Travel Videos: This week, take the train to Halifax to explore charming Nova Scotia

David L. Harris

Near the waterfront, a must-do stop on a Saturday is the Halifax Farmer's Market (7 a.m. to 1 p.m.; open Saturdays year-round). Vibrant and crowded, it is housed in the historic Keith's Brewing Co. building at 1496 Lower Water St., next to the Courtyard Marriott. You'll find here a dizzying array of the finest in local produce - fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, meats and cheeses.

While the city impresses, it is in the outskirts where you'll gain an appreciation for Nova Scotia's local charm. Picturesque towns dot the province, from the craggy granite boulders of Peggy's Cove to the vineyards of Wolfville, and many options are within an hour's drive from Halifax.

Rent a car and drive to Lunenburg, a historic fishing village listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town hasn't changed much at all since it was founded as a British colonial settlement in 1753. Colorful pastel-painted shops, homes and other buildings surround the harbor and it's easy to get lost in the beauty. The other draw to Lunenburg is the Bluenose II, a replica of the celebrated 1921 Canadian racing and fishing vessel. For $35 from June through September you can take a two-hour cruise on the schooner. You may even spot seals flopping in the water.

Those hungry for seafood knowledge should stop by the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, an aquarium and museum right next to the Bluenose II pier. Here you can check out what halibut, salmon and lobster look like when they're not being served on a plate. And then dine on fresh seafood at the museum's The Old Fish Factory, with a great view of the harbor to boot.

If you go

Getting there: VIA Rail Canada offers departures from Montreal to Halifax on its Ocean train leaving Montreal's Central Train Station, six times a week (every day but Tuesday) at 6 p.m. and arriving in Halifax about 21 hours later. The trip takes you through the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Regular seats from $222 each way; Easterly Sleeper-class from $426, available mid-June to mid-October.

Staying there: In Halifax, the Courtyard Marriott offers rooms with views of Halifax Harbour (rates from $143 to $229; 902-428-1900). In Lunenburg, the Lunenburg Arms Hotel (rates from $129; 902-640-4040) overlooks Lunenburg Harbour. In Wolfville, the Blomidon Inn (rates range from $99 for a small room to $269 for a cottage; 800-565-2291), is a quaint bed and breakfast in the former mansion of a sea captain.

Eating there: For some of the freshest fish you'll ever eat and a delicious salad bar, try 5 Fishermen (902-422-4421) at 1740 Argyle St. in Halifax. McKelvie's, housed in a former fire station at 1680 Lower Water St., features delicious seafood and pasta. In Lunenberg, try Fleur De Sel (902-640-2121t), a French restaurant that features some of the most creative dishes from one of the region's most celebrated chefs, Martin Ruiz Salvador.

For more information on travel to Nova Scotia click here.

The next Napa Valley?

Wolfville and the Annapolis Valley serve up fascinating Acadian history (detailed at the Grand Pre National Historic Site) and miles of blueberry fields and apple orchards. But increasingly attracting attention are the vineyards.

Nova Scotia's wines may be the best-kept secret in the wine world.

Grapes for wine have actually been grown here since the 1600s - in the Annapolis Valley and other regions. But only recently are the vintners beginning to claim bragging rights.

"We're going to be the next Napa Valley," said Cacilia Stutz-Spirig, the daughter-in-law of Hanspeter Stutz, the founder of Grand Pre Wines in bucolic Grand Pre, one of nine wine producers in Nova Scotia.

While the short growing season means the vineyards can't grow traditional grape varieties such as Chardonnay or merlot, don't discount the wines here. Grand Pre produces a light-bodied seyval blanc, a Vintner's Reserve Foch and a Vintner's Reserve Castel that have won gold in the All-Canadian Wine Championships, and ice wines that have also received acclaim (the vineyard's hard cider, Stutz, is also a treat).

At the Benjamin Bridge winery in Wolfville, winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, a Canadian with experience working at wineries in California and Chile, is in charge of a huge project that will introduce a large variety of champagne-like sparkling wines sometime in 2011. "It's a very ambitious project," he said.

From now until Oct. 26, the third annual Nova Scotia Wine Festival features wine tours and special menus at select restaurants.