Me, Emily, Justine, Nicole, and Nicola went on a road trip around Cape Breton Island. In a very tiny car named Kelly. Meet Kelly:
She’s tiny, but shockingly fuel efficient. She did us well.
We started in Halifax, with everyone slowly arriving in Halifax to leave on Friday morning for Cape Breton. Here’s a map for some context:
Our first stop was a roadside hub with some market stores, a playground, and a giant mastodon statue. As a lover of roadside attractions, this was a great way to start a road trip. After some misleading mastodon footprints on the ground led us to a fence, we eventually found our way to the statue.
Then we were back on the road. Our goal was to make it to Indian Brook by dinner time, where we were staying the night at a place called Cabot Shores. So we were in no rush to go anywhere quickly. I knew that there was a very specific stop that I wanted to make if we had the time and the others were down. There is a town called Heatherton, NS and I wanted a picture with the town sign. It did not disappoint. There was a playground with swings just off the highway, so we made it a leg stretch.
Our next stop a while later was to get some food and to give Nicola a break from driving. Kelly belongs to Nicola, and also happens to be standard, which none of us can drive except Nicola. So shout out to Nicola for doing literally all the driving. We stopped at a Timmies once we got onto the actual island of Cape Breton. Probably the best view from a Tim Hortons parking lot I’ve ever seen.
The next destination was Sydney, NS to see the Giant Fiddle. It was kind of a Heather-centric day, because if you hadn’t already guessed, seeing the Giant Fiddle was my request. We drove all the way into ‘downtown’ Sydney to the cruise port where the Giant Fiddle stands. She’s beautiful, and surprisingly well crafted. There are speakers inside the structure playing fiddle music. Beside the fiddle, there was a great giant adirondack chair (not all giant adirondack chairs are made equal). We poked around the cruise terminal, laughed at the thought of a cruise ship stopping in Sydney, NS, and got back on the road.
Now, there are two ways to get to Indian Brook from Sydney.
- Take the Englishtown Ferry
- Drive around the inlet, following the highway
For some context, going around only adds 20mins to the drive, so it’s not like either is saving you tons of time. I was largely in favour of taking the ferry, because it’s the funniest and quite possibly the most unexplainable ferry I’ve ever seen:
In case it isn’t clear, the Englishtown Ferry covers a distance that takes less than 3mins to cross. And it runs on a cable, so nobody’s steering either. It runs on demand and should you arrive when it’s on the other side, it will only be about 10mins before you’re on the boat ready to cross.
After that, we were not far away from Cabot Shores. Cabot Shores is a ‘wilderness resort.’ Which is a fancy way of saying they have a bunch of what I’m going to call micro buildings for people to stay in. Yurts, geo-domes, tents, you name it. We were staying in yurts. The whole place was very beautiful and was super chill and fun to explore. They had a dog that just chilled on the property named Cosmo, living his best life.
There’s a main building with some hotel-like rooms and a lounge and restaurant. We had dinner and breakfast at the restaurant. Our waiter at dinner was a very interesting guy; we learned that he quit his 20hrs-a-day job nearly ten years ago and has just been traveling the world ever since. I hope I never get to the point where my job takes over my life like that, but man what a life.
And that’s the end of day one! Take a pee break, if you need one.
Saturday’s first activity was Middle Head Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It was an enjoyable walk, not to strenuous and the views were beautiful. The trail is on a bit of land that sticks out into the water.
After we finished the trail, we got some groceries to have a picnic. We stopped at a look off point on the Cabot Trail and had ourselves some sandwiches.
We veered off the Cabot Trail at the northern point of the island to head up to Meat Cove. We found an AirBnB there, so that’s where we were staying. When we pulled up to the AirBnB, this grey cat comes up to the car and is hanging around. We’re all ecstatic. I hadn’t seen any mention of a cat on the listing, but I wasn’t mad about it. We name the cat Wanda (to go with Cosmo the dog at Cabot Shores) and Nicola carried her into the AirBnB. It was then that I noticed a sign that says ‘Do not let wild animals into the building (foxes, cats).’ So obviously, the cat does not belong with the AirBnB, it’s just hanging out. But also, have the owners had problems with foxes getting into the building??
There was a notable chowder hut in Meat Cove that we wanted to go to for dinner. It was quite a journey to get there. It’s very hilly, and the road is not paved, except where it has to be due to the steepness of the hill. It was slow going all the way out there. I think it was worth it though, and it’s a fun story. The chowder hut is part of a campsite, which literally just looks like a patch of grass on the side of the road overlooking the water.
We grabbed a table on the deck and ordered. Unfortunately, the hut was going to be closed the next few days so a lot of things were out of stock. But they had chowder! It was very good, very creamy and lots of chunks.
Back at the AirBnB we found The Proposal playing on TV so we had a chill night watching a movie.
The next morning we ate breakfast on the small deck and Wanda was back! We did a photoshoot with Kelly, then headed out for our next destination.
After a quick detour to get gas, we were on our way to the Lone Shieling, a tiny hut in the woods to represent the Scottish that came over to Canada and landed in the general area (or something…). There was a short 20min walk into the woods as well. The area has a lot of preservation efforts going on, hence why the walk is so short.
After that quick pit stop, we drove to Pleasant Bay where we had lunch on a hill overlooking the harbour. There was a very convenient row of adirondack chairs at the top of the hill.
After that, we didn’t really have a solid plan so we checked into the AirBnB a little earlier than we were really supposed to. And what an AirBnB it was. I’ll just let these pictures do the talking:
According to other guests who have stayed at Flip Flop Villa, there are 380+ flips flops. There was also a steep trail down to the beach where there’s a small deck with great views.
We went to the restaurant next door for dinner. I got lobster rolls. Nicole got lobster mac and cheese which was huge and delicious.
Our activity for the evening was walking the Skyline Trail. I say walk because the trail was extremely flat and gravel or boardwalk the entire way. The mountains on Cape Breton are interesting because they don’t come to a point. They’re flat on top. So you drive up the mountain along the Cabot Trail and then you walk across the flat expanse. The Skyline Trail is famous for its views of the sunset at the end of the trail. We ended up arriving at the end of the trail almost an hour before sunset, but we weren’t bothered. We did some mini photoshoots in the golden light as we waited for the sun to set. It was indeed beautiful.
Of course, if you watch the sunset at the end of a trail, you then have to walk back in the dark. For about half of the walk there was still enough light to see what was going on, but luckily the AirBnB had flashlights that we grabbed to light the rest of the way.
The next morning we took our time packing up and headed to Cheticamp. There weren’t a lot of breakfast options, so we stopped at a chain place called Robins. Honestly, it’s like a better and cheaper Tim Hortons. We had a good time there.
Then it was time to hit the road again. We made our way back to Halifax by dinner time, with a couple leg stretches and bathroom breaks along the way.
My flight didn’t leave until the evening the next day, so Justine and I hung out for the morning while Emily did an orientation event for school. Then Emily gave us a tour of the two campus buildings. We found some great chairs/stools.
Then we got Cows ice cream and sat on the waterfront for a few hours just chatting. Then it was time for me to head to the airport. My flight was delayed over an hour due to bad weather. And I ended up spotting an ex-colleague on my flight!
The entire island of Cape Breton is beautiful. Even if you didn’t stop anywhere, just driving around you get to see so many amazing views. Sometimes you hug the coast, sometimes you veer inland to climb/go around a mountain. There are lookout spots all over the place for you to pull off and enjoy the view. I would highly recommend the Cabot Trail as a great road trip. In the words of Justine, “Cape Breton has been undersold to me my whole life.”