Nova Scotia's 580-km-long peninsula is surrounded by four bodies of water - the Atlantic Ocean, the Bay of Fundy, the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Its geographic location, together with large, ice-free, deep-water harbours, has been a key factor in the province's economic development.
With an area of 55 491 km2, Nova Scotia is larger than Denmark, although somewhat smaller than Scotland, after which it is named. Its average width of 128 km means that no part of the province is far from the sea.
Nova Scotia is a mosaic of rugged headlands, tranquil harbours and ocean beaches. Its indented shoreline stretches 10 424 km, while inland is a myriad of lakes and streams. The land is framed by the rocky Atlantic Uplands, the Cape Breton Highlands and the wooded Cobequid Hills. The agricultural areas of Nova Scotia are predominantly lowlands. When the glacial ice withdrew from coastal Nova Scotia 15 000 to 18 000 years ago, the ocean flooded ancient river valleys and carved out hundreds of small protected harbours which later became fishing ports.
Nova Scotia lies in the northern temperate zone and, although the province is almost surrounded by water, the climate is continental rather than maritime. The temperature extremes of a continental climate, however, are moderated by the ocean.