Not long ago I went on a 2 week road trip through Canada’s eastern provinces and it was just incredible. From sea kayaking the Bay of Fundy to hiking along the rocky shoreline of Peggy’s Cove; from having beers at an east coast pub in Halifax to camping in some of Canada’s most stunning national parks, it was the trip of a life time. But I have to say, I found the most spectacular scenery when I explored Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
Located north east of mainland Nova Scotia and connected by a bridge, Cape Breton is a wild and beautiful place. On this island you’ll find the Cabot Trail (the main highway that circles most of the island), considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the world. The island is also home to Cape Breton Highlands National Park, one of Canada’s most stunning park’s. If you want to see some of Canada’s native animals you’ll likely run into them in their natural habitat while on this island. And the views on Cape Breton are like no other. Keeping all this in mind, here are 10 reasons you should explore Cape Breton Island this summer.
1. The Cabot Trail
The Cabot Trail is a highway that follows the coast line around the island of Cape Breton, which was voted as the #1 island in North America by Travel Leisure Magazine. Much of the drive is located within the boundaries of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
The Cabot Trail is just under 300 km’s in length and forms a loop. The drive is best done in 3-4 days so you can fully explore the island and take advantage of the many hiking trails. Some people choose to bike the trail, staying at B&B’s or campsites along the way.
2. Cape Breton Highlands National Park
This national park will not disappoint. Cape Breton Highlands National Park covers the upper portion of the Cabot Trail and extends from one side of the island to the other. Described as an “outdoor sanctuary with an iconic roadway” it deserves a day or two of your time to fully explore. The park offers many hiking trails, campgrounds, and stunning views as the mountains meet the ocean.
3. The Views
As you drive the scenic Cabot Trail and other small roads of the island, you’ll be met with some pretty spectacular views. With its rough, jagged coastline falling into the sea and views from high on top of the islands mountains, you’ll want to take your time and soak in the scenery. There are many designated lookouts along the way with parking so you can get out of the car, stretch your legs and enjoy the epic view.
4. The Wildlife
If you want to view Canadian wildlife at its finest, you don’t have to look far. During my time on the island I saw a moose during a hike, whales and seals playing in the ocean from my campsites, porcupines, bald eagles and other birds of prey, just to name a few. By simply being outdoors you’ll have the opportunity to witness many animals in their natural habitat.
5. The Sunrises
If you decide to get up early enough you’ll be in for a treat. Watching the sunrise from your campsite along the high cliffs or down by the ocean will be a great start to a day of exploring this beautiful island.
6. The Sunsets
With epic views you’ll get some pretty spectacular sunsets! I highly recommend hiking the Skyline Trail and settling in for gorgeous sunset on the viewing platforms overlooking the ocean.
7. The Beaches
Yep, you read that right! There are some pretty amazing sandy beaches, as well as rock beaches, on Cape Breton Island. Near the northern tip of the island, just off the Cabot Trail, is Cabot’s Landing Provincial Park. This beach is perfect for relaxing in the sun, taking a dip in the ocean or just to take a stroll.
8. The Campsites
After camping on Cape Breton you’ll have a hard time finding other sites as beautiful as here. My personal favorite (and highly sought after) campsite was Meat Cove Campground. This campground is privately run and it located just north of Cape Breton Highlands National Park boundary. At the time of this writing they weren’t taking reservations for campsites (but they do for onsite cabins). Make sure you get there early in the day to claim your site!
9. The Hiking
Cape Breton Island is littered with hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulty. You should have no problem finding one to suit your level of fitness as there is everything from short hikes through the forest to longer ones leading to spectacular views. Many hikes are located with the national park but you can find others scattered around the island.
10. The Ocean
The Cabot Trail follows the edge of Cape Breton island so you’ll never be far from the ocean. Many hiking trails on the island afford incredible views of the ocean and if you’re feeling up to, you can even take a dip in the cool Atlantic water. Listening to the waves crash while camping near-by definitely adds to the experience.
Canada is truly an incredible land from coast to coast to coast, though sometimes our eastern provinces don’t get the recognition they deserve. The Rocky Mountains to the west are hard to compete with but Canada has many more gorgeous natural landscapes, Cape Breton Island being one of them. There are so many amazing outdoor experiences to be had on this small island which is why you should explore Cape Breton Island.