What’s so special about Halifax, anyway?

“It’s big enough to be progressive, but small enough to stay the same.”

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In the BOH survey we asked "What makes Halifax special to you?" and we got back a pile of answers on the same theme: It's the perfect size. Whether readers say it "feels more like a neighbourhood than a city," or is "too small for a secret affair," they agree it's the epitome of a "BSTIEK"—the biggest small town I've ever known.

With just over 400,000 inhabitants, Halifax is "modern and historic, unique and familiar, comfortable and challenging." A Toronto expat says "no way would I go back," while another transplanted reader is relieved there's "none of the pretension and pressure we experienced on the west coast to make money and keep up with the latest trends."

Halifax dances a tricky line. Right now, "you can feel like you have space to yourself to get lost if you need to, like in a big city, but also have the small town feeling of being supported." With careless growth, getting lost will become the default, not an option. But if small town thinking goes unchallenged, it can harden into prejudice against outsiders and fear of change.

Luckily we' ve got a lot of help maintaining the right balance into the future. As one reader points out, "The ocean is a huge, calming influence."

The right-size mindset is one thing, but Halifax is also a great size physically. Its small urban footprint gives room for plenty of wilderness nearby—including that ocean. Here are some suggestions from readers for enjoying the city's connection with nature: Load up a car of friends on Sunday afternoon and drive the winding road to Duncan's Cove for a good seaside hike—spot the seals if you're lucky. Meander down the Halifax waterfront on a Saturday morning, pausing on a bench to stare off at Georges Island and beyond. Head to Lawrencetown beach, Point Pleasant Park, Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Wilderness Park, McNabs or even the Susie's Lake camping spot tucked right behind the Kent store in Bayers Lake. Fall in love. It's nature at your doorstep—or just a ways down the way—and we wouldn't trade it for a damn thing. 

About The Authors

Caora McKenna

Caora is the City Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from city hall to police and housing issues. She’s been with The Coast since 2017, when she began as the publication’s Copy Editor.

Victoria Walton

Once a freelancer, Victoria has been a full-time reporter with The Coast since April 2020, covering everything from COVID-19 to small business to politics and social justice. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, she graduated from the University of King’s College School of Journalism in 2017.

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