Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Island, ranked as one of the top Islands in North America by Travel + Leisure magazine, is home to the Cabot Trail which has received accolades in USA Today’s 10 Best Motorcycle Trips, MSN Travel’s 10 Most Underrated Attractions, and Zoomer’s 7 Greatest Road Trips.
You may want to check your brakes before heading to Cape Breton as the world-renown Cabot Trail, with its dramatic coastal views and highland scenery, can be rather steep. Not to mention you’ll absolutely want to stop a lot while on the island.
Recommended Hiking in Cape Breton
- Hike in the Cape Breton Highlands: Explore 26 hiking trails in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park ranging from easy strolls to challenging climbs – all leading to panoramic views of canyons, highlands, and coastlines. Don't miss the annual Hike the Highlands festival that takes place over 10 days each September in the Cape Breton Highlands. Hikers from around the world come to Cape Breton Island to participate in guided hikes, evening activities, and more.
- Hike 10 trails in one day: This hiking challenge in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park welcomes visitors to experience 10 shorter trails while discovering a variety of habitats - Acadian, Boreal, and Taiga. The park’s staff can help you choose the right trails for you. Once you finish, bring the list of your completed trails, along with photos, back to the park’s centre for a chance to win a prize.
- The Skyline Sunset Hike at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park on the Cabot Trail is recognized as one of Destination Canada's Signature Experiences. The trail guide will lead you out to the top of a mountain headland to one of the most spectacular panoramic views in the province that overlooks the Cabot Trail and the ocean at sunset.
- Hike the Lighthouse and Old Town Trails in Louisbourg which offers impressive views of the Fortress of Louisbourg and its rugged coast. The 2-kilometre Lighthouse Trail starts at the Louisbourg Lighthouse and winds through forests and wetlands, along the coast where soldiers once stood guard protecting Louisbourg Harbour. The nearby 2.25-kilometre Old Town Trail lies just outside the fortress walls, with interpretive panels telling the story of the people who once lived and worked there.
- Hike the Cape Mabou Highlands, a 30-kilometre wilderness trail system known for remarkable cliffs and rolling hills such as Beinn Bhiorach (Steep Mountain) Trail, which takes you about up 225 metres above sealevel.
Get to know Cape Breton Island
Cape Breton Communities
10 Don’t Miss Outdoor Adventures
- Go kayaking to evoke your inner artist with North River Kayak Tours. Dipping your paddle alongside seals and seabirds, while surrounded by our rugged coastal cliffs, can bring out the artist in anyone. North River Kayak Tours offers tours like The Songwriting Kayaker and The Painted Kayaker.
- Attend a powwow at the Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre. Experience a story over 10,000 years in the making. Learn about the music, storytelling, nature, food, language, and spirituality of Nova Scotia’s first peo¬ple, the Mi’kmaq, in a beautiful setting on the shores of the sparkling Bras d’Or Lake.
- Cycle the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail.This 92-kilometre multi-use trail winds through the communities of Judique, Port Hood, Mabou, and Inverness. Along the way, you’ll find active fishing harbours, beaches, exhilarating views, museums, restaurants, and accommodations. Include the trail in a multi-day cycling or trekking itinerary, or stop for an hour or two to take in the natural beauty of this area.
- Whale watching off the shores of Pleasant Bay and Cheticamp where pods of Atlantic pilot whales spend their summers gorging on squid.
- Tuna fish and experience the ultimate adrenaline rush as you battle the giant Bluefin tuna with Dawn Treader Tuna Charters or It’s Now or Never Tuna Charters.
- Go salmon fishing on the Margaree River. For generations, anglers have been lured to the Margaree’s tumbling rapids, deep pools, and still marshes.
- Take a Bird Island Boat Tour to see the Puffins. The dramatic Bird Island rise from the seal like rocky pillars. Take a tour with Bird Island Boat Tours, winner of a 2014 Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and see thousands of nesting sea birds and over 300 pairs of Atlantic puffins.
