The village of Mahone Bay, settled in 1754 by European Protestants, is picture-perfect Nova Scotia at its best. It's tidy and trim, with an eclectic Main Street that snakes along the lovely eponymous bay and is lined with inviting shops, markets, and eateries. Locals are friendly and knowledgeable. The winds attract plenty of sailboats to the bay. And the town's three churches, grouped closely together, are among the most famous in the province -- expect churcharazzi politely clicking away. This is a town that's remarkably well cared for by its 900 of so full-time residents, a growing number of whom live here and commute to Halifax (about an hour away). Architecture buffs will find a range of styles to keep them ogling, too.

One of the best visitor information centers (tel. 888/624-6151 or 902/624-6151; in Nova Scotia is located at 165 Edgewater St., near the three church steeples. It's open daily in summer from around 9am until 7:30pm, only until 5:30pm in the shoulder seasons.

Each year in early August, Mahone Bay celebrates the Classic Boat Festival, where you can see some of the most beautiful crafts on the eastern seaboard go through their paces for appreciative crowds -- though "crowd" is a relative term. Entertainment and workshops are also offered; admission is free.

There's also an annual summer series of classical music and vocal performances filling the three churches; the shows cost C$15 each, free for kids under 12. Call tel. 902/531-2248 for information or to pre-order tickets.