The area was originally settled by Acadians who were expelled in 1755 during the Acadian Expulsion. After the Acadians, Canning – first called Apple Tree Landing’ and then Habitant Corner – was settled in 1760 by New England Planters and by the Dutch following World War II. The present name was adopted in honour of British prime minister George Canning.
Though much diminished in importance in recent years, Canning was once a major shipbuilding centre and shipping and rail hub for farmers in Kings County. Canning merchants and farmers founded the Cornwallis Valley Railway which ran from 1889 to 1961, connecting the village to the Dominion Atlantic Railway mainline in Kentville, Nova Scotia. The village suffered three major fires in its history.
The Canadian parliamentarian Frederick William Borden had a home in Canning. Canning has a prominent statue of Harold Lothrop Borden, a relative, who was killed in the Boer War and is buried in South Africa.
The village is home to an elementary school with a student population of about 250, and a middle school/high school with a student population of almost 1100.
A lighthouse that once served the port fell into disuse and abandonment but was restored in the 1990s.