Who else loves history?
Have I ever told you that it was my minor in college? It doesn't take much to get me excited about a historical site, and the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia is an especially good one.
The Fortress of Louisbourg is a reconstructed fort dating back to the 1700's when France owned this part of Nova Scotia. The fort was taken by the British in battle twice and eventually demolished. It has since been reconstructed in one of the largest projects of this type in North America. The result is an authentic-feeling chance to experience life as it might have been 300 years ago. It's a lot of fun – and educational, of course – for history lovers of all ages.
I visited the Fortress of Louisbourg with my husband on an anniversary getaway in Nova Scotia. Here are my top tips for families from our experience.
What to expect
The Fortress of Louisbourg is an exciting opportunity to step back in time. The parking lot and modern visitor center are separated from the fortress by a short distance and visitors are transported by shuttle. Our first stop was at a rustic dwelling just outside the fortress. We stood in front of a fireplace and received a brief history lesson from an actor in period clothing. Then we walked to the Fortress of Louisbourg from there.
There are advantages of visiting the Fortress of Louisbourg in all kinds of weather. A warm clear summer day will offer great views of the water, good weather for all activities, and maybe even a little hiking or beach time. The June day we visited was so foggy, we almost couldn't see the water at all. It added some mystery to our experience as we meandered inside and among the old buildings.
Summer is a great time to go
The Fortress of Louisbourg bustles with activity during July and August. People in period costume work in the houses and shops and are happy to tell you about what they do. Restaurants are all open, tours are offered twice daily and the ocean breezes will be at their warmest and most welcoming.
Consider special activities like camping overnight, firing a cannon or my personal favorite – Prisoner of the Day. For $37, you can stand in the iron collar for 30 minutes and be fed bread and water. Imagine the photo op! 🙂
We visited during the June shoulder season, when some of the seasonal programs and services were up and running, but not all. I don't expect that Louisbourg is crazy crowded any time of year, but consider a shoulder season or off-season visit if you want to see it with smaller crowds.
Especially for families
The Fortress of Louisbourg is a great destination for families who love history. My visit was during an anniversary trip with my husband, so my kids weren't there. I did see other families with children, and school groups.
Hands-on tours for kids, family activities, camping and other exciting adventures await families at the Fortress of Louisbourg. Check the park's website to see what activities will be offered during your visit.
Where to eat
The Fortress of Louisbourg has four restaurants and cafes that serve food reminiscent of the time that Louisbourg was a thriving trade center. The restaurants are all open during July and August, and you'll find limited services from late May to mid-October.
Picnic tables are available and we saved money by packing in our own picnic. We also enjoyed purchasing hot cocoa and baked goods for a snack at L'Epee Royale Cafe.
What to wear
The June day we visited was chilly and foggy, and I was glad to have a jacket. It's a good idea to pack an extra layer or two, no matter what time of year you visit. A good pair of walking shoes is also a necessity at the Fortress of Louisbourg.
Good to Know
Where: You'll find the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, near Sydney, Nova Scotia. The address is 259 Park Service Rd, Louisbourg.
When: The fort is open year-round. Activities are seasonal. Summer (July through mid-September) is the busiest time when the most activities are available.
How Much: All national parks in Canada are FREE in 2017! At other times, visit pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ns/louisbourg/visit/tarifs-fees for current pricing. Expect to pay a few dollars per person. Activities and tours inside the park may cost extra.
How Long: 2+ hours. We spent 2-3 hours, but the weather was chilly and most summer activities were not yet underway.
Amenities: Restrooms, dining, gift shop
How else can I help?
Need a place to stay? We rented a beach house on the Cabot Trail. It was a little far from the Fortress of Louisbourg, but centrally located for all our activities on Cape Breton Island. There are many rentals and hotels near Louisbourg and Sydney, Nova Scotia. Click the buttons to check rates and availability on TripAdvisor and HomeAway.
Need help getting around? Driving your own vehicle is the best way to get around this part of Nova Scotia. We saved 35% on our rental car for this trip with the pre-pay rental option from Budget. Find more rental car tips in my post 9 Easy Ways to Find the BEST Rental Car Prices.