The Magic Winery Bus wine tour is one of the best things to do in Nova Scotia and it only costs $50 to tour 5 wineries.
When I grew up in the Annapolis Valley it was an apple valley. But so many has changed over the years and many orchards have been replaced with vineyards and are now producing amazing wine in Nova Scotia.
Every time I return to the Valley I visit the new wineries with my aunt and my kind mother as the designated driver. Years ago I lamented how it was unfortunate that there wasn’t an easy way to get around without someone forgoing the wine.
But that has all changed with the Magic Wine Bus!
This Wolfville wine bus is a great way to also explore Nova Scotia’s unique wine. We have our own terroir (fancy term that just means the soil we grow in) that makes wine in Nova Scotia unique – we’re not creating big bold California reds but we do have our own appellation.
An appellation is another fancy name that refers to a specific region. The most famous is Champage, which is a sparkling wine from the Champagne region. It can only be called Champagne if it’s from that region – otherwise it’s known as sparkling wine.
In Nova Scotia we have Tidal Bay. It can only be grown in Nova Scotia and is held to a strict level of specifications over 4 pages long. Each year the newly created wine is judged by a blind tasting panel of experts ensuring that each winery’s Tidal Bay is within the standard.
A crisp wine reflects the cooler climate in Nova Scotia and pairs perfectly with our seafood. What I love about the Magic Winery Bus is that all of the stops have Tidal Bay so you can compare one winery to another.
What is a Magic Winery Bus Anyway?
It’s basically the best thing that happened to Nova Scotia wine. I have been visiting the Nova Scotia wineries for years, but as a local the hassle was that you really do need a designated driver – thanks Mom.
Sure you could bicycle from valley winery to winery but they are far apart – and honestly I don’t see the lure of drinking wine then biking tipsy down a road I’ve never been on.
Finally, a few years ago the Magic Winery Bus launched, making it easy to visit 5 of the Nova Scotia wineries. And it’s on a big British double decker bus!
It’s a hop on hop-off bus that runs a one-hour loop all day. It begins in Wolfville and if you leave by 11:30am you have time to spend one hour at all five wineries. Although the wineries are (somewhat) close to each other, they all have very distinct personalities.
But what I love most about this experience is that this tour is done with typical Maritime hospitality. You visit the newest, oldest, smallest and largest Annapolis Valley winery.
Our tour guide was Magic Mike. He’s grew up here and everyone knows him as he acts and directs in the local theatre. You’ll also find him at TAN Coffee in Wolfville where he’s singing along to his playlist, which includes Islands in the Stream. It’s coffee and a show.
This is not a stuffy wine country tour. Sure you’ll learn a lot but expect lots of laughs, friendliness and singing on the bus too.
How Do I Take the Magic Wine Bus Tour
The Magic winery bus operates from the end of May (Victoria Day weekend) until mid-October. It only runs Thursday through Sunday.
If you don’t like crowds Thursday is a great time to go as the wineries are usually the least busy.
The bus pick up/drop off is at the Wolfville Visitor Information Centre on Willow Avenue. There is parking, but it’s also a short taxi from most of the local accommodations.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
May 23 – October 13, 2019
- 10:30 AM
- 11:30 AM
- 12:30 PM
The first pick up is at 10:30am (arrive at 10am) and the last loop is between 4:30pm to arrive at 5:30pm. If you want to see all 5 wineries you need to take the 10:30 or 11:30am slot.
If you want to eat lunch you don’t have time for a tasting and lunch. We took the 10:30 stop so we could have lunch at 12:30pm at Luckett Vineyards, which meant a 2 hour stay. Fortunately there’s so much to see as it is the largest producer of wine and it also sells local and international food products.
Magic Wine Bus Prices
$50 Includes HST (15% Nova Scotia sales tax).
There is no refund on tickets but you can contact them to either change to a different day or to a different person. You can buy tickets here.
