Scenic Cabot Trail & 6 Important Things

cabot trail

Imagine a journey by the coastal lines, ambitious mountains on both sides, sea breeze waving at your window glasses!

Everyone would love to experience this feeling before they die. Guess what? You will get the same experience along Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. There are some moments of idyllic and picturesque sea-to-cliff scenery and beauty to experience by the 298 km long road trip.

The ‘USA Today’ also speaks about this magnificent loop drive in Cape Breton as ‘The Best Motorcycle Drive in The World’.

Whether you want to drive by the seaside from the lows or drive comfortably from the highlands, the road trail is pleasant and adventuresome at the same time. Alongside the ride, you will get to enjoy a whole range of other things that might surprise you for sure.

From enjoying your breakfast or dinner in Pleasant Bay to hiking trails, kayaking, fishing village visits, Cabot Trail offers a lot of things than you could imagine.

What are you waiting for then? Buckle up and include it in your bucket list. But, if you are still confused and figuring it out, let me help you a bit. Just scroll down to know where Cabot Trail is, Why to choose, How to get there and go through some scenic attraction points to kick off your vacation.

(Read “Why You Should Visit Cape Breton Island For Your Vacation“)

Where is Cabot Trail?

Cabot Trail locates around the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the #1 Island in the Americas marked by Condé Nast Traveler in 2019, of Nova Scotia Province. If you are from this very region, then you may agree with me about its scenic overlooks, breathtaking views, and lovely people.

But who are outside Nova Scotia, you must visit this wonderful province for once and enjoy every bit of it. The multicultural society and outdoor experiences of Cape Breton will surely leave you spellbound.

  • How to reach Cape Breton Island and Cabot Trail?

It is way too easy than you think. As you enter Amherst in Nova Scotia, you must follow the Trans Canada Highway 104. Drive further to reach the starting point of Cape Breton Island, the Canso Causeway. Right there, you will find the exact place, Baddeck, for starting your scenic drive on the Cabot Trail.

The Cabot Trail makes a circle around Cape Breton Island. After reaching Baddeck, continue your long awaiting drive via clockwise or anticlockwise directions. One way or the other, eventually, you will arrive at the same spot from where you have started the journey. The route has many scenic overlooks and cultural sites that you might not want to miss while on board.

It does not matter if you are driving clockwise direction or anticlockwise! You will get to witness some spectacular Atlantic ocean vistas and many scenic stops at Cape Breton Highlands. You will not get tired of this road trip, trust me!

How does Cabot Trail look?

Nova Scotia Tourism has rightly promoted the trail as the journey of a lifetime. Visitors who have already driven on this famous roadway are on the side to put Cabot Trail in the top 10 lists of the most beautiful driving routes in the world.

  • How driving feels like there? 

If you have been to Finland or Scotland, then you will be familiar with the beauty the trail has. Those rolling green hills on one side and ocean dip silence on the other are just enough to take you to another level. The entire loop consists of driving through ups and downs with lots and lots of turnings.

cabot trail

By Vlad Litvinov/Flickr.Copyright 2021.

Driving Clockwise:

If you ride in the clockwise direction, you will move from the lower part of Cape Breton to the higher sides. Driving clockwise will let you experience the western and eastern coastlines on both sides while driving. Those who might not want to test their driving skills can opt for this route. The road consists of up and down steep grades and curves and much famous among visitors. You will get more traffic than the other one here.

Driving Counter-clockwise:

On the other, if you start driving counter-clockwise, you will be moving from the highlands to the lows. Driving your four-wheeler counter-clockwise will let you avoid oceans on both sides and move along the forest and rock faces. Many people like to avoid this route as they do not want to drive next to steep drops. But, driving clockwise direction has a better view of more spectacular ocean vistas and lesser traffic. Want to try that out? Be brave and smart!

Be careful and take your time on blind curves.

Speed can wait, but YOUR LIFE?

Why Cabot Trail?

Why choose Cabot Trail? Ask me why not! People from all corners of the world crash here only to enjoy driving along the trail. They just want to embrace that thrill, happiness, and freshness for once in their lifetime.

