The Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia has a lot of interesting towns and sights. One of these is the Grand Pre National Historic Site near Wolfville. It's about an hour drive from Halifax and there are several other things in the immediate area that will make a full day outing from the city. There's a garden/gift shop, a coffee museum and cafe, a winery, a beach and a motel with a great restaurant.
To get here, take Highway 101 from Halifax. Take exit 10 to the older Highway 1 and head left towards Wolfville. You will pass a Just Us cafe and coffee museum not far from the highway exit. Here you can buy Fair Trade coffee and hot chocolate, view the interesting museum on Fair Trade coffee farming, watch the beans being roasted in the factory (on a weekday) and sample a brew or two.
The Tangled Garden will be on your right shortly after that. This is a lovely gift and garden shop with a very tangled garden in back that you can walk through.
Another short hop takes you to the intersection where you turn right to head to Grand Pre Historic Site and Evangeline Beach. This is the intersection where the Evangeline Inn and motel is located. For a snack or lunch, visit the restaurant. Their homemade pies are to die for and they make an awesome fish chowder! Across the road, There's also an old gas and service station, the building dating back to 1926, one of the original Irving Oil stations. An additional service bay was added in 1995 and built to match the original style.
A little further, around a bend is the Grand Pre Winery. They do tours and samplings and you can browse their little museum and gift shop. The restaurant on the site is very nice, as well, though a cut above the Motel. I don't think they have homemade pie, either! I have had lunch there, however, and the food is very good, as is the wine, naturally!
The main attraction is Grand Pre.
A bit of history to start you off: Nova Scotia was first settled in the Annapolis Royal area by the French and was a French possession, called Acadie. Thus, the residents were called Acadians. The area was handed back and forth between the French and British during various wars and conflicts and was finally given to the British. Halifax was founded in 1749 and became the capital, replacing Annapolis Royal. Grand Pre was settled in 1680 and is on the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy, home of the world's highest tides. The area is marshy but good farmland once dikes were built to hold back the water. In 1755, the British, now at war with France again, and since the Acadians were French and occupied rich farmland and vastly outnumbered the British, the decision was made to oust the Acadians from the colony to encourage more British settlement. The people were rounded up in the local church and sent to ships and dispersed to colonies in America.Over the next 6 years over 6000 people were deported from various locations in the colony. Many went to the nearest French colony, Louisiana and their descendents became what we know as Cajuns.
In 1847, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem, Evangeline, telling the tale of the deportation and the star crossed lovers that were separated, never to be together. Grand Pre became a tourist destination and the Nova Scotia government created trustees for the site. A private owner bought the land where the church was thought to be. A statue of Evangeline was erected in 1920 and if you look closely from one side of her to the other, you can see her grow older. The church was reconstructed in the 1930s and an old blacksmith shop was recreated on the grounds as well. There is now a visitor and interpretive center where you can see a film about the history. There's a gift shop on site and lots of parking. The grounds are lovely to walk around and the interior of the church is cool and peaceful. You may even see the cat that lives in the church, named, of course, Evangeline.
The site is open from mid may to mid October, 9 to 6 though the grounds are open all year round. cost is about 8 dollars for an adult with senior and youth discounts and family rates. You can also purchase seasonal passes.
Another 10 minute drive down the road brings you to Evangeline beach where you can paddle in the red mudded water of the basin if the tide is in, dig for clams if the tide is out, or just have a picnic.
A perfect summer day trip from the city and if you have time, continue into Wolfville with it's lovely Victorian homes and the campus of Acadia University. There's also a summer theatre here and some nice little shops.