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Nova Scotia’s Yarmouth is a treasure trove of history and art. This southwestern harbour town claims to have been visited by legendary explorer Leif Ericson in the 1600s. Today, Yarmouth preserves its colourful past and hosts prime lobster fishing.

Yarmouth’s stately homes and historic downtown area are showcased in the Sea Captains’ Walking Tour, a self-guided look at houses built in Yarmouth’s wealthy 19th-century heyday. You can pick up a brochure at the Main Street Visitor’s Centre.

After glimpsing a captain’s perspective, visitors can learn how most residents of Yarmouth have traditionally made their living. Things to do in Yarmouth include perusing the W. Laurence Sweeney Fisheries Museum on Water Street. A historic fishing wharf reveals tools of the trade used over the past 150 years. Items on exhibit are meticulously preserved, down to the pages in antique magazines. You can poke around in the wheelhouse or open the desk drawer of Mr. Sweeney, the businessman behind Yarmouth’s fishing industry from 1923 onward.

Those who wish to delve into more fishing lore can stop at Cape Forchu Lightstation, a top attraction in Yarmouth, off Highway 304. A 15-minute drive south unveils this lighthouse overlooking a rugged ocean bluff. Learn about a day in the life of a lightkeeper, including making log entries, tending the light, and watching for ships in trouble. Besides facts and photos on fishing culture, evidence of the devastation of historic shipwrecks is on display. Augment your museum visit with a trip to the gift shop or a taste treat in the tea room.

For a view of the challenges of a completely different career, the Firefighters Museum on Main Street satisfies guests. Ladder trucks and gear date back to the mid 1800s, including an 1863 steam engine implemented long before the invention of any truck. Uniforms, badges and pictures tell the stories of this difficult occupation, not just in Nova Scotia but around the world. Toy engines and life-sized hands-on trucks engage young visitors here as well.

An education in Nova Scotia culture is rounded out with a visit to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, another top attraction in Yarmouth, also on Main Street. The gallery’s mission is to make art more accessible, and it does so by highlighting Nova Scotia folk art, rug-hooking and other handicrafts, and by presenting artwork from schools in the area. The youngest artists are pre-schoolers from regional Aboriginal Head Start programs.

Things to do in Yarmouth include browsing at Acadian Glass Art, a Main Street mecca of stained glass owned by Brenda Doucette. Nature, nautical and Acadian themes are showcased in panels, framed works and other glass creations.

After sampling Yarmouth’s cultural bounty, your taste buds may well deserve a turn. Stanley Lobster Co., six minutes from Downtown by car, celebrates the delicious crustacean in a popular, casual atmosphere. Patrons can choose their own lobsters to go from the stocked tanks, or enjoy a meal while admiring Bay of Fundy views.