HALIFAX CRUISE PORT GUIDE

Halifax panorama

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Welcome to Halifax, Nova Scotia!

Halifax is the provincial capital of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, best known for its historical charm, community spirit, fresh seafood, and incredible natural landscapes. The city is also known for Mackintosh’s chocolate and toffee products including Rolo and Quality Street. It owes its existence largely to its location on one of the second largest and deepest ice-free natural harbors in the world (after Sydney, Australia), which, over time, made Halifax one of the most important Canadian commercial ports on the Atlantic seaboard.

In this article, I share with you:

  • Halifax cruise port info (cruise terminal, local transport, how to get around the port)
  • 10 best things to do in Halifax on a cruise
  • Must-do Halifax tours



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Halifax Cruise Terminal

The Halifax cruise terminal is equipped with infrastructure to accommodate the world’s largest cruise ships.

Halifax cruise terminal. Nova Scotia
Halifax cruise terminal. Source: Pixabay.com

Cruise ships dock in a North-South line from Pier 20 to Pier 24.

Piers 22 and 20 are the main docks offering passengers direct ship-to-shore access to the cruise passenger terminals, Pavilions 22 and 20. Pavilion 22 offers a pleasant shopping experience where you can find authentic Nova Scotian souvenirs, handicrafts, and products. Pavilion 20 offers an open, barrier-free space where the tour buses normally wait for guests joining shore excursions. Pier 23, Cunard Centre is a large event center that is also used for cruise activities.

The port is compact, walkable, and wheelchair accessible. The distance between Pier 21 and Pavillion 22 is only 75 meters (246 ft), or less than a 5-minute walk.

Check out today’s cruise deals from Cruise Critic!

Halifax cruise terminal - Pier 21
Pier 21 houses the Canadian Museum of Immigration. Photo courtesy of Boni Gathuita.

Transportation Around The City

Halifax has an efficient bus network to transit around, however, it is best explored on foot as the historic old town is quite small and easily walkable.

The Big Pink Hop on Hop Off (some are not necessarily with pink color) is one of the most convenient ways of seeing what this diverse and cosmopolitan city has to offer.  You can board this vintage double-decker bus in front of your cruise terminal for an easy and fun 90-minute ride around the city. You’ll pass along the beautiful Halifax waterfront and stop at famous Halifax landmarks, including Fairview Lawn Cemetery, known as a final resting place for over one hundred Titanic victims.

Taxis and limousines are conveniently located in front of the terminals.

Halifax Big Pink Hop on Hop off bus
Halifax Big Pink Hop on Hop off bus. Photo courtesy of Boni Gathuita.

Places to Visit Around The Port

Travelers say Halifax is best seen on foot, so forget about the car and start walking! One of the most popular things that guests like to do is to take a leisurely walk along the 4-kilometer long Halifax waterfront, one of the world’s longest downtown boardwalks filled with numerous restaurants, cafes, shops, and attractions.

Pier 21 is one of the historically most interesting places in Halifax, with the Canadian Museum of Immigration right at the dock (that charges admission fees). This is the site where many immigrants came through during World War II and the years that followed it.

A five-minute walk away is the 265-year-old Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, proudly hosting over 250 vendors.

Lobsters at the Halifax market
Photo courtesy of Boni Gathuita.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is 10 minutes’ walk. Here you will get stories of seafaring and mementos from the Titanic, and be sure to survey the city from the 18th-century Citadel National Historic Site. Then walk into any of Halifax’s great bars and restaurants and catch some live music to round out your day. There are shops, art galleries, grocery stores, bars, and cafés within a short walking distance from the port.

Halifax waterfront
Halifax waterfront. Source: Pixabay.com

10 Best Places to Visit in Halifax on a Cruise

1. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is Canada’s oldest and largest Maritime Museum, located a-10 minute walking distance from the cruise terminal. It has a view over Halifax harbor and contains impressive collections of 30,000 photographs, charts, and rare books. The museum has the world’s foremost collection of wooden artifacts, with exhibits from the popular Titanic, including one of the few surviving deck chairs, a millionaire’s gloves, and the shoes of a 19-month-old child. It also features a 2009 exhibit Ship of Fate: The Tragic Voyage of St. Louis, the first Canadian exhibit to explore the 1939 voyage of the Jewish refugee ship MS St. Louis.

