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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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

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.

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada

Cape Breton is too beautiful that I stopped driving and walked down the road to take in the breathtaking view.

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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

Onto Cape Breton from Halifax, NS /Photo credit: JP via Flicker

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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

On my way to Cheticamp , Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, NS

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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Cabot Trail, NS

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

Breathtaking view from scenic lookouts inside Cape Breton National Park, Cabot Trail, NS

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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

Skyline Trail, Cape Breton, NS

One of the world's best road trips - explore Cape Breton Island

View from the Skyline Trail Plateau, Cape Breton, NS

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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton

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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

Baddeck Harbor, Cape Breton, NS

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.

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

View of Bras d’Or Lakes from Bear on the Lake Guesthouse, Cape Breton, NS

One of the Best Road Trips in the World: Explore Cape Breton Island

Hung out at the front deck at the Bear on the Lake Guesthouse

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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One of the world's best road trips is in Cape Breton, an island situated in Nova Socita Canada.

 

Julie Cao
 

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and has made her way to Toronto Canada. In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people and the place.

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