Chowder trails and lobster tails

Kav Dadfar takes in all the best sights and best bites for foodie’s guide to Nova Scotia

Paid partnership with Tourism Nova Scotia

Chowder Trails and lobster tails

Kav Dadfar takes in all the best sights and best bites during a foodie trip to Nova Scotia.

Chowder trails and lobster tails: to listen along to this story on Nova Scotia food, or to pause the playback, click the play button:

I slammed on the brakes, relieved that Nova Scotia Highway 105 was eerily quiet, preventing a potential pile-up. Not a single car had crossed my path since leaving my hotel in the morning.

I quickly made a U-turn and headed back to Charlene’s Family Restaurant, renowned for its multi-award-winning seafood chowder. In a province where seafood reigns supreme, earning recognition as one of the best spots for seafood chowder is no small feat.

Housed in an unassuming green wooden building across from the Bras d’Or Lake in Cape Breton Island, Charlene’s Restaurant is easy to miss. As I stepped inside, it felt as though I had been invited into owner Charlene MacNeil’s dining room. Maritime artefacts adorned the walls, including fishing nets and portraits of sailors. I took my seat in a corner beneath a painting of one such pipe-smoking seafarer and eagerly awaited my chowder.

My bowl was a treasure trove of lobster, scallops, clams, and fish with barely enough room for the luscious creamy broth. Accompanied by a home-baked bread roll and butter, the dish was hearty and flavourful and showcased why people travel from afar to savour Charlene’s famous seafood chowder.

The history of seafood chowder in Nova Scotia is intricately woven into the fabric of its maritime past, and the evolution of this beloved dish is showcased along the famous Nova Scotia Chowder Trail

The trail, a culinary expedition spanning the province, highlights the diverse interpretations of the dish, crafted by various chefs and establishments.

Each stop reveals a unique twist to the classic recipe, reflecting the individual touch of the cook and the regional influences. It’s a testament to the fact that, in Nova Scotia, every seafood chowder tells a different story, each one a delicious chapter in the province’s culinary history.

Leaving behind Cape Breton Island, the next stop on my culinary tour of Nova Scotia was the beautiful town of Lunenburg. Sitting on the picturesque South Shore, Lunenburg is a historic town that exudes maritime charm.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, the town is renowned for its colourful waterfront and well-preserved 18th-century architecture.

The iconic Bluenose II, a famous schooner launched in July 1963, calls Lunenburg home and symbolises the town’s deep ties to the sea. 

I was here to try the famous Lunenburger, a culinary masterpiece from Grand Banker Bar & Grill. This burger is a testament to Nova Scotia’s bountiful offerings and inventive gastronomy.

It boasts six ounces of freshly ground local beef, expertly formed by hand, and topped with smoked mozzarella and bacon.

The addition of arugula (known as ‘rocket’ to us Brits) and garlic aioli lends a delightful complexity while the generous portions of Nova Scotia lobster—its knuckle and claw meat—create a decadent surf-and-turf fusion. 

A finishing touch of tarragon butter sauce adds a burst of herbaceous richness. It all sits in a local artisan bun and is accompanied by a bacon-wrapped scallop.

The Lunenburger is a perfect example of how chefs in Nova Scotia are innovating classic dishes and blending them with the region’s maritime ingredients.

I left Lunenburg and headed 90 km west to Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. 

Situated in the heart of Nova Scotia, this National Park is a blend of natural beauty and cultural significance. The park spans lush forests, sparkling lakes, and winding rivers, offering a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

Beyond its natural splendour, the site also holds historical importance, preserving Mi’kmaq petroglyphs that reflect the enduring connection between indigenous communities and this land.

This dual designation as a national park and historic site makes Kejimkujik a unique destination, where you can immerse yourself in both the pristine wilderness and the cultural heritage of Nova Scotia. 

As I sat on the shores of Kejimkujik Lake, I was about to try another of the must-eat dishes. Poutine is a quintessentially Canadian dish that has gained international acclaim for its delicious simplicity. Originating from the province of Quebec, poutine is a comforting ensemble of crispy golden fries generously smothered in rich, savoury gravy and crowned with fresh cheese curds. 

I had opted for a lobster poutine, a delightful fusion of two beloved Canadian dishes, combining the classic comfort of poutine with the decadence of Nova Scotia’s renowned lobster.

What sets lobster poutine apart is the addition of succulent Nova Scotia lobster meat, which is sautéed in a cream sauce before being added to the fries, fusing this traditional Canadian dish with the unmistakable flavour of Nova Scotia. 

As the evening grew late, I was on the hunt to finally try a donair. In the distance I could see the fluorescent lights of a takeaway restaurant shining brightly in the darkness that engulfed the town of Annapolis Royal. It was like a beacon pulling me towards it.

For a region surrounded by an abundance of seafood, you wouldn’t expect to find a meaty kebab high on its list of things to eat. But that’s exactly what happened in 2015 when Halifax adopted the donair as its official food.

