Renowned for being the birthplace of the famous Bluenose and Bluenose II, the town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia has a long, proud seafaring history that continues to be reflected in its picturesque waterfront.
History of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
The first mention of a settlement in what would later become the town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia was in the early 1600s. At that time, it was an Acadian/Mi’kmaq village named Mirligueche, home to only settlers living along the water’s edge in wooden houses. After recurring hostilities between the French and English, Nova Scotia’s governor, Edward Cornwallis, ordered the village destroyed and, in its place, erected a British fortress to guard the harbour. However, the British recognized the area’s value as a settlement, given its well-protected harbour and easy access to Nova Scotia’s expansive forests, fertile farmland and lucrative fishing grounds.
Foreign Protestants (mostly Germans from the southern Rhineland, Swiss and French Protestants from Montbéliard) were encouraged to settle the area in a town that would be named Lunenburg, in honour of King George II, Duke of Brunschweig-Lunenburg. The British laid out the town of Lunenburg based on unwavering plans for a perfectly organized grid – regardless of the local topography. However, the industrious and hard-working Foreign Protestants managed to transform the civic planners’ sketches into a thriving settlement, with straight and narrow streets, lined with colourful buildings, criss-crossing the site’s rather steep hill leading up from the harbour.
Lunenburg would quickly become known as a major shipbuilding centre, with local mills supplying the wood needed to build some of the most impressive sailing ships ever designed. Among these was the famous Bluenose, a fishing and racing schooner built in 1921 that would remain undefeated in international racing for 17 years. The Bluenose lives on on the Canadian dime, while her replica, the Bluenose II, has gone on to act as Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador around the world and continues to call Lunenburg home.
As the use of wooden vessels fell in favour to steel steamships, the town evolved to become a modern ship repair and outfitting port, especially during the First and Second World Wars and to the Province’s trawler fleet. Today, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is very much a town where the past meets the present. Seventy percent of the original buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries continue to greet visitors with their colourful facades. As a result, the town has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – a fitting tribute to the lasting history nestled alongside this tranquil harbour.
Accommodations in Lunenburg
Throughout the town of Lunenburg, you’ll find homes and buildings dating back more than 200 years. Several of these historic properties have been converted into charming bed and breakfasts and inns, which are a short walk from most of the town’s attractions and restaurants. Find accommodations in Lunenburg.
Places to eat in Lunenburg
For a small town, you might be surprised to discover how many dining options there are in Lunenburg. While most of them cater to seafood lovers – taking the daily catches and turning them into both traditional and modern dishes – you’ll find restaurants that will tantalize the taste buds of land lubbers, too. For example, Fleur de Sel has been featured in “Where to Eat in Canada” for three years in a row, while Trattoria della Nonna offers an authentic taste of Italy in the heart of Nova Scotia’s south shore. Find places to eat in Lunenburg.
Must see attractions in Lunenburg
The Bluenose II
Throughout its long history, Lunenburg has been the birthplace to many sailing ships, including the Bluenose and her daughter, the Bluenose II. The Bluenose II continues to call Lunenburg home and, when she’s not at sea or visiting other ports around the province, can be found docked alongside the Lunenburg waterfront. During visiting hours, you can stroll its deck, chat with the crew and get a feel for what it was like to race the seas under full sail.
The Bluenose II is also just a short walk from the bright red buildings of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The distinctive buildings feature prominently along Lunenburg’s waterfront, with floating vessels docked along its wharf, beckoning visitors to learn of Nova Scotia’s seacoast heritage. Learn about life on the open sea, rum running during Prohibition, walk the decks of traditional sailing ships and see how dories are made. Kids will also love the opportunity to see the varieties of sea life on display, including a touch tank that lets them pet a starfish!
Things to do in Lunenburg
Lunenburg is truly a walking town, with everything centrally located and just a short distance from one another. Stroll past the colourful heritage properties (in case you’re wondering, Nova Scotia’s fishing towns often painted their homes bright colours so as to be easily seen from the water), visit the many gift and artisan shops scattered throughout the town or enjoy an ice cream along its boardwalk. If the steep hills seem intimidating, you can take a horse and carriage ride with a driver who will gladly point out all of Lunenburg’s famous sites.
Lunenburg is also a haven for many artists who find inspiration in its surrounding beauty. Throughout the summer, the town hosts art festivals that showcase local artists’ range of media and subjects. July includes the Lunenburg Street Festival and Art Walk and the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival, while the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival takes place in August, featuring traditional and contemporary folk music from around the province and region.