Are you soon planning a trip to stunning Cape Breton? You can use this list of the top things to do in Cape Breton Island to help you organize your trip!
From breathtaking beaches to quaint fishing towns, beautiful treks to adorable lighthouses, whale watching, and much more. Everything you need to organize your amazing trip to Cape Breton is in this guide.
Canada’s most picturesque coastline scenery can be seen on Cape Breton Island, where some of Nova Scotia’s highest mountains almost reach the water directly. A causeway that spans the Strait of Canso connects Cape Breton Island to the mainland in Nova Scotia’s northeast province. Celtic and Acadian cultures converge to form a common island history that is honoured through festivals and social gatherings in all of the island’s cities and villages. There are a lot of things to do in Cape Breton.
Tourists are drawn to the north by the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the Cabot Trail that rings it and to the southeast by the superbly preserved French fortress of Louisbourg, although these are not necessarily the island’s only points of interest. Families enjoy the lovely beaches at Ingonish and other locations, and there are hiking paths that wind around the national park, which also offers campsites.
The island’s four 18-hole golf courses are some of Canada’s best, and the Celtic artists come from around the world to the annual Celtic Colors Festival in October. all over the world. Our ranking of Cape Breton Island’s best tourist attractions will help you organize your trip.
12 Most Amazing Things To Do In Cape Breton:
1. Trail Cabot and Neil’s Harbor Lighthouse
1.1. Trail Cabot
The 300-kilometer Cabot Trail winds its way across the Highlands of Cape Breton Nature Reserve on the island’s northern region, departing from Baddeck. It bears the name Caboto, Giovanni (John Cabot), an Italian sailor who visited in 1497, England claimed the region in North America, including what is now Canada. Among the top things to do in Cape Breton, one of the best is to explore Cabot Trail.
The Cabot Trail is one of the most picturesque roads in North America because of the convergence of hills that plunge into the rocks with glacial scars, ancient forests, round mountains, highland moors, and the ocean. Along the road, beautiful features such as hiking trails, tiny towns, viewpoints, beaches, and scenic sites urge drivers to stop and stay.
Along with hiking and beautiful scenery, villages throughout the Cabot Trail provide year-round activities, including ski cross-country, ice fishing, and horseback riding.
1.2. Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse
The wooden Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse is a 10.4-meter square, tapered tower (34 feet). The lighthouse was built in 1899 to direct ships into Neil’s Harbour, a naturally safe bay.
Neil Head, a rocky promontory that guards and shelters the natural harbour, is where the lighthouse is located. One of the most easily accessible lighthouses in Canada, Neil’s Harbor Lighthouse is located just off the Cabot Trail.
2. The Lighthouses of Isle Madame
Of all the provinces in Canada, Nova Scotia has the most, and Isle Madame is home to some of the prettiest. You can take a self-guided driving and walking tour with the Isle Madame Lighthouse Preservation Society or download a map to view them on your own.
You can discover more about shipwrecks, the keepers of the lights, and the American Revolutionary War commander John Paul Jones’ visit to the island by taking one of these tours. When the Acadians were expelled, many sought sanctuary on Cape Breton Island, some of whom managed to avoid deportation by hiding on Isle Madame, which France colonized. The charming communities on the island still have a distinctly French feel. Among the things to do in Cape Breton, one of the nicest is to visit the Lighthouses of Isle Madame.
3. Cape Breton Highlands National Park and Middle Head Trail
3.1. Cape Breton Highlands National Park
One of the most well-liked activities in Cape Breton Highlands National Park is trekking its gorgeous trails, taking in its natural wonders up close, and travelling along the Cabot Trail. Greater than 950 kilometres in size, this island’s northern mountainous national park are home to ducks, boreal birds, beavers, deer, moose, eagles, and wild cats. Among all the things to do in Cape Breton, one of the most adventurous things is to explore the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
The breathtaking Skyline Trail, one of the many pathways and hiking trails, is one of the most well-liked and straightforward ones. The walk starts on the Cabot trail at the summit of French Mountain and follows a very level path to a picturesque cape where cliffs plunge into the ocean.
