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Our first trip of any significance after immigrating into Canada was a two week camping tour of the maritime provinces, from Montreal, through The Gaspé, New Brunswick and into Nova Scotia, more specifically Cape Breton. We took in a few hours in Halifax on the way back, walked around Citadel Hill and took a tour of the Bluenose II. That was in 1980 and it took until there was a suitable lull in the Covid pandemic for us to return, 41 years later.
This time we stayed downtown, just a few steep blocks up from the waterfront. These days the waterfront has been tarted up for tourists, and you can walk for 4 along boardwalks and old wharves, zig-zagging around the many bars and restaurants. It’s pure tourist land, but also fun, with boats and water and wind and gulls. And constantly the dumpy little passenger ferries crossing the harbour between Halifax on one side and Dartmouth on the other. They still look very similar to the one in the photo I took back in 1980.
There are two routes, both of which leave from the same ferry terminal on the Halifax side (Lower Water Street Terminal). The more busy, more popular route goes to Alderney Landing near downtown Dartmouth, and the other to Woodside, serving a more industrial area. We decided to do the round trip, Halifax–Alderney–Woodside–Halifax, because there is a quite pleasant paved path, the 3 Dartmouth Harbourwalk, that connects the two Dartmouth terminals, keeping mainly close to the waterfront, and giving excellent views across to Halifax.
The ferries are frequent and are fully integrated into the Halifax transit system. The fare is a bus ticket; we tried hard to pay, but failed, because as it later turned out Tuesdays off-peak are free for seniors. The weather was grand, and on arriving at Alderney Landing we headed straight for The Wooden Monkey restaurant for lunch, where we sat with the best possible view of the ferry and the Macdonald Bridge. The food was good and the menu gluten-free-friendly. Recommended.
These are ferries designed for high rush-hour usage, with very wide terminal approach walkways and entrances onto the boats, and a boat that does not need to turnthe bow and stern are identical. I think we saw 4 boats working continuously while we were there, and while walking between the two Dartmouth terminals we came across another moored at what appeared to be a ferry depot. (A week later we were in Lunenburg, and there, moored in a corner of the harbour, were two more Halifax Harbour ferries, apparently retired, but looking very similar to those now in service.) There are proposals for several new high speed ferry routes in Halifax Harbour, using 40 catamarans to connect major polulation centres.
What else to do in Halifax? We had just three nights, and the Citadel was our first stop, because visiting a castle on top of a hill with a good view is always worth doing. We walked the Halifax waterfront a lot, but with Covid and general opening hours not everything was open. But the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a must for anyone who likes the history, engineering or romance of boats. Much, often harrowing, information was displayed about the Halifax Explosion of 1917. But to me the most impressive were the many highly detailed, and often very large models of ships, especially the ocean liners, many retired from being displayed in the head offices of the shipping companies. A well done museum, just the right size and only a block from the ferry terminal. Don’t forget to say hello to Merlin the Macaw when you visit.
May we return to Halifax before another 41 years have passed.

Alderney Landing ferry info
Operating year-round, every 15-30 minutes except some holidays
Crossing time 12 minutes, 1.8
See official website for precise details
Woodside ferry info
Operating year-round, every 15-30 minutes, weekdays only, except holidays
Crossing time 12 minutes, 2
6:309:30 weekdays.
See official website for precise details
The boats
$2.75 (adult, 2021)
Halifax Transit
When I used the ferries
September 2021

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