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Considering a new permanent home or seasonal use property in Nova Scotia? Topography and culture have created a variety of distinct regions in this beautiful province. Vince Grittani shares this list of distinctive regions to consider when buying Nova Scotia real estate.
Although one of the most overworked words in use today, ‘diverse’ is still one of the best terms to describe choices available when contemplating a purchase of real estate in Nova Scotia. Nowhere else is there a greater variety of homes, locations and value packed into such an assortment of landscapes than in Canada’s second smallest province.
To simply say “I want to buy real estate in Nova Scotia” is like asking for a glass of wine. Besides taste, there are historical, regional, and cultural influences to consider.
First and foremost, there are the people. Throughout the province, of course, are the original inhabitants, the Mi’kmaqand their contributions. Layered on top within each region one is aware of the strong influence over the centuries by immigrants from Scotland, England, Ireland, and France (the Acadians).
Certain regions are heavily influenced by African Nova Scotians, a combination of original Loyalists and survivors of the Underground Railroad. These and waves of immigrants from Arabic, Asian, and other European countries over the past century are what make up modern Nova Scotia.
Topography also plays a big part in the diverse selection of the types of homes for sale in Nova Scotia. From cliffhanging estates over-looking the Atlantic Ocean, to modern wonders in urban canters, to renovated farmhouses nestled in a glacial valley, the choices are wide and variable when considering real estate in Nova Scotia.
To help you on your journey, we’ve pulled together the following list of what to expect from each of these distinct regions when buying Nova Scotia real estate – be sure to use it as your guide when researching the best real estate for sale in Nova Scotia.
Buying Nova Scotia Real Estate – Where to Buy
We begin in the most populated region in Nova Scotia, Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), which consists of the cities Halifax and Dartmouth, plus the surrounding area. It’s here where many of our ancestors first landed in Canada.
As the provincial capital, all roads, literally, lead to the region, so there is easy access in and out of HRM. The Robert Stanfield International Airport is located just 40 minutes north of the city centre, whereas the cross-country VIA railroad line ends in the downtown core.
There are five universities in the region, and like most major cities surrounding these institutions of learning is where on finds the fine older homes that once catered to the school’s intelligencia.
Although luxury condominiums on the harbour are a growing and popular choice of homes in Halifax, what makes this region unique are the properties on its many lakes. It’s not unheard of to own a waterfront home in Halifax on either the Atlantic coast or a freshwater lake and still be within the city limits. It’s like living at the cottage in the city!
Of course, owning one of these houses for sale in Halifax also gives one access to all the cultural amenities and fun things to do in urban centre, such as the Neptune Theatre, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the beautiful Public Gardens, and a multitude of museums and historical sites.
West of Halifax, known as the South Shore, the style of homes in Nova Scotia tends to be more east coast traditional. Along the coast itself one can find both grand permanent and seasonal waterfront properties for sale in Nova Scotia.
In the centre of the coastline the beautifully laid out town of Lunenburg often offers a selection of colourful historical homes for sale. It’s as if you stepped back in time. In fact, the town has been designated by UNESCO as the best example in North America of a British planned settlement.
Like many of the province’s regions, the sea is the lifeline for its existence. Fishing, along with tourism is a major contributor to the local economy.
With Yarmouth at one end (pronounced “Yar-myth” by the locals) and Digby at the top, this region covers the south-west coastline of Nova Scotia.
Once a capital of the shipping industry along the coast of eastern Canada and the United States, when visiting Yarmouth, one is immediately struck by the array of fine older Victorian homes. These were the homes of captains and shipping magnates and are examples of the more classic houses for sale in Nova Scotia. Many are so big that they are often purchased and converted into multiple units or bed and breakfast establishments catering to the thousands that arrive in town to board the ferry over to Bar Harbor, Maine.
The sea continues to dominate the economy as evident by the many fishing villages when travelling up the coast from Yarmouth towards the town of Digby. Originally settled by Loyalist in the 1700s, the saltbox style homes for sale here often reflect its sea dependent history, especially known for the decision scallops available.
The quaint countryside of this region is portrayed in the paintings of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, who lived in a tiny house in nearby Marshalltown. The house on which every wall Maud painted can now be seen in the Art Gallery in Halifax.
The Annapolis Valley/Bay of Fundy
Beginning at Digby and moving east towards along the Bay of Fundy, nestled in between two mountain ranges and a continuation of the Appalachians, is a large glacial basin known at the Annapolis Valley.
It is here farming dominates over life at sea and both architecture and lifestyle changes dramatically. Its unique micro-climate provides the perfect conditions for diverse farming from livestock to apples orchards. Of late, entrepreneurs have setup vineyards as the moderate climate is perfect for some grape types.
Towns like Kentville, Wolfville, and Bridgetown take on a more mid-western feel than east coast style. Homes for sale reflect the agricultural setting. If one chooses a more rural atmosphere there are always many old and renovated farmhouses offered on the local real estate market.
Along the North Shore, emphasis returns to the sea. The Bay of Fundy’s unique shape and depth provides some of the highest tides in the world along with beautiful beaches and tourist resorts.
From the border of New Brunswick downwards emphasis remains on agriculture with several communities offering a variety of luxury homes for sale in Nova Scotia.
