To the locals of Cape Breton, they take pride in calling the island home. Tight knit families and long lasting traditions are prime examples why we love it so much.
To anybody visiting Cape Breton from away, you’ll quickly notice a change of scenery, lifestyles and cultures as soon as you cross the Canso causeway. Gaelic and Acadian cultures mix beautifully here, and the island is teeming with music and arts (if you haven’t listened to the Rankin family while driving the Cabot trail before, you haven’t lived)
This summer, we had a bucket list of things to do in Cape Breton, and we can happily say we accomplished all of them, so now we pass this bucket list to you. Summer of 2017 will be here before you know it, and with our handy list you shouldn’t have any problems finding adventure in the Cape.
(Disclaimer: we know you must think we’re crazy for leaving out some of the best known places in Cape Breton such as the fortress of Louisburg and the miners museum. Our main goal is to highlight some of the lesser known areas that may get overlooked. We promise you that you’ll enjoy these adventures as much as we did!)
#1. Explore the Highlands National Park
OK, this one is a no-brainer to anyone visiting Cape Breton. With it’s windy roads, scenic mountain views and the iconic skyline trail, the highlands is easily a must-do.
La Grande Falaise (The Great Cliff) located in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. If you’ve drove by this, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a truly breathtaking sight no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
According to geologists this rock formation was once on the other side of the Highlands and was thrust across the plateau by tectonic events.
It’s also home to a little creature known as the “Gaspé shrew”. Which is said to exist in only one other place in the world, Gaspé, Quebec.
Le Vieux Chemin du Cap-Rouge (The Old Road to Cap Rouge) follows an old unused section of the Cabot Trail that used to link Cheticamp to Pleasant Bay. There are still old foundations remaining from Acadian settlers who started settling in the area around 1891 on the trail.
Beginning near Trout Brook, you climb to a ridge midway up Jerome Mountain, where you get an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean along the entire length of the trail. At the end you also get an incredible view of Presqu’ile and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Ingonish beach, easily one of the most popular beaches in the Highlands National Park is known for its large waves and it also has a fresh water lake near by for a bit of a warmer swim.
#2. Grab a bite at the infamous A&K Lick-a-chick
A Cape Breton classic! Ask anyone around where to get the best fried chicken and they will always point you in the direction of Bras D’or (pronounced bra-door).
Personally, I look forward to this place every time the summer comes around and is always just as good as the last time.
Don’t forget dessert! It’s only across the street.
#3. Drive the entire Cabot Trail
OK, this kind of goes hand in hand with number one on our list, but is too good to leave off the list. This also applies for other seasons.
In our opinion, be sure to do this drive with good friends and a superb Playlist of local mucic (recommend the Rankins)
Also plan your trip around a different time of day. Seeing the Cabot Trail in a different light will make you want to drive it all the time.
#4. White Point
If you do plan to do the Cabot Trail, we highly suggest taking the turn off to White Point. This adorable little fishing village in the highlands of Cape Breton is beyond beautiful.
#5. The Gypsum Mine of Chéticamp
This old gypsum quarry dates back before World War II, and over the years has flooded and transformed into one of the most beautiful swimming spots in Nova Scotia.
There’s a (sketchy) trail off to the side where you can climb to the top of a cliff and overlook the whole mine. Make sure you take a snapchat of yourself at the top, because nobody will ever believe you were at a place to picturesque.
This place only came to our attention this year and is quickly becoming a well known spot to kick back and relax away from any civilization.
Oh, and bring pool toys. Hiking with them will be well worth it when you get there!
#6 Visit the local Breweries and get rowdy!
Out of all the places to get your buzz on, these were our favourite:
We stopped by Big Spruce Brewing in Nyanza for the first time yesterday… to say the least we were impressed.
Not only with the beer which is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and unbelievably good. But also the cozy tasting patio with it’s epic views. They also have a Gourmet Farm-To-Fork Food Truck “Cruisin’ Cuisine” on site and live music during the weekends. We recommend checking it out for yourself!
Breton Brewing is located in Coxheath right next door to the Farmers market just outside Sydney. The brewery has a nice welcoming feel with some of the best beers on tap.
If you can’t get to Cape breton to try them, don’t worry! Their brews are available in most NSLC stores and at the Seaport Market in Halifax.
If you’re a fan of whisky this place is a must see. Glenora Distillery is located in Mabou. It is surrounded by stunning views of the ocean and mountains. It was the first single malt whiskey distillery in North America. But besides that it’s also home to an inn, pub, dining room, gift shop, a courtyard, good ol’ Cape Breton ceilidhs, of course distillery tours and some damn good whisky.
#7. Uisge Bàn Falls Provincial Park
Uisge Bàn Falls is an excellent provincial park with a 1.5km trail that brings you up close and personal to the waterfalls.
It’s an overall easy hike that is beyond beautiful. The ruggedness of the trail is almost surreal. The end of the trail will leave you with breathtaking views of the 15 meter waterfall that has eroded it’s way into a granite cliff face
#8. The Louisburg Lighthouse Trail
Rugged coastlines and historic lighthouses are just a couple of the things that make the East Coast so incredible. Its also what make the Louisburg Lighthouse trail so satisfying to hike.
The trail has around 13 km worth of paths that are all kinds of difficulties. From rugged hiking to well groomed trails, it’s certainly won’t disappoint you!
#9. Meat Cove
Meat Cove is the most northerly community in Nova Scotia and arguably the most scenic place on the entire Eastern seaboard. Cut off the Cabot Trail down an 8km winding dirt road, and you’ll find some seriously epic views.
#10. Highland Village, Iona
Entering the highland Village will make you feel like you’re going back in time, in the heart of Scotland. The Village is essentially a living museum that portrays life of the many Scottish immigrants who crossed the atlantic looking for a better life in the new world.
The Highland Village is located in Iona, on the hillsides of Cape Breton overlooking the Bra d’or lakes.
Flora’s gift shop in Chéticamp is a must do pit stop to browse all the trinkets and have some ice cream! We’ve never gone to the highlands of Cape Breton without stopping in once!
Words & photos by Colby Veinotte & Nicole Boutilier.