8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on Cape Breton Island
A charming blend of sea and land is the hallmark of Cape Breton Island, so rich in stocks of coal and at the same time boasting the highest mountains in Nova Scotia. Small towns, national historic sites and parks, and beautiful coastal scenery draw tourists here. Many people also come to the island on hiking, camping, or biking trips during summer months.
Cape Breton Island forms the northeastern part of the province of Nova Scotia. It is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Canso and linked by a causeway.
See also: Where to Stay on Cape Breton Island
1 Cabot Trail
The Cabot Trail is a 300-kilometer scenic drive in the northwest of the island, starting from Baddeck and looping around Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is named for Italian seafarer Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), who is thought to have been the first to land in North America in 1497.
The enchanting combination of ocean-side cliffs, rounded mountains, prairieland, and deciduous forests, together with the proximity of the sea make the Cabot Trail one of the most beautiful stretches in North America. Viewpoints, beaches, hiking trails, small Cape Breton towns, and other scenic attractions tempt drivers to pull over and linger along the way.
2 Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
The Fortress of Louisbourg is Canada's most famous historical reconstruction, the prototype of a "Living History Museum" that introduces visitors to the rigors of mid-18th-century. life on the inhospitable, frequently mist-shrouded, east coast of Canada. Throughout the main tourist season, appropriately costumed "townspeople" (including servants, soldiers, merchants, maids, and fishermen) re-enact the arduous daily tasks of those times. Restaurants serve specialty dishes prepared from old recipes.
The fortress is surrounded by a wall with towers and bastions and encompasses more than forty buildings. The town, of which seven blocks of houses were rebuilt, was right on the water, so that ships could moor there. The most luxurious buildings are in the "Bastion du Roi," which was occupied by the French King's representative. The ordinary soldiers' barracks were simply furnished. The entrance to the fort is via Porte Dauphine, close to the Armoury, and there is a museum by the Bastion du Roi.
259 Park Service Rd, Louisbourg
3 Cape Breton Highlands National Park
This mountainous national park in the north of the island extends for more than 950 square kilometers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The varied animal life is particularly impressive and includes moose, beaver, deer, wild cats, duck, and eagles.
Park visitor centers are located near Chéticamp and Igonish on the Cabot Trail scenic drive. There are numerous footpaths and hiking through the park, including the spectacular and popular Skyline Trail. Beaches, lookout points, and fall foliage are all draws.
4 Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
On the shores of Bras d'Or Lake, Baddeck is one of the most beautiful villages in Nova Scotia and a starting point for the Cabot Trail scenic drive. Its name means "where an island is nearby." Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, had a summer residence here.
The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site houses personal effects and documents belonging to the famous inventor, as well as parts of two hydroplanes made by Bell and powered by aircraft engines.
5 Glace Bay
Glace Bay has long been known for its coal. The hill on which the town was built contained vast coal deposits, mined by the French since 1720. The Cape Breton Miners' Museum shows how coal originated, as well as demonstrating old and new coal mining methods. A tour of Ocean Deeps Colliery is particularly impressive. Old miners graphically illustrate life at the coal seams. Next to the museum is a reconstruction of miners' quarters from the second half of the 19th century.
Also in Glace Bay, Marconi National Historic Site deals with the life and work of Guglielmo Marconi, the Wizard of Wireless, who proved it was possible to send messages across the Atlantic using electromagnetic waves instead of wires.
6 Bras d'Or Lake
This large lake and its many bays in central Cape Breton covers more than 1,000 square kilometers in all. It has both fresh and saltwaters and pretty Cape Breton towns like Baddeck and St. Peter's as well as parks and scenic drives front the lakeshore. Sailors enjoy the boating opportunities on the lake; seafood lovers are fans of the lake's lobster and oysters.
Chéticamp is a little Acadian fishing village on the edge of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, with many artisan workshops. A visit is recommended to the prettily decorated Church of St-Pierre, built in 1893, and the Acadian Museum.
The museum tells the history of the Acadian people, and provides craft demonstrations of wood carving, spinning, weaving and rug hooking. The main focus of this site is a craft shop featuring locally made hooked rugs. There's also an Acadian-cuisine restaurant.
8 St. Peters Canal National Historic Site
St Peter's is one of the oldest villages on the Cape Breton Island. The restored fortified trading post set up by Nicolas Denis, a 17th-century French colonist, is worth a visit.
Running through town is the St. Peter's Canal, which is today a National Historic Site. The waterway provides a route between the Atlantic Ocean and Bras d'Or Lake.
Address: 160 Toulouse Street, St. Peters
Where to Stay on Cape Breton Island for Sightseeing
We recommend these wonderful hotels, resorts, and cottages in Sydney and near Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the Cabot Trail:
- Keltic Lodge Resort & Spa: luxury resort, near the Cabot Trail, spectacular headland setting, ocean views, golf course, multiple restaurants, outdoor heated pool.
- Seascape Coastal Retreat: mid-range beachfront cottages, on the Cabot Trail, gas fireplaces, jetted bathtubs.
- Cambridge Suites - Sydney: affordable waterfront hotel, modern rooms, comfortable beds, free breakfast.
- Aberdeen Motel: budget hotel, near the Cabot Trail, free parking, coffee makers.