Making plans to head along the Cabot Trail and want to ensure you’re hitting all the BEST stops?? As a fellow Cape Bretoner and Cabot Trail enthusiast (my grand parents used to have a cottage in Ingonish so we went every single summer of my childhood) I’ve gathered up all my favorite memories and wrangled the perfect list of places to eat, shop, and explore. Buckle up, and let’s go!
THE CABOT TRAIL
The Cabot Trail makes a 185-mile (297-kilometer) loop around a significant chunk of Cape Breton island, you’ll make your way through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park at its northernmost point. A 367-square-mile (950-square-kilometer), flat-topped plateau cut by deep river valleys, this wilderness is home to moose, black bears, and bald eagles alike. Mostly, the Cabot Trail skirts the edges of the park, at times clinging to steep ocean side cliffs. With beaches, and breathtaking scenic views a plenty: it’s no wonder it’s named one of the 7 wonders of the world.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO COMPLETE THE CABOT TRAIL?
The Cabot Trail loops in either direction, so you can plan your route accordingly. You should allow at least 8 hours to drive around the Cabot Trail, starting from Baddeck or the Trans Canada Highway, this will give you time for some stops (highly encouraged). Ideally, it is best to have at least 3 days to enjoy what the Cabot Trail has to offer. From food, to beaches, to waterfalls there’s so much to do and see it would be a shame to spend all your time in the car.
As I mentioned, you can start the Cabot Trail from either direction, but for the purpose of the post let’s start in Baddeck. If you’re planning your trip the other way simply start at the bottom.
As I mentioned above my grandparents had a cottage in Ingonish, so growing up I never really needed a place to stay (amazing I know). However, some places on my radar include: The Keltic Lodge (of course), Archer’s Edge (Those domes look amazing – Opens September 2019), Glamping off the Beaton Path (Broad Cove Inverness – also new). Knotty Pine Cottages (the view looks amazing), and I’d also check Air BnB as there’s lots of amazing spot available there as well. The Chanterelle Inn & Cottages looks cute too, and they have some great ratings. As well as the Salty Rose’s + Periwinkle Cafe (more on this cool spot below).
INSIDER TIP: If you’re coming from elsewhere you might consider booking accommodations in Ingonish for one night, and then elsewhere for the second night so you can maximize your time and keep moving along.
WARNING: Book your accommodations well in advance. If there’s one thing you can be certain of, it’s that places along the Cabot Trail book up FAST. Many people are booking 6 months to year in-advance, so when planning a last minute trip it can be REALLY tricky to find accommodations. Be sure to plan early to avoid any disappointment. On the other hand, if you’re a camper you can ALWAYS find a spot to pitch a tent 😉
Baddeck is situated in the heart of Cape Breton Island, considered to be the beginning and end of the world famous Cabot Trail. Stretching along the shores of the beautiful Bras d’Or Lakes, Baddeck is a bustling village that maintains it’s essence as a quaint community.
To learn more information and resources visit their website: VisitBaddeck.com
THINGS TO DO:
Uisge Ban Falls
The Uisge Ban Falls Park features picnic facilities and a hiking trail to the impressive 16-m (52-ft.) high Uisge Ban Waterfall. It’s so beautiful, and definitely a must see if you’re in the area.
Length: 1.5-hour round trip hike
LOCATION: 715 North Branch Road Baddeck NS B0E 1B0
Amoeba Sailing Tours
Hop aboard the Schooner Amoeba, the original vessel has been sailing on the Bras d’Or Lakes for 29 years!
Captain John Bryson and his crew provide an entertaining, and educational narrative as you sail across Cape Breton’s Bras d’Or Lake, observing the beautiful shoreline and marine wildlife.
Soak up the history of the area, watch the Captain feed bald eagles, and allow the power of moving completely under sail without an engine put you at ease.
For more information visit: Amoeba Sailing Tours.
LOCATION: Jones St Baddeck Nova Scotia BOE 1B0 (At the end of the Baddeck Community Wharf ).
