Things to do in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia!

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Today we’re sharing some of the top things to do in Mahone Bay, a charming town situated in Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Mahone Bay has been voted one of the most beautiful towns in Atlantic Canada and is renowned for its stunning coastal scenery, rich maritime history, and fresh local seafood making it well worth a visit!

If you’re planning a road trip down Nova Scotia’s South Shore, you need to include a stop in Mahone Bay. Whether you visit on a day trip or choose to spend a couple of days relaxing in this quiet coastal town, you’ll find it has plenty to offer. 

We found Mahone Bay to be the perfect size to explore on foot; we visited the iconic Three Churches that line the waterfront, walked the shores where shipbuilding yards once stood, and explored the brightly painted Maritime buildings that house all sorts of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. 

Speaking of food, Mahone Bay has some excellent foodie stops and we ate so well! We had a full day in town and managed to eat at 4 different places: a seafood feast at Oh My Cod, local craft beer at Saltbox Brewing, mid-afternoon coffee and pastries at The Barn Coffee and Social House, plus a gourmet dinner at Mateus Bistro. 

We also shopped for pewter souvenirs (the thing to buy in Mahone Bay), walked part of the Rum Runners Trail, and enjoyed the coastal vibes along the marina. 

In this travel guide, we’re going to share the best things to do in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia during your visit!  

Tip: If you are pressed for time, you can book a half-day tour of Nova Scotia’s South Shore from Halifax which includes time in Lunenburg as well as visits to Mahone Bay and Peggy’s Cove. 

Things to do in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Visit the Three Churches

Mahone Bay is famous for its iconic view of the three churches that sit along the shoreline. Not only are these an important part of the town’s history but they also draw photographers looking for that postcard view of the town.

Since there is a big parking lot right across from these churches and we had just driven in from Lunenburg, we decided to park the car and begin our exploration of Mahone Bay right here! 

Things to do in Mahone Bay - Nova Scotia
  1. St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church: This was the first of the three churches to occupy a spot along the waterfront. It was founded by German settlers and its history dates back to 1864. 
  2. St. James’ Anglican Church: This church is painted a cheerful light yellow and has a tall spire that would have lit the way for ships seeking safe harbour.
  3. Trinity United Church: The Trinity United Church is the third in the trio. The plaque by the door commemorates the church’s Calvinist heritage going back to 1734, though the building itself isn’t that old. The names on the pews remember the early members who were of German and Scottish origins.

These churches are more than just buildings; they hold regular services and play an active role in the community. 

Walk along the Old Shipyards of Mahone Bay

After seeing the Three Churches, we were walking along the waterfront when we came across a plaque that explained that we were standing on the former shipyards. Today, there is little evidence left indicating that ships would have once been built on these shores, but we stopped to read a bit about the history. 

We learned that Mahone Bay was once a hub for shipbuilding in Nova Scotia, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The sheltered waters of the bay provided an ideal location for the construction of wooden ships, and the town thrived on this industry for many years.

At its peak, the shipbuilding industry in Mahone Bay saw the construction of a wide variety of vessels, from small fishing boats to large ocean-going ships. The shipyards were bustling with activity, with skilled craftsmen including shipwrights, carpenters, blacksmiths, and sailmakers all contributing to the shipbuilding process.

However, as the shipbuilding industry evolved and steel-hulled vessels became the norm, the traditional wooden shipbuilding trade in Mahone Bay, and much of the Maritimes, began to decline. 

The Lighthouse Coastal Route goes through Mahone Bay and is a beautiful shore drive.
Views of Mahone Bay with choppy seas

Today, while the shipyards themselves are no longer there, you can walk along the shore and read the commemorative plaques and info boards that share facts and figures. The town of Mahone Bay has also done a great job of preserving its nautical heritage, with historical societies and heritage groups ensuring that the stories of the past are not forgotten.

Boat building and sailing continue to be important to the culture of the area, and the Mahone Bay Maritime Museum is a great place to learn more about the shipbuilding history and the vessels that were once constructed there.

Feast on seafood at Oh My Cod!