  • It’s Pure and, It’s Authentic

Time stands still there. The way, when the ocean rolls or winds blow through the mountains, it is just pure and not made or created. You will feel the embrace of nature in your bones. While rolling along whale-watching hiking trails, you will feel like walking in another world, living in another life!

The people, the culture, the trails, the food, the sunset, the windy roads all are here. You are just a few miles away from restoring yourself.

  • All in One Package

A Cabot Trail Itinerary does not have only one stop or a particular type of attraction. It has varieties of choices. If there is someone who loves chasing nature or prefers having a jam with the locals or any history freak who loves bumping into ancient remains, this is for you. You will find a lot of things alongside the trail that might excite you.

All you need to do is fuel up your car, pack some snacks, book your stay and step out from your home.

  • Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award, 2021

Every year, Trip Advisor recognizes the efforts of accommodations, attractions, and restaurants and honors them with the Travelers’ Choice Awards. For this year (2021), Cabot Trail has received the appreciation of being a travelers’ top choice. The trail has been travelers’ one of the topmost options for a very long time and has received a large number of positive reviews too.

What rating does Trip Advisor give to Cabot Trail?

What do you think?

It’s 4.5! Numbers do speak!

What to do in Cabot Trail?

Well, I tried to prove why you should drive along Cabot Trail for once in your life so far. It’s time for guiding your way around the trail. In this section, I will take you through some must-see attractions lying in the clockwise direction of the scenic roadway. You will get to know where to stop, what to see and how to cover all attractions utilizing your hard-earned holidays.

  • Incredible stops on Cabot Trail

1. Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, Baddeck

cabot trail

By Dennis Jarvis/Flickr.Copyright 2021.

Did you know that besides Telephone, Alexander Graham Bell tried his hands in aviation, medical devices too? Moving along Cabot Trail, you will get to see some spectacular artifacts, documents from his years of experimental works in Beddak, Nova Scotia. Along with Graham Bell, you will get to see some of the contributions of his wife as well.

Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site is a perfect place for science enthusiasts. Above all, your children can enjoy their time in different games, flying kites, and can try a science experiment too.

2. Uisge Ban Falls Provincial Park, Baddeck

Love hiking? At 9 miles north of Baddeck, you can enjoy a beautiful hiking trail amidst hardwoods. The 2km hiking trail goes through Uisge Ban Falls Provincial Park. Following the North Branch River and its scenic hardwoods along the cliffs, you will eventually end up in a thrilling 15-meter waterfall in a granite gorge.

How to reach there? It is simple too. You just need to take EXIT 9 from Highway 105.

3. North River Kayak Tours

Who does not love to stroll over the waterline and stare at the distant horizon? The kayaking facility on the North River is the best way to experience the unique, hidden coastline of Cape Breton Island. While driving on Cabot Trail, do not forget to reserve a day to live the calmness of paddling amidst nature and adventure.

Be it a beginner or experienced, the tour is a good choice for kayakers from all levels. Do not worry; they have both single and double equipped recreational boats if anyone needs any.

4. Ingonish Beach

Ingonish Beach is a suitable place for spending time with your family throughout the spring and summer. You can set up your perfect picnic lunch with dear ones anywhere you want to. While on one side, salty ocean water wipes your feet, you can take a dip in a freshwater lake on the other.

If you like games, the beach area is also well equipped with a playground, tennis court, and soccer field. The freshwater lake trail is a must-visit for cyclists in summer and best for snowshoeing in the winter. 

5. Middle Head Trail Hiking

Just by the side of Ingonish Beach, you will meet the Middle Head Trail of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is a 4km long loop trail with wildflowers to entertain your hiking. When to go? Visitors say that the Middle Head Trail is best to visit from April to October. It follows a narrow, long peninsula that offers a great coastal experience with lots of sea birds, seals, whales, and distant fishing boats.

But, there is more to see. During your entire hiking, you will get to experience several scenic lookouts and areas for exploring.

6. Lakies Head Lookout

The very next stop you can make is the Lakies Head Trail. The head exhibits a scenic view of several coastlines. With those rocky boulders and gusty tides along the shorelines, Lakies Head is a great picturesque location too. Walking down the broadway, you will find countless lobster fishing boats and their luck floating on the ocean.

