With winding roads running through the mountains like ribbons as they hug the coastline of the turquoise waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Cabot Trail is known as one of the most beautiful and scenic journeys in the world showcasing an amazing coastal drive through the Cape Breton Highlands. So while on a week long trip around Nova Scotia in Canada we couldn’t resist exploring the trail ourselves!
It was the most beautiful weather to go hunting for waterfalls and searching for moose on the trails while taking in the beauty of the rugged landscape and searching for pods of whales off the coast.
The Cabot Trail is 185 miles long and takes roughly 4 hours to drive (without stops) so many complete the trail in a few days which gives you enough time to explore.
One third of the Cabot Trail runs through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. You need to pay for a Park Pass which gives you access to all the services and facilities you might need for the trail. This includes the Highlands Links Golf Course, exhibits, visitors centres and much more. When you pay for your pass the park ranger will give you a map filled with the 26 hiking trails, picnic spots, sites of interest and any information you’d need. Covering 950 square kilometres the National Park is one of the largest protected wilderness areas in Nova Scotia!
Cape Breton Highlands National Park- Daily Entrance FeesFAMILY/GROUP: $15.70 ADULT: $7.80 SENIOR: $6.80 YOUTH (17 AND UNDER) FREE
Things to do while on the trail
Although just driving through the trail is beautiful enough, there are many activities to do and places to visit!
So here are 10 things you can do along the way!
1.) Explore some of the 26 Hiking Trails
The Cabot Trail isn’t complete if you don’t do some of the hiking trails provided! 2 of our favourites we did were the Skyline trail and the Mackintosh Brook. The Skyline trail is known for its dramatic headland overlooking the rugged Gulf coast which takes 1.5-2.5 hours to complete. From this trail you have the opportunity to see moose, eagles, whales and bears. This trail was one of our highlights from our trip to the whole of Nova Scotia because we stumbled across a moose! We were so desperate to see one while in Canada and half way through the hike we did!
2.) Go Whale Watching at Pleasant Bay
Pleasant Bay is a great place to stop and go whale watching. This is a halfway destination point on the trail too. The bay is known for being the whale watching capital of Cape Breton and pods of Atlantic pilot whales spend their summer hunting for squid here. Other whales like minke and finback whales have been seen here too, and there’s also a big population of seals in the area.
3.) Have a Picnic
Cape Smokey Provincial Park is on top of the Smokey Mountain along the trail and has picnic tables and beautiful look off views! The perfect place to stop and have some lunch, while your recover from the hiking!
4.) Taste whiskey at the Glenora Inn and distillery
Take a tour and try some award winning whisky at the first ever North American single malt whiskey distillery.
5.) Go Kayaking
See the beautiful Cape Breton island from the water! You can take part in a half day guided kayak tour with Cabot Trail Adventures. You can explore salt water marshes and barrier beaches with the picturesque landscape of the highlands in the distance.
6.) Go waterfall hunting
There are many waterfalls to be found along the trail. We found some on the MacIntosh Brooks trail which takes about 30-45 minutes to complete.
7.) Visit Ingonish Beach
This long, wide sandy beach is sheltered in a bay surrounded by rolling green hills located on the northeast coast. What makes this beach different from others is that you can jump from saltwater at the beach to fresh water in the lake in just a few steps!
8.) Le Centre de la Mi-Carême
Mi-Carême is a celebration which involves disguises and masks. Here they display locally crafted masks and exhibitions showing one of the oldest Acadian traditions.
9.) The Celtic Music Interpretive Centre
Many years ago, Irish and Scottish Gaels began settling in Cape Breton and on the main land throughout Nova Scotia. With this it brought the Celtic culture along with their music. Located in a tiny village of Judique, the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre preserve and promote the traditional Celtic music of Cape Breton showcase the history and culture from the Island.
10.) Visit the Elizabeth LeFort Gallery and Museum at Les Trois Pignons
Dr. Elizabeth LeFort was the first person in the world to hook portraits in wool and is know internationally as ‘Canada’s artist in wool’. Here you can see familiar faces displayed with her amazing technique.
Where we stayed
We stayed in the village of Baddeck, on the shoreline of the Bras d’Or Lake, at the Lynwood Inn. We felt that this was a great starting point for us to set off in the early morning to start the trail.
Expanding your trip in Beddeck
If you want to spend more time in Beddeck here are a list of things to do:
- See some eagles with The Amoeba Sailing tours
- Hike to the Uisge Ban Falls
- Sample the local beers at the Big Spruce Brewery
- Take a Gaelic lesson at the Colaisde na Gaidhlig college
- Visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum
Click here to see our route on Google Maps!
If you’ve been on the Cabot Trail or have any questions please comment below!Our trip to Nova Scotia was in partnership with Destination Canada, who we went on assignment with to explore Nova Scotia for 7 days, capturing the most beautiful spots and destinations along the way!
Find out more about the Cabot Trail and Nova Scotia at DestinationCanada.com