Lunenburg was one of the first places I added to the list of things I wanted to do on my Canada East Coast road trip.
I had read about the charming small town online. It seemed cool though I wasn’t sure whether it was worth visiting it not.
That was until I saw some Instagram photos of Lunenburg and I knew I had to visit!
The colorful buildings and coastal vibe give Lunenburg its unique personality. It’s easy to see why it’s such a popular destination here in Nova Scotia.
The historic downtown area is picturesque and one of the most brightly colored places I’ve ever been.
Even in late September when many of the tourists have gone home the town still comes alive in the early evening.
People line the streets looking for somewhere to try the readily available delicious seafood. There seems to be live music everywhere and there’s some great local beer waiting to be discovered!
Despite being less than 100 km away from Halifax, Lunenburg deserves your attention as much as anywhere else in Nova Scotia.
In this post I want to talk about some of the best things to do in Lunenburg if you’re planning a visit to this lovely coastal town.
What to Do in Lunenburg
Explore the Historic and Colorful Downtown
Lunenburg is most well known for its historic old town.
The old town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1995.
It’s here that you’ll find the best example of a plan British colonial settlement in North America that still exists.
The original layout of the town was made up in 1753. Much of what you see today exists how it did more than 265 years ago.
What’s most interesting is the well-preserved wooden architecture. Some of wooden houses date back to the 18th century making them the oldest of their type in Canada!
The best way to experience the old town is to ditch your map and wander around.
There are so many interesting and unique details that you can find throughout the center. Keep a close eye on doors, windows, doorknobs, murals, and anything else that you stumble across when you’re out exploring.
Walk on the Waterfront Trail
Right along the edge of the harbour is the waterfront trail.
It’s not as long as you would hope but the trail makes for a pleasant way to explore the waterfront.
From the walkway you’re able to enjoy a beautiful view of the Lunenburg Harbor. Keep your eyes on the water – you might get lucky and see a whale or a seal!
It’s fun to get a closer look at a variety of different boats, ships, and yachts. There are fishing boats, whale watching boats, luxury yachts, and some original wooden ships like the Bluenose II.
In the morning and late afternoon is when the lobster and other fishing boats are most active.
You can see fisherman bringing in their haul or heading out to fish depending on when you visit.
There are some unique brightly colored buildings along the watefront. I really loved the wooden design features and window shutters!
The walkway along the harbour is a great way to explore the waterfront in Lunenburg.
I recommend visiting early in the morning. The lighting is perfect, the harbour is calm, and it’s a peaceful experience!
Visit the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is one of the best museums in Lunenburg.
At this museum you’re about to learn more about Maritime life and culture. You’ll find exhibits about life in a fishing community and what life is like at sea.
The living fish exhibit shows you what sort of fish can be found in the area. There are a few wharf-side vessels that you can get a better look at.
The highlight of the museum are the large whale jaw-bones positioned at the entrance. These are cool to check out and make for a great photo opportunity!
Depending on your preferences you could go on a guided tour or explore the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic at your own pace.
Don’t forget to check out the Ice House Theater if you want to relax with a film.
The museum is easy to find. It’s the big red building at the end of the boardwalk right beside the water!
St. John’s Anglican Church
One of the most interesting Canadian National historic sites in Lunenburg is the St. John’s Anglican Church.
The design of the church is unique, I’ve never really seen anything like it before. I was surprised to find out that it’s the second oldest church of English origin in Canada.
It doesn’t matter which angle you approach the St. John’s Anglican Church – you’re bound to be impressed by it.
The church is built in a Carpenter Gothic architectural style.
Unfortunately, much of the church was damaged in 2001 after a large fire. In 2005 the church was reopened after having been fully restored.
These days it’s one of the most impressive sites in town.
There are a few ghost stories about the church if you’re into that sort of thing. There is even a haunted walking tour that you should check out to learn more about the haunted history of Lunenburg.
Try to stop by the church during the day and at night. It’s cool to see it in the different lighting and ambience!
Hop On the Bluenose II
At the harbour you’ll find the famous Bluenose II.
This is a replica of what was once the fastest racing fishing schooner in the world. The original Bluenose is an iconic Canadian Maritime vessel. You can even find it on the Canadian dime!