Alexander Graham Bell Museum
Get a rare glimpse into the extraordinary heart and mind of a world-famous inventor whose genius helped shape the modern world. Pull the curtain back on Alexander Graham Bell’s interests and inventions, spanning airplanes and kites, to deaf education and artificial respiration.
Currently offering White Glove Tours. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour, getting you up close and personal with Alexander Graham Bell’s photos, mementos, gadgets and gizmos!
LOCATION: 559 Chebucto St Baddeck NS B0E 1B0
WHERE TO EAT:
HighWheeler Cafe, Tom’s Pizza is a fan favorite. As well as the Herring Choker has great sandwiches (great lunch option).
Sweet treat: Helen’s Bakery found in the CO-OP has the BEST oatcakes in Cape Breton.
Fine Dining: If you can book a reservation well in advance do try The Bite House for a fine dining truly local experience.
If you need to grab something quick check out this local food Truck: Stand & Stuff Your Face. or a sandwich/treat at The Highwheeler.
New resto: The Freight Shed.
Baddeck has a bunch of gift shops along their main drag, so if you’re looking for souvenirs or items from local artisans it’s a great spot to stock up!
Some other places to eat along this strip/around Whycocomagh (i.e if you’re coming from Halifax or looping back around) are: Trailsman Motel, Charlene’s Bayside Restaurant and Cafe, Auld Bras Door Restaurant and Bar, and the Farmer’s Daughter (cute little gift shop attached as well).
Big Spruce Brewery is also on your way (if coming from/going to the causeway)
LOCATION: 64 Yankee Line Rd, Baddeck, NS B0E 1B0
While you’re on your way from Baddeck to the Cabot Trail you can stop into The Clucking Hen in Englishtown. The Clucking Hen has fresh baked desserts and break, fresh coffee, sandwiches and dinner so if you need to you can fuel up before you get into the thick of your driving. LOCATION: 45073 Cabot Trail, Englishtown, NS B0C 1H0
You can also pop into the Giant Macaskill Museum LOCATION: 504 NS-312 Englishtown NS B0C 1H0
Is one of my favorite places on the planet. If you know, you know.
Ingonish, on the world famous Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. With rugged headlands, sandy beaches, lush green valleys and wild, open barrens, it’s a destination point for all ages in all seasons and a great starting point for your adventure into the Cape Breton Highlands.
The area known as Ingonish, is actually a cluster of five small communities on the Cabot Trail, nestled between the National Park, Highlands and Atlantic Ocean. It consists of Ingonish Ferry in the South followed by Ingonish Harbour, Ingonish Beach, Ingonish Centre, and ends with Ingonish in the North. From start to finish the area covers only 16 kilometers, so no matter where you stay in Ingonish you are only minutes away from all recreation and services.
THINGS TO DO:
*Don’t forget to stop and get a parks pass, as a lot of the parks require it, and you could get a ticket.
Mary Ann Falls
If picturesque waterfalls are your thing, or jumping off rocks then Mary Ann Falls is a must see! You’ll have to take a little detour from the regular path, but it’s totally worth it even if things getting a little bumpy (it’s a dirt road in). Getting there is pretty easy, but in case you get stuck follow these How to get to Mary Ann Falls Directions. Easily accessible (unlike a lot of other waterfall spots in Cape Breton) Mary Ann Falls even has viewing platforms as well as a staircase that leads down to the falls.
Absolutely beautiful, Mary Ann Falls has a special place in my heart, as we always went there as kids. It’s also the place I saw my first moose, holy cow they are so much taller than I realized.
A trip to Ingonish just isn’t complete without a visit and a jump into Mary Ann Falls. With plenty of climbing rocks you can choose your own adventure with Mary Ann Falls. Just a heads up the water is typically quite chilly, as the water is coming from the mountain, but I think that’s all part of the fun. You’ll leave absolutely refreshed and with all the natural minerals your hair and skin will be silky smooth.
A bit of a climb, but a stunning view over Ingonish.
Gaze back at the mountains, the sheer rocky face of Franey Mountain, or the river winding through the valley, 425 m below.
