Have the Maritime of your life
Canada’s charming colonial city by the sea holds a secret: despite its small size, it’s home to a thriving gay community fuelled by a large and diverse student population, the city’s status as Maritime Canada’s regional hub and, ahem, the city’s largest employer, the Canadian Navy. There’s plenty here for the gay traveller to enjoy, and the welcoming Maritime attitude will make you feel at home right away.
On a summer day, Halifax’s bustling port is where the action is. The pleasant boardwalk features the usual touristy shopping and buskers, but it is a great starting point for a trip into Halifax’s seafaring history. Historic ships line the harbour, and guided tours can be arranged at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Down the harbour, you’ll find the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, the port through which more than a million immigrants entered Canada in the 20th century. Along the stroll, you’re sure to spot some of Canada’s finest uniformed men.
Some of the best views of the city are from the water. The cheapest option is to take a ride on the ferry to Dartmouth, a part of the public transit network. Several boat tour operators offer minicruises around the harbour and into the ocean, with routes focused on historical vistas, whale watching, deep-sea fishing, dinner cruises and even tall-ship sailing. If you’re more adventurous, you can rent canoes from St Mary’s Boat Club and paddle around the harbour by yourself.
Before buying your whale-watching ticket, ask the attendants if you’re likely to see whales on that day — certain morning weather conditions cause the whales to hide, which can make for a disappointing cruise
Halifax Stanfield International Airport serves the city and most of the province, with scheduled domestic and international flight destinations. Driving here takes 30 to 45 minutes from downtown Halifax.
Metro Transit operates MetroX service to and from downtown for $3.25 each way. The number 320 bus operates every 30 minutes for peak morning (6-9am) and afternoon(3-6pm) times. Otherwise buses depart every 60 minutes.
Via Rail Canada has overnight sleeper car passenger rail service from Halifax Railway Station (1161 Hollis St) six days a week to Montreal, with stops at major centers along the way, including Moncton.
Maritime Bus (with the recently acquired Acadian Lines) provides intercity service to New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia with connections to Quebec & West, plus to and from the airport. Their local terminus is also at The Via Railway Station.
Cruise ships also pay regular visits to this port city - only one day's sail from either New York or Boston.
Metro Transit operates buses and ferries around the HRM. Bus fares are $3, and ferry fares are $2.50, exact change only. Transfers, valid for up to 90 minutes, cost 50 cents extra, or free from the ferry (must be requested at time of purchase). For going out at night the bus isn't much use, so walking or a taxi cab are the best options.
I Heart Bikes offers 2-4 hour guided Halifax explorations by bicycle, to sites such as Halifax Harbour, South End, Point Pleasant Park and Halifax Commons.
For a city of its size, Halifax boasts an enviable gay environment. The annual Pride celebration has evolved into a week-long cultural festival in mid-July, welcoming up to 50,000 visitors from all over Maritime Canada.
The queer-friendly sex shop Venus Envy (1598 Barrington St) is a local institution.
SeaDog’s, (2199 Gottingen St), men’s sauna club/ bar closed abruptly in September 2014, but comments in The Coast indicate a new owner has the place running again, without a new name for now. Halifax's first bathHouse, Apollo Sauna closed in 2005, after 35 years on Barrington Street.
There’s a respected queer theatre company here, Plutonium Playhouse (2315 Hunter St) with new theater productions from local playwrights, artists and actors; also home to the annual Sex Festival of erotic theater.
Queer nightlife and live music can be found at The Company House, (2202 Gottingen St), a women-friendly venue.
Menz & Mollyz, (2182 Gottingen St) has a casual atmosphere as an all-inclusive LGBTQI community destination at the center of the gay village, with DJs, dancing, pool tournaments, karaoke, leather nights and contests, including "best chest."
Reflections Cabaret, (5184 Sackville St), hugh dance club with a younger dance crowd, karaoke, drag and other performance shows.
Beer fans will enjoy a tour of the Alexander Keith’s brewery (207 Queens Quay West), with tours capped off with free pints of the product.
Don’t pass up a chance for fresh-from-the-ocean lobster. Seafood is ubiquitous in Halifax, and the halibut, cod and clams are among the best you’ll taste.
Splurge on a nice restaurant like The Press Gang or The Five Fishermen for fine dining, and some of the best seafood in the area, along with Alberta beef at the latter. The pub scene centred on the pedestrian mall on Granville Street, has many pubs featuring live local musicians, including traditional fiddlers and bagpipers.
The traditional late-night snack in Halifax is the donair — you’ll see shops everywhere — and they are delicious.
In summer McDonald’s offers up a monstrosity called the McLobster. Avoid it.
Media and Resources
The monthly queer mag Wayves ended print publication recently, but they continue to maintain a website with up-to-date local listings of events and regional LGBTQ groups and services.
Gay Halifax is the other website for "all things queer in the Rainbow Community" of this area.
DailyXtra provides news, current events, commentary and listings for all of Canada and beyond, plus travel articles on this site.
Rainbow Halifax welcomes you to LGBT Halifax with TAG and Travel Gay Canada approved hotels and attractions, gay bar listings, and events such as Halifax Pride and the Out East Film Festival.
The Coast is the area's free weekly alternative and very gay-friendly newspaper with arts and entertainment listings, plus food and club reviews.
The Nova Scotia Tourism website also has info on neighboring Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland/ Labrador and New Brunswick provinces.
The Acadian Shore
Along the beautiful shores of St.Mary's Bay, in the "District of Clare,“ live the descendants of people who came from France in the 1600’s. Scattered over the Americas by the deportations of 1755, many walked on to Louisana, but others returned here.
The world famous sands of Mavillette Beach on the Atlantic Ocean offer fishing, whale watching, or golf at the Clare Golf & Country Club. A 10-minute drive away, in a small fishing village, the gay-friendly Anchor Inn B&B (8755-Highway 1, box 19, Meteghan Centre; 902-645-3390) has two guest rooms, and serves full breakfast each morning.
Area seafood restaurants include the Blue Rock, Around the Bend and Cuisine Robicheau. The Comeau Farm Market in Meteghan Centre has yummie ice creams, fresh fruits and vegetables, jellies, home-made pies, cakes and cookies, and seasonal berries. Try the rappie pie, an Acadian favorite with grated potatoes, savory meats and spices.
Upper Clements Park, in Annapolis Royal, is Atlantic Canada's largest amusement park, with a roller coaster and summertime entertainment, June through August.
The Festival Acadien de Clare, the Clare Blue Grass Festival, and the Yarmouth Waterfront Festival are some of the local summerfests.