Nova Scotia's terrific official travel guide (the aforementioned Doers' & Dreamers' Guide) contains a very helpful "Outdoors" section in the back that's full of detailed listings of camping outfitters, bike shops, whale-watching tour operators, and the like. More specific information on the province's adventure outfitters can also be obtained from the trade association for providers, the Nova Scotia Adventure Tourism Association, 1099 Marginal Rd., Suite 201, Halifax, NS B3H 4P7 (tel. 800/948-4267 or 902/423-4480).
Biking -- The low hills of Nova Scotia and the gentle, mostly empty roads make for wonderful cycling. Cape Breton is the most challenging of the province's destinations; the south coast and Bay of Fundy regions yield wonderful ocean views while making fewer cardiovascular demands on the cyclist. A number of bike outfitters can aid in your trip planning. Freewheeling Adventures (tel. 800/672-0775 or 902/857-3600; www.freewheeling.ca) is highly recommended for its guided bike tours throughout Nova Scotia (as well as Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland). Want to go it alone? Walter Sienko's guide, Nova Scotia & the Maritimes by Bike: 21 Tours Geared for Discovery (1995) is very helpful in planning a local bike excursion -- though you don't need to follow all his recommended routes (they mostly stick to busier main roads). Order it from an online bookseller.
Also, for a good Internet introduction to cycling in Nova Scotia and beyond point your Web browser to the website of Atlantic Canada Cycling (www.atl-canadacycling.com) and click on "Tour Planning" for brief introductions to the regions of Nova Scotia and their respective characteristics (including strength of local winds). The site also offers group bicycle tours and events, and sells books and maps.
Bird-Watching -- More than 400 species of birds have been spotted in Nova Scotia, ranging from odd and exotic birds blown off course in storms to majestic bald eagles, of which perhaps 250 nesting pairs reside in Nova Scotia, mostly on Cape Breton Island. Many whale-watching tours also offer specialized seabird-spotting tours, including trips to puffin colonies.
Camping -- With backcountry options rather limited, Nova Scotia's forte is drive-in camping. The 20 or so provincial parks offer some 1,500 campsites among them, and campgrounds are uniformly clean, friendly, well managed, and reasonably priced. For a brochure and map listing all provincial campsites, contact the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources/Parks and Recreation Division (tel. 902/662-3030). The division's website is located at www.parksnovascotia.ca and is well organized. As usual, the province's Doers' & Dreamers' Guide contains the fullest campground listings available in print.
Also check with the Campground Owners Association of Nova Scotia: Its website at www.campingnovascotia.com lists a number of privately held campgrounds. The free and helpful Campers Guide, available at visitor information centers, lists this information as well.
Canoeing -- Nova Scotia offers an abundance of accessible canoeing on inland lakes and ponds. The premier destination is Kejimkujik National Park in the southern interior, which has plenty of backcountry sites accessible by canoe. A number of other fine canoe trips allow paddlers and portagers to venture off for hours or days. General information on paddling routes, classes, events, and local clubs is available from the organization Canoe Kayak Nova Scotia, 5516 Spring Garden Rd., 4th floor, Halifax, NS B3J 1G6 (tel. 902/425-5454, ext. 316). The group's website can be found at www.ckns.ca.
Fishing -- Saltwater fishing tours are easily arranged on charter boats berthed at many of the province's harbors. Inquire locally at visitor information centers or consult the "Boat Tours & Charters" section of the Doers' & Dreamers' Guide. No fishing license is required for most saltwater species for those on charters. For questions, current fishing regulations, or lists of licensed fishing guides, check out the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture website at www.gov.ns.ca/fish.
Committed freshwater anglers come to Nova Scotia in pursuit of the tragically dwindling Atlantic salmon, which requires a license separate from that for other freshwater fish. Salmon licenses must be obtained from a provincial office, campground, or licensed outfitter. Other freshwater species popular with anglers are brown trout, shad, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and speckled trout. Again, for up-to-date information contact the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Golf -- Nova Scotia lays claim to more than 50 golf courses. Among the most memorable are the government-owned Highland Links (tel. 800/441-1118 or 902/285-2600; www.highlandlinksgolf.com) course in Ingonish, which features a dramatic oceanside setting, and Bell Bay Golf Club (tel. 800/565-3077 or 902/295-1333; www.bellbaygolfclub.com) near Baddeck -- which is also wonderfully scenic and has appeared in Golf Digest. Highland Links costs C$91 plus tax for 18 holes in peak season; Bell Bay, C$79 for 18 holes in peak season. Both cost less during spring and fall, and Sunday or twilight rates are sometimes also available.
While the big names are fun, I really enjoy playing some of the less famous courses around the province, too. The Bluenose Golf Club (tel. 902/634-4260) has been operating on a beautiful tract of land known as Kaulbach Head overlooking Lunenburg's harbor since 1933. (It's visible in the distance from almost any point in the old town.) The short, 5,275-yard tract here plays harder than it looks because of numerous slopes and side-hill lies. Views of the ocean and town are stupendous on both the starting and finishing holes; peak-season greens fees are just C$28 for 9 holes, C$45 for 18 holes (carts cost extra); and the clubhouse grill serves up mighty fine burgers and beers on tap. Rent at least a pull-cart to deal with the hills.