LOCATION: 230 Franey Road, Ingonish Centre, Cabot Trail (Turn off the Cabot Trail just north of the Clyburn River and follow the fire access road for about 1 km to a small parking lot).
Length: 7.5 km (4.6 mi) loop
Hiking Time: 2–3 hours
Steep climb. Rugged sections.
Trail Rating: Difficult
For more information visit: NovaScotia.com
The beaches in Ingonish are absolutely stunning, but Ingonish Beach has it all. There’s a salt water beach upon your arrival, and a fresh water lake to the right, as well as a great play structure and a canteen! When we were kids we would swim in the ocean then run over to the lake (photo above) to rinse off the salt water before leaving: it was glorious. While visiting recently we caught the BEST waves, so we spent the better part the afternoon swimming (it was amazing). And the best part you don’t even need a boogie board!
Change rooms, and washrooms also on site.
There’s also a great walking trail that loops around Ingonish beach too 🙂
LOCATION: 90 Beach Road, Ingonish, Nova Scotia, Canada (there are lots of signs).
For more details visit: Novascotia.com
Black Brook Beach
One of my favorite beaches as a kid to body surf the waves!
Take in the ocean views at one of Cape Breton Highlands National Park’s most popular beaches bordered by a gentle waterfall on one end and intersected by a freshwater brook. Change houses, washrooms, picnic shelter with wood stove, playground, picnic tables, fire pits and hiking trail heads on site. Park your vehicle in the paved lot north of Black Brook.
LOCATION: Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia 33637, Canada
There’s also a great camping spot not far from this beach if you’re looking for tenting options 😉 If memory serves, it’s called Broad Cove Campground.
*No lifeguards on duty at this beach: I’d definitely advise caution before visiting this spot for folks who aren’t strong swimmers, as the undertow can be quite strong.*
Groovy Goat Farm & Soap Company
Who doesn’t want to take a break from the car and go pet some goats and stock up on some soap?? The Groovy Goat Farm & Soap Company is a must for animal lovers when in Ingonish. They also offer goat yoga so be sure to check their website for more information on how to sign up.
LOCATION: 36028 Cabot Trail Ingonish Nova Scotia
WHERE TO EAT:
Seagull Restaurant: Great food + fast service! Growing up my grandparents had a cottage not far from the Seagull Restaurant, in fact the previous owner, who has since passed away cottage was right across from ours, and he also lived just a street over from where I grew up! Cape Breton is a pretty big place, but we capers get around and we definitely get to know our neighbors. This place has a special place in my heart, so you might think I’m biased but after being there recently with some family I can definitely still attest to their service and quality. We were all very happy campers.
Ingonish is very family friendly, and this resto is no exception be sure to sit out on the deck, it’s completely enclosed with screens (so yay no bugs) but the view is stunning.
LOCATION: 35963 Cabot Trail Ingonish Nova Scotia B0C 1K0 Canada
Other food options include: Coastal Waters Restaurant. A quick bite: Bean Barn Cafe & Deli.
Salty Rose’s & The Periwinkle Cafe: The folks of The Salty Rose’s & The Periwinkle Cafe restored one of Ingonish’s oldest and most charming properties into an experience much more than just a place to rest your head.
“Salty Rose’s is an experience in itself, offering the best of Cape Breton hospitality with four unique and comfortable rooms, fair trade coffee and delicious local fare at the Periwinkle Café, and a boisterous selection of art and craft from Nova Scotia’s finest creatives”
LOCATION: 36056 Cabot Trail Ingonish NS B0C 1K0
For more details visit: Salty Rose’s & The Periwinkle Cafe.
WHERE TO HIKE
There’s more than enough hiking trails on the Cabot Trail, so you’ll have to figure out what you can accomplish in the time you’ll be there! Do you research, and make sure to bring snacks, appropriate shoes, sunscreen, and water! You could be out there a while! Here’s a list of hiking trails → CabotTrail.com
Middle Head Trail
The Middle Head Trail follows a long, narrow peninsula separating two ocean bays, ending on headland cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Smokey and Ingonish Island. There are opportunities to see seabirds, seals, whales and eagles, as well as fishing boats in the early summer.