Explore the Maritime Museum tours

2. The Famous Peggy’s Cove and Peggy’s Point Lighthouse

The distance from Halifax cruise port to Peggy’s Cove is about 45 km (28 mi) and it takes 50 minutes’ drive to get there. The best option to visit it is to book a cruise line-sponsored shore excursion, especially if the ship has limited time in port.

(Recommended article: Pros and Cons of Booking Cruise Ship Shore Excursions)

I have seen guests left behind, but if you book the tour onboard the ship then you are worry-free. Even if the tour bus breaks down or there is traffic congestion, the ship tour operators will notify the ship, and they will surely wait.

Peggy’s Cove is a small rural fishing community located on the eastern shore of St. Margaret’s Bay which is the site of Peggy’s Point Lighthouse (established in 1868).

Peggy's Cove and Lighthouse
Peggy’s Cove and Lighthouse. Source: Pixabay.com

Although its inhabitants still fish for lobster and the community maintains a rustic undeveloped appearance, Peggy’s Cove is a major tourist attraction visited by a large number of tourists every day. The kindness of the people and the scenery of the impressive rock formations on which the lighthouse rests are worth another visit. They will even tell you about the naming of the fishing village.

You can have great picture opportunities by the lighthouse, check out the fishermen’s monument and peruse the shops surrounding Peggy’s cove.

(Recommended article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items)

Explore Peggy’s Cove tours

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3. Halifax Citadel

It takes about 10 minutes on foot to get to Halifax Citadel National Historic Site from the Halifax port. If you use a stroller the easiest way is to enter the access road from Sackville Street and travel along the sidewalk to the main entrance.  Halifax Citadel is wheelchair accessible and there is an entrance/parking fee.

Old Clock Tower sits on the Citadel Hill overlooking the harbor and downtown.
Old Clock Tower sits on the Citadel Hill overlooking the harbor and downtown. Source: Pixabay.com

The star-shaped fortress that still stands guard from its hilltop perch is one of Canada’s most visited historic monuments. This massive masonry-construction fort was designed to repel both a land-based attack and attack from the water. At the Citadel you will get to learn about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or “the Mounties”. The peak season is from June 1 to September 15.

You can opt for a guided or self-guided tours that normally last from 45-60 minutes. There are also audio-visual presentations and exhibits that communicate the Citadel’s role in the history of Halifax and North America. My favorite was the Ghost Tour where you get to learn about the ghost stories and legends of the Halifax Citadel, run from mid-July until late October. At the Citadel they also conduct a year-round daily ceremonial firing of the noon gun, as a reminder of the fort’s role in the city’s history.

From the Citadel, take time to explore the historic streets, and chat to locals when you stop for coffee, a glass of wine, or a craft beer.

See the list of Halifax Citadel guided tours

4. Titanic Cemetery

It is officially known as Fairview Lawn Cemetery and is located a 10-15 minute drive via Barrington Street (around 7 km; 4 mi) from the cruise port.

It is best known as the final resting place for 121 victims of the sinking of the legendary Titanic that took place only 700 miles east of Halifax. Most of the graves are memorialized with small gray markers containing the name and the date of death. One of the better-known Titanic markers is for an unidentified child victim, known for decades as “The Unknown Child” but was later identified in 2002.

On my last visit one grave marked “J. Dawson” caught my eyes. This grave gained fame following the release of the 1997 film Titanic. I learnt that it belonged to Joseph Dawson, an Irishman who worked in Titanic’s boiler room as a coal trimmer and not the popular character in the movie.

There is no entrance fee for the cemetery.

See the list of Titanic Cemetery guided tours

Titanic Cemetery Halifax
Titanic Cemetery. Source: Pixabay.com

5. Halifax Public Gardens

Halifax Public Gardens are one of the finest examples of Victorian Gardens and the only surviving authentic Victorian Gardens in North America. It is a stunning 16-acre oasis containing fountains, rare flowers, trees, and a beautiful gazebo.

It is located around 2 km (1.3 mi) from the Halifax cruise terminal, roughly 7 minutes ride or 20 to 30 minutes’ walk depending on your walking speed.

