Today we have the pleasure of welcoming Austen Gilliland, of Nova Scotia, Canada, to our Contributors page. Austen is an editor, writer, and knitter, and as a resident of Canada, she has been known to spell words with bonus U’s and to transpose the letters E and R on occasion. Just kidding! Welcome, Austen.
—Ann and Kay
Better known for lobsters than sheep, Nova Scotia probably isn’t the first place to spring to mind when you consider the ideal knitter’s vacation. But then again, you might not know the province’s secret motto: It’s always sweater weather in Nova Scotia!
That’s right—always. Here, you’re rarely more than a 20-minute drive from the Atlantic Ocean, and the cool sea breezes blow onshore all year round. Even in August, there’s nothing better than emerging from the ice-cold waves and pulling on a sweater and a pair of woolly socks.
Of course, there’s more to Nova Scotia than a chance to show off your handknits. The knitting tourist is spoiled for choice in New Scotland. Here’s my plan for a knitter’s long weekend in Nova Scotia.
Day One: Halifax
Begin your trip in Halifax, the province’s capital city. There’s no shortage of places to visit—a stop to see folk artist Maud Lewis’s house at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is a must—but my two favourite locations are a little farther uptown.
The stunning Halifax Central Library opened in late 2014, and since then it’s become a favourite destination for locals and tourists alike. Climb the soaring central staircase to the rooftop terrace for a panoramic view across the Halifax Harbour—the perfect backdrop for a spot of knitting in public.
A few blocks up the street, you’ll find the Halifax Public Gardens.
The floral displays change throughout the year, so there’s always a good reason to stop and smell the flowers.
To really gild the lily, stop at Dairy Bar for one of their over-the-top ice cream sundaes.
Next stop: Patch Halifax. This independently owned fabric store is a trove of fabric, patterns and sewing books.
Inspiration abounds in this bright, cheerful shop. You’re virtually guaranteed to come away clutching a fistful of fabric in one hand and a brand-new pattern in the other. Be sure to ask about the shop’s magical Kielo dress!
Heading north from Patch will take you to the Hydrostone Market. This area was devastated by the Halifax Explosion, but 101 years later, it’s a vibrant neighbourhood filled with small shops, restaurants and enchanting nooks and crannies.
Day Two: Lunenburg
About 75 minutes west of Halifax lies Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here, colorful houses sit cheek by jowl with quirky shops, and tall ships line the waterfront.
Check out The Lunenburg Makery, where you’ll find fleece, fabric and unique craft kits. If you’ve got time, take a class in their sunny workroom, and enjoy the sea breezes blowing through the open windows.
Lexicon Books is your next destination. Here you’ll find a handpicked selection of novels and non-fiction titles. The owner has read almost every volume in the store, so be sure to ask for a recommendation.
Now, the main event: yarn! You’ll know The Mariner’s Daughter by its emerald storefront and cheerful yellow sign.
Step inside this jewel-box shop and discover a curated selection of treasures.
Behold yarns in every shade, from Julie Asselin’s mellow palettes to Lichen and Lace’s locally inspired hues to Uschitita’s vibrant speckled skeins. You’ll definitely find something worthy of space in your suitcase here.
Ready for lunch? Step across the street to The South Shore Fish Shack, where fresh-caught fish, lobster and clams are the stars of the show.
Enjoy your meal at a picnic table overlooking the harbor. If you’re lucky, Nova Scotia’s famous schooner, the Bluenose II, will be in port.
On the way back to Halifax, make sure you stop at Peggy’s Cove. Feel the mist in your face and contemplate the power of the ocean as the waves crash against the rocks below.
Now take a photo of the iconic lighthouse and proceed to the restaurant for a slice of gingerbread cake. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Day Three: Annapolis Valley
The Annapolis Valley is Nova Scotia’s farming belt, just an hour’s drive from Halifax. In contrast to yesterday’s rocky shores, today you’ll encounter rolling farmland, lush green hills, and the visually arresting red mud flats of the Minas Basin.
Make Tangled Garden your first stop—it’s well worth the $5 admission fee to wander through the gardens. Pause to make a wish by the fishpond, then enjoy a contemplative walk through the labyrinth.
Tangled Garden sells jams, jellies and vinegars that taste even better than they look.
But if you prefer your souvenirs to be of the alcoholic variety, there’s no shortage of wineries to visit in the area. (I like Lightfoot and Wolfville.)
If local beer is more your thing, continue to the Port Pub. Enjoy a flight of local ales and a plate of fish cakes while sitting on the patio and watching the tide flow in (or out).
Just outside of Wolfville, you’ll find Gaspereau Valley Fibres, housed in a renovated barn on a working farm. The sheep aren’t just for decoration; inside you’ll find yarn spun from their fleece.
GVF started out as a weaving supply store, then diversified to serve knitters and spinners, too. If you like local yarn featuring natural colors and fibers, with labels that often include the names of the sheep that provided the fleece, you’re in luck.
Heading back to the city, watch for fruit stands and honesty boxes on the side of the meandering country roads. They’re the best source for fresh fruit, cheap perennials and even homemade pies.
That’s just a taste of what Nova Scotia has to offer knitters on tour. Hope to see you soon—and don’t forget your sweaters!
(Photos of Patch Halifax courtesy of Chris Pasquet.)
Here’s a Google map of Nova Scotia.