Then, it was time for lunch and we decided to eat at Oh My Cod! The fun name won us over, plus we wanted to enjoy some classic Nova Scotia seafood during this road trip.

Oh My Cod Restaurant in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

This restaurant serves up Nova Scotia seafood caught locally. You can get scallop skewers, fish tacos, lobster croissantwich, lobster, mussels and fish and chips, just to name a few items. 

And if you’re looking for something other than seafood, they have plenty of options like pulled pork poutine, brie grilled cheese, the dockside burger and so much more. 

Lobster and shrimp Mac and cheese at Oh My Cod Restaurant

We got the lobster and shrimp Mac and cheese which was delightfully creamy and cheesy – we were most impressed by the generous chunks of lobster meat. We also ordered the Digby clams and chips with a side of coleslaw and it was the perfect seafood lunch.

Digby clams and chips at Oh My Cod Restaurant

We had so many good meals in Nova Scotia and this one was right up there. We left feeling stuffed and ready to explore more of Mahone Bay.

Address: 567 Main Street

Join a guided visit to Oak Island

So, if you’ve ever watched the TV show The Curse of Oak Island, you already know what this is all about. But in case you haven’t let’s set the scene!

Oak Island is a privately owned island on Nova Scotia’s South Shore that has been the centre of a mysterious treasure hunt for over 200 years. It is part of the group of islands in Mahone Bay and is most famous for various theories about buried treasure or historical artefacts, the most popular being the “Money Pit.”

The Money Pit is a deep pit first discovered in 1795 by a teenager named Daniel McGinnis, who noticed an indentation in the ground under an old oak tree. He, along with friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughan, began to dig, and they found a layer of flagstones a few feet below the surface. As they continued to dig, they reportedly found a series of wooden platforms at intervals down the pit, but the further they dug, the more elusive any treasure became.

The search for treasure on Oak Island has continued since then, with numerous expeditions and several companies formed to undertake the task. These efforts have been marked by the discovery of intriguing items and features, such as coconut fibres (which are definitely not indigenous to Nova Scotia!), non-native plant species, a stone with inscriptions, and various bits of metal and wood deep below the surface. Despite these findings, no significant treasure has been uncovered.

The island has been featured in various books, articles, and documentaries, and in recent years, it has been made even more popular by the aforementioned History Channel’s television series The Curse of Oak Island. This show follows brothers Rick and Marty Lagina in their efforts to uncover the mysteries of the island using modern technology.

Various theories have been proposed about what might be hidden on Oak Island, ranging from pirate treasure to Marie Antoinette’s jewels, manuscripts that could be related to Shakespeare, or religious artefacts like the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail.

Now you can understand why this place has garnered so much interest!

We thought we could just show up and book a guided tour, so we drove all the way out there, only to learn that tours sell out months in advance, especially during the summer months! So learn from our mistake. 

Check the official Oak Island website to see when it will be reopening to the public. 

Hike or bike the Rum Runners Trail

Since we couldn’t visit Oak Island, we decided to hike part of the Rum Runners Trail, a very famous trail here in Nova Scotia. 

To give you a bit of history, The Rum Runners Trail follows the historic route that was used by smugglers during the Prohibition era to transport alcohol illegally.

The trail’s name is a nod to this notorious past, when “rum-running” was a common and profitable activity in the area, as the South Shore of Nova Scotia was a hotbed for the liquor trade, with contraband being shipped to the United States where Prohibition was in effect from 1920 to 1933.

Today, the Rum Runners Trail offers a more lawful but no less adventurous experience. It’s a converted rail trail that stretches approximately 119 kilometres (about 74 miles) from Halifax to Lunenburg, offering cyclists and hikers a scenic route that passes through several small communities.

The Rum Runners Trail in Nova Scotia dates back to the Prohibition Era
You can hike or bike the Rum Runners Trail in Nova Scotia

The trail provides stunning views of the coast, as well as access to beaches, lakes, and forests.

