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9 February 2023

Get Ready To Fall In Love With Cape Breton Island

Motorists drive the Cabot Trail on North Mountain. Photo c/o Tourism Nova Scotia, Photographer Adam Hill

Nestled on Canada’s Atlantic coast , Cape Breton is a breathtaking 175-km-long island with an enticing blend of natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. This enchanting island, located in Nova Scotia, is home to dramatic hills, pristine beaches, lush forests and shimmering lakes, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.

But Cape Breton is not just about breathtaking landscapes — it also boasts a vibrant culture that is evident in its music, art and food. Originally known as Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island is home to five vibrant Mi’kmaq communities — Wagmatcook, We’koqma’q, Potlotek, Membertou and Eskasoni — as well as a unique mix of Acadian and Celtic cultures.

Reasons to Visit Cape Breton Island:

Skyline Trail, Cape Breton Island

Scenic Beauty

One of the most significant draws of Cape Breton is its spectacular natural beauty. From the rolling hills and verdant forests of the interior to the dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches of the coast, Cape Breton is a feast for the eyes.

Many visitors come to explore the Cabot Trail, one of the top scenic drives in the world. The Cabot Trail winds along the island’s coastline, offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding hills. But there are many other incredible spots throughout the island, including waterfalls, rushing streams, lush forests and numerous lakes and rivers.

Whether you’re hiking, cycling or driving, you’ll be mesmerized by the island’s landscapes.

Enjoy Cape Breton Island on a road trip through the Maritimes.

Cultural Immersion

Cape Breton is steeped in traditions and visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture by attending music events, visiting museums and art galleries and exploring the island’s historic villages.

The island is renowned for its Celtic music and visitors can catch live performances in local pubs and music halls. Additionally, the island is home to several art and cultural festivals throughout the year, including the Celtic Colours International Festival.

Take time to get to know the stories and traditions of the Mi’kmaq, who have lived on Cape Breton for thousands of years. Take a workshop — such as beading, wooden flower making or hand drumming — at the Membertou Heritage Park in Sydney for an immersive experience.

Acadian culture is on full display in Chéticamp and along the Chéticamp coast of the Cabot Trail. Visit the Centre de la Mi-Carême for a unique display of locally crafted masks and interactive exhibits depicting one of the oldest Acadian traditions. Mask making and rug hooking workshops are offered.

Adventure Activities

If you’re an adventure enthusiast, Cape Breton offers plenty of opportunities to get your adrenaline pumping. Try kayaking, fishing, or golfing — the island has something to offer for every type of outdoor enthusiast as its diverse landscapes provide an ideal setting for outdoor pursuits.

A hiker’s paradise, Cape Breton has numerous trails in the spectacular Mabou Highlands and within the sprawling Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The world-famous Skyline Trail is a must-do if you’re in the area.

Try Landsby’s 6-day Cabot Trail Bike Adventure for the perfect active getaway to Cape Breton.

Best Time to Visit Cape Breton Island

Cape Mabou Highlands. Photo c/o Tourism Nova Scotia, Photographer Adam Hill

Cape Breton Island is beautiful year-round and the best time to go depends on what you’re looking to do.

The summer months (June-August) are the warmest, the average temperatures in the mid-20s, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and beach-going. Autumn (September to November) is another popular time to visit, with the changing leaves creating a beautiful tapestry of red, orange and yellow across the island. Winter (December to February) is the quietest time to visit, with a chance to see the island blanketed in snow.

Top Attractions in Cape Breton Island

Cabot Trail

Photo c/o Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Adam Hill

The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia is a breathtaking journey that should not be missed when visiting Cape Breton. Winding its way through the Cape Breton Highlands, this 298-km scenic drive has the Atlantic on one side and the mountains on the other. Stop at charming fishing villages, sample fresh seafood and take in the rich local culture. The trail’s highlights include the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the charming town of Baddeck. Whether you’re driving, cycling, or hiking, the Cabot Trail is an unforgettable journey through some of Canada’s most spectacular landscapes.

Read our Top 10 Scenic Stops Along the Cabot Trail.

Celtic Shores Coastal Trail

An aerial view of the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail. Photo c/o Tourism Nova Scotia/ Photographer Adam Hill

The Celtic Shores Coastal Trail is a meandering 92-km multi-use trail along the rugged west coast of Cape Breton Island, stretching from Port Hastings to Inverness. Part of both the TransCanada Trail and the International Appalachian Trail, the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail is a prime location for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The trail winds through lush wilderness, connecting several communities and attractions that showcase the area’s vibrant Celtic culture. As you traverse the trail, keep your eyes peeled for sightings of pilot whales, bald eagles and a host of sea birds that call the coastline home.

With more than thirty trailheads and access points, this trail is the perfect way to experience the natural beauty of the area while immersing yourself in its rich culutral heritage. If you’re an avid cyclist, a seasoned hiker or simple looking for a relaxing day trip while in Cape Breton, this trail is a must-do.

The Fortress of Louisburg National Historic Site

Ghost Walks in Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Photo c/o Tourism Nova Scotia

The Fortress of Lousibourg National Historic Site is a restored 18th century French colonial town that offers an example of what life was like in the area in the 1700s.

A visit here will give you a glimpse into the daily life of soldiers, sailors and settlers. Visitors can explore the well-preserved fortifications, including the King’s Basion and the Dauphin Gate, as well as the many historic buildings within the town, such as the chapel, the bakery and the blacksmith shop. The site also offers a range of educational programs, inclduing guided tours, living history demonstrations and historical reenactments, providing an immersive experience.

Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site

Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. Photo c/o Tourism Nova Scotia/ Photo by Kyler McGregor

Located in Baddeck, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site is dedicated to the life and work of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. Visitors can explore the restored home of Bell and his family, which was used as a summer retreat and a laboratory for his experiments.

The museum showcases numerous artifacts and exhibits related to Bell’s work, including his original laboratory equipment, photographs and personal items. The site also offers interactive displays and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Acadian Trail Lookout. Photo by Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Ashley MacDonald

Cape Breton Highlands National Park features rugged, mountainous terrain with cliffs, forests and beaches. Visitors can hike trails that offer stunning views of the coastline and opportunities to spot wildlife such as moose and bald eagles.

For those looking for a more leisurely experience, the park offers scenic drives, picnicking areas and opportunities for fishing and kayaking. The park is also home to a number of cultural attractions, including the Highland Village Museum.

Celtic Music Interpretive Centre

Celtic Music Interpretive Centre. Photo by Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Scott Munn

The Celtic Music Interpretive Centre is a museum and culture centre dedicated to the rich musical heritage of Cape Breton. Visitors can expect to learn about the history and evolution of this genre of music through interactive exhibits, recordings and live performances.

The Centre also offers workshops, classes and other educational programs for those looking to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of Celtic music. With its pretty location on the coast, the Centre is a great stop on a Cape Breton road trip.

Bras d’Or Lake

Kayaking on the Bras d’Or Lake. Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Dean Casavechia

Bras d’Or Lake is a shimmering lake that covers almost one-third of the island, surrounded by picturesque communities and spectacular natural beauty. This vast saltwater lake (often referred to an in inland sea) is a popular destination for water sports, offering opportunities for boating, sailing, fishing, and kayaking.

Those looking to delve into the area’s cultural heritage can visit several historic villages and lighthouses, as well as museums and art galleries that showcase the work of local artists. The lake is surrounded by parks and nature reserves, with opportunities for hiking, bird-watching and wildlife viewing.


Category: Nova Scotia