Two more nicely scenic tracts open to the public in Nova Scotia are the Chester Golf Club (tel. 902/275-4543; www.chestergolfclub.ca), with amazing ocean views and fine course maintenance (C$35 for 9 holes, C$59 for 18 holes); and hilly, beautiful Osprey Ridge (tel. 902/543-6666; www.ospreyridge.ns.ca) near Shelburne, designed by the noted course architect Graham Cooke and opened in 1999, which costs C$35 weekdays and C$30 to C$55 on weekends.
New courses are always being constructed, too. For one-stop shoppers, Golf Nova Scotia (tel. 800/565-0000, ext. 007; www.golfnovascotia.com), run by the tourism office, represents about 30 well-regarded properties around the province and can arrange customized golfing packages at its member courses. A handy directory of Nova Scotia's golf courses (with phone numbers) is published as a separate brochure and in the "Outdoors" section of the Doers' & Dreamers' Guide as well.
Hiking & Walking -- Serious hikers make tracks for Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which is home to the most dramatic terrain in the province. But other options abound -- trails are found throughout Nova Scotia, although in many cases they're a matter of local knowledge. (Ask at the visitor information centers.) Published hiking guides are widely available at local bookstores. Especially helpful are the back-pocket-size guides published by Nimbus Publishing; call for a catalog (tel. 800/646-2879 or 902/454-7404; www.nimbus.ns.ca).
Sailing -- Any area with so much convoluted coastline is clearly inviting to sailors and gunkholers. Tours and charters are available almost everywhere there's a decent-size harbor. The province's premier sailing experience is an excursion aboard the Bluenose II, which is virtually an icon for Atlantic Canada and calls at Halifax, Lunenburg, and other ports. A much more extensive listing of boat tour operators can be found in the "Outdoor Tours: Boat Tours & Charters" section of the Doers' & Dreamers' Guide.
Sea Kayaking -- Nova Scotia is increasingly attracting the attention of kayakers worldwide. Kayakers traveling on their own should be especially cautious on the Bay of Fundy side, since the massive tides create strong currents that overmatch even the fittest of paddlers. More than three dozen kayak outfitters do business in Nova Scotia, and they offer everything from 1-hour introductory paddles to intensive weeklong trips; once again, consult the directory in the Doers' & Dreamers' Guide.
Among the most respected outfitters is Coastal Adventures, P.O. Box 77, Tangier, NS B0J 3H0 (tel. 877/404-2774 or 902/772-2774; www.coastaladventures.com). The company is run by veteran kayaker and doctorate-in-biology Scott Cunningham, who leads trips throughout the Maritimes and Newfoundland. For kayaking on the eastern side of Cape Breton, check with North River Kayak, R.R. #4, Baddeck, NS B0E 1B0 (tel. 888/865-2925 or 902/929-2628; www.northriverkayak.com). Owner Angelo Spinazzola is a native Cape Bretoner and a professional musician with several CDs to his credit; he's been running this award-winning outfit for more than a decade.
Whale-Watching -- When on the Nova Scotia coast, you're never far from a whale-watching operation. Around two dozen such tour outfits offer trips in search of finback, humpback, pilot, and minke whales, among others. The richest waters for whale-watching are on the Fundy Coast, where the endangered right whale is often seen feeding in summer; thus, Digby Neck (the thin strand of land extending southwest from the town of Digby) has the highest concentration of whale-watching excursions in the province, but you'll find them in many other coves and harbors, as well. Ask staff at local visitor information centers to direct you to the whales, or check the provincial tourism guide, which contains a very good listing of whale-watchers.
Passing Time With the National Pass
Here's a great tip if you're planning to be in the province awhile and visit both national parks (Cape Breton Highlands and Kejimkujik) and some historic sites (the Citadel, Louisbourg), or visit adjoining provinces such as Prince Edward Island: You can now buy an all-Canada National Pass for C$68 per adult (C$84 including historic sites) or C$136 per family (C$165 including historic sites), plus tax. The pass gains you access to participating national parks and sites for one full year. Buy the pass right at the entrance of the first national park or historic site you visit. For more info, see the "Planning Your Visit" section of the Parks Canada website at www.pc.gc.ca.
Surf's Up in . . . Nova Scotia?
This is not a misprint. Surfing is suddenly popping up as an outdoor option in Nova Scotia. Who knew? At least two surf schools have opened for business, capitalizing on the Atlantic surf breaks along the South Shore and at Lawrencetown Beach outside Halifax. Contact the Dacane Surf Shop (tel. 902/431-7873; www.hurricanesurf.com) on Blowers St. in the heart of Halifax or the Rossignol Surf Shop (tel. 902/354-7100; www.surfnovascotia.com) at White Point Beach Lodge in Port Joli (about halfway between Yarmouth and Halifax) for more information about how and where to hang ten in the province. Just remember to buy, beg, borrow, or rent a wetsuit if you go. That water's cold.