It also connects a series of towns including Hubbards, Chester, Mahone Bay, and Lunenburg, the latter being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the home port of the famous Bluenose II schooner. 

The trail is mostly crushed stone and gravel, making it accessible for bicycles. It also connects to other trails, including Halifax Regional Municipality’s Chain of Lakes Trail at one end and the Aspotogan Trail which branches off towards the Aspotogan Peninsula.

Visit the community of Oakland

Another place we visited is Oakland, a community within the town of Mahone Bay in Lunenburg County. 

While Mahone Bay is often in the spotlight and receives much of the tourism, Oakland represents more of the quiet, rural character of Nova Scotia’s South Shore. 

Seaside community of Oakland in Nova Scotia

Oakland sits on the eastern shore of Mahone Harbour and the waterfront is lined with Maritime cottages and homes. 

You can enjoy a scenic drive along Oakland Road and then visit Oakland Lake or hike the Dynamite Trail. 

Visit the Mahone Bay Museum

If you have time to hit up a museum, consider the Mahone Bay Museum, which is housed in a heritage building that dates back to the 19th century.

The museum’s exhibits focus on the local history of Mahone Bay and its surrounding area. The collections and displays often feature artefacts related to the town’s maritime history, settler life, and the industries that shaped the region, such as shipbuilding, fishing, and farming.

The Mahone Bay Museum is an attraction that is open seasonally from late May to early October. Outside of those dates it is open by appointment and donation only.

Address: 578 Main Street

Do a beer tasting at Saltbox Brewing Company

After all that sightseeing around Mahone Bay, it was time to enjoy some cold brews so we made our way over to the Saltbox Brewing Company, a local craft brewery.

The name “saltbox” is a nod to the traditional architectural style common in Atlantic Canada, particularly the simple, asymmetrical homes with a long, pitched roof that slopes down to the back, resembling the shape of an old-fashioned salt container. 

It was a beautiful day out so we decided to do a beer tasting out on the patio. They had flights of 3, 5 or 8 beers. We opted for 5 and chose 4 beers and 1 cider. 

Craft beer at Saltbox Brewing Company in Mahone Bay
Beer tasting at Saltbox Brewing Company

We tried their Cresctacean Elation, a lobster ale; Sour Rhubarb, which was citrusy, tropical and tart; Make and Break Double IPA, which was grapefruity; Ragin Cajun, a stout aged in a Bourbon barrel that tasted like gingerbread with spice; and the Stirling Apple Cider, a light and refreshing cider. 

We loved the fun, playful names of their beers and they’re always working on new stuff, so be sure to check out the new beers listed on the board. 

Address: 363 Main Street

The Barn Coffee and Social House

We then made our way over to The Barn Coffee and Social House, which is set in a beautiful old building with wooden floors and exposed beams that very much feel like a barn. 

They roast their own specialty coffees ethically sourced from around the world and they even have their own coffee brand called Sunday Silence.

This coffee shop is a really nice place to hang out and it draws both locals and tourists. They also have their own secret garden out back with plenty of outdoor seating. 

The Barn Coffee and Social House

If coffee is not your thing, they also serve London Fogs, Chai Lattes, Matchas and more. Plus, aside from drinks, you can also get some sweet and savoury baked goods served fresh.

We got a cappuccino and a London Fog with a glazed cinnamon roll and an energy ball made with peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, chia, cranberries and shredded coconut. 

After a super busy day of sightseeing around Mahone Bay, it was nice to sit down and relax for a bit. 

Address: 458 Main Street

Shop for pewter souvenirs

Another thing to do in Mahone Bay is to shop for pewter souvenirs and the place to do so is at Amos Pewter!

Amos Pewter is a company in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, renowned for its fine pewter craftsmanship. Established in 1974 by Amos Seaman, the company has made a name for itself by producing high-quality pewter products, ranging from jewellery and home decor to ornaments and tableware.

Amos Pewter is the place to buy souvenirs in Mahone Bay

But first, what is pewter?

Pewter is a malleable metal alloy traditionally made from tin, with small amounts of copper and antimony, that give it its durability and sheen.

