Chris Chapman

To those oriented south of the Canadian border, Nova Scotia could be described as more Maine than Maine: classic, untouristed seaside villages; dramatic granite cliffs; acres of spruce trees, wild roses,blueberries. So it's no surprise that Americans have started heading north to snatch up waterfront cottages. The province is a quick flight (or pleasant drive) from many East Coast cities, and the weak Canadian dollar and less-congested real estate market mean that Americans can buy houses for about one-third the cost of similar ones in the States. The recent influx has already driven up prices by 10 to 20 percent.

Whalesback, on a bluff at Duncan's Cove near Halifax harbor, may command some of the best views of this new frontier; the core of the house was a World War II naval observation tower. Its current owner, interior designer and native daughter Erla Laurie, added five fireplaces, a sauna, and glass-paned rooms and balconies hemmed with stainless-steel pipe rail. The house comes furnished with an antique-meets-contemporary look, and you'd better like the 1870's bookcase in the fourth-floor library – after all, it took a crane to hoist it there.

Contact Sotheby's International Realty affiliate Claussen Walters & Associates (902/634-4040, fax 902/634-4176;

Whalesback is a 10-minute drive from the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (376 Purcells Cove Rd.; 902/477-5653) and the sand dunes of Crystal Crescent Beach; downtown Halifax is 20 minutes away. Highlights: the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (1675 Lower Water St.; 902/424-7490), with one of the few intact deck chairs from the Titanic; the artists' hangout Economy Shoeshop (1663 Argyle St.; 902/423-7463), for drinks and simple food; the contemporary Italian trattoria Il Mercato (5475 Spring Garden Rd.; 902/422-2866); and Doraku, for sushi (1579 Dresden Row; 902/425-8888).

Although Whalesback certainly isn't cheap, Claussen Walters has many less expensive Nova Scotia properties. Among them: Lower Kingsburg, a 100-year-old Cape-style house and barn with ocean views on 1.4 acres ($100,360); a modern chalet surrounded by fields overlooking the Second Peninsula ($218,910); and Mount Misery, 185 acres and 4,000 feet of waterfront, including a 143-foot mountain ($120,570). Other agencies to contact for listings include Walt MacDonald Real Estate (902/354-5775), Domus Realty (902/422-0555), and Land & Sea Real Estate Services (902/624-1991).