Experience the Cabot Trail
The natural beauty of the highlands provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities such as motorcycling, golfing, kayaking, hiking, cycling, and whale watching. Hike and camp in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, play a round of golf at the famous Highlands Links, peruse artisan shops along the trail, or just plain enjoy the nature as you drive this 300 kilometer (186 mile) highway that offers spectacular coastal views, highland scenery and warm Celtic and Acadian hospitality.
Cape Breton Island
Explore Cape Breton Island – The Cabot Trail by Dave Culligan
Cape Breton Island, ranked as one of the top Islands in North America by Travel + Leisure magazine and is home to the Cabot Trail. You may want to check your brakes before heading to Cape Breton as the world-renown Cabot Trail, with its dramatic coastal views and highland scenery, can be rather steep. Not to mention you’ll absolutely want to stop a lot while on the island.
Hiking the Cape Breton
- Hike in the Cape Breton Highlands: Explore 26 hiking trails in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park ranging from easy strolls to challenging climbs – all leading to panoramic views of canyons, highlands, and coastlines. Don’t miss the annual Hike the Highlands festival that takes place over 10 days each September in the Cape Breton Highlands. Hikers from around the world come to Cape Breton Island to participate in guided hikes, evening activities, and more.
- Hike 10 trails in one day: This Parks Canada hiking challenge in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park welcomes visitors to experience 10 shorter trails while discovering a variety of habitats – Acadian, Boreal, and Taiga. The park’s staff can help you choose the right trails for you. Once you finish, bring the list of your completed trails, along with photos, back to the park’s centre for a souvenir.
- The Skyline Sunset Hike at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park on the Cabot Trail is recognized as one of Destination Canada’s Signature Experiences. The trail guide will lead you out to the top of a mountain headland to one of the most spectacular panoramic views in the province that overlooks the Cabot Trail and the ocean at sunset.
- Hike the Lighthouse and Old Town Trails in Louisbourg which offers impressive views of the Fortress of Louisbourg and its rugged coast. The 2-kilometre Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail starts at the Louisbourg Lighthouse and winds through forests and wetlands, along the coast where soldiers once stood guard protecting Louisbourg Harbour. The nearby 2.25-kilometre Old Town Trail lies just outside the fortress walls, with interpretive panels telling the story of the people who once lived and worked there.
10 Great Outdoor Adventures
- Go kayaking to evoke your inner artist with North River Kayak Tours. Dipping your paddle alongside seals and seabirds, while surrounded by our rugged coastal cliffs, can bring out the artist in anyone. North River Kayak Tours offers tours as well as the popular Lighthouse Bites: Full Moon Adventure where you experience nighttime kayaking under a full moon in the beautiful Bras d’Or Lake UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for an unforgettable evening of Cape Breton music and gourmet local flavours on Kidston Island.
- Attend a powwow at the Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre. Experience a story over 10,000 years in the making. Learn about the music, storytelling, nature, food, language, and spirituality of Nova Scotia’s first peo¬ple, the Mi’kmaq, in a beautiful setting on the shores of the sparkling Bras d’Or Lake.
- Cycle, hike, or walk the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail.This 92-kilometre multi-use trail winds through the communities of Judique, Port Hood, Mabou, and Inverness. Along the way, you’ll find active fishing harbours, beaches, exhilarating views, museums, restaurants, and accommodations. Include the trail in a multi-day cycling or trekking itinerary, or stop for an hour or two to take in the natural beauty of this area.
- Whale watching off the shores of Pleasant Bay and Cheticamp where pods of Atlantic pilot whales spend their summers gorging on squid.
- Go tuna fishing and experience the ultimate adrenaline rush as you battle the giant Bluefin tuna with Dawn Treader Tuna Charters or It’s Now or Never Tuna Charters.
- Go salmon fishing on the Margaree River. For generations, anglers have been lured to the Margaree’s tumbling rapids, deep pools, and still marshes.
- Take a Bird Island Boat Tour to see the Puffins. The dramatic Bird Island rise from the seal like rocky pillars. Take a tour with Bird Island Boat Tours or Donelda’s Bird Island Puffin Tours for a chance to see thousands of nesting sea birds and over 300 pairs of Atlantic puffins.
- Sail the Bras d’Or Lakes with Cape Breton Sailing Charters. Known for gentle, fog-free waters, beautiful anchorages, hundreds of coves and islands, and abundant wildlife, the Bras d’Or Lake is also part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
- Schedule a beach day and swim in the Atlantic. The warmest waters on the Island can be found Ingonish Beach, if waves is what you love, grab your boogie board and head to Black Brook Beach.