Pewter has been used for centuries – its history dates back to the Bronze Age – but it was particularly popular in Europe from the Middle Ages through the Victorian era. It was commonly used for tableware such as plates, bowls, and candlestick holders.

What sets Amos Pewter apart is their commitment to craftsmanship and quality. Each piece is handcrafted using a process that’s been passed down through generations. The steps in creating Amos Pewter pieces typically include designing, hand-carving a model, creating moulds, casting, and finishing with careful polishing and shaping. And yes, you can watch the whole process right at their workshop!

Pewter Christmas ornaments and jewellery at Amos Pewter

Amos Pewter’s designs are often inspired by nature and the maritime setting of Nova Scotia. You’ll find motifs such as sea creatures, nautical themes, and local flora and fauna in their work. 

We ended up buying a pewter Christmas tree ornament to take home as a souvenir. 

Address: 589 Main Street

Visit the Mahone Bay Civic Marina

While walking around town, we came upon the Mahone Bay Civic Marina, which might be a place of interest if you’re a photographer or enjoy taking pictures. 

Mahone Bay Civic Marina
Fishing boats at Mahone Bay Civic Marina

This is a nice spot to see sailboats and boathouses bobbing on the water and the scene looks like something straight out of a postcard. It’s worth a peek if you’re in the area. 

Treat yourself to dinner at Mateus Bistro

Then, to wrap up our fun day of sightseeing in Mahone Bay, we decided to treat ourselves to a gourmet dinner at Mateus Bistro!

This restaurant serves classic Atlantic dishes with an Eastern European twist (the chef is originally from Bratislava), and they focus on using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.

Mussels in white wine at Mateus Bistro in Mahone Bay

Their menu had dishes like seafood chowder with fresh haddock and mussels, creamy risotto topped with seared Digby scallops, and monkfish served atop soft polenta with citrus brown butter. 

Seafood chowder at Mateus Bistro

We got the mussels in white wine as an appetizer, a hearty seafood chowder, and a penne with smoked chicken which we paired with a Shiraz wine. 

The meal was great and it was also a nice setting with live music. It was the perfect way to unwind after an action-packed day. 

Address: 533 Main Street

Boats in the harbour in Nova Scotia's South Shore

Where to stay in Mahone Bay

We stayed in neighbouring Lunenburg and drove into Mahone Bay on a day trip, however, you can find accommodations in Mahone Bay. This town is all about the cute bed and breakfasts set in old historic homes. Here are some of the top-rated ones for you to consider: 

Fisherman’s Daughter B&B

Set in a restored heritage home from the 1840s, this bed and breakfast features antique-inspired guest rooms with en suite bathrooms. The rooms have a refrigerator with breakfast items and a coffee maker so guests can have breakfast in their rooms.

Mahone Bay Bed and Breakfast

This 1860s Victorian home is filled with antiques, has a gingerbread veranda, and sits across from the community gazebo on Mahone Harbour. A complimentary breakfast is served daily and features fresh fruit, eggs and home-baked goods. 

Bay View Pines Country Inn B&B

This farmhouse-style bed and breakfast sits on 14 acres next to Mahone Bay. It has a private strip of beach on the bay and it’s a great option for guests who prefer a more tranquil stay in the outskirts of town.

Is Mahone Bay worth visiting?

Yes, Mahone Bay is certainly worth visiting, and it’s even better when done as part of a bigger road trip across Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

Depending on your interests and how much time you have to complete this road trip, you may want to visit Mahone Bay on a day trip, or perhaps spend 2-3 days relaxing and soaking up the tranquil coastal atmosphere. 

One possible route could be starting in Halifax and continuing to Peggy’s Cove, Hubbards, Chester, Oak Island, Mahone Bay and ending in Lunenburg.

If your schedule allows for it, you can continue even further down the South Shore hitting up Liverpool and Shelburne, or you could head up inland towards Caledonia and Kejimkujik National Park. 

If you’re planning a bigger trip across Nova Scotia, you may also enjoy reading:

Colourful buildings in Mahone Bay's downtown
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