Halifax is on the south shore of the Halifax Harbour, and the downtown area is on a peninsula that is surrouned ion three sides by water. There are a number of interesting communities around the harbour connecting Halifax to Dartmouth on the north shore.
To capture the essence of this city, here are suggestions for your first day (especially if its your only day) in Halifax. This action-packed tour is focused on downtown
Begin the day atop Citadel Hill, with the expansive view of the city and Halifax Harbour
Tour the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, a magnificent fortress for the early 1800s. It defended the Halifax harbour, first from possible American invasion, and then from German attack over two world wars.
If you have time, tour the Halifax Public Garden, designed like European formal gardens. Some trees and structures were damaged by a hurrican a few years back, but its still pretty spectacular.
Head down the hill, past The Old Town Clock (closed to public) built in 1803 and the Metro Centre convention hall to Halifax's oldest area, the waterfront
Take either the streets or the Downtown Link passageways (sometimes underground,sometimes above) and visit the shops and restaurants of the Historic Properties
Head north to Casino Nova Scotia, if that is your interest, or south to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Take the harbour ferry to Dartmouth and back, to get some great photos of Halifax and Dartmouth's waterfronts
Continuing south, you pass the Bluenose II dock, a recreation of the famous 1920s race-winning schooner seen on Canadian dimes (a cruise may take more time than you have in a one day quickie tour)
A short detour uphill takes you to the Old Burying Ground with many of Halifax's first residents
See Province House, the provincial legislature, and Government House, the home of the Lieutenant Governor, the Queen's representative to the legislature.
Visit Brewery Market, home of Alexander Keith's famous brewery (take a tour and get a sample at the end!)
At the southern end of downtown is Pier 21, and national historic site dedicated to thousands of Canadian immigrants (right beside today's cruise ship docks). Across the water is Georges Island Historic Site in the middle of the harbour.
Just a little further is the CN Rail Station and Halifax's famous container port
Head up Spring Garden Road to a shopping district and mall for some shopping and dining to wrap up your day
The south end of the peninsula features Point Pleasant Park, littered with monuments, a beach, military batteries, and the Prince of Wales Martello Tower.
If you have a second day in Halifax, you should take in the surrounding waterfront communities:
Head north on Barrington Street 9which eventually turns into Highway 2), and you pass the HMCS Scotian and the Royal Canadian Navy dockyards.
Then you pass underneath the two bridges to Dartmouth (you'll come back on one of these later), you pass Halifax's miles of docks, pretty Seaview Park before passing the HalTerm Container Port.
Continue northwest along the Bedford Highway, with a detour at Kearney Lake Road to Hemlock Ravine Park with its heart-shaped Julie's Pond
Bedford's waterfront is home to several yacht clubs. on the east shore is the rugged and forested Admiral Cove Park, which has some great hiking trails and high cliff lookouts over the harbour.
Continue your clockwise tour of the harbour along Windmill Road, nwith its big box shopping district, and you are now heading along Highway 7 (Windmill Road) along the waterfont southeast toward Dartmouth
Just before the first bridge, stop at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography
Continue along Windmill Road into downtown Dartmouth, to Dartmouth Heritage Museum and Aldernay Waterfront Park, right beside the Dartmouth Shipyards, with an excellent view of downtown Halifax
You'll pass a plaque commemorating the end of the historic Shubenacadie Canal, and can visit the Evergreen Historic House
Head inland a bit to see Lake Bannook (shown left) & Lake Micmac, home to many freshwater sporting activities in the region.
Head east along the Eastern Passage Rd past Halifax's refineries to CFB Shearwater Aviation Museum
You pass McNabs Island, home to Fort McNab National Historic Site, accessible by ferry in the town of Eastern Passage, which also has a historic waterfront, with many quaint shops and restaurants.
If you have a third day in the Halifax area, head south along Highway 333 to Peggy's Cove fishing village, the most painted waterfront in North America, and continue south along Highway 3 to Lunenburg, known for its charm, waterfront and historical homes and churches.
You can also head northwest to Windsor, Hantsport, and Wolfville, on the Bay of Fundy. Here you can observe the impacts of Fundy's famous 50 foot tides, twice a day and a number of the estuaries her have tidal bores travelling upstream. Check with locals for best locations and time (the tides shift by 55 minutes each day)
More significant detours are to the west to Annapolis Royal and Digby to explore the area's verey early French history. This is a southern loop route, and can take a day.
You can also head north to the Cape Breton Highlands, Baddeck, Fort Louisbourg and Sydney, whhere you can catch a ferry to Newfoundland. This is easily a 1 or 2 day round trip.