Living in Nova Scotia (The Ultimate Guide)

Nova Scotia

Great things sometimes come in small packages. You won’t find a province in Canada that fits this description more. With an overall area of just over 22,000 square miles, Nova Scotia is the second-smallest province, but the second-most densely populated. About 1 million people enjoy living in Nova Scotia. Would you?

It’s a beautiful place, with the majestic scenery that coastal borders usually come with, but it’s also a small province, with a peculiar population situation. This makes for some pretty interesting characteristics. And as usual, you’ll find out what you need to make an informed decision right here.

So where do we begin? That’s right, that coastline…

Nova Scotia’s Geography

Nova Scotia is the most populous of the four Atlantic provinces of Canada located at the eastern end of Canada’s landmass. These provinces are named as such because of their proximity to the Atlantic coast.

Nova Scotia is almost an island and is surrounded by water on all sides except for its land border with New Brunswick on its northwest side. The 24-kilometer wide Isthmus of Chignecto is the only stretch of land connecting Nova Scotia to North America.

Regardless of where you stand on Nova Scotia’s 21000 Square miles of land, you are never more than 42 miles away from the ocean. A beach-goers’ paradise.

The Bay of Fundy, a popular tourist destination between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, is one of the many ancient fossil-bearing rock formations Nova Scotia has. This bay is to the west of Nova Scotia’s land border with New Brunswick.

Nova Scotia has a very complex, marine-dependent geography, and this is one of its major characteristics which has shaped its culture and development over the years.

Let’s see some of the reasons you would want to live in Nova Scotia.

Here’s a walkthrough of the capital Halifax.

Pros of Living in Nova Scotia

1.      Views worthy of the Big Screen

Nova Scotia is undoubtedly stunning. Miles of coastline punctuated by sandy beaches, and numerous distinct islands. Its picturesque fishing communities and lighthouses look like something you’d see in a classic summer movie.

It’s probably for this reason that multiple award-winning movies have been set in Nova Scotia. A certain movie titled the Titanic; ever heard of it? It was shot in Nova Scotia. Views like those are probably why there’s such an outdoor culture in Nova Scotia.

They also make the next point even more of a big deal.

2.      Real Estate prices

Most people, when thinking of moving to Canada, think of places like Ontario or British Columbia. These places have their benefits for sure. They are also significantly more expensive to live in than other provinces. Other provinces like Nova Scotia.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price of a home in Nova Scotia is about $360000, less than half what they cost in Ontario. A home costs almost $860000 in the most populated province in Canada, while in British Columbia, they go for over $900000.

Real estate in Canada generally got more expensive over the last year, so more people prioritize their budget now when looking for a new home to buy.

3.      A calm pace of life

Most people who have lived in Nova Scotia all their lives mention this first when describing their home. Depending on how densely populated the area of Nova Scotia you choose to live in is, you’ll experience varying degrees of silence.

Even the capital municipality, Halifax, with the highest population density of the entire province, is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of places such as Toronto. Case in point, according to the Halifax Regional Municipality, as of 2016, 25%-50% of residents regularly walked to work.

4.      Rooted in History and Culture

Many other movies have been produced in Nova Scotia, including K19: The Widowmaker and The Lighthouse.

There’s a significant relationship between Nova Scotia and the film industry. Numerous actors and film directors have come from this relatively small province.

Fine arts have always been a pillar of Nova Scotia’s culture, and the capital has numerous sculptures and art institutions to prove it. The province has featured in many literary works and has produced many authors who have become famous worldwide. This applies to music as well.

The location of the province and its unique geography results in a rich and fascinating history that has shaped the lives of people living in the area even today. Many wars were fought and won, thanks to Nova Scotian men and land.

Many monuments to the military prowess, especially in naval warfare are still present today in Nova Scotia, receiving countless visitors. Fort Anne, Cape Breton, and the Welsford-Parker monument just to name a few.

Nova Scotia also made history when Joshua Slocum, born in the province, became the first man to sail around the world on his own. Sailing the seas remain an integral part of life in Nova Scotia, seeing as it exports fish worth over $1 Billion.

The traditional cuisine is also very much tied to the waves, with red lobster and other seafood being a common part of the diet in Nova Scotia.

There’s so much nature, history, and culture to take in, you’ll hardly be without something new to see or learn.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though; there are some things to watch out for.

Cons of living in Nova Scotia

1.      A peculiar economy

Despite all the lobster and Christmas trees exported by the province each year, it still maintains a GDP that’s lower than the national average. Nova Scotia imports far more than it exports indicating a production deficit.

Experiences of some of the residents indicate that certain goods and items are unnecessarily expensive because they have to be outsourced and imported into the province. This may result in a higher overall cost of living than necessary, depending on your needs.

2.      Taxes

The government of Nova Scotia levies a higher Provincial tax rate than other provinces in Canada. For example, according to Canada’s official government website, the provincial tax rate on the highest tax bracket ($150,000+) in Nova Scotia is 21%.

In Ontario, it’s 13.16% on anything over $220,000. In British Columbia, it is 20.5% on anything over $222,420.

So if you make over $150000 a year, you’d keep more of your money in Ontario than in Nova Scotia.

3.      Cost of Higher Education

According to Universities Canada, the average tuition fees for universities in Nova Scotia start at about $7000. In Ontario, they start at about $6000. $5000 in British Columbia and $4000 in Manitoba. And that’s for residents of the province.

Of course, this depends on the particular institution and field of study.

4.      Finding Employment.

Being a small province when it comes to population, Nova Scotia doesn’t have the most diverse economy. As such, people with non-traditional skills might find it a struggle to secure employment within the province.

This situation isn’t as bad in the capital, and it’s getting better as the economy grows and begins to diversify. Adequate research and proper planning could help make things easier.

Now, onto the expenses.

Cost of Living in Nova Scotia


According to Numbeo, a one-bedroom apartment outside the city center (Halifax) costs about $785, while a similar 3 bedroom apartment would cost $1290.

In the city center, however, a one-bedroom apartment costs about $1125 while one with three bedrooms costs almost $1820.

Note: All amounts are in Canadian dollars

As expected, prices would be different in other parts of the province.

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There are several public transit systems in Nova Scotia. You can find details about them here. The average prices are $2.20 for a one-way ticket and about $66 for a monthly pass. A liter of gas costs about 90 cents, but don’t forget that walking and cycling are viable alternatives.


For a single person, Numbeo suggests budgeting about $380 a month for food. A meal at an average restaurant costs about $12. The details of your average shopping list can be found here.


Things like electricity, heating, etc would cost up to about $135 and an internet connection would bring the total to about $210.

How much would you need to live in Nova Scotia for a month?

A budget of about $2500 would be sufficient for a single person planning on living in Nova Scotia, and even with some wiggle room. For a family of four, a budget of $5500 would be safe.

Places to visit when in Nova Scotia

1.      Peggy’s Cove

A very popular tourist destination in Nova Scotia. This fishing village less than 50 miles from the Capital, has a slightly ancient feel to it. There you can get to know the history of Peggy’s Cove or even go fishing with the locals.

2.      Cape Breton Island

If you make it to the island you could hike the Skyline Trail of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Or you could drive the Cabot Trail that encircles the island and briefly intersects the park.

3.      Lunenburg

The poster child of Nova Scotian culture. If you’ve come this far you’ve probably seen pictures. Simple, brightly colored, seaside homes radiating the province’s heritage, with fishing boats lining the waterfront. Nova Scotia in a nutshell.


Nova Scotia is a very unique place, geographically and culturally. If you’re one for never-ending adventure, check it out. It could be the place for you.