One of the World’s Best Road Trips: Exploring Cape Breton Island
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When I planned my trip to Nova Scotia, I knew I had one main destination in mind: Cape Breton. Cape Breton is an island situated in the east part of Canada’s Atlantic province Nova Scotia. It is known to be one of the best road trips in the world and places to live. It is home to a breathtaking natural landscape, stunning coastal views, and highland scenery. There are many historical sites, beautiful hiking trails, and a rich history, and regional culture – be it Celtic, Acadian, or Aboriginal.
I spent three days in Cape Breton road tripping through the Cabot Trail and enjoying island scenery and hospitality. Even though I did not finish driving around Cabot Trail, I had an excellent trip to Cape Breton Highlands National Park and Baddeck. If you are planning on visiting Canada’s Atlantic province, be sure to visit Cape Breton.
Cape Breton Overview
Cape Breton has 3,981 square miles in landmass, and it connects mainland Nova Scotia via Causo Causeway. The main landscapes in Cape Breton are rocky shores, forests, valleys, mountains, oceans, waterfalls, and farm fields. The northern part of the island is where Cape Breton Highlands National Park is located. Cape Breton Highlands National Park encircles the forested plateau coastal perimeter and it is believed to be the most beautiful part of the island. The stunning coastal views exist at every twist and turn, and it has many stunning trails and observation platforms where you can see cliffs towering over the oceans.
Get to Cape Breton
There are two ways to reach Cape Breton. Please note that there is no public transport in Cape Breton. To travel around the island, you need to have your own vehicle.
Driving: From Halifax, it is about 4-5 hours drive. From Sydney, it is a two-hour road trip.
Bus: Maritime Bus transports passengers between Halifax, Sydney, Baddeck and Whycocomagh. For information on bus schedules and reservation, check here.
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Road Trip in Cape Breton
I spent three days in Cape Breton, and it was not enough time for me to travel around. If you are short on time, I recommend you to visit Cabot Trail. Cabot Trail is a 185-mile loop that covers Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Even if you only have few hours for a drive-through, the fantastic coastal view and the unparalleled beauty is totally worth the trip. The vista on the road is absolutely amazing and takes your breath away.
Cape Breton has numerous observation points, 26 hiking trails, and the highland golf course that ranked top 100 best golf courses in the world. Here are few great highlights that get visitors the best this island has to offer.
Cheticamp – Your Getaway to Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Cheticamp is an Acadian village and a getaway to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I spent a night at Cheticamp on my way to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Cheticamp has a camping ground at Plage St-Pierre Beach that opens to motor homes and hikers. Camping at the beach is surprisingly easy mainly because all the facilities, including a game room, bathroom, picnic tables, fire pits, and shower, are provided and easily accessible. As for the food, Seafood Shop Restaurant offers a variety of seafood including lobster, fish and chips, shrimps, and seafood chowder. I had halibut and wine there for dinner. The following morning, I had a big breakfast at a local restaurant Evangeline on Main Street Main with a great view of Cheticamp harbor.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park: the most enchanted place in Canada
Cape Breton Highlands National Park passes through 1/3 of the Cabot Trail from Acadian village Cheticamp and beaches at Igonish, where mountains and rusted-colored cliffs meet the sea, plus the special mix of engendered plants and animals, with the possibility of viewing moose, bald eagles, and pilot whale. Winding through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, it is easy to spot the scenic lookouts where you can pull off the road, take pictures, spot the wildlife, and learn the unique island culture.
Skyline Trail – A walk in heaven
Skyline Trail is inside the Cape Breton Highlands National Park featuring a seven- kilometer loop with a tranquil and relaxing walk in the woods and forests. You can either trek the full-circuit or take the easy trek to reach the same plateau. I was short on time so I took the short and easy one. The view on the trail is beautiful and, if you are lucky, you will encounter moose, coyotes, and bear cubs. Unfortunately, I only saw squirrels and baby snakes. After a 30-minute hike, you will reach the end of the trail, where you come out on the plateau with an amazing coastal view surrounded by cliffs and mountains. It is absolutely a visual feast. The best time to hike the skyline trail is during the sunset. If you go, be sure to bring a flashlight.
Pleasant Bay – your halfway destination on Cabot Trail
Pleasant Bay is a fishing village and whale-watching capital of Cape Breton. Captain Mark’s whale and seal cruise takes you to the mid of the Atlantic ocean with the possibility of viewing pilot whales, eagles, and puffins. Pleasant Bay is also a place to work up your seafood appetite as the fishermen there captures lobsters in spring and snow crab in summer. Rusty Anchor Restaurant features delicious seafood where you can get lobster for a very cheap price.
Baddeck – the beginning and end of the Cabot Trail
Baddeck is a vibrating village on the shore of Bras d’Or Lakes. A prominent site in Baddeck is the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. Alexander Graham Bell chose Baddeck as his summer home and the museum exhibits the story of his inventions in aviation history, advanced recording technology, and the world’s fastest boat. Here, you can learn about his personal life and his scientific and humanitarian contribution to the world. Afterward, you can walk around the wharf and have a 360-degree view of Baddeck. Amoeba Sailing Tours also take visitors on Bras d’Or Lakes where you can catch a glimpse of bald head eagles and beached seals, while learning more about Baddeck.
Bear on the Lake Guesthouse – Your home away from home
I stayed at the Bear on the Lake Guesthouse and it is my favorite accommodation during the trip. It is not just a hostel but feels more like a home where travelers from all over the world come together and share a great time. We watched the full moon on the first night and hung out on the front porch the following night. The hostel itself is a short drive from Whycocomagh, Cabot Trail, the grocery store, and Baddeck. There are outdoor seating areas and hammocks for you to relax and get a stunning view of Whycocomagh Bay.
I hope this post inspires you to discover the culture and the beauty of another beautiful part of Canada. Through my experience and talking to other travelers, Cape Breton is still not on the tourist radar because of the time and the effort it takes to get there. If you go, take your time exploring this beautiful island and enjoying the rich culture and the history it has to offer. I have missed many places during my Cape Breton trip. I wish to return one day and explore more of its simple beauty.
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