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In Halifax, summer begins and ends with water. Patio drinks on either side of Halifax Harbour as the water sparkles obligingly? Check. If a lobster roll should happen to appear in your hand, well, all the better. Stroll the downtown boardwalk or get your steps in along the gravel-meets-boardwalk Salt Marsh Trail, which winds past Conrad’s and Lawrencetown beaches? Yes, please. Hop on the oldest continuously operating saltwater ferry for a 15-minute ride to the Dartmouth side of town? Why not?
If you need to burn some extra energy, a walk across the Angus L. Macdonald suspension bridge, connecting Halifax to Dartmouth, offers the most panoramic water vista of all. It’s free to travel on foot or by bike, and when the weather’s warm, as many as 1,200 crossings are recorded each day.
When I moved to Dartmouth, known as the “City of Lakes” for the 23 within its boundaries, proximity to water was one of the main attractions. In last summer’s humid-thick July, salt water was in the air – you could smell and almost taste it. From my condo, I could see swaths of ocean blue peeking between buildings. My brain buzzed with plans to hit the area’s best beaches – stat.
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Dartmouth delivered, and then some. Conrad’s Beach, just 20 minutes away, means after-work weekday swims are a possibility. The sunsets are among the finest I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Lawrencetown and Martinique are primo spots to watch surfers, both of the board and kite variety. On the Halifax side, Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park, just 30 minutes from downtown, seduces with its three white-sand beaches and hiking trails.
Naturally, all that fresh air and ocean water makes a person both hungry and thirsty, and there’s no shortage of memorable places to sate both urges. LF Bakery in Halifax is said to make the best croissants outside of Paris, and I can’t disagree – though truth be told, it’s the airy, melt-in-my-mouth beignets, both cherry and dulce de leche, that have won my heart.
Stopping in at Field Guide is like attending a house party, only more chic and probably friendlier. (I’m a fan of their Jungle Bird, a blend of dark rums with Campari and pineapple juice.) The Ostrich Club in the trendy Hydrostone District, which looks like a quaint English village, serves up an intoxicating mix of atmosphere and appetizing plates (the tuna crudo with ponzu vinaigrette!) with the motto “Live Fast. Die Yum.” And in Dartmouth, I’ve spent way too much money on baked goods and artisanal ice cream at Café Good Luck, drooled over pan-seared Digby scallops at the Canteen and sipped and snacked on craft cocktails and the best pan con tomate (fresh grated tomatoes on fried sourdough) I’ve tasted outside of Spain at Dear Friend, which is opening a new, expanded patio where the tunes and vibes are sure to be top-notch.
On the topic of patios, dogs are now allowed to join their owners as they dine and drink al fresco at restaurants, bars and cafés. In a pandemic, every advantage matters, and the industry says restaurants see a 5-per-cent increase in sales when dogs can join the party and owners linger just a little longer. Just one of many charming and civilized details that are sure to make summer in this city even more memorable between beach visits.
With the tagline “Born of this Place,” Muir Hotel seeks to create a luxury-hotel niche in Atlantic Canada’s biggest city. Set to open in late summer or early fall, Muir’s waterfront location and thoughtful, modern Maritime design will make it Halifax’s new must-stay spot. Nestled just beneath the historic Halifax Citadel site, Sutton Place Hotel Halifax opened in 2020 and offers a central location and rooms with Citadel or harbour views. Book online to stay any time until the end of the year and get 40 per cent off the standard rate, plus free parking and unlimited WiFi. For an elevated home-away-from-home experience, check out Brewery Park on lively Agricola Street. Its seven contemporary loft-like suites allow you to live like a local and explore the city’s trendy North End on foot with coffee in hand.
What’s that patch of land floating in Halifax Harbour? Georges Island, an actual glacial drumlin, is the site of Fort Charlotte, built in 1750. Now a national historic site, the island opened to the public last summer for the first time since 1965 and is set to do so again. Access Georges Island by canoe or kayak or set up a tour with Murphy’s on the Water’s private boat and allow a couple of hours to explore the island and take a tour of its tunnels. The island is home to a large garter snake population, so be sure to look down and step lightly.
If a leisurely boat tour is more your idea of communing with nature, climb aboard the Sea Warrior with Captain Ryan of Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean, who’ll wind through the 100 wild islands along the Eastern Shore and drop you off on a private island for the afternoon. Hike, swim and picnic on your own island paradise.
Food lovers across the city rejoiced when EDNA, consistently rated one of Canada’s best restaurants, recently announced it would reopen this June after a year-long hiatus. The popular Gottingen Street spot perfectly executes unpretentious bistro-style dishes.
Brightwood Brewery, known for craft beers such as Bonspiel and Backyards, is operating an expanded Beer Garden at Alderney Landing, the site of Dartmouth’s waterfront ferry terminal. A brew and a view doesn’t get much better than here.
From the “go big or go home” files, a new inflatable waterpark called Splashifax is set to blow up First Lake in nearby Lower Sackville. One of the park’s early claims to fame? The world’s largest inflatable unicorn, which will be ready for its Instagram closeup by June if all goes according to plans.