Upon their arrival, the settlers found rocks rather than farmland. Although the immigrants weren’t mariners by the late 1800s, they made schooners and became fishermen. Codfish was king in those days, and Lunenburg became the fishing capital of Canada. A capital made from a combination of wooden ships and iron men.
Lunenburg is a history-packed town, and we had just 24 hours to learn all about it.
3:00 p.m. – The Mariner King Inn
After checking into The Mariner King Inn, the front desk clerk carried my suitcase up the centuries-old staircase and pointed out my room’s features. She showed me where to turn on the bathroom’s heated floors, an essential element in Nova Scotia in late January. The charm of antiques and stained glass hasn’t been disturbed as the inn’s owners have seamlessly incorporated modern-day conveniences like Wi-Fi for the comfort of their modern guests.
While initially built in 1830, in the 1870’s the Mariner King Inn was one of the first homes to become a Victorian in the trendy Italianate-style, by adding the famed Lunenburg “bump” over the entrance. The Lunenburg bump is an architectural feature that is often like the five-sided Scottish dormer. The builder extended the central dormer out and down from the roof over the front door. It created an overhang or protrusion in the building, known as the Lunenburg bump.
5:00 p.m. – Lunenburg Walking Tour
When I arrive at a new destination, I find it helpful to take a tour to get an overall impression of the area. Lunenburg Walking Tours was the perfect way to get an overview of Lunenburg’s Old Town area and decide where were I needed to have a more in-depth look. We explored St. John’s Anglican Church, Lunenburg Academy, and many architectural and historical venues in between.
St. John’s Anglican Church
St. John’s Anglican Church, the second oldest Protestant church in Canada is a Canadian National Historic Site, built in the Carpenter’s Gothic architectural style. The original church built in 1754 burned on Halloween night in 2001. The town restored the church, and it opened four years later at the cost of 6.8 million Canadian dollars.
A notable feature inside the church is the ceiling, which had the same pattern of stars that were in the sky on the night of Christ’s birth.
Today, this active sanctuary also is a music venue. It’s open daily, June to September, and when you go, be sure to see the stunning interior.
Built in 1895, the beautiful Lunenburg Academy was for almost 117 years, a public-school educating primary to Grade 12 until it closed in March 2012. Today the first floor is the library, the second offices, and finally, the third floor is the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance.
7:00 p.m. – Ironworks Distillery
After a tour of Old Town Lunenburg, complete with tales about haunting spirits at the Lunenburg Academy, we finished our tour at Ironworks Distillery, where we enjoyed stories about another type of spirit.
Ironworks Distillery is an artisanal micro-distillery, where they distill every day, one batch at a time. The name Ironworks comes from the 1893 heritage building. The building is rich with history and charm, including the original hardwood floors.
In the beginning, the building was the Walter’s Blacksmith shop, a marine blacksmith shop that produced ironworks for the shipbuilders, for example, anchors and chains. Today Ironworks Distillery crafts spirits distilled by hand, using as many fresh local ingredients as possible.
A Taste of Lunenburg
Initially, we warmed up by sampling the various spirits paired with traditional Lunenburg appetizers, which included old-fashioned German fares–Lunenburg sausage and Lunenburg pudding. Both included beef and pork; however, the pate also included onions.
We sampled Solomon Gundy, pickled herring, that had a sweet onion flavor.
We made a side-by-side comparison of two types of locally-made sauerkraut— Tancook and Krispy Kraut. My favorite was the Krispy Kraut. To me is was crisper and tarter than the Tancook. If you can imagine, Krispy Kraut goes through 100,000 pounds of cabbage annually.
When they opened in 2010, owners Lynn MacKay and Pierre Guevremont didn’t plan to offer rum. Local sugar cane was non-existent, and they were steadfast in remaining with local products. The issue was during Prohibition Lunenburg was a rum-running town, so everyone kept asking about their rum. After some problem-solving, their house-made rum evolved distilled from Canada’s Crosby’s molasses, a product from Nova Scotia’s neighbor New Brunswick.
Every six months, they bring out Barrel 97, the Rum Boat Rum, aged in a Nova Scotia red wine barrel. Barrel aging is an integral part of this rum. While the rum is on the boat, the ocean’s motion encourages interaction between the rum and the Acadia wood, resulting in a grassy flavor. The Blue Nose rum is an award-winning rum voted the best dark rum in the world in 2014. Their white rum is charcoal filtered to pull out the color.
An incredibly unique rum offered at Ironworks Distillery is the Around the World Rum. The rum accompanied the Barque Picton Castel, a three-masted tall ship based in Lunenburg, on its seventh circumnavigation of the world. They say its flavors include warm baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla, and the essence of tobacco. The rum’s taste is similar to the Rum Boat Rum but has a tropical flavor all its own.
After our tasting accompanied by appetizers, we enjoyed a catered dinner of lobster chowder with brown bread and butter. Their second still affectionately referred to as Ruby, towered over us. We finished the meal with a rum raisin cake from the Savvy Sailor that featured the distillery’s Blue Nose Rum. The cake came drizzled with a caramel rum sauce and topped with whipped cream—what a delicious way to end the evening.
Ironworks Distillery’s signature spirits include vodka made from apples grown in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley and liqueurs made from local berries. One fascinating brandy is the Eau de Poire, similar to Pear William, which features a whole pear inside the bottle. I couldn’t help but wonder how the entire pear got into the bottle. It turns out, farmers attach the bottles to pear tree branches as the pears are just forming. The pears grow inside the bottle. If you don’t consume the liqueur past the pear stem, you can keep the drink going by refilling the bottle.
9:00 a.m. – Breakfast
The day started with breakfast at the Mariner King Inn. White tablecloths embroidered with nautical-themed scenes covered the breakfast tables. The breakfast buffet was laden with meats, a variety of cheese, and breakfast pastries.
After breakfast, we explored a bit more of Lunenburg, including the waterfront.
10:00 a.m. – Lunenburg’s Waterfront
Along the waterfront, be sure to investigate the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, the home to Bluenose II.
The Bluenose originally built and launched in Lunenburg in 1921 as a fishing vessel and a racing schooner. The ship, the Bluenose II currently in Lunenburg is a replica as the original sank off the coast of Haiti in January 1946. A picture of this boat has been on the back of Canada’s dime since 1937.
1:00 p.m. – Lunch
On the Lunenburg waterfront, stop by for lunch at the Grand Banker Bar and Grill. While their menu is extensive, try their signature dish the Lunenburger. This unbelievable burger is a beef patty topped with applewood smoked cheddar, béarnaise sauce, and lobster claws. Crowning the top of the bun are bacon-wrapped scallops.
After lunch, we had one more stop.
2:00 p.m. – A View of Lunenburg
On the way out of town, we headed across the harbor to take in a scene, known as the Money Shot, not just because the view is charming and iconic; but, also because it’s the vignette on the back of Canada’s $100 bill.
I was surprised to learn the brightly colored houses that Lunenburg is famous for are a relatively new development. Before 2007, the houses were painted white with black trim like St. John’s Anglican Church today.
For more stories about Nova Scotia’s South Shore, check out my article on Nova Scotia’s South Shore Lobster: Ocean to Table, where you can view a video of my experience on a lobster fishing boat and in a lobster pound.
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