7. White Point Trail Head Hike

White Point Trailhead is a beautiful lookout with a hilly landscape and an ocean view. It is easy to hike and, there is not much elevation in it. You can take this coastal hike from the Nile’s Harbor through an old French fishing village up to White Point Head pointing White Point Island away from just 1 km. There are many paths following the coastal trail. You can take up any and enjoy being surrounded by troves of crowberries and lowbush blueberries.

8. Neil’s Harbor

cabot trail

By Dennis Jarvis/Flickr.Copyright 2021.

Neil’s Harbor is the spot where you can take up the White Point Head Trail. But, there is an original story related to this oceanside. The place was a famous fishing base for early settlers like Scottish and French in the 1700s. The lighthouse constructed there in 1899 is now a heritage property under New Haven Community Development Association.

Well, there is an ice cream shop in the lighthouse. Do not forget to try a scoop and enjoy how the ocean flips its chapters, how colorful boats paint their presence.

9. Pleasant Bay

Want to explore another fishing village? Get to Pleasant Bay, at the center of Cabot Trail! The fishing village is famous for whale watching and is known as the whale watching capital of Cape Breton. Walk around the bay to understand why the place was named Pleasant Bay.

The bay exhibits nature in its purest form. Enjoy the smell of clean salt air, watch birds soaring, Fishermen trying their luck in the ocean waters. If you get tired, try Rusty Anchor, a popular family-run restaurant.

10. MacKenzie Mountain Lookout

If you missed the whale-watching tour in Pleasant Bay, rush here (MacKenzie Lookout). With a gorgeous view of the bay, you can take all of your time to search for minke whales and pilot whales. The lookout gives a great view of boating strolling over the ocean.

11. Skyline Trail Hiking

What is my favorite spot of all Cabot trail attractions? That would be Skyline Trail for me. You can sight the entire trail from this walkway. If you hike in the early hours, you will find wild animals like moose, rabbits crossing the path. But, make sure you stand at a safer distance.

This 7.5 km loop trail is the most preferred hiking trail of Cape Breton. Try to hike in the afternoon. When the sun goes down in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, it exhibits a stunning sunset view.

12. Chéticamp Fishing Village

If you want to start hiking for Skyline Trail, then Chéticamp is the base. This Acadian village is a perfect place for knowing the local culture and music of Cape Breton. Elizabeth LeFort Gallery and Museum at Les Trois Pignon is a must-visit spot for visitors. It exhibits an excellent collection of daily antiquities during early Acadian settlements in the region.

Want to take souvenirs while you leave? Buy some unique handmade products and Acadian jewels from this largest village of Cape Breton Island. You can also go on a whale watching tour for sighting Pilot Whales, Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, and Minke Whales on the nearby Chéticamp River. 

13. Margaree Harbour and Margaree River Valley

Situated on the bank of the most beautiful rivers of the world, the Margaree Harbor and the valley are the two topmost priorities for people exploring Cabot Trail. Visitors love to go on salmon or trout fishing in the heritage Margaree River. Make sure you visit the favorite museum of the New York Times on Cape Breton Island, i.e. the Margaree Salmon Museum. The museum is the oldest fish hatchery of entire Nova Scotia.

cabot trail

By Dennis Jarvis/Flickr.Copyright 2021.

The culture of Margaree Rive Valley is a mix of Scots, Irish, French-Acadian, and English. Artists there still treasure their ethnicity. While you are there, you can enjoy Celtic Music playing at clubs. If you want to experience authentic cultural events, visit Margaree during the famed Celtic Colours International Festival. It will be a lifetime experience, I promise you!

Where to Stay?

If you are worried about a place to stay, then the solution is here. The popularity of the Cabot Trail has waved an effect around the entire Cape Breton Island. The region now has different accommodation units around its attractions. Many service providers operate their businesses along the trail, starting from offering glamping or cozy cabins to spend some quality time with dear ones. So, you will find a perfect spot to get through the night with lots of activities.

Are you a camp person? Or like to stay overnight in a cottage? No? Maybe a hotel would do? This section will purely guide you to choose some top-class quality accommodations.

