Perched midway up the Nova Scotia coast, Halifax is the top port of call for big ships on the New England and Eastern Canada circuit, owing to the city’s natural deep-water port, which inevitably led to the town’s role as a shipbuilding, naval, and trading center. British settlers in 1621 called the land Nova Scotia (New Scotland), and even today bagpipers meet cruise ship when they dock. Pubs and kilt shops continue to trade on the Scottish connection in Halifax’s pleasant and easily walkable downtown.
Top draw On a hill overlooking the town, the star-shaped Halifax Citadel is one of Canada’s most-visited historic sites, restored to its mid-19th-century appearance, complete with costumed guides, cannon firings, and bagpipers on parade.
Bonus The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca ) and other sites in town commemorate Halifax’s leading role in rescuing victims of the Titanic shipwreck in 1912.
Off the beaten track Just southwest of Halifax, Lunenburg is Nova Scotia’s main fishing port, with an Old Town that’s been restored to its original colonial character.
Smell the roses Halifax’s famous 17-acre Public Gardens (www.halifaxpublicgardens.ca ) are the Oldest formal Victorian gardens in North America, and look much as they have since the 1870s.
NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
In the late 19th century, this Narragansett Bay island became the place for America’s wealthy aristocrats to spend their summers. From the Vanderbilts to the Astors, all the Gilded Age millionaires had summer mansions (or, as they called them, cottages) here, each grander than the next. The city is also a major sailing center, hosting more than 40 races each summer and fall. Today, Newport has a beautiful sea, rocky coastline, and a bustling town that’s all cobblestone streets, shady trees, cute cafes, and historical buildings, all within a short walk or drive of the downtown area.
Top draw Ten of Newport’s grandest 19th-century mansions are operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County (www.newportmansions.org ), which offers several ticket packages that combine admission to different houses. The famed mansions on Bellevue and Ocean avenues are within 1 to 4 miles of the pier; you can take the trolley or a taxi.
Bonus Newport also boasts a sizeable historic area, with nearly 200 restored 18th- and 19th-century Colonial and Victorian homes and landmarks. Self-guided walking tour maps are available at the tourist office.
The Mediterranean stretch your legs The 3.5-mile Cliff Walk follows Newport’s rocky coastline past many of the town’s Gilded Age estates, providing a better view of their exteriors than you get from the street.
Off the beaten track The International Tennis Hall of Fame on Bellevue Avenue (www.tennisfame.com ) is one of the few places in North America where you can play on a grass court.