The writer's children pause for a photo while cycling in Halifax, Nova Scotia. // © 2015 Greg Olsen
Feature image (above): A ride on the Dartmouth Ferry is another way to enjoy the beauty of the area. // © 2015 Greg Olsen
The Heart of Halifax guided bike tour, offered by I Heart Bikes, costs $39 per person and includes bike and helmet rentals and a bottle of water.
If you really want to experience the beauty and the local flavor of a destination in Canada, explore it on a bicycle taking in the highlights at a slower pace and in a more personal way. Situated on the world’s longest downtown boardwalk, I Heart Bikes offers bike rentals and guided bicycle tours in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and our family decided to try out the two-hour guided tour on a recent visit. After selecting our bicycles, my husband, our three teenagers and I followed a young college student, named Camilla, on a guided tour of the city.
Camilla guided us along the Halifax Harbour, pointing out the highlights of the world’s second-largest natural harbor and telling us about the early history of the city, which was officially established in 1749.
After pedaling along the boardwalk, we made our way to Cornwallis Square and stopped in front of the statue of Cornwallis. The statue declares him the founder of the City of Halifax, a designation that fails to acknowledge the Acadians and the Mi’kmaq, who were in the area first. Camilla took a few minutes to talk about the controversial statue before leading our little group on a further exploration of the city.
Halifax has a long and storied history with the Titanic and one of our next stops was the George Wallis’ House. Wallis was a millionaire philanthropist that died on the Titanic. A bachelor, Wallis made his will the day before he boarded the Titanic and left his home to the Local Council of Women. Today, the home is used by community groups for special events.
From there, we road past the beautiful mansions on Young Street — the old money district of the city. The wide streets and beautiful old homes made it a lovely ride, and I couldn’t help pausing to photograph some of the houses. A massive explosion in Halifax Harbour in 1917 destroyed many of the old properties in Halifax, but the homes on Young Street were untouched, and thus, it has some of the city’s most historical mansions.
We paused for a break at Point Pleasant Park, where we learned about the close relationship Halifax has with Boston, Mass.
“Every year, Halifax sends Boston a Christmas tree as a way to thank them for the massive relief they provided after the 1917 harbor explosion,” Camilla said. “The first tree was sent in 1918, and the tree stands annually in the Boston Common during the Christmas season.”
We cruised through the Dalhousie University campus next, an area of the city our student guide was intimately familiar with. My teenagers enjoyed hearing about campus life and seeing the old brick building cloaked in green ivy plants. On our way back to the harbor, we rode past Victoria Park, a place Camilla said was a popular protest site, and past the city’s Winston Churchill statue. We finished with a cruise up Citadel Hill for a view of the city.
Our two-hour guided bike tour turned out to be a great way to discover a historic city and get some exercise at the same time. Slow travel on foot or by bike helps you really connect with a place, and families that cycle together, go places together.
4 ADDITIONAL WAYS TO EXPERIENCE HALIFAX
Be a Soldier for a Day
Dress up like British soldiers during the Soldier for a Day experience at the Halifax Citadel Hill National Historic Site. The half-day activity costs $199 for one person, $250 for two or $300 for a family of four.
Ferry service began in 1752 and is the oldest, continuous, salt-water passenger ferry service in North America. With $2.50 for a one-way ticket, it is also the least costly way to tour the harbor.
Segway City Tour
One of the newest ways to explore one of the longest downtown boardwalks in the world is via a guided Segway tour with Segway Nova Scotia. Guided Halifax Segway tours cost $29 per person for 40 minutes, $59 for 90 minutes and $79 for two hours.
Tall Ship Sailing
Enjoy an afternoon sailing onboard a 75-foot wooden ketch. Murphy’s offers several different types of tall ship cruises, and rates start at $29.99 per adult.