- Sail the Bras d’Or Lakes with Cape Breton Sailing Charters. Known for gentle, fog-free waters, beautiful anchorages, hundreds of coves and islands, and abundant wildlife, the Bras d’Or Lake is also part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
- Schedule a beach day and swim in the Atlantic. The warmest waters on the Island can be found Ingonish Beach, if waves is what you love, grab your boogie board and head to Black Brook Beach.
- Order ice cream in a lighthouse. Visit the retired Neil's Harbour Lighthouse in Neil's Harbour on the Cabot Trail where you can order ice cream from the shop inside the lighthouse.
Plan Your Cape Breton Golf Getaway
It has been written that Cape Breton is a "magical island," which National Geographic says contains one of the world's great drives. Over the years, this Nova Scotia island has become known for offering some of the best, most intriguing, and exciting golf in all of North America.
Names like Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs ‐ two of the most recognized courses to have opened anywhere in recent memory ‐ sit on the west coast of Cape Breton, while the venerable Highlands Links, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016 and is perennially ranked among the best in the world, is situated to the north. Rounding out the great golf in Cape Breton is Bell Bay in the seaside town of Baddeck, and Le Portage in the charming town of Cheticamp.
- Best New Course in Canada (SCOREGolf 2012)
- Canadian Modern 2014 (Golfweek’s Best, 2014)
- #42, World’s 100 Greatest Golf Coures (Golf Digest, 2014)
- #82, Top 100 Courses in the World (GOLF Magazine, 2013)
- Highland Links, Ingonish – #55, 100 Best Golf Courses Outside of the United States (Golf Digest 2012)
- The Lakes, Ben Eoin – Best New Course in Atlantic Canada (SCOREGolf 2010)
- Bell Bay, Baddeck - #3 Top Rated Public Golf Course in Atlantic Canada (Score Golf 2013)
Best Photo Spots
Meat Cove is picturesque rural fishing village located on the northern tip of Cape Breton Island. Adventurers can camp at the Meat Cove Campground with it's spectacular cliff-side location, explore the beach below, go sea kayking, and refuel on hearty chowder from The Chowder Hut.
Inverness Beach, Inverness
Stoll along the boardwalk along the sand dunes to reveal a 1.5 km sandy beach bordering on some of the warmest ocean waters in Nova Scotia. Continue walking a bit further down the boardwalk to take in some of the golfing action at Cabot Links, Canada’s first true links course.
Highland Village Museum, Iona
Located in picturesque Iona, overlooking the beautiful Bras d’Or Lake, the Highland Village Museum brings to life Nova Scotia’s Gaelic culture, heritage, and hospitality. Experience life as a Gael during your tour of this living history museum and be sure to take part in a traditional céilidh. Sláinte!
Skyline Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Experience an eagle’s view of the Cabot Trail from a headland cliff while hiking this mostly level boardwalk in the Cape Breton National Highlands Park. Keep an eye out for whales in the Strait below and for wildlife and the many boreal birds that call the area home. Be sure to pack your camera for this hike.
Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Having received such accolades as the Best Motorcycle Trip in North America by USA Today, and 20 Roads You Should Drive in Your Lifetime by Business Insider, visitors flock here to experience the breathtaking Cabot Trail. From panoramic roadside look-offs, pristine beaches, and maintained hiking trails, you won’t be disappointed.
Bell Estate overlooking Bras d'Or Lake, Baddeck
One of 16 designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Canada, the Bras d’Or Lake is Canada's largest inland sea, a perfect mix of salt and fresh water. Located in the heart of the Island, sail, paddle, and explore by land the many hidden coves and islands located throughout the lake.
Art & Musical Adventures
- Celtic Colours International Festival - Dozens of concerts, an extensive line-up of community events, and a nightly Festival Club will leave you feeling like a Caper in no time.
- Great Hall of the Clans at the Gaelic College, St. Ann’s Take a hands-on approach to discovering our Celtic heritage by joining in a kilt making, milling frolic, or step dance.
- Rita’s Tea Room - The legendary songstress Rita MacNeil was one of the most influential people in putting Nova Scotia on the map, through her music and old-fashioned hospitality.
