Hometown travel: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Full disclosure: I grew up in a community near Lunenburg, so I was familiar with the town. With its proximity to my home in Halifax, indie appeal*, and my desire to see at least three things there, I thought Lunenburg was a terrific candidate for my first official Operation Hometown Traveler trip of Summer 2012.

In wanting to travel in my hometown and province like I do when I’m “away,” I did all same preparation: solicit Facebook and Twitter friends for suggestions, consult local tourism sites, Google the heck out of things, and hit the road.

Most everything you’ll want to see and do in Lunenburg is located in the “Old Town” area. As “the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America,” Old Town Lunenburg received a UNESCO World Heritage designation in 1995. Since that time, the town has done a really excellent job of preserving the qualities that warranted the designation and using them to revitalize the town in delightful ways. An historic town that’s also a working fishing community, Lunenburg is home to world-class cuisine, artisans and galleries, terrific independent stores, and a brand-new distillery.

UNESCO Fresco Lunenburg Nova Scotia
Brightly-coloured shops on King Street, nicknamed the ‘UNESCO Fresco’

I arrived just outside of the Old Town area (by Lunenburg Foundry, for locals) and noticed a piece of concrete. It is, in fact, a piece of the Berlin Wall. All I’ve been able to discover is Lunenburg’s deep German roots garnered it a piece of the historic wall. I’ve since learned there are other pieces in Nova Scotia. I will find all of them!¬†[Update: I found all of them!]

Berlin Wall Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Harbour view, golf course peril

As suggested by several folks, I drove up to the golf course for a panoramic view of the harbour and Old Town. It’s a narrow lane up a steep hill, with a sign noting there’s a tee on one side and a green on the other. At that point, I heard the Avis car rental guy replay his departure speech in my head, “We look for golf ball-sized dents and scratches longer than a finger.” Harrowing words, but what a view!

Lunenburg Old Town Harbour

Snacks, Shops, and a Steve from my past

My first stop was a very necessary coffee at Laughing Whale (recommended by my friend Rhia). Delicious organic fair trade coffee, plus delicious baked goods to provide fuel for the busy day ahead.

Laughing Whale Coffee Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Laughing Whale Coffee Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Ready to go, the first shop that caught my eye was Luvly, a store featuring independent Canadian designers. It was my good luck there was a 2-for-1 sale, and I got a great deal on some new things for summer. I also had a great chat with the super-friendly staff, who made the visit all the better.

Luvly Lunenburg Nova Scotia Canadian fashion

My next stop was one I had been intending to make for a while. An old, old, old, old friend of mine has an art supply store, called Steve’s Art Supply, so I stopped in for a catch-up and a chat. Do not let his stern expression throw you off, he’s as funny as they get. Steve shares space with Power House Art, featuring contemporary art, including this painting that you can buy for your own home (sorry, Steve not included).

Steve's Art Supply Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Lunch on a patio – lingering encouraged

After a couple of hours of hill-climbing, I was starving, so I sought out the Salt Shaker Deli, where I’ve wanted to eat since it opened – it was also recommended by guest poster Vanessa, and justifiably so. It’s run by a couple who also own Fleur de Sel, one of my favourite fine-dining establishments in Nova Scotia, and features a menu of sandwiches, pasta, and pizzas in many delicious combinations.

Salt Shaker Deli Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Sitting on their sun-soaked patio, I could have happily spent the afternoon working my way through the menu. After some deliberation, I enjoyed a Bahn Mi sandwich and met my new favourite condiment, sriracha mayo. It was divine, and it required a lot of restraint to not devour it in one bite, python-style. It was a perfect day for a patio, and I’m pleased to report my server encouraged lingering. They may not get me to leave next time.

Salt Shaker Deli Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Divine Dots & Loops

@SueOz on Twitter recommended Dots & Loops, and she gets bonus points for her A+ recommendation. The space is bright and airy, and is home to a well-chosen collection of clothing, handmade jewelry, paper crafts, cards, and tons more. I chatted with one of the owners and I hope my enthusiasm for her shop was fun for her, and not terrifying. I love Dots & Loops and can’t wait to see what fun things I’ll find on my next visit. Fact: I bought a super-soft t-shirt with narwhals on it and I’m wearing it as I write.

"Dots & Loops" Lunenburg Nova Scotia

"Dots & Loops" Lunenburg Nova Scotia

A spirited trip to Ironworks

I had been looking forward to my next stop, Ironworks Distillery for a long time (also recommended by Vanessa). It has the fun, historic vibe of being located in a blacksmith’s shop, with the appeal of sampling of finely-crafted spirits in the afternoon. The friendly staff love their product and are happy to describe their products in exquisite detail.