For your protection and the sake of the delicate headland plant life, you must keep on the boardwalk in this area. The vista onto the Cabot Trail downward road far below is another delight.
The roundtrip distance is 6.5 kilometres, or you can take a more difficult track and do a loop that is 8.2 miles long. Beulach Ban Falls near Ingonish and the smaller Mary Ann Falls are both of the numerous waterfalls on Cape Breton Island that can be found in the park. On the Cabot Trail, there are park visitor centers close to Chéticamp and Igonish.
3.2. Middle Head Trail
The Atlantic Ocean, Cape Smokey, and Ingonish Island may all be seen from the headland cliffs at the end of the Middle Head Trail, which travels along a long, narrow peninsula between the two ocean bays. In the early summer, there are opportunities to see fishing boats as well as seagulls, seals, whales, and eagles.
4. Louisbourg National Historic Site Fortress
The Fortress of Louisbourg, which was painstakingly converted into an outstanding living history museum from ruins and contemporary records, is Canada’s most well-known historical reproduction. Among all the things to do in Cape Breton, one of the top picks is to explore the National Historic Site of Louisbourg Fortress.
You will learn about the hardships of mid-18th-century life on Canada’s bleak, frequently mist-covered east coast here. A cast of appropriately attired “townspeople” who portray servants, soldiers, merchants, maids, and fishermen doing laborious everyday jobs throughout the peak tourist season.
Specialty foods made from traditional recipes are served at restaurants. Over forty structures make up the castle, which is encircled by a wall with towers and bastions. The village was situated right on the water, allowing ships to moor there, and seven blocks of its homes were restored.
The Bastion du Roi, where the representative of the French King resided, is home to some of the most opulent structures. The barracks for regular soldiers were sparsely supplied. You can participate in some of the activities, such as firing a musket or even spend the night in a home decorated in the era’s fashion or go tent camping in an actual 18th-century tent.
5. National Historic Site of Alexander Graham Bell
You can get a look into the person’s life, and career created by the telephone at Alexander Graham Bell’s summer home. He also used his genius to create things like flying and mechanical breathing.
The personal belongings and records of the well-known inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, are kept in the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, along with pieces of two hydroplanes he built that were propelled by airplane engines. The Tetrahedral Kite Workshop allows you to make and evaluate a kite using its designs, and the White Gloves Tour lets visitors handle real objects.
6. Museum of Cape Breton Miners
Coal has always been a commodity in Glace Bay. French miners have been extracting large coal reserves from the hill where The city was founded since 1720. The Cape Breton Miners’ Museum exhibits the history of coal mining and presents traditional and cutting-edge techniques.
Intriguing tours of a real coal mine are led by retired miners who provide first-hand accounts of their experiences and lifestyles working the coal seams. A recreation of miners’ lodgings from the second half of the 19th century is located next to the museum. A choir called The Men of the Deeps consists of active and former coal miners from Cape Breton and performs once a week in the summer.
Guglielmo Marconi, known as the “Wizard of Wireless,” demonstrated that electromagnetic waves could be used to transmit communications over the Atlantic, and his life and work are the subjects of the Marconi National Historic Site, which is located near Glace Bay as well.
7. The Celtic Music Interpretive Center
Among all the things to do in Cape Breton, one of the nicest things to do for music enthusiasts is to visit Celtic Music Interpretive Center.
The Interpretive Center for Celtic Music is a special location that gives travellers interested in discovering the importance of Celtic music on Cape Breton Island an interactive experience. In addition to providing historical context and interaction possibilities with a range of musical instruments, including the chance to practice the fiddle, the center offers a traditional exhibit area.
Additionally, visitors can watch demonstrations of vintage instruments, discover the differences between various musical genres, study Gaelic, or participate in traditional dances. There are yet other activities available besides the exposition hall, such as the Musical Walking Tours.
