If you held a contest for the most photogenic town in Canada, a lot of votes would go to Niagara on the Lake — check out last Friday’s post if you have your doubts. But there’s a strong contender in eastern Canada, too: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, an iconic sea port with a charm all its own, and easily the most colourful place I’ve been in this country.
Lunenburg was once famous as the shipbuilding centre that produced the Bluenose, Canada’s renowned racing ship which beat all comers for 17 straight years. But for most of those who make the trip down Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley to spend a day or two, it’s a living museum, filled with beautiful, centuries-old houses painted in a rainbow of colours.
Lunenburg is a very old town, dating from the 1600s. Originally an Acadian-Mi’kmaq village, it later became a British fort and then a shipbuilding centre. And luckily, for most of that time it escaped attacks and major fires, which means that 70 percent of the town’s original 18th- and 19th-century buildings are still standing — and remarkably well preserved. That’s earned Lunenburg the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rivalling places like old Quebec City and L’Anse aux Meadows. And if ever a town deserved it, Lunenburg’s the place.
The town is not all about history and architecture, of course. It’s a lively place, filled with seafood restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and quaint B&Bs. And of course, there’s the colourful waterfront, where you can sometimes see the Bluenose II, successor to the famous racing vessel of old. It was out of town the day my friend Dennis and I visited, but the Cape Sable fishing trawler was there for all to see, not to mention the giant skull of a fin whale. If you wanted a closer look, whale-watching tours left from the dock every day.
I have been to a lot of UNESCO sites in the past few years, but I can truly say I’ve never been to one that flies its colours quite so brightly. Here’s a glimpse of the colours of Lunenburg: see if you agree.