Originating from the Middle East, the Nova Scotian adaptation of the donair features spiced and seasoned beef, cooked on a vertical rotisserie, and served in a warm flatbread. 

I waited impatiently as my donair was carefully crafted. I have tried kebabs like this all over the world, but from my first bite, what immediately distinguished the Nova Scotia donair, was the sweet and garlicky sauce made with condensed milk, vinegar, and garlic, generously drizzled over the meat.

The sweet-and-savoury combination of the sauce and beef, mixed with the freshness of diced tomatoes and onions, was mouthwatering. 

While donair might be the official food of Halifax, Nova Scotia is known for its thriving lobster industry. There’s even a Nova Scotia Lobster Trail which takes seafood enthusiasts to a series of destinations offering the freshest and most succulent lobster dishes.

So, it was fitting that the final food stop on this food road trip led me to Halls Harbour Lobster Pound & Restaurant. 

Sited on the Bay of Fundy, the restaurant is a quintessential maritime dining experience and offers breathtaking views of the world’s highest tides, creating an idyllic backdrop for indulging in the region’s finest seafood.  

At Halls Harbour, you handpick your lobster from the pound before it’s expertly prepared. The restaurant’s menu features an array of seafood delights, from whole lobsters to lobster rolls and clam chowder. 

I had picked out a 2lb lobster for lunch but before that I was given a tour of the pound to learn more about the fishing methods of these crustaceans. What I learnt was surprising and reassuring.

The provincial government of Nova Scotia has long-established stringent regulations governing lobster harvesting, including incredibly tough and expensive licence requirements, size restrictions, seasonal closures, and trap limits.

These measures aim to protect juvenile lobsters and breeding females to maintain a balanced ecosystem. 

Additionally, Nova Scotia also promotes sustainable aquaculture practices, encouraging the use of environmentally friendly technologies and responsible fishing methods.

By embracing sustainable practices, such as proper trap design and escape mechanisms, Nova Scotia’s lobster industry is not only safeguarding the resources but also ensuring the livelihoods of local fishermen and the integrity of the marine environment.

At the restaurant, I savoured every tender, sweet and buttery mouthful. The lobster’s natural sweetness was complemented by a hint of brininess, offering a nuanced depth to its profile that reflected the pristine waters of the Atlantic. 

What was clear to me was how each destination that I visited on my Nova Scotia culinary road trip added a unique insight in the province’s food scene.

From the award-winning seafood chowder at Charlene’s Family Restaurant to the gourmet Lunenburger at Grand Banker Bar & Grill, the experience of this road trip was a symphony of flavours celebrating the region’s premium ingredients and culinary innovations.

Need to know

Getting there

There are direct daily flights to Halifax in Nova Scotia from London Heathrow with Air Canada.

WestJet will launch seasonal non-stop flights from London on 29 April. Direct services will operate from Dublin and Edinburgh from 20 June.

Icelandair returns to Halifax in May 2024, with complimentary stopovers in Iceland for up to seven days.

Best time to go

The best time to visit is May to October. During this time, the weather is relatively mild, and the landscapes are adorned with vibrant colours.

Or you can time your visit to coincide with the annual Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl Festival in February. It’s an entire month of gastronomical celebrations, competitions and events.

Where to stay

There are plenty of options for accommodations on offer. Try the Quarterdeck Beachside Villas & Grill which offers stunning ocean views, and gourmet dining on Nova Scotia’s south shore.

In Annapolis Royal, try the historic Hillsdale House Inn (built in 1859). With just 13 guestrooms which are all unique in their decor, it is like stepping into a Victorian mansion.

Wine lovers, be sure to spend a night at The Inn at Grand Pre Winery which offers luxurious accommodations, scenic vineyard views, exquisite dining, and fantastic wine-tasting experiences.

Must-pack items

A camera to photograph the delicious food and stunning scenery.

How to do it

The only way to explore the different regions around the province is by car. There are numerous options at Halifax International Airport so you can explore the area at your own pace.

Anything else

Nova Scotia Tourism has two fantastic apps to help you on your culinary adventure around the island:

Discover the Taste of Nova Scotia mobile app.

Download the Wines of Nova Scotia Explorer app.

FEATURED TOUR

Glimpse of Nova Scotia | 8-night fly-drive holiday with Frontier Travel

A curated, best-of Nova Scotia trip encompassing a one-week fly-drive adventure. Explore Halifax, Kejimkujik National Park, and Cape Breton. Encounter whales, witness dramatic tides, and revel in breathtaking landscapes.

Price: £1,785 per person based on 2nd June departure for two people. Email: canada@frontier-travel.co.uk

More information

This Nova Scotia food guide was brought to you in partnership with Tourism Nova Scotia.

The gateway to Atlantic Canada and only a six-hour flight from the UK, Nova Scotia is filled to the brim with stunning natural beauty, diverse cultures, rich heritage, and warm, friendly people.

The province is known for its world-class experiences, spectacular beaches, and a top-notch locally sourced culinary scene shaped by the sea.

For more information and suggested itineraries, go to novascotia.com.


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