The Bluenose II is an exact replica and it’s a great place to learn more about boating and Maritime Canadian history. Every so often the schooner goes under an extensive restoration project to keep everything working and in its best condition for visitors.
If you happen to catch the Bluenose II in Lunenburg you can take a tour on board. I actually caught up with the Schooner during my trip to Halifax so that’s when I got to check it out.
You can also choose to set sail on the Bluenose II if that’s something you’re interested in. It’s a great excursion and a memorable experience to have when you’re visiting the Maritimes.
Visit Another National Historic Site
A few blocks away from the St. John’s Anglican Church is the Lunenburg Academy. You definitely want to check it out – it’s a beautiful building with an impressive design and style!
The Academy is a Second Empire-style building. It’s the only 19th century building of its kind that still intact in Nova Scotia.
Getting to the Academy is easy. It’s located at the top of Gallow’s Hill and easy to find from anywhere in town.
The haunted walking tour starts here if you’re considering taking advantage of the experience. On this tour you’ll learn a lot more about the Academy as well as the other haunted buildings and ghost stories in Lunenburg.
Drive to Blue Rocks
A short drive away is the quaint fishing village of Blue Rocks.
This is a small still active fishing community in the most picturesque Maritime location you could imagine.
The blue slate rocks, the quickly rising and falling tides, and the wooden shacks all come together to make Blue Rocks a unique Nova Scotia destination.
Some of the locals claim that one of these shacks is the most photographed building in Canada. I’m not sure if I believe that but don’t forget to grab your own photo of the fishing shacks on the water!
Depending on when you visit you can get busy at the Blue Rocks. There are a lot of other tourists coming to check out the area. Be respectful of the people living here and don’t assume that you can park anywhere you want.
Grab Dinner at the Knot Pub
Tucked away outside of the town center is the locally famous Knot Pub.
This is a local bar that serves delicious food for reasonable prices.
What’s great about the Knot Pub is that this is somewhere locals actually eat.
There are plenty of options for seafood although the menu items are limited here. I recommend heading closer to the center and stopping at a dedicated seafood restaurant.
You’ll definitely want to check out Knot Pub if you’re looking for something warm, hearty, and that comes with a home-cooked taste!
After dinner head down to the waterfront and go for a relaxing stroll.
The Knaut-Rhuland House
The Knaut-Rhuland House is another one of the National Historic Sites in town.
Originally, it was a house that was built in 1793. Today, it’s a museum that’s currently managed by the local Heritage Society.
At the Museum you can learn more about what life in Lunenburg was like at the turn of the 19th century. There are costumed guides as well as permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The house, having been built so long ago, features prime elements of Georgian architectural styles. Architecture and history lovers alike will find this museum fascinating!
Enjoy a Drink at the Ironworks Distillery
Since being founded in 2009 the Ironworks Distillery has become one of the most popular things to do in Lunenburg.
The Distillery owners make everything from scratch. With a focus on local development there’s an emphasis at the distillery of using local raw ingredients.
At the Ironworks you can find rum, vodka, gin, brandy, and tasty liqueurs.
For an even better look at what goes on behind the scenes it’s possible to go on a guided tour of the Distillery. You’ll be able to sample some of the different spirits being produced as well as pick up something to bring home.
The building where the Distillery is located is from 1893. It used to be a marine blacksmith shop. Ironworks were made here for for the local shipbuilders and that’s where the name “Ironworks” came from.
Where to Stay in Lunenburg
During my trip I spent two nights at the Lunenburg Inn B&B.
I actually wrote a review of my stay at the B&B and you can check that out here.
At the there are a few different room types to choose from depending on your budget. A complimentary full breakfast is included in the rate. The location of the property is great for exploring the town and you can’t go wrong with free parking!
I would definitely recommend taking a look at the Lunenburg Inn if you’re planning a trip to the area and looking for somewhere to stay!
More Information on Visiting Nova Scotia
Looking for other small towns in Nova Scotia to visit during your trip?
Just across the border from New Brunswick is the lovely historic town of Amherst.
It has a beautiful and picturesque well-preserved downtown area with lots of small shops and things to check out. The town is also in a great location for exploring the Bay of Fundy and Advocate Harbour.
Take a look at my post on visiting Amherst!