LOCATION: 383 Keltic Inn Road, Ingonish ( just beyond the Keltic Lodge)
Trail Rating: Moderate
Hiking Time: 1– 2 hours
For more details visit: Novascotia.com
If you’re looking for a hiking trail, the White Point Trail is a beautiful option. Broken down into levels, this trail can be as intense or serene as you like it to be!
LOCATION: From Neils Harbour, drive 13 km (8 mi) along the Cabot Trail toward Cape North and Dingwall. Road signs indicate the turnoff on the right near the bottom of a long descent toward the ocean. Follow the unnumbered road for 14 km (8.75 mi), turning left and dropping sharply for 1.5 km (1 mi) to the village of White Point. At end of the paved road, by mailbox #2119, continue straight up dirt road for less than 100 m/yd, parking your car in the wider area. The trail is a continuation of the road.
Trail Rating (1-5): 2
Hiking Time: 2+hr
For more details visit: CbIsland.com
A dramatic headland cliff overlooks the rugged coast from the end of this level trail. You can enjoy an eagle’s view of the Cabot Trail as it winds its way down the mountain and vehicles look like toys. Watch for whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the viewing decks. Moose, bald eagles, bears and numerous boreal birds live in this habitat. Be cautious with children around the cliffs and give moose a wide berth. The headland plants are very fragile and easily damaged by trampling, so stay on the boardwalk. Dogs are not permitted here as they disturb wildlife, especially moose and bear.
One of the most famous, The Skyline Trail, is the ONE you’ve seen on Instagram (think of it like the Peggy’s Cove of Cape Breton). It’s quite the view, and also MEGA popular, so mind the tourists.
LOCATION: 19685 Cabot Trail Cape Breton Highlands NP Cabot Trail
Trail Rating: Easy
Hiking Time: 1.5–3 hours
For more details visit NovaScotia.com
GO WHALE WATCHING BAY OF ST LAWRENCE
There’s a few different spots and a variety of tours to suit your needs/adventure level.
LOCATION: Pleasant Bay
To book visit: Pleasant Bay Whale Watching.
NEIL’S HARBOUR + PLEASANT BAY
Looking for somewhere to eat/stop on your way to Cheticamp?? The two places below are great options:
The Chowder House (90 Lighthouse Rd Neil’s Harbour) + Rusty Anchor (23197 Cabot Trail Pleasant Bay NS B0E 2P0)
Cheticamp is such a cute fishing town, I instantly fell in love with this place! I’d definitely suggest you pop out for a little stroll to explore their various eateries and shops!
It’s a bit out of the way (not on the main route), but totally worth it if you have the time! It’s definitely on my list to check out next time I’m in the area. It looks amazing.
About a 10 minute walk from the parking lot you will find the quarry which is a beautiful oasis and great for swimming.
If you’re looking for an authentic gift shop look no further than Floras!
Located in Cheticamp it doesn’t get much better than having a local in the shop hooking rugs by hand!
The woman I met was so sweet, we had a grand old chat. She told me she’d been doing it for 40 years! How cool is that??? I really wanted to ask her if her hands were sore. LOL
LOCATION: 14208 Cabot Trail Chéticamp NS B0E 1H0
Learn more by visiting their website → Floras.com
WHERE TO EAT:
For Dinner: Harbour Restaurant, and Le Gabriel Restaurant & Lounge are very popular.
Tavern/Pub: Doryman Pub & Grill.
And there’s also a new restaurant/cafe L’abri. Definitely on my list to check out next time I’m in town.
For sweet treat: Aucoin’s Bakery (My goodness this place is cute, and you can’t beat the smell of fresh bread and cinnamon rolls). Wish I was there right now.
La Bloc beach lobster boil: Located just outside Chéticamp enjoy a lobster boil right on the beach with live music!
*Visitors must pre-register at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre in Chéticamp. For more information click here or phone 902-224-2306.
