Halifax – Overview

Halifax is the capital and the largest municipality of Nova Scotia, the most eastern province of Canada. The first European settlement, from France, dates back to early 1600. The first British and city founder was Sir Edward Cornwallis who took charge of Halifax in 1749.

Halifax, under the British rule, prepared and secured the area by building fortifications and the solidified Citadel against the French colonies and the Mi’kmaq who first occupied the territories. Ruins of the fortifications can be seen in Point Pleasant Park and the Citadel, part of Parks Canada. 

The city has kept its defense effort in the area. The military presence remains today with the Air, Land and Navy coast guard forces.

The proximity of the ocean allowed major maritime vessels to transition to the port of Halifax. Boats arriving from around the globe can, still today, choose to deliver in the province capital.

However, more than 100 years ago, a tragic accident occurred on the water of Halifax. In 1917, two vessels collided in the harbour.  One of them was charged with ammunitions in preparation for defense during the First World War. The impact caused a massive explosion that cost the lives of more than 2,000 souls. Debris was found miles away from the impact and complete neighbourhoods were blown away. It was in December, the cold winter month during which many lost their families, their houses and their jobs all at once. It was a devastating time. A visit to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic located directly on the waterfront will provide you with more details.

Today, it is also a popular cruise stop.  From 2017 to 2019, more than 170 cruises yearly have stopped in Halifax carrying about 300,000 passengers each year.

Halifax is certainly a nice place to stop.  The waterfront boardwalk is a beautiful way to enjoy your time in the city.  The 4km (about 2.5miles) along the water connects you to different options: Casino, market, museums, stores, restaurants.  You will likely find something to suit your needs.

In addition, the city is relatively compact so if you want to explore more, it is possible on foot to navigate to the major sites: Citadel, microbrewers, Public Gardens, Public Library and more.

For years, Halifax played an important role in the welcoming of new residents. Until the accessibility to air travel, the immigrants were arriving in Canada by boats exactly on the docks of Pier 21 in Halifax.  The conditions of their journey, the contexts of their decisions and the new life in a new country must have been with extreme and mixed emotions that they would arrive.  You can have a better understanding if you visit the Canadian Museum of Immigration accessible in the prolongation of the boardwalk.

You might remember that Halifax is also associated to the Titanic tragedy. On April 14-15, 1912, Halifax played a melancholic role by recovering the bodies of the victims. The White Star Line commissioned the city to support the catastrophe. Considered to be the closest port and having the infrastructure and resources to manage arrivals, they helped. Two-hundred nine (209) bodies were recovered and from which one-hundred fifty (150) of them rest in one of the three cemeteries in the area based on their personal beliefs. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic provides information on the catastrophe and presents artifacts of the ship. The Fairview Lawn, Mount Olivet and Baron de Hirsch cemeteries are not within a walking distance from the waterfront.

While Halifax is next to the water, no swimming is permitted. Beaches can be reached within a 1-hour drive but be aware, the water is extremely cold and very few are willing and capable of supporting these freezing conditions even in summer months. You can find beautiful architecture in the city and places to explore.  I will be writing soon on different places that I had the chance to explore during my 2021 visit. Make sure to visit: the Halifax Public Gardens, the waterfront boardwalk, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, the Immigration Museum and Citadel Hill with the clock tower. Enjoy a nice local beer on a terrace and/or an ice cream but not at the same time!