Cape Breton Island Things to Do Tips by Aafia Top 5 Page for this destination
Cape Breton Island Things to Do: 85 reviews and 169 photos
Make sure you wear the right colour for entry
A visit to the Fortress of Louisbourg requires at least a day. The Fortress is a reconstructed 18th century French fortified town. The residents of the town bring it to life. We visit Louisbourg every summer and experience something new every time and I always buy fresh baked bread from the bakery.
Address: Louisbourg, Cape Breton
Directions: From Sydney, take Route 22 to Louisbourg and follow the signs to the Fortress.
Sun setting in Meat Cove
The Cabot Trail is a 300 km loop around the northern part of Cape Breton. The trail is named after John Cabot who first sighted C.B. Island in 1497. The trail includes, among others, the villages of Baddeck, Ingonish and the Acadian village of Chéticamp. The C.B. Highlands National Park is also an integral part of the trail. Many travelers allow one day to drive the Cabot Trail. This allows them to take in some of the beautiful vistas, but there is so much more that this route offers. I would suggest a minimum of 3 days.
There are at least 30 hikes along the trail of different lengths and levels of difficulty. They offer beautiful scenery and a chance to appreciate the vegetation of the area.
When our fishermen started to experience problems with the industry, many boat owners introduced whale watching tours. Chéticamp, Pleasant Bay, and Ingonish are places where you can whale watch. Hopefully the excitement of seeing the whales will help you overcome any sea sickness you might experience, as it did in my case.
There are opportunities for kayaking and canoeing all around the trail. For those of you who golf, there are 3 18-hole courses. The Highland Links in Ingonish is the #1 public course in Canada.
You can also cycle the trail, camp, fish and cross country ski in the winter.
There are at least 20 beaches and some swimming holes like the one at Mary Ann Falls.
You will find places like the Gaelic College where Scottish culture is celebrated as well as villages like Chéticamp that maintain French traditions that go back 300 years.
My most recent drive around the Cabot Trail included several hikes, driving the scenic route past Neil's Harbor and another to Meat Cove, the northern most tip of Cape Breton. A visit to Les Trois Pignons, a cultural center that has a beautiful collection of hooked rugs, done in a special manner unique to the area. We stopped at Aucoin's bakery to buy homemade bread and the best cinnamon rolls I ever tasted! And of course, we stopped at every shopping opportunity possible!
Address: North Cape Breton Island
Directions: To travel from Baddeck to Ingonish through to Chéticamp, take the TransCanada Highway 105 west from Baddeck to Exit 7.
To travel from Baddeck to St. Ann's to Chéticamp through to Ingonish, take the TransCanada Highway 105 west from Baddeck to Exit 11.
Other Contact: http://destination-ns.com/common
The Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts is a school where people from around the world of all ages and backgrounds can study the Gaelic language, arts and culture.
For at least 5 years in a row, our youngest son spent 2 weeks a summer here to learn to play the fiddle, the chanter, to sing Gaelic songs, to step dance, to weave (He claims his great-great grandfather was a weaver.) and do all the other activities that are done at summer camp . He loves everything Gaelic. At first, when he was just a wee lad, I'd pick him up at the end of the day and he'd say: "I told you not to come and get me. They have beds here. I want to stay over." Finally when he was 10, one of the house mothers had a 10 year old that stayed, and we finally said he could spend the whole week and we'd pick him up on Friday. On Thursday, he called home and said: "Don't come and get me. I'm spending the weekend. I'm going to square dances on Friday and Saturday nights with my friends." We missed him too much to let him stay.
Our daughter spent many summers here as well. She concentrated on Highland and step dancing. She's still a beautiful dancer, but wasn't quite the fanatic our son was.
The faculty was always top-notch and they still have excellent professionals teaching.
If you drop by as a visitor, you might be on time to hear the bag pipers playing. Sometimes, they have little lunchtime presentations by singers and dancers. If you can catch the final performance at the end one of the student sessions, you will be blown away by the talent.
Address: Route 19
Directions: From Sydney, take the 105 and shortly after descending Kelly's Mountain, turn right on Route 19. It is less than a mile from here.
Cape Breton is a beautiful place to visit when the leaves are changing in the fall. Add to that 9 days of Celtic music and culture celebrated all over the island and you may just have a hard time leaving this place when your time's up.
The Celtic Colours International Festival takes place every October and includes ceilidhs, concerts, dances, exhibits, tours and workshops that are held in every nook and cranny on the island. Many of own top artists are featured, like Buddy Mac Master, the Barra Mac Neils, Howie MacDonald, Mary Jane Lamond and J.P. Cormier, and that's just scratching the surface. Our local performers are joined by Celtic artists from Ireland, Scotland, the U.S. and Nordic countries.