- Celtic Music Interpretive Centre - Take an interactive journey through samples of song, stories, dance, and bagpipe and fiddle music. Interpretive media displays let you try your hand at a fiddle tune or learn how to stepdance.
- Take in a cultural performance at Strathspey Place in Mabou. At this state-of-the-art performing arts centre, Cape Breton’s rich diversified culture is celebrated through Celtic music and the music, dance, and folklore of the Acadian and First Nations communities.
- Delve into the arts at Inverness County Centre for the Arts. This fine arts centre showcases the works of local and international artists in its gallery, music studio, and shop.
- Craft Your Wedding Rings – create a special memory by crafting your own wedding bands working one-on-one with a jewellery instructor to shape, mark, and shine your rings at Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design.
- Centre de la MiCareme – Celebrated by local Acadian communities for centuries, try your hand a mask-making or rug-hooking.
- Big Spruce Brewing – With names like Ready Yer Knot… and Bitter Get’er India Black IPA, these craft brews are sure to sand out at a party. The brewery features full-flavoured, unfiltered, unpasteurized, and delicious certified and organic beers.
- FireHouse Ironworks, apprentice with a local blacksmith and experience first-hand the art behind this traditional trade. Classes range from two to four hours.
- Eileanan Breagha Vineyards is the first and only estate winery on Cape Breton Island. The vineyard is perched upon Marble Mountain overlooking the Bras d’Or Lakes, stop in to sample and purchase some wine.
- St. Ann’s Bay Artisan Loop which features a diverse collection of studios and shops, including Iron Art and Photography, Wildfire Pottery, Glass Artisans, Leather Works, and Piper Pewter.
- Glenora Distillery - Stop in to try North America's first distiller of single malt whisky. The distillery also has an inn, pub, dining room and gift shop surrounded by a courtyard with a running brook in the heart of Cape Breton.
- Ceilidhs in Baddeck, join local musicians as they share the stage in these intimate two hour sessions of traditional Cape Breton fiddle music accompanied by piano, dance, and folklore.
- Whale Interpretive Centre - Dive into the world of whales with life-sized models, exhibits, interactive media, and a saltwater livestock tank. Then joint a boat tour captain in Pleasant Bay, Bay St. Lawrence, or Neil’s Harbour to see the real thing.
- First flights, kites and White Glove Tours at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site will give you a behind-the-scences glimpse into Bell’s life.
- Experience the life of a French settler at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. North America’s largest historical reconstruction.
- Walk in the miners’ footsteps at the Cape Breton Miners’ Museum as you take an underground guided tour of the Ocean Deeps Colliery, a coal mine beneath the museum.
- Visit Les Trois Pignons where Chéticamp’s Acadian history and culture come alive through its world-famous hooked rugs and antiquities.
- Discover a historic shipping passageway at St. Peter’s Canal National Historic Site. For over 140 years, this canal has been a busy gateway between the Bras d’Or Lake and the Atlantic Ocean.
- At the Wallace MacAskill Museum you can explore the birthplace of Wallace MacAskill, the famed marine photographer whose photograph of the Bluenose is memorialized on the Canadian dime.
- Experience authentic Mi’kmaw culture by sharing a traditional feast, hearing stories and music, or learning through participation in traditional fishing practices of the Mi’kmaq with Eskasoni Cultural Journeys.
- Visit the birthplace of wireless communications at Marconi National Historic Site.
- At the Membertou Heritage Park learn about the culture and history that the Mi’kmaq of Membertou maintain to this day.
- Take a ghost tour … if you dare... and learn about the ghosts & legends of historic Sydney. Costumed guides take you through haunted heritage homes and graveyards, enthralling you with stories of ghostly residents. Skeletons in the cellar, bodies under the floorboards, tales of ghostly visions, and the location of a triple execution - this is just a sample of the spooky stories of Old Sydney that await you!
- Cape Breton Fossil Centre - Sydney Mines is one of eight important fossil sites in Nova Scotia and home to a fossil forest. Guided tours of the Cape Breton Fossil Centre are offered daily; guided tours of the nearby fossil cliffs, where visitors can walk the beach and find fossils to be identified by the on-site geologist, are available twice per week.