Halifax Public Gardens
Halifax Public Gardens. Source: Pixabay.com

They are open annually from approximately May 1 until November 1 from 7:00 AM to one hour before sunset. Admission is free. The gardens also feature a bandstand that is used for free public concerts on Sunday afternoons during the summer. Canada Day is celebrated every July 1st in the gardens as well as the Natal Day celebrated every first Monday in August.

Explore the tours going to Halifax Public Gardens

6. Alexander Keith’s Brewery

Did you know that Nova Scotia is home to over 50 breweries? Alexander Keith’s brewery was founded in 1820 and ranks among the oldest working breweries in North America, dedicated to crafting small-batch brews, inspired by local Nova Scotian culture.

You can easily walk to the brewery from the cruise port (approximately 10 minutes). They are open all year round, and they offer tours with different time schedules. Visitors can tour the beautiful space and learn all about the history of Mr. Keith’s legacy, as well as get a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process. For the lovers of beer be sure to try the “Real Nova Scotian Good Time”

Explore Alexander Keith’s Brewery tours

7. Point Pleasant Park

Point Pleasant is situated in Halifax’s south end, approximately 2.5 km (1.5 mi) from the port of Halifax.

The park stretches over 190 acres (77 ha) and is home to 25 miles (40 km) of winding trails and wide paths, many of which are wheelchair accessible. It is a perfect spot for picnics and enjoying the breathtaking ocean views.

Highlights include several historic military batteries and the Prince of Wales Tower. Visitors can experience a variety of coastal ecosystems. You can take a self-guided cultural walking tour, go for a swim at the beach or watch a performance by the Shakespeare by the Sea theater group. You can also go cycling along designated cycle trails. Washroom facilities are available, and the park is open from 5 a.m. to midnight.

It is about 6 minutes’ drive by taxi at a cost of approximately 10 $ per vehicle one-way, and 3 $ by public bus which might take about 20 minutes.

Explore the Point Pleasant tours

8. St. Paul’s Anglican Church

Nestled in the Halifax downtown, St. Paul’s Anglican Church is the oldest building in the city founded in 1749. The church is best visited on foot via Prince St, about 10 minutes walk away from Halifax port. The church is also home to an impressive archive and most frequently visited for its famous Face in the Window – a ghost-like silhouette. According to the legend, it is the result of the intense light and heat generated by the Halifax Explosion in 1917, when the profile of one of the church’s deacons was etched into one of the windows forever.

Explore the tours going to St. Paul’s Anglican Church

9. Neptune Theater

Neptune Theatre is the largest professional theater in Atlantic Canada with a history dating back to 1915. The season runs from mid-September to the end of May. The theater hosts a variety of productions, including local and Canadian-made plays.  Some of the productions include my favorite Cats, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, and Mary Poppins. Ticket prices vary.

Neptune Theater is located a 10-minute walk via Sackville street from the Halifax cruise terminal.

10. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is the largest art museum in Atlantic Canada, home to over eighteen thousand works by Nova Scotian, Canadian, and international artists. The gallery collections display national and international paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics, and other works from temporary exhibitions and the Gallery’s Permanent Collection. The Gallery also boasts an acclaimed collection of folk art including the Maud Lewis House which is both fascinating and enlightening.

On-site amenities include the Gallery shop, the Art Sales & Rental Gallery, and a café. The Art Gallery is located on the Halifax waterfront, a 10-15 minute walking distance from the cruise dock. Bus tours are welcome.

Must-Do Halifax Shore Excursions

  1. Best of Halifax Tour with Peggy’s Cove
  2. Citadel Tour 
  3. Tour of Nova Scotia’s South Shore
  4. Halifax, Titanic, and Peggy’s Cove Tour
  5. Historical Tour of Halifax – TOP CHOICE! 
  6. E-bike Tour of Halifax with Tour Guide
  7. Wine and Lunch Escape – Wine Tasting at 3 Award-Winning Wineries 
  8. Halifax Segway City Tour 

Final Words

There’s just something perfectly endearing about Halifax, Nova Scotia. Whether you prefer to walk along the waterfront in downtown Halifax, enjoy the view from the Citadel, take a stroll through the Halifax Public Gardens or grab a lobster roll from the Farmers’ Market, there is always something for everyone!

Just be cautious with time, especially if your ship has a limited time in port.

Enjoy your stay in Halifax!


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