Getting There -- Amherst is the first Nova Scotia town you encounter when heading east on the Trans-Canada Highway from New Brunswick; it's the terminus for Nova Scotia Route 6 (from the north) and Route 2 (from the south). It's only about 40 minutes east of Moncton, and VIA Rail's (tel. 888/842-7245; www.viarail.ca) six-times-weekly Ocean train service between Montréal and Halifax stops here.
Note that there is a C$4 toll if you head east from Amherst on the Trans-Canada toward Halifax. One price gets you all the way to New Glasgow.
Visitor Information -- The huge Nova Scotia Visitor Information Centre (tel. 902/667-8429) is on Amherst's western edge, just off exit 1 of the Trans-Canada Highway. In addition to the usual vast library of brochures and pamphlets, there's an ice-cream stand, videos, helpful staff, extraordinary views across the usually windy marsh, and often a bagpiper providing the appropriate mood out in front. It's open year-round, and staffed during daylight hours. (A wing of the center with washrooms, vending machines, brochures and maps, and pay phones is open 24 hours a day in summer.)
Just east of the provincial visitor center is the local visitor information center, housed in a handsome old rail car. It's got more detailed information on activities in the area and usually opens daily from late May through early September. There's also a detailed (though slow-to-load) street map online at the town website, www.amherstns.com.
Pugwash & Tatamagouche
Getting There -- Both towns are located on Route 6; you can't miss them from either direction.
Visitor Information -- The Tatamagouche Visitor Information Center (tel. 902/657-3285) is in a lovely yellow house which doubles as the Fraser Cultural Centre at 362 Main St.
Getting There -- Pictou is located on Route 106, which is just north of exit 22 off Route 104 (the south branch of the Trans-Canada Hwy.). The Prince Edward Island ferry is several kilometers north of town at the coast near Caribou.
Visitor Information -- The provincial Visitor Information Centre (tel. 902/485-6213) is located just off the big rotary just west of downtown (at the junction of Route 6 and Route 106). A bit surprisingly, this info center is open daily from May all the way through to mid-December. Considering its size, Pictou also maintains an amazingly well-organized, designed, and researched web page at www.townofpictou.ca. Kudos for that; check it out.
Getting There -- Antigonish is on Route 104 (Trans-Canada Hwy.) 53km (33 miles) west of the Canso Causeway (the connection to Cape Breton Island).
Visitor Information -- The Tourist Office (tel. 902/863-4921) is located at 56 West Rd. (exit 32 on the Trans-Canada Hwy.). It's open daily from 9:30am to 8pm in summer, 10am to 6pm in June, September, and October.
Special Events -- The Highland Games have been staged in mid-July annually since 1861. What started as a community diversion has become an international event -- these are now the oldest continuously played Highland games in North America, a place to experience everything Scottish from piping to dancing to the feat of dexterity known as "tossing the caber" (the caber being a heavy log or pole that's tossed for accuracy, not distance). Contact the folks at the local Antigonish Highland Society (tel. 902/863-4275; www.antigonishhighlandgames.ca) for each summer's dates and details. Rooms are scarce during the 3-day games (Fri-Sun), so if you plan to attend, be sure to book well ahead. You can buy daily and event tickets (C$10-C$20 per adult, free to C$5 per child age 6-16) or a 3-day passport.
The Festival Antigonish (tel. 800/563-7529 or 902/867-3333) is a different event, a summer-long program of theater and live performances held on the campus of St. Francis Xavier University. It usually begins in late June or early July and runs through Labor Day. Shows might range from productions written by local playwrights to Agatha Christie tales, Rumpelstiltskin, or a Woody Guthrie tribute act. Tickets for children's and "Stage 2" productions are C$10 or less; tickets for the main-stage, grown-up performances range from about C$15 to C$30. Or you can pre-order one of several all-inclusive passes for about C$90. The organization's website is at www.festivalantigonish.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.