists; those who attempt it should cycle with caution and wear brightly coloured clothing.
Yarmouth & Acadian Shores:
Yarmouth is a great starting point for two scenic travel ways: The Lighthouse Route and The Evangeline Trail. Approximately three hours from Halifax, Yarmouth also has a ferry service from Bar Harbour and Portland, Maine. This ferry is an ongoing matter of contention, so make sure you check the schedule if you plan to use it.
Road sharing is necessary along Route 1, with no shoulders and few services available to cyclists. The Rails to Trails constructed along the abandoned rail corridors in Yarmouth and Digby counties allows cyclists to weave in and out of small villages, along gently rolling terrain.
There are a number of routes for cyclists to explore. From Yarmouth, Route 304 twists and turns along the harbour, providing spectacular views, with moderate traffic on paved roads. A 20 km journey leads to Cape Forchu Light station, the most westerly point of the province. The Chebogue loop follows the Yarmouth harbour and tidal Chebogue River, with paved and unpaved sections of road, and moderate traffic. The Argyle Acadian Shore route leads along rolling terrain past the communities of Acadia and Pleasant Lake, with moderate traffic along paved roads. The 120 km Baie Sainte Marie Acadian Shore loop includes a 50 km stretch of coast, beginning at Salmon River.
Fundy Shores & Annapolis Valley:
This area can be accessed in several ways: Bridgewater – Middleton, Chester – Windsor, or Chester Basin – Kentville. All of these routes make for hilly inland riding without shoulders, and few services. It is possible to travel Trunk 8 from Liverpool – Annapolis Royal through Kejimkujik Park, a forested plain that has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Two major trails can be accessed in this area: The Evangeline Trail (starting in Yarmouth) and the Glooscap Trail (from Windsor – Amherst).
The Annapolis Valley is approximately 120 km in an east-west direction. There are two choices for cycling from Digby – Annapolis Royal: Route 101 from Digby (busy – but does have a paved shoulder), while Route 1 is narrow and also has heavy traffic. From Annapolis Royal it is possible to take either the south or north side of the river to Middleton. The south side (Route 1) is quite flat with a narrow paved shoulder along the first section. Traffic is moderate from Bridgetown – Lawrencetown, but becomes heavy east of Middleton. The rural paved road turns into Route 221, which continues to the east end of the valley. The south option (Route 201) is hillier than the north, but does have farm markets and u-pick services in season.
From Middleton – Wolfville there are several choices. North Route 221 is moderately hilly, with bicycle lanes along some stretches, and traffic is quite heavy in some places. North Route Brooklyn Street (leading to Route 1) is flat and quiet, sheltered from winds, but as a result, not as scenic, though there are some picnic areas to be found. Starting at Nictaux (Route 10 and 201), the South Route crosses the Nictaux River, and runs along the slope of the South Mountain, with variations of highs and lows. The steeper climbing provides magnificent views.
The Northumberland Shore is a hilly stretch of land with no shoulders, little support, but beautiful views. It boasts the Sunrise Trail, which runs from Amherst, through Pictou and Antigonish, to Auld’s Cove and the Canso Causeway. Cyclists traveling this area could potentially tie in a visit to Prince Edward Island, which is a bit over an hours’ ferry ride from Pictou.
The narrow Canso Causeway is less than desirable for cyclists, with heavy traffic and high winds. It turns onto a quieter, flatter Route 4 for a 50 km stretch to Antigonish, which has many stores and services available. From there, Route 337 travels to Georgeville and turns into Route 245, leading to Arisaig, where there is a provincial picnic park and beach, and lovely views near the Pictou County line. It is possible to loop back to Antigonish at the junction of Route 245, 104, and 4. Turning right on Route 104 will lead to New Glasgow; be prepared for heavy traffic, though shoulders are wide.
The quickest way to Pictou and the P.E.I. ferry is to take Abercrombie Road and join Route 106 just before crossing the Pictou Harbour Causeway. The quiet Route 256 leads inland from Pictou to Amherst, following the base of the Cobequid Mountains, and services along here are limited. Once in Amherst cyclists can extend their trip to include the Glooscap Trail.
The Eastern Shore:
The Eastern Shore stretches from Antigonish to Halifax along 260 km of rolling terrain, rugged coastlines, and magnificent beaches (most notably Lawrencetown and Martinique Provincial Beaches, famous among surfers for high waves). With quiet roads in good condition, the route follows Highway 7 and starts out rather flat. Hills increase past Lochaber then taper off to rolling land for the rest of the Eastern Shore until near Halifax, which is hilly and high-traffic.
The Marine Drive Trail follows the Straight of Canso from the Causeway to the junction of Route 322 and Highway 111 in Dartmouth. Its quiet shoreline roads and seaside villages make it a popular destination.
The Trans Canada Trail in Guysborough is a gorgeous 44 km stretch, boasting panoramic views of Chedabucto Bay and a cable suspension bridge spanning the Salmon River.
Equipment & Assistance:
Bicycles, sea-kayaks, and related equipment are available to rent at our HQ in Nova Scotia. Delivery is available anywhere else in Atlantic Canada.
Want us to show you around? Please get in touch about a guided day trip, or a holiday package! Make sure you reserve ahead of time as we work on an appointment basis.
All rental bikes come equipped with a rear rack and trunk bag or a handlebar bar, water bottles, spare inner tube, patch kit, pump, lock, and helmet if you choose not to bring your own. Most are also equipped with an odometer. You can choose between pedal styles, or bring yours with you.
Our holiday packages available all over Nova Scotia (and worldwide!) provide piece of mind, and ensure that the details are taken care of. This is our backyard and we love to share the hidden gems we have discovered with other enthusiastic travellers.
Choose a fully supported guided bike tour with roadside picnics and delicious dinners, or try a self-guided bike tour that offers more independence. Either way, we are always nearby in case of emergency, and your luggage will be awaiting your arrival at the next cozy inn. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions that arise.