By Travel Editor, Rand Hoch
As usual, Jeremy’s advice was right on point: There is no need for a car when visiting Halifax for two days.
After our two hour drive from Annapolis Royal along Route 101, we checked into The Prince George Hotel, dropped off our bags, and said goodbye to the convertible.
There is a lot to do and see in Halifax, but, being oyster-centric, we were concentrating on the waterfront area along the harbor. Although we had been told several times throughout our road tip that finding oysters in Halifax might be challenging, that did not prove to be the case.
Stopping at the first restaurant we saw on the Halifax Waterfront, we were pleased to learn that Salty’s was serving Beausoleils oysters from New Brunswick. Sitting on the deck at water’s edge, we ordered Grey Goose martinis to accompany the oysters and watched the Sunday boaters enjoying the waterfront.
Having been spoiled by the incredible oysters on Prince Edward Island, we found the Beausoleils to be relatively basic: juicy and firm, with a pronounced brininess. That having been said, we enjoyed two dozen Beausoleils along with our martinis.
Heading out to explore the waterfront, we paused briefly at Cow’s to check out the fun T-shirts – and have some ice cream. (Michael won’t let me post the photo of him by the chain’s ubiquitous life-size plastic cows, so you’ll just have to use your imaginations.) Cow's is widely recognized as one of the world's top places to get ice cream.
After our long drive across Nova Scotia and our snacks, it was time to head back to the hotel for a rest. We checked out the historic buildings – and tourist traps – in the Waterfront District and then headed up the hill towards the hotel.
Along the way, we passed The Press Gang, a restaurant and oyster bar that had been recommended to us by Suzan, our host at The Bailey House in Annapolis Royal. We ducked in to check out the day’s featured oysters on the chalkboard above the bar: Rocky Bays from Prince Edward Island; Black Points from Pictou, Nova Scotia; and Beausoleils from Peacock Cove, New Brunswick. I also learned that elk chops were on the menu. We made our dinner reservations.
Well rested, we returned to The Press Gang for a leisurely dinner. The elk chop was amazing – and surprisingly tender. But then, we were there primarily for the oysters.
Our barman Brian shucked the first dozen oysters, four of each of the featured varieties. He told us a bit about the oysters as we sipped Grey Goose martinis.
Going clockwise in the evening’s oysters are the Rocky Bays, the Black Points and the Beausoleils.
As we expected, Prince Edward Island’s featured oysters were the best. The deep-cupped Rocky Bays were plump and bursting with salty liquor. Nova Scotia’s Black Points were light and only mildly salty. And for some reason, these Beausoleils did not taste as briny as the one’s at Salty’s.
Over our leisurely and exquisite dinner we tried to figure out what to do on the last day of our roadtrip. Earlier that afternoon we overheard travelers at Salty’s talking about the humpback whale they had seen that afternoon, so Michael suggested we go on a whale watching expedition.
The next morning we took the ferry to Dartmouth, where we met up with another couple to spend a few hours in the harbor watching for whales.
And that is what we did: watch.
There wasn’t a whale in sight the entire time. Our captain and guide were very apologetic, but if there are no whales, there are no whales. So, Michael and I took turns shooting photos of the same lighthouse – a lot of photos – and listened to our guides tell us about whales and the history of Halifax.
Slightly disappointed, we took the ferry back to Halifax with a new mission in mind: lobster.
During the road trip, we learned that a lot of the lobsters caught in the Atlantic Provinces are one to one-and-a quarter pounders which are canned for commercial use. Since those are barely legal in my mind, I had ordered only lobster rolls throughout the roadtrip. But today, I wanted steamed lobster and french fries.
Passing Bluenose II one of Halifax’s landmark restaurants, I noticed a sign for a $23.95 lobster dinner. That was all it took. The one-and-a-half pounder was great – and Michael always gets a kick out of seeing me in a bib!
On our way back to the hotel after lunch, we passed a sign reading “Oyster Happy Hour”. As you will soon read, that deserves a posting all of its own.
The Prince George Hotel
1725 Market Street
Nova Scotia B3J 3N9, Canada
1869 Upper Water Street
Nova Scotia B3J 1S9, Canada
The Press Gang
5218 Prince Street
Nova Scotia B3J 3X4, Canada
Bluenose II Restaurant
1824 Hollis Street
Nova Scotia B3J 1W4