On this 90-minute Celtic Shores Coastal Trail tour, an expert guide will share local history and culture with the group while also providing entertainment on the fiddle. All walks feature a brief break with food and tiny dancing lessons, and frequently the party is joined by a bagpiper who serenades them for part of the walk.
The center’s restaurant, which hosts ceilidhs (Celtic social events with live music) around noon, is one of its best features. Additionally, the center frequently hosts workshops and performances, and it features live music every day of the week.
8. Highland Town
This living history museum is located in the center of the Bras D’or Lakes and features a theme of Gaelic culture. The historical cottages, the church, the general shop, and the one-room schoolhouse all depict the lives of the Scottish family that came to live here. While other costumed interpreters demonstrate spinning, dyeing, and weaving, farmers gather crops, women prepare meals in the kitchens, and a blacksmith works at his anvil.
Along with traditional music, you’ll hear the melodic rhythms of the Gaelic language, and you might even get to participate in a Gaelic milling frolic. Over 1,000 square kilometres of southern Cape Breton Island are covered by the Bras D’or Lakes and their numerous bays, with both fresh and saltwater options for boating and sailing. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has been established for the lakes.
9. Les Trois Pignons, Chéticamp and Visit L’Abri Cafe, Restaurant et Bar
9.1. Les Trois Pignons, Chéticamp
In Chéticamp, a small Acadian fishing community on the outskirts of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Les Trois Pignons specializes in rug hooking, a craft that the Acadian women who migrated here developed. Among all the things to do in Cape Breton, one of the nicest things to do in Cape Breton is to explore Les Trois Pignons.
By maintaining full rooms’ worth of furniture and other household goods and providing an insight into exploring the life of Acadian settlers in this region of the island, it combines the history of the region with the development of hooked rugs.
However, the samples of vintage and modern rug hooking displayed in each gallery are what you’ll remember the most. These include everything from tiny area rugs to massive wall hangings and hooked portraits by artist Elizabeth LeFort. Her Dwight Eisenhower image was displayed in the White House, constructed from 160,000 small woven wool fabric loops.
9.2. Visit L’Abri Cafe, Restaurant et Bar
While visiting Cape Breton, are you looking for another outstanding lunch in a lovely location? That would be one of the amazing things to do in Cape Breton. The L’Abri Cafe, Restaurant et Bar is the only place to go.
L’Abri offers a variety of delectable cuisine and is situated in the old Acadian fishing community of Chéticamp, which lies along the Cabot Trail. Ask for the patio if the weather is nice; it’s beautiful out there!
10. Have Fun on The Beautiful Beaches of Cape Breton Island and Visit Chimney Corner Beach
10.1. Have Fun on the Beautiful Beaches of Cape Breton Island
The beaches in Nova Scotia are among the greatest on the east coast, and Cape Breton Island offers a variety of activities, from peaceful bathing areas to untamed wild shorelines.
Inverness Beach, near the town of Inverness, is one of my favourite beaches because you can laze on the sand, go swimming, and search for pottery and sea glass that have washed up on the coast. Black Brook Beach is a beautiful, undeveloped location with lines of evergreens along the shore and a waterfall next to a hiking trail if you’re looking for something more wild and natural.
You can visit the beaches on the southwest coastlines near the Fortress of Louisbourg or the Petit Étang beach, both of which are located north of the town of Chéticamp.
Bring your swimming trunks and consider taking a stroll by the waves in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
10.2. Chimney Corner Beach
Locals prefer this due to its enormous size and seclusion from the road. This stunning, spotless beach is nestled in a cove and provides safe swimming with vast shallow water sections and stunning views. Children like playing in and around the stream and traversing the beach and drains into the Gulf, another feature of the area.
Even in bare feet, one can explore the rocky point because centuries of curious onlookers have smoothed out the trail. To experience Chimney Corner’s perfection, Cape Breton residents go from Baddeck and Sydney.