Last year, a highlight for us was the Celtic Thanksgiving Dinner and Concert. This year, the opening concert, to be held in Port Hawkesbury, featuring the Chieftains, Ashley Mac Isaac, Mary Jane Lamond, Wendy Mac Isaac and Fiona and Ciaran Mac Gillivray is not to be missed.
The line-up can be overwhelming when you first peruse it, you simply can't do it all. Keep in mind though, that the tickets sell out quickly.
Address: All over C.B. in halls, theatres, churches....
Phone: 1-877-285-2321 Toll Free in N.A.
You don't have to travel too far to get back to nature in the city of Sydney. This nature trail is just off Cottage Road. What a great place for nature lovers of all ages. I walked 4 of my classes (Grade 8's and 9's) here and they enjoyed this 3 kilometer self-guided nature tour. There are 10 stations that provide interesting information about the flora and fauna of the trail. One section has squirrels running all around and there are lots of birds to see.
Address: Cottage Road, between Champlain Ave and Cedar Cour
Directions: The web site directions are a bit confusing. There are actually 2 entrances, the one described above & the other is at the end of Terrace St, behind Sherwood Park Jr.H.S. You must walk past/through the soccer field, and you'll find an entrance there.
The oldest house in Sydney
Cossit House is reputed to be the oldest house in Sydney, built in 1787 by the first Anglican priest to live and work in Sydney, Rev. Ranna Cossit. Your guides are dressed in period costume and will take you through this New England colonial style home to view the period furnishings. If you go in the evening as part of the ghost walk, expect to be as scared stiff as I was when wandering through in the dark.
Address: 75 Charlotte Street, Sydney
Directions: North end of Charlotte Street.
Phone: (902) 539-7973
Let me tell you about the eerie side of Sydney....
The Old Sydney Society has volunteers that organize Ghosts walks of downtown Sydney during July and August. This is a fun walk (or is it...?) for both locals and tourists that includes some very interesting history of the area. The walk finishes up at the Cape Breton Centre For Heritage and Science where you can enjoy a cup of tea with your guide and other visitors.
Address: 225 George Street, Sydney
Directions: Cape Breton Centre For Heritage and Science is close to the corner of George and Dorchester Streets towards the north end of the city.
Other Contact: Fax: 1-902-539-1572
This little provincial park, on top of a hill in Irish Cove, is a great place to stop and have a picnic. You can find some sheltered tables here and a beautiful view of the Bras d'Or Lakes.
Address: Route 4, Irish Vale
Directions: Watch for the Provincial Park signs on top of the hill when you're in Irish Cove.
This is a somewhat demanding hike you can do with the reward of beautiful waterfalls at the end, which happen to be the highest in Nova Scotia. It's 18km return, so an early start is a good idea if you want to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way. What amazed me about this hike, is that in the mid 1800's several highland Scot families settled here to make a life for themseles. As beautiful as the area is, it just seems to be an unlikely spot to settle, it's so isolated and the terrain is so rugged. You can still see remains of this settlement.
As with most hikes I recommend, you really need a good hiking book to do some of these hikes safely. Two suggestions are Hiking Trails of Cape Breton by Michael Haynes and Explore Cape Breton by Pat O'Neil. They are my bibles.
This website may help as well: http://users.syd.eastlink.ca/%7esmithdl/hikemenu.htm.
Address: Village of North River Bridge, off the Cabot Trail
Directions: From Route 105 (TCH) turn off onto the Cabot Trail at St. Ann's. Drive 16 km to Village of North River Bridge. Cross the bridge then turn left. Drive 3 km until you see the sign for the park, where you turn into the park until the road ends.
Main-à-Dieu is a picturesque fishing village that deserves a visit. There is a boardwalk system along the beach outside of town. There are several hikes that can be done from this area with some beautiful views of this rugged coastline. There's the Cape Breton Trail, the Gooseberry Trail and the Main-à-Dieu Trail.
You really need a good hiking book to do some of these hikes safely. Two suggestions are Hiking Trails of Cape Breton by Michael Haynes and Explore Cape Breton by Pat O'Neil. They are my bibles.
This website may help as well: http://users.syd.eastlink.ca/%7esmithdl/hikemenu.htm.
Address: On the Marconi Trail
Directions: From Sydney, take Louisbourg hiway, drive 25 km to Main-à-Dieu turnoff, turn left. Drive 5km, through Bateston, 7 more km reaching Main-à-Dieu.
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