When you consider Nova Scotia’s gorgeous rugged coastline, quaint seaside villages, cool climate, vast boreal forest, and general love for lobster, you may think it’s New England on steroids. And the food in Nova Scotia similarly revolves around the bounty of the sea, for the most part. But while a New Englander will indeed feel at home here, the most interesting thing about this and Canada’s other Maritime Provinces (also: Maine) is the thing that sets it apart from anywhere else in the world: its fascinating, enduring, and heartbreaking Acadian history.

In a nutshell, the Acadians are the descendants of the French colonists who settled in this area centuries ago and were, in 1755, during the French and Indian War (Seven Years War), forcibly deported en masse by the British—largely because the Acadians refused to swear allegiance to the British crown. They were scattered across several North American colonies (including French Louisiana, where they’d become known as Cajuns); by the time they were able to return to what’s now Nova Scotia, they found their homes gone and their farmland occupied, so they had to learn to live in less hospitable, rockier, more isolated parts of the province.  

This, of course, has greatly informed Acadian cuisine—iconic dishes like rappie pie and potato pancakes, which can and should be sought out in Nova Scotia today. More than that, following the trail of Acadian food in Nova Scotia, faint as it is in parts of the province, will lead you to some actual Acadians, who will no doubt tell you their family’s story with pride and how they ended up where they did. Acadia the land no longer exists in physical form, but the culture most definitely lives on in the Acadians who miraculously haven’t let distance break their ancestral bonds. It’s a beautiful thing.

And besides all that, there’s the fantastic lobster and seafood chowder and lighthouses galore. It’s time to dig into Nova Scotia.  

Note: This guide features specific picks from the capital, Halifax, and the tourist-friendly South Shore, but you’ll be able to find many of these dishes elsewhere across the province.