  • Campgrounds

The Cape Breton Highlands National Park provides some excellent locations for camping. If you drive clockwise, the campgrounds nearer to Ignoish beach would be the first ones to get. You will find all kinds of facilities like showers, flush toilets, kitchen shelters, fireplaces, playgrounds, and a WiFi hotspot at the Broad Cove, Ingoish Beach campgrounds. You can also hang out with your own RV or enjoy camping in an OTENTik.

Moving ahead, you will find Big Intervale Campground, located at the base of North Mountain. The campground has 5 unserviced sites, which gives a profiling feeling of camping on the bank of a river.

MacIntosh Brook Campground is another site you can opt for camping. The campground locates in the pristine Grande Anse Valley, nestled at the base of mountains.

If you want to camp in the wilderness of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, then Fishing Cove Campground is the perfect one to choose. The site is at the base of MacKenzie Mountain. You have to hike for a 6 km hike down to the rugged coastline to get there.

You must enjoy fishing in a rural setting to get an authentic experience as a traveler. Drive to Meat Cove, the northernmost point of Cape Breton Island, and enjoy camping in the valleys of connected mountains surrounded by jagged cliffs.

  • Hotels, Resorts, Cottages

There are many hotels, resorts, cottages available nearer to Cabot Trail. In the Baddeck area, you will find the Inverary resort and spa, just beside Bras d’Or Lake. Everyone favorites the Inverary resort for exhibiting a stunning view of the shore and skyline.

Accommodation units of Ingonish will give you a feeling of staying inside the wild but with modern amenities. The Keltic Lodge at the Highlands and 20 Acre Woods Bed and Breakfast are the two units most preferred by the visitors to catch glimpses of amazing views of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The Keltic Lodge also has golf, spa retreats within its services.

cabot trail

By daryl_mitchell/Flickr.Copyright 2021.

If you are someone, who likes to enjoy a vacation in quiet, you must head to North River and book any cottages of your choice. All basic facilities are available there to make you feel like a home. The place is a perfect one for kayaking too.

If you are looking for a budget-friendly stay, visit Pleasant Bay to book HI Cabot Trail Hostel. The hostel is the best unit to stay in for someone traveling solo. Other than that, you can look up to Cliff Waters Cottage, located in a stunning location. The accommodation unit gives a great panoramic view of the ocean, the bay, and the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Where to Eat?

Cape Breton Island is popular among its visitors for its delicious fresh local seafood. But, you are less likely to find many restaurants, food outlets along Cabot Trail. They are scattered and located at a handsome distance from each other. It is better to plan your dining spot so that you can avoid driving with an empty stomach! Where to go?

Cape Breton Island is famous for its cultures, scenic viewpoints, and LOBSTER! Dine-in at Lakeside Restaurant of Inverary resort and enjoy Lobster-licious Dish, a delicious seafood dish of Nova Scotia.

When you are moving, do not forget to stop at The Clucking Hen Cafe & Bakery of Englishtown. The chowder has some mouthwatering baked foods and can fill your appetite right away. Wreck Cove General Store is another stopover if you want to refresh your mind with ice cream. The store has also got a lot of souvenirs to buy.

Another famous food stop along the Cabot Trail is the Rusty Anchor, Pleasant Bay. The restaurant delivers the best lobster roll you would taste in Nova Scotia. The 2005 edition of National Geographic Traveller Magazine recognizes this dish as the best lobster roll.

cabot trail

By Martin Cathrae/Flickr.Copyright 2021.

Last Words…

Cabot Trail is unarguably one of the best scenic drives in the world. The entire trail exhibits incomparable views and experiences. If you have time, plan your vacation for 3/4 days. It might be tough to complete all the attractions in just one day.

Apart from Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the trail goes through an array of nature, culture, history, and of course, fresh local seafood of Nova Scotia. If you want to experience Cabot Trail in just one day, you can. But, Cabot Trail is best experienced when you live every moment of visiting the attractions fall along.

Are you waiting for the right moment to come? I would say this is it. It is the exact moment for you to plan your life-changing scenic drive. Come on, list Cabot Trail as your next trip and pack your bags for this beautiful road trip in Canada.

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