Mahone Bay has to be one of the prettiest little towns ever. Its main street lined with quaint storefronts and its gorgeous harbour views (not to mention the famous three churches) have made it one of our favourite day trips from Halifax since before we had kids.
There are two ways to get to Mahone Bay from Halifax. The first is on the 103 where you zip in and zip out and that’s the quickest, most efficient way but we all know half the fun of a road trip is taking the scenic route, right? Plus it offers lots more opportunities for fun pit stops along the way.
The scenic route here is Highway 3, also known as the Lighthouse Route. I recommend starting your day trip in the morning by taking the 103 out of the city and getting off at Exit 5 in Tantallon and getting on Route 3 from there.
On your way to Route 3 be sure to stop at the Train Station Bike and Bean in French Village/Upper Tantallon. This charming shop is a combo cafe and bike shop, all in an old train station! A bonus is that it sits on the Rail Trail so you can go for a little walk or bring your kids bikes along with you and rent bikes for yourself from the Bike and Bean if you get inspired to take a ride along the trail.
Get back on Route 3 after your morning caffeine fix and enjoy the stunning views you’ll see along the twisting road along the highway.
About fifteen minutes down the road you’ll find Cleveland Beach, which is an excellent pit stop to burn off some energy. If it’s off-season, bring some rain boots and buckets and let the kids run and explore along the sandy shores.
Once the kids are tired out from all that running around, continue on Route 3 for about thirty minutes to Chester, which is a great stop for lunch (and is also right up there on the charming small town meter). We’ve eaten at the Kiwi Cafe a few times and never been disappointed - good range of food including sandwiches that will please picky kids. We also love to visit the gazebo and watch all the sailboats go in and out of the harbour.
Once you’re done in Chester, push on towards Mahone Bay, only about twenty minutes away. We typically park right across from Tim Horton’s in the public lot by the three churches and then wander from there.
Head on into town and pop into the shops along the way. Our family favourites include Sweet Ride Cycling which is a combo bike and candy shop (can you tell we’re a cycling and treats family yet??), the Teazer, Bluestone Magik, and A Novel Idea.
If you didn’t eat lunch in Chester, or you’re just ready for another snack and coffee, we recommend The Biscuit Eater - a combo bakery and book shop, the Mug and Anchor or the LaHave Bakery. Either way, we always grab some bread and cookies from the LaHave Bakery for when we get home.
The best plan of action though is no plan of action - simply start wandering through the town and pop into whatever shops catch your eye. I’d also recommend hopping onto Simple Local Life, a blog my friend Jen writes, all about life on the South Shore with loads of information about restaurants, shops, festivals, and more in the area.
Mahone Bay is also home to a few wonderful festivals you should add to your calendar. In fact, their Scarecrow Festival was the very first day trip our family took after Mr M was born (he was barely three weeks old!). They also have a charming Father Christmas festival, complete with a road train! There are also a couple bike rides, home and garden tour weekend, a lobster crawl, and the boatyard weekend to celebrate their shipbuilding heritage.
There are so many lovely places to stay along this route if you want to make a weekend of it. We especially love White Point Beach Resort and Oak Island Inn. We’ve also heard wonderful things about the Quarter Deck. We’ve even stayed at an Airbnb near Bayswater Beach once which made for a perfect laidback weekend away in the summer.
Check out the Town of Mahone Bay’s website for all the information on festivals, shops, visitor information, and more.