Exploring Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

When it comes to finding a place to unwind, Canada is filled with little known gems and one such gem is Cape Breton Island. The island is filled with a variety of natural beauty, activities, shopping, cultural and food experiences. It can be explored by couples, groups, and families as there is something to appeal to everyone. Located in Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island is a destination that shouldn’t be missed while visiting the province.

Cape Breton Island Sunset

Cape Breton Island Sunset

Locating Cape Breton Island

Before you plan a visit to Cape Breton Island, it’s important to know where it’s located. The island is part of Nova Scotia, which is one of the provinces located on Canada’s eastern side. The island is relatively small and makes up fewer than 20% of the entire area of the province. You’ll find the island at east-northeast of the mainland. It borders a number of different bodies of water which are the Northumberland Strait, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the Cabot Strait and the Atlantic Ocean. So, for a small island, it offers quite a variety of scenery and landscape, both on land and water.


Cape Breton

Finding Things to Do

There are a number of notable highlights about Cape Breton such as its history with steel manufacturing, coal mining and the fact that the fresh/salt water Bras d’Or Lake just so happens to be one of the largest of its kind in the world. It is found right in the middle of the island. Its water activities have become quite popular and surfing seems to be the new big sport. Let’s take a look at some of the top highlights of the island that are well worth exploring.

The Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail

Often the first thing that comes to mind when discussing Cape Breton Island is the Cabot Trail. The Cabot trail has ranked in USA Today’s 10 Best Motorcycle Trips, MSN Travel’s 10 Most Underrated Attractions, and Zoomer’s 7 Greatest Road Trips. This is a widely popular trail for tourists as it gives them the ability to take in some of the most stunning natural scenery out there. It is actually a highway that you can take and it stretches across a couple of different counties in the island. The 300km Cabot Trail continues around Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The trail winds and climbs around and over coastal mountains, with breathtaking ocean views at every turn and plenty of trails to stop and hike. It is recommended that if you plan on exploring this trail, you should give yourself three to five days to do so. It’s more than just scenery you’ll be able to take in, there are fabulous stops for dining, beautiful and quaint accommodations, cultural opportunities, shopping and, of course, outdoor activities. Throughout the year there are festivals that take place here, so you may want to plan your visit around a particular festival.

Bras d'Or Lakes Scenic Drive

Bras d’Or Lakes Scenic Drive

Water Activities

Because the island is surrounded by water you can be sure to find plenty of water activities to take part in. These are activities for all ages such as the whale-watching tours where you may just be lucky enough to view the beautiful creatures in their natural surroundings. Depending upon where you go, you can also canoe, kayak, surf, swim, sail, and enjoy walking the beaches and looking for treasures. Bras d’Or Lake is perfect for enjoying many such activities because you won’t have to worry about fog and there are plenty of islands and coves to check out.

Take in the Culture

For a small island Cape Breton manages to pack in a whole lot of culture for tourists to enjoy. If artwork is your thing then you will be delighted by the variety of local artisans and the beautiful pieces they have to display. You will find a number of museums and galleries waiting to be explored. You can take in culture and history at the same time as you learn about the island’s steel-making and mining industries. Islanders are made up of a few cultures which are French, Aboriginal, Celtic, and others. This mixture means you’re in for some fabulous dining experiences and festivals that reflect the varied backgrounds of the residents.

The Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site is one that shouldn’t be missed if you are a history buff. This is an 18th century fortified town that was originally settled by French colonists. It was once the capital of  Île-Royale (New France) and was at one point one of the largest Eastern seaboard seaports. Visitors will love seeing the soldiers dressed up and walking around the fortress to help set the scene.


Cape Breton Island Lake

Cape Breton Island Lake

More than a Quick Stop

For travelers looking to head to Nova Scotia don’t just think of Cape Breton as a quick after thought that may be interesting for a day, instead this vibrant island is filled with possibilities for all ages to enjoy and there’s a good chance it could end up being the highlight of your trip to the province. Most tourists prefer visiting the island in July and August. Restaurants and accommodations are only open from mid-June through September. Celtic Colours, a wonderful roving music festival that attracts top musicians from Scotland, Spain and other countries with Celtic connections, helps extend the season into the fall, a superb time to visit.

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