This summer we spent a couple weeks exploring Nova Scotia and one of the highlights was most definitely our Cape Breton drive with the kids. The Cabot Trail, named after John Cabbot who landed in Atlantic Canada in 1479, is a stunning drive with plenty to see, do and marvel at but it’s not the only trail in Cape Breton. We also ventured on the Ceilidh Trail and caught some charming views and peoples. The only way to explore Cape Breton is in leisurely fashion and having spent a week meandering around the Cabot and Ceilidh Trail, I can tell you that another week could have easily been spent. It’s the perfect way to relax and having young kids along was easy enough as everyone we met and all the places we swung by, welcomed us with wide smiles and left us with warm hugs.
We started our journey in Belle Cote and then made our way to the Cheticamp area, explored Sydney and then finally relaxed by the B’as d’or Lakes. There’s so much that we stumbled on during our travels but there’s some that stood our more than others and that’s what we’re sharing today.
Disclosure : Our visit to Cape Breton was organized by Visit Nova Scotia, but as always, opinions are totally mine.
Arcadian Hookers : The Arcadian Hookers were not only educational but both, Baby Boy and Little Monkey, took a liking to the hookers. We’re talking about those that hook rugs. Don’t get too confused now! We popped by to the Museum of Hooked Rugs and Home Life at Trois Pignons and the rugs we saw were truly unique. What skill these hookers have! It’s sad to think that there’s less than 28 of them left as the trade is no longer seen as being ‘ cool ‘.
Beach : There’s many a beach and we’ve done a couple of them over the years but this time we scoped out Chimney Corner Beach and if you’re in the Margaree area, this is one beach you’ll have to spend a few minutes trying to find. It’s totally worth it and if you’re staying at the Island Sunset Resort, the staff are more than happy to guide you over.
Glenora Distillery : Stop for lunch and a dram. The grounds are large and throughout the property there’s a small spaces to rekindle your relationship with nature. Little Monkey enjoyed watching the babbling brook and spent a few minutes wanting to throw rocks into the precious water source- don’t worry, we didn’t allow that. We weren’t able to get a tour of the distillery, but hope to on our next trip out east.
Fortress of Louisbourg : We popped by for a two hour visit but wished we had more time here. This National Historic Site of Canada is home to the partially reconstructed 18th century French Fortress. There’s actors in period clothing who are walking around the fortress and, staying in true character, engages and chat you up. My favourite part was visiting the local baker and picking up a couple buns – the version royalty enjoyed, and the version the common folks noshed on. Is it bad that I enjoyed the common version more? This stroller friendly spot gets very cold and windy so bring appropriate gear, yes even in the summer! There’s a bus that takes you from the main entrance to the fortress and they’re happy enough to board your stroller for you. We baby wore for this but definitely missed the stroller, especially when the wind caught us!
National Park : Yes you’re driving around but keep a day to drive through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Don’t do what we did – fuel up before you enter the park! There’s one gas station and it’s in the middle of it all and we had to back track to ensure we didn’t end up pushing our car through the park. You can purchase a family pass at the main entrance (where there can be line ups) or drive straight into the park where the attendant will also sell you one. The main entrance is great if you’re looking to get some tips on where to go and what to do, the ladies were extremely helpful and funny! This a long drive, give yourself atleast 6 hours with kids and stops! The sights are stunning, there’s waterfalls, animal sightings, hikes, fresh water lakes, salt water ocean beaches and so much more awaiting you here. The Cabot Trail runs through the park so this is my favourite way to explore the Cabot Trail, however keep in mind that you can’t just “exit” the Cabot Trail, you have to either loop back or complete the journey until you get to a spot that has lodging for the night.
One thing to mention is that Cape Breton is known for its succulent sea food and fresh produce but if you’re driving around, plan ahead for food stops. Two summers ago, we didn’t plan for this and ended up at sub par spots. This year we found plenty of good eats by keeping our Trip Advisor app open and by stopping and asking the locals where the farms and local hangouts were. Cape Breton has many hiking trails and water activities, both of which we didn’t explore this time around. Whateveryou do, ensure you stop to catch the sunsets, preferably somewhere the kids can run around so you can relax with a pint in hand.