Featured Nova Scotia Wineries
There are two routes that alternate weekly for the Magic Wine Bus. I’ve included the Nova Scotia wineries in the order that we visited.
What I love about Nova Scotia wineries is that while everyone has the standard Maritime friendliness, each winery on the wine bus tour has its own vibe. It’s a great mix of styles and each offers something unique for participants.
Allow an hour for each winery to try a complimentary welcome glass, learn about the wine, take a winery tour, taste additional wine and make a purchase.
- If you buy wine you do not need to carry it around all day. It will be delivered to the drop off spot at the Wolfville Visitors Centre at 5:30pm.
Allow two hours if you want to eat at one of the wineries, you’ll simply catch the following bus.
I’ve included some tips for each winery including what wine I personally recommend trying.
This was a great spot to start. I’ve been to Gaspereau Vineyards many times and I love it. It’s in a beautiful area of the Gaspereau Valley. Walking into a big red barn as a tasting room, it sets the tone.
The winemaker Gina Haverstock spent time in Germany and while you taste her experience, the wine is uniquely Nova Scotian. Staff here are so friendly, and if you know nothing about wine they won’t make you feel stupid.
The group is welcomed warmly and served two different wines, one being Tidal Bay. Afterwards there is time for additional tastings, wander the vineyards or if you prefer you can order a glass on the patio.
Although we didn’t eat at this stop I’ve been to Gaspereau Vineyard a few times to eat, the pizzas are fantastic and the lobster sliders are delicious bites. And while I never order chicken when I’m out, the chicken sandwich is AMAZING.
MUST TRY WINE: They have maple wine (fermented maple syrup) served in chocolate cups which are DIVINE and a great souvenir. It’s only $3 to try it. Everyone loved it.
PRO TIP: A group on our bus arrived and immediately ordered a pizza to go. This was brilliant as they each had a slice at the next stop, while everyone else looked on with envy as we had forgotten to bring snacks.
Additional Tasting Fees: Any three for $7. If you buy two bottles the tasting fee is waived.
The only vineyard which is owned and operated by the winemaker, Bruce Ewert, who lives on the Estate with his family. He has been making wine all over the world and is very accomplished.
The first time I visited was eons ago but I knew that L’Acadie was a premium winery specializing in traditional method sparkling wine – aka the way Champagne is made. I worried that this would be a boring and the staff would be snooty.
I was completely wrong!
It was actually my favourite stop for learning about wine. We didn’t go into the tedious explanation of sparkling wine.
Instead Mike actually stepped out into the drizzling rain as we stayed dry under the tent and looked out onto the vineyard. He explained how they make organic wine, that serendipitously they have an eagles nest that scares away a lot of animals and joked that he thinks Gaspereau Valley is more beautiful than France.
It was so approachable and refreshing. We tried a sparkling rose and a sparkling cider and I left having such a great appreciation of how they are serious about sparkling, but do it in such an approachable way.
There is no food at this stop, but everyone was kind of hungry. Which is why we were all envious when people from our group pulled our the pizza from Gaspereau Vineyard – trust me you’ll want it too.
MUST TRY WINE: Not wine, but I loved the cider. It’s a great option if you want something sparkling at the table but prefer lower alcohol.
Additional Tasting Fees: Tasting fees begin at $7 depending on what you’d like to try.
More commonly known as Pete Luckett’s winery, Pete Luckett is a Nova Scotia legend although he wasn’t born in Canada.
A Brit that moved to Canada in the 70s, I first saw Pete Luckett in the 90s on Nova Scotia’s Live at Five new program. Twice a week he introduced a new fruit or vegetable that I had never seen before with tips on how to use it.
Later he opened a series of Pete’s Frootiques they were my favourite grocery stores. Built like European markets or delicatessens, there are lots of little hubs with international food and produce you can’t get anywhere.
It may not seem like a big deal now and you can get so many different foods and flavours here. But back then we considered kiwis exotic so I was mesmerized.
So when he sold the markets to Sobey’s and decided to get into wine I knew his winery would be amazing. And it is.
