Lunenburg cityscape, Nova Scotia by Gary Yim, ShutterstockLunenburg cityscape © Gary Yim, Shutterstock

All in all, Lunenburg – roughly equidistant from Halifax and Shelburne – is one of Nova Scotia’s most interesting and appealing towns. Established in 1753, the original town layout has been maintained and many original wooden buildings preserved, with eight dating back to the 18th century. As the best-surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America, Lunenburg’s Old Town section was designated a national historic district by the Canadian government, and in 1995 it was declared a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site, one of only eight in the whole of Canada.

The Old Town sits on a steep hillside overlooking the harbour, and as you drive – or better still, walk – through you’ll realise just how steep some of the narrow streets are. A guided walking tour should satisfy those wishing to dig deeper, and if walking is not for you, you can even see the sights by horse and carriage. Also within an easy drive or cycle ride are several beautiful small forested peninsulas and two tiny photogenic fishing villages well worth exploring.

With its preserved wooden buildings, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the best-surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America.

Many of the well-preserved brightly painted historical buildings now house inns, cafés, restaurants, shops and a seemingly ever-increasing number of galleries. Long ago, as it prospered and grew, the town spread beyond the original grid. In residential streets a few minutes’ walk away are more magnificent homes, this time on much bigger plots of land. Some – with large lawns and beautiful gardens – are now B&Bs or inns. In the Old Town area, most of the shops, museums and services are in the rectangle bounded by the waterfront, Lincoln, Cornwallis and Hopson streets.

Today, the fishing industry may have dried up here, but the marine traditions and its seafaring heritage live on proudly. The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic will help you understand not just Lunenburg, but coastal communities throughout the province. A dory shop on the waterfront has been making small wooden fishing boats since 1895, and traditional methods are still used. The town is the homeport of the Bluenose II, and tall ships often grace the picturesque harbour.

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