Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
Updated: May 1, 2018
Now this is a part of the world Gav and I have long been waiting to see. Often hailed as one of the most breathtaking drives in the world and a popular route for many tourists in Canada, we had been wanting to do this one for a while and it certainly did not disappoint.
There is something about being "out east" in Canada - the locals are truly some of the friendliest people on the planet. Life is laid back, relaxed and all of the hustle and bustle of the big smoke quickly fades away. Plus, the lobster is dirt cheap, so that is always a major bonus!!!
We started our weekend by flying from Toronto to Halifax and were up bright and early the next day to begin the drive to Cape Breton, the most north-easterly part of Nova Scotia. We drove the Cabot trail in an anticlockwise direction, which I highly recommend as the breathtaking coastal views that await you around every bend in the road are not interrupted by oncoming traffic.
We had limited time to see this beautiful corner of the world but think we did well in squeezing the best parts in whilst not feeling too rushed.
Here are our highlights/must sees from the Cabot Trail. Hopefully this will inspire you to add this drive to your bucket list - with breathtaking vistas at every turn, we seriously think you should!
1. Uisge Ban Falls
Just outside of Baddeck on the eastern side of the trail, you will find the beautiful Uisge ban falls provincial park. A lovely ~1hour hike round trip to a beautiful waterfall with pools at the bottom for splashing/swimming. Hiking difficulty is only mild and is well worth the walk. Consider even taking a picnic and parking yourself on a rock to enjoy the waterfall show!
2. Ingonish/Middle Head Trail
This is a brilliant easy-moderate difficulty hike which will take you around 2 hours return and is well worth it. The hike begins just behind Keltic Lodge at Ingonish - a beautiful building to look at from the outside and from all reports a lovely treat to stay at (though unfortunately for us it was booked out the weekend we went). The trail winds through pine forest and then areas of clearing with pretty wildflowers aplenty - like the picture below. Eventually you will come to the cliff face of the heads where you can look back on Ingonish beach and hear the waves crashing below you. If you are lucky there will even be some tasty wildberries to pick on your way in or out!
3. Lakies Head
A beautiful stop off on the side of the trail just outside of Ingonish as you head towards the top of the island. Hop out of the car and walk out onto the viewpoint and take in all the beautiful colours - red rocks, blue ocean and green foliage - such a beautiful spot!
4. White Point
On the most northerly point of the Cabot trail, White Point boasts rugged hiking trails overlooking the Atlantic ocean. You have to leave the Cabot trail and access this point by the coastal loop but it is well worth the short detour.
5. Aspy Fault
The Aspy Fault is another stop off on the side of the trail that is well worth a look. It is a fault that runs through 40km of Cape Breton. You will find information boards at the site describing that erosion and the presence of this fault have created much of the scenery that makes Cape Breton so breathtaking!
6. Pleasant Bay
Pleasant Bay is certainly a very pleasant place to stop - beautiful coastline and inland vistas that can be seen from multiple lookout points on the drive just out of Pleasant Bay. Pleasant Bay itself is a quaint little town which is a good place for a stop off on the trail. Most importantly, the main drawcard of Pleasant Bay is whale watching. Do yourself a favour and hop on a zodiac boat (I would highly recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment particularly in peak season) and get out on the water to see these incredible mammals up close. We went with Captain Mark's Whale Watching tours who were brilliant and very reasonably priced. We saw over a dozen Pilot whales that came so close to our boat as well as a Minke whale, seals and birds. Such a great experience!
7. Skyline Trail
The one we were all waiting for...... the phenomenal and uber popular (for good reason I might add....!!), Skyline trail. A very easy 7.5km return walk that will bring you at the far end to a boardwalk trail along the coast with the most beautiful vistas of the coastline and ocean - seriously breathtaking!!! If you do one thing on your drive around the Cabot trail - this MUST be it!! Allow at least 2.5 hours and more if you can spare it to take in all the gorgeousness!
Now for the food...............Nova Scotia = Seafood Smorgasbord!!
Now the Cabot trail may be a delight for the eyes, but it is also a dream for the belly! Seafood out east is delicious, plentiful and cheap. We found a few great eateries as we stopped around the Cabot trail that are well worth the visit and the calories!!!
Main Street Bakery and Cafe - Ingonish
A very popular eatery for locals and tourist alike. This place is so popular it often has a queue of people waiting for a table at dinner. We luckily only waited for 20 minutes and it was well worth the wait. Scrumptious seafood chowder (which was truly packed with seafood), fresh lobster, great fish cakes and a HUGE fisherman's platter with all the trimmings! Great way to fill hungry bellies after a day of hiking/exploring! Highly recommend this place.
The Rusty Anchor - Pleasant Bay Lobster Poutine ....... need I say more???? Holy cow this stuff is good!!
We ended up getting soaked in a big downpour late Saturday afternoon so decided to indulge in an early dinner at this well reviewed place. Great service, warm and comfy inside and all the plentiful and perfectly prepared seafood you could want. Our table was embarrassingly overflowing as we couldn't decide what to order so ordered everything - pan seared local scallops, lobster poutine, mussels, freshly shucked oysters, ridiculous crab cakes and a fried haddock burger as big as my head!!!! Every single meal was lip smackingly delish and we left with full and very satisfied bellies!
Have you ever driven the Cabot Trail? What did you think?
We loved every second of it!