Where to Splurge and Save in the Annapolis Valley
The Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia has become one of the top tourist spots in recent years. Wineries, breweries, and cider companies have popped up even in the smallest communities. The food is great, the weather is good, and the Instagram opportunities are plentiful.
It can also get pretty pricey – between all that good food, wine, and now some seriously high-end accommodation options, plus the less than stellar public transit, the Annapolis Valley is not a budget destination.
However – there is room to splurge and room to save to still get the most out of a weekend in the Valley.
It’s absolutely possible (if not easier!) to splurge on accommodation. But since you likely won’t be spending much time in your room, I would aim to save here. Almost all of the accomodations in Wolfville, a small town home to Acadia University, are going to be pretty nice regardless of price point. You can get a night at an Airbnb for $97 plus tax, or at the Micro-Boutique Hotel for $144 plus tax. If you have a car and want to get a bit of a deal, check out surrounding communities like Kentville or Canning.
Splurge: Winery Tour
If you don’t have a car, splurge on the Magic Winery Bus tour that departs from Wolfville on weekends. Starting at $100 per person, this is not a cheap day out, but you’ll get 5 or 6 hours of touring the wineries around Wolfville, and, depending on what tour you choose, small plates or wine tastings to go with it. When I was traveling in Ireland without a car, an option like this would have been great to be able to see outside of the major cities, and get into the countryside. Even if wine isn’t your thing, the views are beautiful, and you can take advantage of the stops to grab a bite to eat at one of the many great restaurants.
Save: Drive yourself and skip the wine!
If you do have a car, don’t bother with the wine bus tours. Save your cash by visiting all the wineries you want without tasting at all stops. If you’re a red wine lover this will be easier since the Valley primarily makes white wines. But if you have time, stop at Le Caveau, the restaurant at Grand Pre Vineyards, for lunch under the pergola. Sitting outside feels like you’re in Europe for the price of a $16 bowl of chowder.
Splurge: Rent a car
Despite the joys of the Wine Bus, and my personal aversion to cars (“you are the traffic!”), I would recommend splurging on a rental car if you haven’t driven to the Valley.
It’s true that you can stay right in Wolfville and have a nice weekend of eating, drinking, and shopping, but to really see the Valley you have to drive it (or be driven). Plus, the cheap and free sights are outside of town!
$2 ice cream at Jonny’s is the best deal in the Valley, and you can visit the cute town of Berwick while you’re at it. Head to the lookout at Grand Pre on Old Post Road, and then skip across the Bay of Fundy to Port Williams for pasta from the Noodle Guy, and then up the North Mountain to the Look Off at Scots Bay near Canning. Without a vehicle, you can certainly have a nice time, but until public transit catches up, you won’t have nearly the same access to the sights.
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Save: Don’t pay the entry fee!
The National Historic Site at Grand Pre, based in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see on a trip to the Valley. At $8.50 for an adult, entry isn’t a significant cost, but I don’t like to spend unnecessarily on sights when I could be eating! The Grand Pre site details the history of the Acadians, their culture, and eventual expulsion from the land. Inside the interpretive centre is an exhibit with information about the history of the people, and a short film to watch. However, for a grand total of zero dollars, you can tour the grounds, rest inside the air conditioned interpretive centre, use the (very clean) bathrooms, and see the church, gardens, and historic monuments. Just ask the Parks Canada staff and they’ll give you a special sticker to grant access to all the free elements.
Splurge: Eat well
Food. Eat all the things. In Port Williams try The Noodle Guy for pasta and a piece of bread pudding. In Wolfville, a meal at The Church Brewery puts you right on their main street patio. I recommend the vegetarian cauliflower tacos. Troy has another lovely patio with Mediterranean food, and Petite Patrie Chocolate in Kentville has the richest hot chocolate and ice cream flights to try. And on the way to Canning, stop in at Fox Hill Cheese for two scoops of gelato in a waffle cone. The Wolfville Farmers Market on Saturday mornings is the spot to get fresh pastries and produce, and then hop over to Charts on Elm Avenue for a speciality coffee and a seat on their outdoor patio.
Want to do more exploring in Nova Scotia? Check out the Eastern Shore!
Save: Walk, bike, and swim
One of the best free activities in the Valley is to visit the many walking trails and beaches. The Harvest Moon trail is a multi-use (walking/biking) route that follows the old railway. You can go more than 100 kilometers to Annapolis Royal on this trail! But try the shorter route from Wolfville to Grand Pre instead.
The Wolfville Library will lend you bikes for free. So head out in either direction on the trail to see the dykes the Acadians built. Wolfville has its own internal trail system, that can take you through the woods and across town. Follow it all the way up to the Reservoir, a little beach and swimming hole at the top of Sherwood Drive. The trails at Blomidon Provincial Park are great and offer views of the Bay of Fundy. In Canning, Kingsport Beach is a popular swimming and tanning spot, or get a first hand experience of the force of the tides at Evangeline Beach in Grand Pre.
Have you been to the Annapolis Valley? What’s the best thing to splurge on to feel like you’re living the Ritz Carlton life?
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Fall Hiking in Blomidon Provincial Park - Rachel Karoline
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