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A locals’ guide to what to eat, where to stay, and what to do while cycling in Halifax.
Though buried in a significant amount of snow for a large stretch of the year, Halifax is rightly pursuing an ambitious cycling agenda that includes the rapid expansion of the city’s bike network both on and off road. Since 2006, the area has added nearly 100 kilometres (62 miles) of new bike lanes. The town takes its two-wheeled citizens seriously and that goes double for those looking at the Maritimes’ potential for bike tourism.
Plenty to see, lots of places to go, not busy, easy oceanside riding and oh, the seafood. Halifax is the ideal size. On a bike, most of the city is accessible and relatively speaking easier to get to and from when compared to an automobile. There is no bike share, but rentals are available. I Heart Bikes, for example, offers both cruisers and more high-performance bikes for rent and their waterfront location is ridiculously convenient.
Halifax warms up come July, but it isn’t the place where one might expect an early summer. But if working up a sweat is your thing, then go in June and make sure you get enough riding in to beat the cool temperatures and ocean breezes. Fall is gorgeous in the Maritimes. Crowds are never too much to handle, except around serious tourist sites such as Peggy’s Cove.
So much from which to choose, but the historic Westin Nova Scotian has a pretty sweet waterfront location near the Seaport Farmer’s Market, Point Pleasant Park and the very tasty Garrison Brewing Company.
Much of the bike tourism in Halifax is focused on the ocean. And why not? But there is also a great big park right on said ocean called Point Pleasant Park that is a fine destination for cyclists. Like Stanley Park in Vancouver, High Park in Toronto, this area has a wild side for exploring, and an urban side and offers a variety of activities including outdoor Shakespearean theatre, a tour of historic sites and plenty of trails to while away an afternoon. The park is located in the university district, so getting to the park is easy, and involves pedalling down a few well-treed avenues past stately homes. When I went to the park, the World Naked Bike Ride happened to be tooling by tooting an assortment of horns. So, that happens.
One of the most popular full-day rides will take cyclists from the Halifax waterfront across the Macdonald Bridge into Dartmouth and down to Cole Harbour and the expansive Salt Marsh Trails. The trip from Halifax involves a bridge crossing or ferry trip, followed by a mixed-use “active transportation greenway trail” and a few kilometres on the road. Once there, the trails extend for more than 10 kilometres into the park, including 6.5 km on a causeway across the marsh on a rail-bed trail. The area is absolutely teeming with wildlife, offers plenty of scenery and is a good introduction to the entire Cole Harbour-Lawrencetown Coastal Heritage Park that also includes surfing hotbed Lawrencetown Beach. Currently, the bridge bike lane is closed for repairs, shuttle service is available, check upon arrival.
One of the more unique aspects of the Halifax bike scene is the availability of municipal repair stations in and around the central area of the city. Halifax has a handful of the publicly accessible facilities that include an easily recognizable bright green stand, tools for basic repairs, as well as an air pump. The project was conceived by the Dal Bike Centre, which has a mandate to “establish Dalhousie University as a community leader in active and sustainable modes of transportation.” For a map of available bike facilities click here.
Halifax has enough delicious local food and craft beer to keep a cyclist busy on a day-long culinary adventure. Beginning and ending at the waterfront, hit the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market for an espresso, snack and any food-type supplies one might require for the day. Other local finds to check out include centrally located local breweries such as Propeller Brewing Company, North Brewing Company and Granite Brewery. Be sure to the hit the lovely Public Gardens for a picnic lunch, although there is also a cute restaurant on site. And, yes, a tour of the Alexander Keith’s Brewery is entertaining despite the rather pedestrian beverages. At the end of the day, return to said locale where riders will also find the venerable Garrison Brewing Company, complete with large patio and many samplers to be had. For dinner, Bicycle Thief. No, not the hacksaw on the U-lock variety, we’re talking the Halifax restaurant with the gorgeous patio right on the waterfront.
After a couple days, one might tire of inner-city Halifax and look to explore further afield. There are plenty of incredible day and weekend cycling trips to such areas as the Annapolis Valley, the burgeoning wine region surrounding the town of Wolfville, the aforementioned tourist mecca Peggy’s Cove, and the historic and drop-dead gorgeous town of Lunenburg. The latter is a 120-km jaunt, and well worth a weekend. Be sure to check out the Lunenburg Arms Hotel for an overnight and the Grand Banker Bar and Grill for seriously delicious seafood.