If you’re somewhere in between and need a bite, or want to try some another restaurant along the way Dancing Goat Cafe (6289 Cabot Trail Margaree Valley NS B0E 2C0) is a great spot.
Not technically considered apart of the “Cabot Trail”, but you’re going to drive through it likely to get back to causeway, so I’m including it anyways! Purests will likely be in an uproar that I’m including it, but I figure if you’re in the area you might as well make the most of it (if you can).
Making your way back to the causeway?? There are so many spots to stop into along the way from beautiful beaches to great food Margaree/Inverness/Mabou/Port Hood/ all have so much to offer.
Visit North America’s First Whiskey Distillery
North America’s first single malt whisky distillery, Glenora Distillery story starts in the early 1800’s, when Scottish immigrants flocked to Cape Breton Island.
Its beauty resembled the Highlands and islands of Scotland so much that they decided to settle and make it their permanent home. Many traditions and secrets traveled across the sea with those pioneers. One of those secrets was the making of a spirited whisky.
TAKE A DIP IN SOME CAPE BRETON’S BEST BEACHES
A municipal beach site in town of Inverness, Inverness Beach is the perfect family beach with warm and shallow waters and beautiful, soft sand. Take a walk on the 1.5-km sandy beach or stroll on the boardwalk above the beach and catch sights of golfers playing Cabot Links, and be sure to grab an ice cream at the canteen.
**New in summer 2018 the beach welcomed sand chairs, water chairs and sand mats that allows those with mobility issues to safely access the beach and water. To book a Mobi-Chair or a beach access chair, please contact the Inverness Visitor Centre at (902)258-3740 or email email@example.com
LOCATION: 158 Beach Rd #1 Inverness Nova Scotia Canada
Port Hood Beach(es)
Port Hood is known as being home to the warmest waters in Eastern Canada (I can back up this claim). With 5 beaches total be sure to read more about them here, so you can pick which one suits your needs best!
Cape Breton has some award winning golf courses, so if golf is your thing be sure to check out Cabot links, Ketlic Lodge, Highland Links, and SO SO SO many more. Our golf course have been ranked as some of the best in the world, and not very hard to see why.
Horseback Riding Trails
Whether you’re a beginner or experiences the Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre offers trail rides for all levels.
Available to anyone ages 8 and up, trail rides must be booked at least 3 days in advance. There are two separate options for trail riders, one being for beginner riders the other for the more experienced.
Please make sure to be aware of the guidelines ahead of time so you’re dressed appropriately for the occasion. “Boots with a heel (not wedges, and no sandals or sneakers) and long, well-fitted pants must be worn when arriving at the stable for your ride. Helmets must be worn at all times while riding (no exceptions), and will be provided by the stable. If you have your own ASTM approved riding helmet you may bring that to wear during your ride”.
For more information visit their website: reachingstrides.com
ADDITIONAL SPOTS TO EAT ALONG THE WAY:
Red Shoe Pub. Glenora Distillery. Great breakfast and you might even encounter an unexpected kitchen party Shinning Waters Bakery.
Amazing post!! It makes me want to jump in my car and drive to Cape Breton right this minute! Can’t wait to go back and visit home. <3
Thanks for the great post, we are doing a motorcycle trip the end of August, this will be my 3rd trip to Nova Scotia! We love it there! Thanks again!!
Thank you very, very much Kayla. I’d not driven the Trail since 1974, even though it had been in my plans each time I have visited my “home” in Glace Bay over the years. This year will be different. This year, God willing, I WILL drive the Cabot Trail… and your suggestions will be my guide.. And, because of your suggestions, I’ll bring along a tent & camping supplies, and add a couple of days to the trip. Thanks so much. Just one added point, although it isn’t technically part of The Trail, I think Meat Cove will also be part of my itinerary.
Great article. You did miss an awesome place to eat in Baddeck, Baddeck Fork Golf Club & Public Restaurant. I’ll send you the link below to check it out. Maybe you could add it to your blog. Check them out on Facebook too.
Home sweet home xo ❤️
Such a great guide! I will comment on our return back home.