There’s a fondness for Halifax whenever you mention it to someone who has visited the endearing capital of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The relaxed pace of life, hot days on nearby beaches, evenings along the harbourfront boardwalk, and lobster, always lobster. It’s a small city of just 400,000 inhabitants, and one that celebrates the independent: craft breweries and art galleries, restaurant patios and artisanal shops, which make it a delight to explore on foot, while out in the ocean lie all manner of attractions waiting to be spotted, from submarines and whales in the depths of the sea to seabirds overhead.
The hotels are a mix of the usual corporate suspects and quaint nautically-themed B&Bs, with a couple of grand classics thrown in, and a dizzying range of options at more touristy Peggy’s Cove, around a 45-minute drive from downtown Halifax. You'll find the friendly Nova Scotia welcome at all of them, and our pick of the best dozen here.
Best hotels in Halifax
This little escape set in three converted heritage townhouses is located in the heart of Halifax’s downtown area. It’s a true boutique hotel, with just 29 rooms, each one individually decorated; our favourites are the rooms with wood-burning fireplaces in winter, but for summer trips we prefer the ones with a balcony overlooking the colourful garden courtyard. The on-site Stories Restaurant serves inventive ‘East Coast fusion’ food to residents and locals. A cosy and classy choice.
Just 20 minutes outside the city in Fergusons Cove is this three-suite bed and breakfast that shows off the very best of what most visitors to Halifax come for: the sea. The building, known as the Stella Maris Chapel, dates back to 1864 and was lovingly restored in 2012 as a retreat. Huge windows around it allow guests to watch the lobster-fishing boats, sailboats and even submarines come into the harbour, and if it’s warm, you can enjoy it all while floating in the heated pool.
The Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites has been welcoming guests for more than 85 years – this historic building was built in 1928 and overlooks the 16-acre Halifax Public Gardens. It’s in a good location too –less than a 10-minute walk to the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site and a 15-minute walk to the city’s impressive harbour front. A recent refurbishment has added modern touches to the rooms and across the hotel, but the remarkable lobby retains its old-world charm with stately doorkeepers, topiaries and grand chandeliers.
For a thoroughly modern experience, head to The Prince George Hotel right in the middle of the downtown district. This large hotel of more than 200 rooms is popular with families and those on business trips, probably due in no small part to the impeccable and smiling service. It’s located less than a block from the Halifax Citadel and just a couple from the waterfront, making exploration of the local sights a real pleasure. Be sure, however, to soak in the views of Halifax’s skyline from the terrace. The LevelBar is one of the best cocktail bars in the city.
On the quieter west side of the city sits the winsome Pebble, one of Halifax’s highest-rated bed and breakfasts. The half-clapperboard house overlooks an inlet of the ocean called the Northwest Arm and across to the Armdale Yacht Club. There are only two rooms, both suites, each sumptuously appointed and filled with natural sunlight. This leafy suburban zone is perfect for strolls along the water while being less than a ten-minute cab ride from downtown.
For some old-world opulence, head to The Waverley, just a couple of blocks from the waterfront and Halifax Seaport Farmers Market. This city landmark, once one of the most extravagant homes in Halifax, dates back to 1866, and has retained its vintage charm across 34 uniquely decorated rooms, and what décor… some rooms have four-poster beds, large whirlpool baths and Victorian antiques. And while it may look and feel like a step into the past, never fear; the rooms have all the modern conveniences you’d expect in such top-class accommodation.
The sea is the star at this two-roomed nautically decorated B&B, where each of the suites has a private deck from where you can watch the ships and fishing boats roll into to the harbour while you have your breakfast. The building sits on the western shore of Halifax Harbour in Fergusons Cove, a 20-minute drive from the downtown area. The SeaWatch also has a private dock and a tiki hut that makes a great spot for spying whales, seals and all manner of seabirds.
For a little bit of extra space, the Cambridge Suites Hotel offers larger than average rooms with a range of one- and two-roomed suites. It is located in the heart of the downtown core just by Citadel Hill. Large windows offer superb views over the city, but for the best views head to the rooftop terrace. The on-site restaurant is good, but being in the middle of the restaurant district it would be a shame not to explore the best of Halifax’s vibrant food scene.
For unbeatable views over the water, the aptly named Halifax Marriott Harbourfront is where to head. It’s large, with spacious rooms, and offers all the facilities of a Marriott, including a spa, gym and good on-site restaurant. We particularly like its location – right next to the ferry terminal that serves Woodside and Alderney, and a couple of minutes’ walk from the Maritime Museum of Canada. It’s also a prime position for morning walks (or runs) along the boardwalk for some boat (and people) watching.
It might sound contradictory to recommend a hotel near the airport to nature fans, but this friendly, homely B&B that’s, yes, quite close to Halifax Stanfield International Airport, has lots to offer lovers of the great outdoors. Its Oakfield position in a woodland retreat has a serene sense of countryside about it, but it’s close to all the amenities (and a rather good golf course). Walks around nearby Oakfield Provincial Park overlooking Shubenacadie Grand Lake are not to be missed.
Anyone heading to Nova Scotia will probably recognise photographs of Peggy’s Cove, in particular, its red-topped lighthouse offering protection against the rocks upon which it stands. Most visitors to Halifax will also make the 20-mile drive to this picturesque little fishing village, take walks around said lighthouse and munch on locally landed lobster. The oceanfront Peggy’s Cove Bed and Breakfast has views across to the lighthouse and guests can watch the sunrises and sunsets from their private deck. The rooms are homely and full of natural light. The owners also have a small cottage for hire.
Oceanstone is one of the largest properties near Peggy’s Cove (just a few minutes from the centre). It’s a small, clapperboard complex of seven cottages, nine inn rooms and six suites, all centred around a restaurant. Each of the oceanfront residences has a Canadian cottage vibe, with private decks and barbecue areas. The newly renovated rooms in the main inn are modern affairs with all you’d expect, and the suites are larger; some have an oven. Combine that with an on-site restaurant serving local, seasonal food, cosy meeting areas with log fires and that oceanfront location, and you’ve a pretty special stay.