Ironworks Distillery Lunenburg Nova Scotia

I took my sweet time getting to know their apple vodka (so many apples, it’s gotta be a fruit serving), then, cranberry, raspberry, and blueberry liqueurs. All of them are made using Nova Scotian berries, and I couldn’t resist taking home a bottle of their cranberry liqueur. I also “met” the still, named “Brigitte,” who was resting – it was the weekend – so I definitely have to go back to see her in action.

Ironworks Distillery Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Ironworks Distillery Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Going to work on the Bluenose II restoration

For readers outside of Canada, the Bluenose II is an important part of Canada’s marine history and is also on our 10-cent piece. Visiting the Bluenose II while it’s in port is normally an essential Lunenburg visitor experience. However, it’s currently being restored, but lucky for me, the restoration is open to the public. Bonus: I got to wear a hard hat.
Bluenose II restoration Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Giant sea creatures lurk overhead

When you’re walking through Old Town Lunenburg, be sure to look up. That way, you can’t miss Lunenburg’s brightly-coloured buildings and charming signage. Every light post features giant-sized sea creatures representing the many species whose harvesting has supported the town and surrounding area for centuries.

Swordfish light poles Lunenburg Nova Scotia
Squid light pole Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Nautical style + green lifestyle

As I was heading out of town, a shop full of handbags caught my eye. I turned sharply into the drive and discovered another new Lunenburg treasure, the Wind Bag Company. From clutches to almost duffle-sized, each bag is made from recycled sails, and every bag is unique, some with leftover grommets and sailing hooks. More important, each bag has a story, tagged with cards providing a bit of history about the ship the sails came from.
Wind Bag Company Lunenburg Nova Scotia
Wind Bag Company Lunenburg Nova ScotiaLunenburg successfully employs the argument I use for living in a city. The town is compact and easy to navigate, plus you can walk everywhere. These qualities make it an ideal destination for a day trip or weekend adventure. I’m already thinking about a return trip, having only scratched the surface of what visitors can do in town.
See more of picture perfect Lunenburg! If you liked this post, or would like to suggest other stops for Operation Hometown Traveler, please let me know in the comments.

*If you think I may be wrong, check out this video produced by the Lunenburg Board of Trade, highlighting the lifestyle appeal of Lunenburg, Live Well in Lunenburg.

See Lunenburg for yourself:

Laughing Whale Coffee: 263 Lincoln Street

Luvly: 230 Lincoln Street

Steve’s Art Supply and Power House Art: 129 Lincoln Street

Salt Shaker Deli: 124 Montague Street
Fleur de Sel: 52 Montague Street

Dots & Loops: 183 Lincoln Street

Ironworks Distillery: The Blacksmith’s Shop, 2 Kempt Street

Bluenose II Restoration: Lunenburg Shipyard, Burma Road (until July 2012)

Wind Bag Company of Nova Scotia: 35 Falkland Street

20 thoughts on “Hometown travel: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia”

  1. I am from Lunenburg and can’t help but pick up the cranberry liqueur when I go down for a visit. Try it with cherry coke if you want a really sweet drink as a treat – it will blow your mind!

  2. Great post! I’d like to suggest a day trip to Chester. Possible activities include: Graves Island, taking in the bizarre mingling of locals and rich elites during Race Week, eating delicious crab cakes at the gold course restaurant, taking in a local play, enjoying a cold beverage on the patio of the Rope Loft, and DEFINITELY enjoying a pear, brie and arugula sandwich on orange raisin bread at the Kiwi Cafe.

  3. Lunenburg is fantastic, such great architecture, friendly people, great food and home of the Bluenose. What’s not to love. When I was there Ironworks was closed, but luckily my dad had some bottles of their vodka and liqueur at his cottage, loved the blueberry!

  4. Love to read more about lively Lunenburg. And I remember the Salt Shaker Deli, it was the only place open when we arrived late one night a few years ago. Excellent food. (My daughters even have black, long-sleeved Salt Shaker Deli t-shirts.)

  5. Along with the fine dining, fascinating architecture, tasteful shopping and glorious vistas, Lunenburg has about 20 artist-owned fine art and craft galleries, including ours, Laurie Swim’s Art Quilt Gallery of the Atlantic. The quality of the works one can find in Lunenburg is first rate. I hope you come back to write about this marvelous phenomenon.

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