- Order ice cream in a lighthouse. Visit the retired Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse in Neil’s Harbour on the Cabot Trail where you can order ice cream from the shop inside the lighthouse.
Golf Cape Breton
It has been written that Cape Breton is a “magical island,” which National Geographic says contains one of the world’s great drives. Over the years, this Nova Scotia island has become known for offering some of the best, most intriguing, and exciting golf in all of North America.
Names like Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs ‐ two of the most recognized courses to have opened anywhere in recent memory ‐ sit on the west coast of Cape Breton, while the venerable Highlands Links, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016 and is perennially ranked among the best in the world, is situated to the north. Rounding out the great golf in Cape Breton is Bell Bay in the seaside town of Baddeck, and Le Portage in the charming town of Cheticamp.
Golf Digest: World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses: Cabot Cliffs #9, Cabot Links #43 and Highlands Links #87
Art & Musical Lovers Paradise
Blazin’ Fiddles live at Celtic Colours
- Celtic Colours International Festival: Dozens of concerts, an extensive line-up of community events, and a nightly Festival Club will leave you feeling like a Caper in no time.
- Great Hall of the Clans at the Gaelic College, St. Ann’s Take a hands-on approach to discovering our Celtic heritage by joining in a kilt making, milling frolic, or step dance.
- Celtic Music Interpretive Centre: Take an interactive journey through samples of song, stories, dance, and bagpipe and fiddle music. Interpretive media displays let you try your hand at a fiddle tune or learn how to stepdance.
- Take in a cultural performance at Strathspey Place in Mabou. At this state-of-the-art performing arts centre, Cape Breton’s rich diversified culture is celebrated through Celtic music and the music, dance, and folklore of the Acadian and First Nations communities.
- Delve into the arts at Inverness County Centre for the Arts. This fine arts centre showcases the works of local and international artists in its gallery, music studio, and shop.
- Craft Your Wedding Rings: create a special memory by crafting your own wedding bands working one-on-one with a Jewelry instructor to shape, mark, and shine your rings at Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design.
- Centre de la MiCareme: Celebrated by local Acadian communities for centuries, try your hand a mask-making or rug-hooking.
- First flights, kites and White Glove Tours at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site will give you a behind-the-scences glimpse into Bell’s life.
- Experience the life of a French settler at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. North America’s largest historical reconstruction.
- Walk in the miners’ footsteps at the Cape Breton Miners’ Museum as you take an underground guided tour of the Ocean Deeps Colliery, a coal mine beneath the museum.
- Visit Les Trois Pignons where Chéticamp’s Acadian history and culture come alive through its world-famous hooked rugs and antiquities.
- Discover a historic shipping passageway at St. Peter’s Canal National Historic Site. For over 140 years, this canal has been a busy gateway between the Bras d’Or Lake and the Atlantic Ocean.
- At the Wallace MacAskill Museum you can explore the birthplace of Wallace MacAskill, the famed marine photographer whose photograph of the Bluenose is memorialized on the Canadian dime.
- Experience authentic Mi’kmaw culture by sharing a traditional feast, hearing stories and music, or learning through participation in traditional fishing practices of the Mi’kmaq with Eskasoni Cultural Journeys.
- Visit the birthplace of wireless communications at Marconi National Historic Site.
- At the Membertou Heritage Park learn about the culture and history that the Mi’kmaq of Membertou maintain to this day.
- Take a ghost tour … if you dare… and learn about the ghosts & legends of historic Sydney. Costumed guides take you through haunted heritage homes and graveyards, enthralling you with stories of ghostly residents. Skeletons in the cellar, bodies under the floorboards, tales of ghostly visions, and the location of a triple execution – this is just a sample of the spooky stories of Old Sydney that await you!
- Cape Breton Fossil Centre – Sydney Mines is one of eight important fossil sites in Nova Scotia and home to a fossil forest. Guided tours of the Cape Breton Fossil Centre are offered daily; guided tours of the nearby fossil cliffs, where visitors can walk the beach and find fossils to be identified by the on-site geologist, are available twice per week.
Places To Eat
When it’s time to refuel on local food, check out the Taste of Nova Scotia Seafood Trail for a list of restaurants located on the Cabot Trail that are serving up delicious seafood dishes. Looking to expand your foodie knowledge? Reserve your spot at one of the Chanterelle Country Inn & Cottages’ hands-on experiences. For a culinary hidden gem, reserve a table at The Bite House in Baddeck, which has been featured in The New York Times and on the Cooking Channel. If liquid sustenance is what you seek, ‘hop’ over to the Good Cheer Trail and visit Big Spruce Brewing in Nyanza for full-flavoured, organic microbrews.