11. Travel Through Cape Breton on A Long Road Trip, or Five
I bet the Cabot Trail comes to mind when you consider taking a road trip around Cape Breton Island. This makes sense, given that it is renowned for its breathtaking beauty, particularly in the fall when the leaves turn a gorgeous shade of yellow, orange, or red. Among the activities available in Cape Breton, one of the most exciting things to do in Cape Breton is to travel to the below-mentioned trails.
However, five beautiful drives on Cape Breton Island take you by the coast and an interior sea. Additionally, there is the unofficial Artisan Trail, which includes many adorable stops along these five routes. To get yourself situated and make plans for how you wish to experience Cape Breton’s exciting activities, use the summaries provided below.
Here Are the Top 5 Road Excursions on Cape Breton Island:
i. The Cabot Trail:
The Cabot Trail is a must-do for visitors to Cape Breton because of its breathtaking coastal views and ups and downs through magnificent mountains and valleys. It is located in the northwest corner and is 185 miles (298 km) long. It passes through the largest park in the Maritimes, the Cape Breton Highlands.
But do you go in the opposite direction when driving? Keep in mind that the route is simpler for heavy vehicles and bicycles because it has more moderate hills and descents. It’s slower and busier as well. Travelling counterclockwise is more enjoyable for those who prefer to hug the cliffs and have quick access to pull-outs along the coast. Allow 5 hours, plus breaks, to finish the loop. (Read on for ways to stop!)
ii. Ceilidh Trail (southwest corner; 62 miles/100 km):
Enjoy the Gulf of St. Lawrence vistas from this delightful drive. However, the trail’s rich musical tradition, an abundance of locations to experience it, and the kind of hospitality that makes you feel at home set it apart.
iii. The Central route of Bras d’Or Lakes Scenic Drive (168 miles/270 km):
Typically, this route begins when you turn off Highway 105 and onto Highway 223. To get to Sydney, take Highway 223 north along Bras d’Or Lake. Alternatively, you can take Highway 216 to follow the lake to Highway 4 at Christmas Island. You can choose to go north toward Sydney, Glace Bay, and Louisbourg on Highway 4.
iv. Marconi Trail (northeast corner; 43 miles/70 km):
Between Glace Bay and Louisbourg, along Highway 255, is a brief coastal road known as the Marconi Trail (northeast corner; 43 miles/70 km). Visit the Marconi National Historic Site (15 Timmerman St, Glace Bay) to learn more about Guglielmo Marconi’s first permanent wireless station and the first official transatlantic radio message he sent in 1902 that permanently revolutionized global communications.
v. Fleur-De-Lis Trail (southeast corner; 163 miles/263 km):
Highways 247 and 327 connect Louisbourg with the Canso Causeway along Cape Breton’s southeast corner. Many tourists, however, have complained that it’s a monotonous section through the forests with no ocean vistas or especially fascinating stops. There are extensive stretches of roads without services, and road maintenance is shaky. So, given that it’s not especially epic, taking Highway 4 around the south side of Bras d’Or Lake is a better choice.
12. Sail the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Without visiting Bras d’Or Lake, our list of enjoyable Cape Breton activities would be incomplete!
The largest inland sea in Canada and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is called Bras d’Or Lake. Natural waterways to the north and North America’s oldest operational tidal lock canal to the south separate it from the rolling hills and low mountains of Cape Breton (completed in 1869). The 425 square miles (1100 square km) Bras d’Or Lake region is a well-liked location for sailing and kayaking.
The most well-liked locations to access Bras d’Or Lake are at Baddeck along the northwest shore and in the south along St. Peter’s Canal. You can paddle board, sail, kayak, canoe, or use a jet ski. Purchase, charter, or join a tour.
We truly hope that reading about the fascinating, enjoyable, and unique things to do in Cape Breton was enjoyable for you.
The entire island of Cape Breton is home to magnificent tourist sites and rich historical information. The parks, mountains, museums, and other places in cape Breton offer wonderful options. Plan your journey to Cape Breton as soon as you can.