Enough of me fan-girling over Pete, let’s get to the winery.
The largest producer of wine in the Annapolis Valley and second largest in Nova Scotia next to Jost Vineyards in Malagash. His family runs the business and even though it’s wildly successful you’ll still see Pete when you’re there.
It’s also home to Crush Pad Bistro, the restaurant that looks out onto the vineyard with a gorgeous view of the valley and the Blomidon Penninsula. This is really an iconic site for valley residents, when we’re returning from away we know we’re home when we see Blomidon.
As it was still raining we sat under a tent. But staff pulled up one side so we still had a view in the rain and it was beautiful. I highly recommend the steak and mushroom pot pie and of course the seafood chowder. You can ask servers to recommend a glass of wine with your meal.
And don’t miss the perfect photo opp. Lucketts has a British phone box (a nod to Pete’s heritage) in the vineyard with free phone calls to anywhere in North America.
MUST TRY WINE: There are SO many to try here. But I really liked the Buried White, which is 8 feet underground for 28 months in Hungarian Oak barrels. If you’re looking for a good entry level red the Phone Box red is great.
Additional Tasting Fees: $12 to try 5 from the core selection of reds, whites or rosé OR three premium collection of reds, whites or specialty dessert wines.
Domaine de Grand Pré
The oldest winery in Nova Scotia, from 1979 – yes Nova Scotia is a new wine region. It’s officially called Domain de Grand Pre but most locals call it the Grand Pre Winery.
It’s no longer under original ownership, but the S family has long owned Grand Pre and it’s still very much a family business with each member managing one of the aspects of the winery from the restaurant to the tasting room and gift shop.
The tasting aspect of this stop was in a separate tented area and included two tastings but was given with little explanation. I really felt this was a miss because Grand Pre has so much to offer. So I highly recommend going to the tasting room as they have some really knowledgable staff.
It’s also home to one of the best Nova Scotia restaurants, Le Caveau. The pergola, outdoor garden dining space is as beautiful as the food.
The in-house charcuterie board is fantastic and Chef Jason Lynch makes a killer chowder with a nod to Spain’s cold almond soup ajo blanco – in this case it’s warm and filled with seafood. It’s so popular with locals he can’t remove it from the menu.
If you are ambitious and wanted to visit a sixth winery, Google says Mercato Vineyards is a 23 minute walk away.
MUST TRY WINE: We did not have the Tidal Bay in our tasting, and it’s one of my favourites so I highly recommend it. The traditional method sparkling wine is called Champlain a cheeky nod to Champagne and references one of Canada’s explorers.
If you’re a Chardonnay fan you’ll love the Ortega and the Pomme D’Or, which is a apple cream liquour is a fantastic souvenir. I haven’t tried the local haskap berry sparkling wine yet but I’ve had my eye on it for a while.
Additional Tasting Fees: Regular tasting of 5 wines is $8. Premium tasting, including the sparkling wines is $15. White wine only tasting of 5 wines is $8. Red wine only tasting of 4 wines is $7. Vidal ice wine tasting is $4.
With purchases over $100, two tasting fees are waived.
Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards
The newest winery in the Annapolis Valley, it is proof that newcomers can enter the scene and provide a completely different but fantastic experience.
The family has been farming in Nova Scotia for eight generations and were initially grape growers for other wineries before deciding to venture into winemaking.
Without a doubt they have the most beautiful wine labels, but also make fantastic certified organic wine to boot, including Nova Scotia’s first Pinot Meunier. While a small portion of the grape is often used in Champagne, they turn it into its own red wine.
The tasting is on the outdoor patio with a gorgeous view of the vineyard. Inside it’s a large space with a long tasting bar.
It’s tempting to stay outdoors but the most interesting are their small lot wines that you cannot get anywhere else. They aren’t on the tasting bar menu but you’re encouraged to ask what is available that day.
