Explore Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island

North America - Editor - 19 March 2013

Explore Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island

Steeped in the history and culture of its ancestry – Scottish, Gaelic, Irish, French and Mi'kmaq – Cape Breton Island has a host of interesting places to explore, many of which can be accessed on the five scenic drives mapped out by the Nova Scotia tourism authorities. These are the Cabot Trail, Ceilidh Trail, Fleur-de-lis Trail, Bras d’Or Lakes Scenic Drive and Marconi Trail.

The 107 km Ceilidh Trail hugs the western shore of the island from the Canso Causeway to meet up with the Cabot Trail. It offers spectacular views of rugged coastline, cozy bays and small inlets. The name of the tour is taken from the Gaelic word for 'gathering' or 'party' and the Scottish influence is evident in the towns and settlements along the way. Attractions on the Ceilidh Trail include the Port Hastings Museum and Archives, the Celtic Music Interpretative Center, the MacDonald House Museum and the Glenora Distillery, the only distiller of single malt whisky in North America.

Winding its way through the scenic plateaus and highlands of Cape Breton, the Cabot Trail covers a distance of 300 km and includes one of Canada's most spectacular wilderness areas, the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Also on the Cabot Trail is Hunter's Mountain, one Nova Scotia's most sought-after winter playgrounds, featuring the 300m vertical drop of Ski Cape Smokey. In the bustling fishing village of Cheticamp, where Acadian French is still spoken visitors can explore the Acadian Museum and buy a handcrafted rug, or other crafts from the local shops and galleries. Other highlights of the route include the Pleasant Bay Whale Interpretive Center; the Lone Shieling trail, which makes its way through a forest of sugar maples that are 300-years old; the seaside village of Bay St Lawrence; and the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck.

The Bras d'Or Lakes Scenic Drive circles the lake, which is an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. Four settlements of the first inhabitants of the area, the Mi'kmaq people, are located on the shores of the lake, and visitors can experience the Mi'kmaq culture at the museum and craft shops in the town of Whycocomagh. Birding enthusiasts will particularly enjoy the small islands in the lake which are home to thousands of nesting seabirds.

Wherever you travel on Cape Breton Island, you are never more than 30 minutes away from the sea, and all along the way the scenery is breathtaking and picture-postcard perfect.


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