The town of Truro, often referred to as the hub of Nova Scotia, takes on more multi-cultural atmosphere. Here the original inhabitants, the Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotians, descendants of Loyalists and survivors of the Underground Railroad, influence the cultural flavour of the region.
Similar to the Annapolis Valley, the homes for sale here vary from new construction in sprawling developments surrounding towns to older farmhouses surrounded by acreage.
The North Shore
It is along the northern shores east of Truro where the influence of the original Scottish settlers is most obvious. From the names of towns like New Glasgow and Antigonish to the medieval-like architecture of St Francis Xavier University, here’s where you most get the sense of ‘New Scotland’. Little wonder, then, that it’s also home to the oldest highland games outside of the mother country.
With the university at its centre, Antigonish offers older traditional older homes for sale, and is surrounded by new development on the outskirts. Further outside the town on Antigonish Harbour, one finds the odd, much sought-after seaside home for sale.
The downtown core feels like a quaint town seen only in the movies. A centre of commerce servicing the core of Nova Scotia the region continues to grow and adapt to change, including growing importance as a regional tourism center.
Directly below the above-mentioned Scottish way is Guysborough. Along this southern coastal region, the town of Guysborough sits surrounded by a string of fishing communities.
One settles here to literally get away from it all, although you can travel west to Halifax on a winding coastal road or the Northern twined Highway 104 for a major shopping fix. More conveniently, north is Port Hawkesbury just over the Canso Causeway.
Most of the Nova Scotia houses for sale in the area are rural. Many properties sit on the ocean, and still others within the small fishing villages. Interestingly enough, the modern history of the area dates back almost a century before Columbus when Prince Henry Sinclair, a Scottish/Norwegian and first Earl of Orkney, allegedly landed there.
Once you cross over the Canso Causeway and into Richmond County, Cape Breton Island, you will notice an immediate change in scenery. You are at the foothills of the world-famous UNESCO sanctioned Cabot Trail. From here, everything is up.
Richmond County has two towns, Port Hawkesbury and St Peters, plus a series of villages such as Arichat and Louisdale. The towns, being the more populated, provide the wider variety of homes for sale, including some older houses, but mostly newer ones in planned communities. On the outskirts, large homes are available and are fine examples of waterfront homes for sale in Nova Scotia.
Towards the south end of the region, across from Guysborough, is Isle Madame. The land is rocky and flatter, a result of the receding ice age. Traditionally, Acadian culture has dominated the island. Although slowly being homogenized along with the rest of Nova Scotia, the old French that is spoken here is often not understood by French speaking visitors. Electricity didn’t find its way to Isle Madame until the 1930s.
Today most of the older homes have been bought and renovated, but every so often a waterfront family homestead comes up for sale. As is with Nova Scotians everywhere, newcomers are welcomed with open arms.
North of Richmond are the Highlands consisting of the counties of Victoria and Inverness. Here the Gaelic culture thrives alongside a strong presence of the original inhabitants, the Mi’kmaq.
The region is bound by the Atlantic to the north and the famous saltwater Bras d’Or Lake (Bra-door) to the south, which is actually a deep fjord. Gaelic is taught as an elective in public schools. For those wanting a more intense experience, there is the Gaelic College in Baddeck where both the language and music is taught.
This region has long been cottage country to many Nova Scotians, with towns like Cheticamp, Mabou, and Port Hoodalong with Ainslie Lake catering to seasonal and permanent residents alike.
The Inverness area, once dominated by the coal industry, now is home to golf and those looking to retire, or those looking for a true small-town experience. In all these areas, in additional to older and newer village properties including plus, waterfront homes, there are plenty examples of vacant land for sale in Nova Scotia.
Most settlements from here north up the Cabot Trail are along the steep coastline with the Cape Breton National Park dominating through the centre. One of the least populated region of the province many of the properties for sale are larger and offer spectacular views.
The city of Sydney, now a municipality and the hub of this region, is experiencing a renaissance. Once the home to steel and coal industries, it now serves a regional medical and university centre. As a true gateway to the Atlantic, it attracts students and those in the medical profession from all over the world giving it a more cosmopolitan feeling. It still doesn’t have the density of Halifax.
Homes for sale in Sydney offer larger lots. Today, many of the older neighbourhoods are attracting younger buyers anxious to renovate.
Nearby, in North Sydney, large, elegant homes line the street as one approaches the dock for the ferry to Newfoundland. Built by once local captains of industry many of these grand homes welcome tourists while others remain private residences. In addition to its historical homes new developments play an import part of modern Sydney.
And as with most regions in Nova Scotia, when you move outside the city limits and over towards the town of Glace Bay, the real estate varies from old teardowns with incredible ocean views to expansive new construction overlooking the Atlantic.
Southbound, on both the south-eastern coast of Bras D’or Lake and on the Atlantic coastline like the historic community of Louisburg, there are often seasonal cottages and fine permanent houses for sale reflecting the lifestyle of living on Cape Breton Island.
LuxuryNovaScotia’s Lifestyle Editor Vince Grittani is a realtor, TV host, and screenwriter who recently moved from Ontario to his oceanside home on Isle Madame, Cape Breton. Check out his website at www.escapetoNovaScotia.com.
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