There’s also a great restaurant on site with pizza, smaller bites and main dishes. If this is your last stop and you’d rather stay, it’s just a short taxi ride back into town.
MUST TRY WINE: If you’re looking for something different the Scheurebe starts tropical and ends with a citrus punch. Lightfoot & Wolfville is also known for its sparkling roses which sell out quickly.
Additional Tasting Fees: Three 1oz tastings for $10, additional 1oz tastings for $3. Tasting fee waived with purchase of $50.
What Does the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus Include?
- Transportation to five Annapolis Valley wineries
- A really fun but professional guide on the bus who shares details about each winery
- Complimentary greeting wine at each winery
The Magic Winery Bus Doesn’t Include
- A full tasting at each winery – although like at most wineries the tasting fee is usually waived if you buy a couple bottles
- Food at the wineries. Four of the five wineries have food available for purchase
- Transportation to the Wolfville Visitors Information Centre (VIC)
Is the Magic Wine Bus Tour Worth it?
I was given two tickets to the Magic Winery Bus so it’s easy to think that of course I’d love it, it was free! But as I grew up in the valley, I’ve visited all of these wineries on my own as well as on the bus tour.
I would NOT recommend booking a Saturday. The wineries will already be busy, if you can swing a Thursday (like I did) or Friday things are less hectic.
The bus is a great deal and here’s why:
- $50 includes 5 glasses of wine AND transportation
- It cost less than many formal NS wine tours
- You can take it at your own pace, see all or just a few of the wineries
- You don’t have to worry about having a designated drive, you can just enjoy
- Its social, you meet others on the bus, check out what others have posted using #magicwinerybus on Instagram
Also read what others have to say on TripAdvisor.
Do Not Choose the Magic Wine Bus If:
- You want to learn a lot about wine or have a lot of questions
- Don’t like traveling in large groups
- Like to go at your own pace
Instead consider taking a private tour. Valley wine tours are more expensive but also more intimate and you have more time to learn in a much smaller group.
I visited three of the wineries with Laila from Uncork Wine Tours and learned so many interesting things about wine in Nova Scotia.
Both the bus and the tour have their pros and cons, it just depends on what kind of day you’d like to have. I had a lot of fun on the Wolfville wine bus and absolutely recommend it as a primer to Nova Scotia wine.
Magic Winery Bus Discount Code
The Magic Wine Bus is so popular that it’s often sold out. There are no group discounts or Magic Winery bus coupons in general because it’s already a great deal:
- admission includes HST
- day-long transportation
- the service entertaining guide on the bus to curate your journey
- chance to visit five wineries
- an abbreviated tour and complimentary greeting wine at each stop
Magic Winery Bus Hotel Packages
For Thursday departures the Magic Winery Bus has partnered with the Old Orchard Inn on this experience package. They have not partnered with any other accommodations.
You can read reviews of the Old Orchard Inn here.
What to Bring on Your Magic Wine Bus Tour
Check the weather for the day but understand that weather in the Annapolis Valley often changes every half hour. It’s common to appear overcast in the morning and then the sun comes out.
All of the wineries accept both debit and major credit cards. But here’s what else you’ll need:
- Reusable water bottle. In between the wine you’ll need some water. Nova Scotia tap water is perfectly fine to drink. The wineries do have water but if it’s busy you may be waiting.
- A small snack like nuts or a granola bar
- A light sweater
- A hat
- Mosquito repellent. If it’s been raining they’ll come out!
- Bring a phone charger – there’s nothing worse than a low battery. This charger is small enough to fit in any purse.
- Cash to tip your guide if you enjoyed your time. How could you not?
Magic Winery Bus Tour Map
Pin it For Later: Nova Scotia Wine Tour
Disclosure: This post is part of a paid program with Nova Scotia Tourism and as stated above I did not pay for the tickets. However, I grew up in the Valley and am thrilled to be working on a program where I can share the best of what we have to offer. If they hadn’t given me tickets I would have bought them because I think it’s a great tour.