.All Trips / Eastern Canada / North America / Nova Scotia

Lunenberg, Nova Scotia: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lunenberg, NS (9)

While I am not a fan of the provincial capitol of Halifax, I really enjoyed the rural landscapes of Nova Scotia, especially the many colorful and picturesque fishing villages along the coast.  The most interesting coastal community we visited was Lunenberg, situated about 90 km from Halifax.  It has rows of tidy well-kept homes, nice churches and shops, and a lovely waterfront.  Canadians best know Lunenberg as the birthplace of the Bluenose, a racing ship which graces the Canadian dime.

Lunenburg’s history has long been entertwined with the sea.   The first mention of an European settlement around here was in the early 1600s, which was a simple Acadian village.  The British saw the value of the location — well protected harbor, abundant timber, excellent fishing (especially on the Grand Banks) and fertile farmland — and built a fortress here in the mid 18th century.  Many of the settlers introduced by the English were, somewhat surprisingly, from Germany and Switzerland. The town was named in honor of King George II, Duke of Brunschweig-Lunenburg. 

Lunenberg waterfront

Lunenburg become known as a major shipbuilding center, with local mills supplying the wood needed to craft some of the most impressive sailing ships ever designed, including the famous Bluenose, a fishing and racing schooner.  Bluenose was built in 1921 and remained undefeated in international racing for 17 years.  Today you can visit a replica of this famous ship and go for a sail on it both in Halifax (where it spends some of its time), but mostly at its home port in Lunenburg

As steel steamships replaced wooden ships, the town evolved to become a modern ship repair and outfitting port, especially during the First and Second World Wars.  Today, Lunenburg’s dominant industry is tourism. 

Lunenberg is not a large community and you can easily see most of what’s interesting in a day.  What makes it worthy of your time is that 70% of the original buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries survive.  The town was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 because of its unique architecture and design, the best remaining example of a planned British colony in Canada.  The core of the town is also a National Historic Site of Canada.

Lunenberg waterfront

Things to Do in Lunenberg:

Besides the expected shops, restaurants and lodges, there are fun things to see and do during a visit.

  • The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (part of the Nova Scotia museum) is a prominently complex along Lunenburg’s waterfront.  It does a thorough job of documenting the story of fishing in the region.
  • If you’re interested in sailing ships, you should be sure to stop at the Bluenose II and go on one of it’s excursions, wherein you can experience some of the ship’s speed.
  • Lunenburg lends itself to walking, so spend a few hours exploring its streets on foot.  Most everything is centrally located and the community is not large, so see some of the colorful homes I’ve highlighted at the bottom of this post (Nova Scotia’s fishing towns often painted their homes in bright colours so as to be easily seen from the water).
  • Check out the arts scene.  Besides many shops selling the stuff, there often are festivals taking place through the summer.  Take part in the displays and traditional and contemporary folk music from around the region.

Here are some of the sights we encountered in Lunenberg on the pretty fall day we visited:

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)

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